The past couple of months have been doozies for me.
You know those times when the first technical challenge happens and you try to laugh it off and chock it up to “life”? For instance, when your PC crashes for the third time that year and you scold yourself for expecting it not to do that again. Or when you fix your PC, reload all your programs and suddenly your online calendar system bizarrely duplicates every single appointment you’ve ever scheduled. Definitely an “O.M.G.” moment. And then, in a matter of days…your cell phone dies (OK it was a 4G trying to handle 6G updates), the power goes out for the entire day only in your neighborhood and you have barely enough juice left in your battery to cancel all appointments. And then, the crème de la crème…the straw that breaks the camel’s back…the final “W.T. #.” moment – you realize that a small switch has been turned off in one of your systems and any payments received in the last 50 days did not get processed.
Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up…and if you are like me, I bet you know just what I am talking about.
Truth be told, it seems that only when systems, structures, tools or strategies don’t work or stop working that we really come to appreciate how super duper amazing they had been. For me it took running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to remember where I was supposed to be, when and with whom, that I realized how useful and supportive my carefully colored calendar system had been, now that it was no longer available on my new computer.
It might not surprise any of you that one of the biggest reasons people with ADHD have trouble following through, finishing projects or remembering appointments is the lack of support. For instance, we don’t follow through because we don’t have the necessary tools – like the display board needed to complete a science project. Or we don’t finish a project because a team member has been sick the past few days and not there to keep us motivated or on track. Or we completely miss an appointment because our handy dandy (OK, I’ll admit it a bit OCD) calendaring system is obsolete with our computer upgrade.
For some, this lack of support might stem from an independent “I can do it myself” spirit. For others it might be a matter of not knowing what supports are available. And for many struggling with ADHD, lack of support is the result of shame, guilt and eventual isolation from feeling like we have worn out our welcome and maxed out on the generosity and support from others.
Support, whether we like it or not or want it or not, is necessary. We might call it systems, structures and strategies and it comes in all shapes and sizes. We may not even realize what support is missing until the overwhelm, lack of progress and chaos have us on our knees. For me, when this happens I’ve learned to do a “support check” by playing one of my favorite games: “Person, Place or Thing.”
To play along, start by asking yourself:
Is this current craziness a result of a lack of “person” support?
“Person” supports might include physically helping you with a task or emotionally supporting you to get things done.
- The someone who helps you move or take boxes to the donation center when you are sorting through clutter.
- Your study buddy or the person you can count on to offer moral support and help you prepare for the big test or presentation.
- The person who, just by their respect and encouragement, motivates you to “get it done.”
- The people you don’t want to let down, such as a great boss, favorite teacher, awesome coach or team member.
- The other mom who trades off driving the kids to practices and games who makes it possible for you to keep just on this side of sanity and overwhelm.
- The person who listens to you verbally process your thoughts, who doesn’t need to say a word, but with them just being there to listen, it seems you’re always able to sort your thoughts out.
- The receptionist at the dentist’s office who always calls the day before to remind you of your appointment the following day.
- The book club gals who rotate their meetings every week so you know that at least once a month, you will do a thorough tidying of the house in preparation for your turn.
Is this current overwhelm the result of a lack of “place” support?
“Place” supports are those in your environment that make it possible for you to seamlessly get things done, help you minimize distractions and maximize strategies that work.
- The quiet office where you can close the door so you won’t be distracted by co-workers socializing in the hallway.
- The house where you can easily take a walk around the block to clear your head and get your dopamine flowing before sitting down to complete homework.
- The “white noise” of traffic outside your room so you can fall asleep.
- The gym just down the block so you can exercise and still be on time for work.
- The classroom right next to the bathroom so you don’t get distracted too much when you use it and need to get back to class.
- The workplace conference room spot where you can stand if you need to and is situated away from the view of the parking lot so you’re not distracted by who’s coming or going.
- The perfect school locker where you can see all your books and is located right by your classes.
- The longer daylight hours of summer that let you finish off some of those outside tasks before calling it quits for the day.
- The perfect spot for your desk, so you can see the board, hear the teacher and are surrounded by quiet students.
Is this chaos the result of the lack of support of a “thing”?
“Things” are the tools and items in our world that help us stay on track and get things done.
- A delightfully working computer without frequent technical glitches.
- The basket by the front door where you can put your keys and phone so you know where they are when you need to leave the house.
- The backpack with just the right pockets and space to keep your supplies organized.
- The container of pens and paper needed for taking notes.
- The planner you write in so you can refer to it later for tracking appointments, deadlines or tasks.
- That bookcase behind your desk that holds the day’s folders and allows you to see, at one glance, the patients’ charts left to complete for the day.
- Those bright yellow star shaped post-its used to remind you of an important task to complete.
- The alarm clock in your bedroom that is just annoying enough to help you get out of bed, but not so annoying that you want to smash it.
- The water that runs cold after a while to tell you it’s time to get out of the shower.
- The coffee pot near where you put your medication bottle so you won’t forget to take it when you pour your cup in the morning.
The supports for people with ADHD come in all shapes and sizes and can often go unnoticed until we are way past an “O.M.G.” moment.
So, the next time you find yourself wondering how you got from calm to chaos, or feeling like you went from “getting” it done to being “in over your head” and you can’t figure out why, play the game and ask yourself…is this the result of missing a “person, place or thing” support? You might be pleasantly surprised what you discover.
What are your best “person, place or thing” supports for managing your ADHD? I’d love to hear them.