The ADHD Homestead

Building a good life with ADHD.

Month: December 2015

2015’s Top Five

I feel good about 2015. It’s been a year of learning to pace myself, of actually finishing a few projects, of falling off the wagon and getting back on again. For this ADHD household, I call it a success.

What do you hope to accomplish in 2016?

As we turn the page, I’m hoping for more teamwork, less clutter, and a fresh coat of paint in every room. I’m hoping to help my husband troubleshoot a few habits and goals, not just focusing inward on my own work and well-being.

I’m also hoping for more great connections like the ones I made in 2015. This blog has helped me reach thousands of people. I have a lot of ideas for 2016, and I owe you all a few book reviews (they’re going to be good ones!).

If you have a question or conundrum weighing on your mind, please share in the comments or via the suggestion box. Chances are you’re not alone and I’ll put it in my queue of future post topics!

In the meantime, here are your favorite posts from 2015:

The only early childhood activity worth my money

music together graphic

Fired for my ADHD: have you been wrongfully terminated?

fired for ADHD Falling through the cracks: one ADHD girl’s story

The Time Timer can help combat ADHD's "time blindness"

Use a signal for bad ADHD behavior…and don’t forget to laugh.

natalie portman ear pull gif

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Keep your foot out of your mouth at Christmas dinner

I’ve recently taken up knitting again, and not because I’m a naturally crafty person. Knitting helps me keep my mouth shut. With three family Christmas dinners coming up, the timing is right.

My heart sinks every time I describe myself as quiet to a new (or new-ish) friend and she responds with, “what? You?”

I can’t imagine a reason to be anything but quiet — that feels like the real me — but I come from a long line of verbal fidgeters. This is a nice way to say that many of us chatter, argue, criticize, or even yell in a subconscious effort to balance out our brains’ dopamine supply.

Before any social gathering, I promise myself I won’t talk too much. I won’t interrupt, won’t argue, won’t interject non sequiturs. I can’t remember ever having success with this.

Michele Novotni describes a poignant conversation with her then-five-year-old son (prior to his taking ADHD medication) in her book, What Does Everybody Else Know That I Don’t?

I explained to him that once you have a thought, you need to stop and decide whether or not it is a good idea before you say it or act on it. Jarryd looked puzzled, “There’s no place to stop it, mom. It’s just all one step. That part of my brain must be broken.”

I know exactly how little Jarryd felt. Fortunately, I have my knitting, which gives me a fidget outlet besides my mouth. Knitting is way more socially acceptable than staring at my phone, and it provides a handy conversation piece to break the ice.

Of course, knitting isn’t my only line of defense against myself. Here are some strategies from our family’s toolbox. On a truly lucky day, we remember and follow one of them.

  1. Do something with your hands (knit, doodle, crochet, or find some other small, portable craft); this is what I call “getting your fidgets out,” and it’ll also provide a visual reminder of your goal.
  2. Avoid your traps. My husband has a terrible habit of arguing with his father after a couple glasses of wine. Neither of them needs to feel impaired for a lively debate to spiral out of control. If someone points out a pattern like this to you, listen!
  3. Give up on changing hearts and minds. Challenging someone’s political views in front of an audience won’t help your cause. Ignoring an inflammatory statement and gently changing the subject (or even just finding an excuse to leave the room) removes the offending person’s soapbox.
  4. Watch the booze. It worsens ADHD symptoms and…I needn’t say any more.
  5. Take those meds. They may keep you from making poor choices on the aforementioned points.

If you see me knitting during our conversation, take it as a compliment. It means I care about having a conversation with you. I’m trying to learn to listen more than I talk, and make sure the words I do say are more than just auditory clutter.

How about you? What kind of conversationalist do you want to be, and how are you getting there?

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7 ADHD-friendly gift ideas

I keep trying to convince people that gifts stress us out too much, but it’s a tough sell at Christmas. Here are a few suggestions if you’re shopping for someone with ADHD.

FitBit activity tracker

Don’t let the gadget factor fool you — the FitBit is more than just a fun toy. Of course, the fitness-features — including activity and sleep monitoring — will come in handy for anyone hoping for better self-care in 2016.

However, I love my FitBit most for its silent alarm. It’s the only way I’ve found to remember my twice-daily ADHD medication without disrupting anyone else. Using my phone alarm for medications has always felt awkward to me, but my FitBit‘s vibrating alarm gives me a reminder without attracting unwanted attention.

Pill case (or timer cap)

41Lv8S3sV2L._AC_UL320_SR256,320_A minute after I take my medication, I start thinking, “did I remember my meds today?”

Accidentally double-dosing is no good, but missing a dose can be just as bad. While I see timer caps for pill bottles recommend all the time, you can save money with an old-fashioned plastic case from the drug store. I prefer these anyway because when I load mine up at the beginning of the week, I get an early warning if I’m running low.

A timer or two

The Time Timer can help combat ADHD's "time blindness"

The Time Timer can help combat ADHD’s “time blindness”

We use timers a lot in our house: for the Pomodoro Method, potty training, Facebook,wrapping up in the workshop before dinner, remembering something’s heating on the stove, and much, much more. Tools like the Time Timer represent time visually, which can be a godsend for the particularly time-blind. It works great for kids, too, because you can introduce the concept of time as a little red pie slice that gradually disappears.

Because timers are so critical for us, I love Suck UK’s Kaboom! timer because it looks cool enough to leave it out downstairs. The loud bell is impossible to miss and its cute design makes it a conversation piece.

Document scanner

I rolled my eyes when my husband ordered this because we already own a nice flatbed scanner. However, I now use it almost daily. It’s fast, easy, and has allowed me to eliminate most of our paper filing. If you go the scan-and-shred route, make sure you have a backup service like Dropbox or Crashplan.

scanner

P-Touch labeler

A fancy label maker felt extravagant at first, but I’m now sold on the benefits — espoused by organizing guru David Allen — of printing labels for file folders instead of hand-writing them. The labeler makes this quick and easy, which makes us more likely to file documents in a timely manner.

Not only that, I’ve started labeling every storage container in our home. My husband (like many ADHD spouses, I’m sure) doesn’t always intuit where something goes, even if it seems obvious. I’m even guilty of forgetting my own organizing systems. Tidy-looking printed labels help everyone stay organized.

The new Getting Things Done

81cRgCpieTLConfession: I bought this as a gift to myself already, though I haven’t cracked it open yet. My ADHD made me disorganized on every level as a young adult: from my physical surroundings to my thoughts to my long-range plans (such as they were). We all know we need to be more organized. David Allen’s GTD system answers the question, “but how?” The original book saved my hide as I left full-time employment and created my own structure as a stay-at-home mom and writer.

A helping hand, or a few more minutes in the day

Yes, I’m serious. No one in our family excels at a.) coming up with gift ideas or b.) waiting for Christmas instead of running out and purchasing everything for ourselves.

If more stuff is the last thing your favorite ADHD’er needs, is there a way you can give him something more valuable? I’d give up all my Christmas gifts for someone else to do my top five most-procrastinated housekeeping tasks. Just once! Or how about this: two days of babysitting so I can catch up on…whatever?

Other ideas include: a few hours of cleaning or organizing help (from a professional or, if you’re good at it, from you for free!); a meeting with a financial planner; a few sessions with an ADHD coach, personal trainer, or nutrition counselor; a thrill-seeking day of skydiving, hot air balloon rides, or rock climbing; or a special yoga workshop.

What about you? What do you want for Christmas this year? Are you planning anything special for an ADHD family member?

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You vs. the world: lets discuss ADHD for at-home parents

“Our family needs a homemaker.”

I love to be needed, but those words stung.

I was trying to convince my husband to keep our twice-monthly cleaning service, but he wouldn’t budge. It was a temporary arrangement for a tough time: during the first nine months of our son’s life, my husband finished a master’s degree and broke his collarbone.

I needed help.

The problem was, once things returned to normal, I viewed this extra help as a small price to pay to get my writing business off the ground. My husband reminded me of our agreement that one of us would be a stay-at-home parent. It didn’t seem fair for me to claim I “didn’t have time” to clean the house.

Maybe it wasn’t, but providing sanity and order to an ADHD household, day in and day out, is exhausting.

Because it’s true: our ADHD family does need a homemaker. We need one adult holding down the fort full-time to keep everything from exploding (or imploding) into chaos.We need someone cleaning, coordinating home repairs, paying bills, opening the mail, and making sure everyone eats — among many, many other things.

But I have ADHD, too, and I have big plans for my life. Specifically, I want to do all the things, and I want to do them yesterday.

In the two years post-cleaning lady, I’ve found a better groove. I’ve forced myself to keep trying. I figured out a way to keep writing while (usually) keeping the house (relatively) clean. R. grew up into a little boy and stopped nursing, which meant I could resume taking my ADHD meds. I’ve mapped out a longer-term plan for my writing that allows me to feel like I’m making daily progress. I’ve learned to accept incremental progress, even if I want instant gratification.

Being the homemaker is still hard. I wouldn’t have it any other way, for more reasons than I can count. My husband has unbeatable job security, and my salary wouldn’t have supported us. I prefer to be in charge. I’m better at structuring my own projects and time.

Our family doesn’t just need a homemaker, we need me. And to be there for our family, I need to be there for myself, too. That means making time for my writing, but also taking care of our home and family. Taking time for myself, but not leaving everyone else to pick up my slack.

It’s a lifelong pursuit, finding balance. I’ll never quite get there. I’ll never perfect the art of slowing down, of accepting imperfection, of resting, of moderating — in any of my roles. All I can do is try.

Lately, I’m trying to be honest with myself about what it means to be a workaholic homemaker with ADHD.

And what does that mean, exactly? If you have ADHD and you’re a stay-at-home parent, I’d love to hear about your experience. How do you make it work? Have you struggled to reconcile your partner’s expectations with your own? What are some of the most important things you’ve learned?

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I have ADHD, but I try to be a good friend anyway

Sometimes I ask myself: am I a good friend?

I don’t really know the answer, and that can be both frustrating and exhausting.

Social struggles are common for ADHD’ers. According to Dr. Russell Barkley in his book Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, we consistently report having fewer close friends than our peers.

I worry about this because I have nice friends. I like them, and I want them to continue liking me, but I fear no one really sees my best.

I’m getting better, though. Like anything in ADHDland, being a good friend takes learning, practice, and intentional strategies.

Here are the most valuable things I’ve learned:

  1. I contribute what I can, where I can.
    To make up for the times when I do weird stuff, don’t know the right thing to say, or just go off the radar for a while, I capitalize on the good things I have to offer: a loaf of homemade bread just because. A magazine clipping in the mail. A ride across town in the middle of a work day. I go for the little things and hope they add up.
  2. I’m honest about my foibles.
    In his book Just Listen, Dr. Mark Goulston calls this the “stipulation gambit.” I’m forthright about character flaws that might create misunderstandings. For example, I’m terrible with the phone. If it rings unexpectedly, I’m unlikely to answer it,  and I’m not shy about sharing this anxiety. I’d rather people think I’m neurotic than unconcerned. Likewise with forgetfulness, interrupting, speaking with too much intensity, and monologuing.
  3. I spend less time on Facebook than I used to.
    Scrolling through my news feed fools my brain into thinking I’m connected when I’m really not. It also sucks time away from more meaningful, one-on-one connections: writing emails and texts, arranging visits, or just having dinner together.
  4. I’ve stopped waiting until I feel less overwhelmed.
    It won’t happen. I have ADHD. It’s hard to do, but I try not to let myself use overwhelm and “being too busy” as a reason to defer social plans.
  5. I accept that my friends are a project.
    It feels like cheating to use my calendaring and task management apps to manage friendships. I hope my friends don’t figure out we’re only hanging out because I made our dinner its own project in Toodledo. Including time to think about friends and family during my weekly review feels cold. Then again, I use these systems for everything else I think is important. Why not afford friends and family the same consideration?
  6. I write down gift ideas year-round and squirrel them away in Google Documents.
    I don’t know about you, but I’m far more likely to think of the Best Gift Idea Ever in July than the week before Christmas. My brain isn’t good at generating lots of new ideas under pressure. If I give a home run gift, it’s probably something I wrote down several months earlier. Maybe I even wrote it on the bathroom mirror as I stepped out of the shower.
  7. I’ve read several books on communication and brain science.
    I read to learn about my brain, others’ brains, and how to show my best self to the world. There’s no shame in acknowledging I’m not good at something and working to get better. In Your Brain at Work, David Rock suggests learning to recognize your brain’s inherent weaknesses so you can say, “that’s just my brain” instead of going into freakout mode. It helps. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to those big ADHD emotions that shut down your rational brain.
  8. I try to be a good friend to myself, too.
    Being kind to myself has — I begrudgingly admit — made me more attractive to others and allowed me to fill my life with good people who care about me. Mistakes happen, though, and it’s easy to become consumed by negative self-talk. In Women with Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life, Sari Solden advises against “over apologizing or putting yourself down.” I’ve tried to take that to heart and keep apologies simple, heartfelt, and proportionate to what happened.

How about you? How do you keep ADHD from getting the best of your personal relationships?

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