The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Month: March 2017

I have ADHD, and sometimes I can’t spell my own name

I’ve never had real a nickname, but my dad sometimes called me “Jacly” when I was a kid. The joke started when I forgot the last letter of my name at the top of a school paper.

Fourth-grade Jaclyn knew how to spell her own name — obviously — but my attention span wasn’t always long enough to write all six letters.

It still isn’t. I still catch myself writing “Jacly” on official documents. I also forget words in sentences, or I write words with the letters out of order. Occasionally, I find post-it notes with sentence fragments or unlabeled telephone numbers. I got distracted before I finished writing, and now I can’t figure out what they mean.

In the moment, I don’t realize these attention lapses are happening. There’s no way I can tell myself, “hey, focus!” and prevent them. I call myself detail-oriented. I’m proud of my ability to fill out forms correctly and completely. Still, I make weird mistakes all the time — especially when I’m writing by hand.

I don’t remember whether I liked my dad calling me “Jacly.” I can see myself appreciating that someone gave me a nickname. Just as likely, I might’ve gotten my hackles up. All the anguish I remember from my childhood stemmed from my ADHD, though I had no idea at the time. ADHD’s quirks and foibles — like misspelling one’s own name, or throwing a third-grade classmate on the floor after he cuts in line — can come to define us. And that hurts. Maybe it’s who we are, but it’s not who we feel we are.

That dissonance haunted me all through my young life. I wrote in my journal about a desire to leave home and start over. I hated going to school knowing everyone had an opinion about who I was. I didn’t feel like I fit others’ definitions of me.

I still struggle with this, but I try to keep a sense of humor. I try to look for opportunities. Every time I write “Jacly,” I smile and hear my dad’s voice as I go back to add the ‘n.’ I try to view mistakes as opportunities to show my real self: someone who’s neither selfish, nor irresponsible, nor slapdash. I do that by admitting my mistakes, apologizing when necessary, and acknowledging how my actions affect others. I’m upfront about my memory and attention issues. I hope this openness helps people realize it’s not about them, or my feelings toward them. I talk about my post-it notes and my organizational systems because I want others to see I’m trying. I try to laugh at the silly stuff, and keep working on the important stuff.

Because I’ll always misspell my name on occasion. Every once in a while, my post-its — or another system — will fail me. It’ll probably be my fault. But I can practice resilience. I can forgive myself and maintain a decent attitude. I can resist the impulse toward defensiveness, blame-shifting, or turning all that anger inward. I can own Jacly, but reject negative, self-destructive labels. Then, I can brush myself off and keep trying, assuming it’s not too late to add the ‘n.’

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ADHD & money: Our experience with a financial planner

A lot of adults with ADHD experience financial stress. Fiscal responsibility requires impulse control, tolerance for boring paperwork, and an ability to plan ahead and defer pleasure spending. We have to stay on top of our bills (and their due dates). And that’s assuming we have a steady job that covers expenses with room for savings.

I’ve always considered myself good with money — ADHD and all — but I want to tell you about my recent experience with a financial planner. I balked at the idea when my husband first suggested it. After all, I (and most of my family) take pride in my ability to handle money responsibly, without asking for help. However, hiring a financial planner was one of my best decisions in recent memory.

Regardless of where you are with money, I highly recommend a financial planner to make sure you’re on the right track. Here’s what the process looked like for us.

Financial planners aren’t just for rich people

While many wealth management consultants only see people with over $1 million in assets, there’s a whole network of planners who take on smaller clients. At first, I thought hiring a financial planner made a statement about how much money you had: enough that you couldn’t figure out what to do with it. But we all need to save for the future, even if we’re not making a ton of cash.

Our financial planner reviewed the full inventory of our assets — from our bank accounts, to our employer-sponsored retirement accounts, to an IRA my grandmother insisted I open as a teenager — and gave us a list of tweaks. His suggestions had little impact on our current lifestyle, but those investments will be worth a lot more down the road. I’d been on the right track, funneling money into long-term savings to “hide” it from our temptation to make impulse purchases. Our financial planner helped us make sure we were saving the right amount, and that the money we saved was being invested wisely.

If you don’t have much, it’s even more important to run a tight financial ship. Our financial planner recommended using automatic transfers. We love them. Money disappears into accounts we’re keeping for retirement, a new kitchen, and our son’s college education. I realized we need to prepare for R’s preschool tuition bill. It isn’t due for several months, but it could hurt our emergency buffer if we don’t set money aside. I also started brainstorming ways we could save on our monthly expenses. I used to think relatively little about money and hope for the best. When there was money left over, I transferred it to savings. Otherwise, our paychecks covered everything we needed. Now I’m more conscious of big-ticket expenses coming up — and how much we need to save — thanks to automatic transfers that keep me on a schedule.

How we found our financial planner

We started our search through the Garrett Planning Network. Most of Garrett’s planners work with smaller clients, and they don’t receive any commissions for their work. In other words, they charge a fee for the hours they spend crafting your plan, and that’s the only way they get paid. They have an obligation to work in your best interest.

After we made a list of planners in our region, we narrowed it to one who looked like the best fit. Then we arranged a get-to-know-you meeting. I used this guide from the Wall Street Journal to brush up on the basics of the business. Before our meeting, our planner asked for a basic inventory of our finances. We met and discussed expectations, made sure we understood his services and fees, and ultimately decided to proceed.

My husband was skeptical at first. I’d done all the initial research, and he had only the planner’s website as an introduction. After our initial meeting, he was completely sold. This was critical: we were trusting someone else with part of our financial future. I wasn’t willing to pull the trigger unless we both felt confident.

Deadlines, deadlines

Not only did our financial planner give us advice we wouldn’t have thought of on our own, he gave us a to-do list. We’ll probably check in with him again in a year or two. I’ve been more motivated to carry out his suggestions than I would’ve if I’d been on my own. If nothing else, I don’t want to show up to our check-in empty-handed.

For adults with ADHD, this readymade to-do list — not to mention having someone else do the mountain of research on financial minutiae — seems like a fantastic idea. A future check-in establishes external accountability, something notably absent in my previous DIY financial management strategy. As hesitant as I was to enlist help with my financial future, I feel like it’s already paid for itself.

What do you think? Have you worked with a financial planner? Do you struggle with money? 

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5 random, mundane things ADHD messes up for me

ADHD and everyday life: it’s almost all I write about here. I try to touch on the important issues, the ones that can cripple our relationships, productivity, and self-actualization. On the ground, though, the little stuff adds up. It makes us laugh. It grinds us down. It affects how others judge us.

Here are five random ways ADHD affects my day-to-day.

  1. Maintaining curb appeal. I live in a sweet little neighborhood where most people take pretty good care of their yards. I love taking care of my yard. It’s rewarding, and it gives me quality outdoor time. The problem is, taking care of the yard(s) requires consistent effort. I’m really great at burst effort. I mow the lawn on the regular, but I’ve also been guilty of the following: dismantling a children’s play structure and letting the pieces blow around the front yard for months. Leaving a length of baseboard from a demolition project leaning on my back fence for five years (and counting). Doing a great job mulching in April, then letting weeds take over the flower garden in July. Repairing the structure of our decorative porch column, then leaving it a bare wooden post all winter (and counting). The list goes on. I can’t imagine what would happen if I didn’t even enjoy this stuff.
  2. Keeping gas in the car. I think I put gas in my car every month or so. I used to drive more, and fueling up at a quarter tank was part of my routine. Now, it’s so long between fill-ups that I forget the gas station, and even the gas gauge, exist. I often don’t look at the gas gauge until the orange light comes on. Then, the ADHD dissociation of actions from consequences kicks in. Intellectually, I know my car will eventually run out of gas. On a deeper level, I can’t feel it. It doesn’t seem real. The feeling most people get when the fuel light comes on doesn’t always happen for me. This is why people with ADHD do such dumb stuff sometimes. Yes, part of our brain knows what will happen, but the part that directs our actions misses the memo. It’s almost unbelievable, even to someone who experiences it.
  3. Using wart remover. You know the stuff I’m talking about, right? The directions say to apply it every day for a couple weeks. For four years, I’ve failed to remember this for enough days in a row to permanently remove a wart.
  4. Parenting with consistency. I often say, “well, next time…” and “okay, but from now on…” The problem is, unless I write that down, I probably won’t remember. My highest priority is to  provide a consistent, predictable system of consequences in my child’s life. I feel awful every time ADHD sabotages this, either because my heat-of-the-moment “next time” was impulsive and unreasonable, or because I forgot the promised consequence.
  5. Helping the homeless. I feel distinctly not-okay every time I shake my head “no” or ignore a homeless person. At the same time, I would rather give them a bus pass, a snack, or something similarly useful than straight-up cash. My goal in life is to keep a stock of granola bars within arm’s reach in my car. That way, I can hand a healthy snack out the window when someone is holding a sign at a red light. However, achieving this is a legit project. I need to select a temperature-tolerant, individually packaged snack, remember to buy it at the store, remember to put it in my car, and remember it’s there when I want it. I feel guilty about the fact that I haven’t succeeded yet.

Alright, your turn. What’s an unexpected roadblock ADHD throws up in your life? Share it in the comments, we won’t judge 😉

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