I have a predilection for living a life of extremes.
From the outside it appears I conduct my life rather haphazardly. Having a conversation with me is a bit like talking to the Mad Hatter.
I change subjects a lot. I get excited when talking about something I am passionate about, and I talk really fast. My attention darts away from the conversation frequently.
The other side of my personality is completely inflexible. I like to keep my schedule the same week-to-week and day-to-day. I get angry and irritable if someone throws a wrench in my plans or interrupts me while I work.
I am privileged to have formed my own little community around this website.
The more women we welcome into the group, the more I see that no two women with ADHD are exactly alike. We all have unique struggles and unique strengths.
ADHD Women: A Study in Contrast
Lack of Focus v. Hyperfocus
When I am at work I have this super rigid system for how I get things done. I do everything in a very specific order, and I track my progress in a way that makes me accountable, both to my employer and myself. I work hard and it takes a ton of mental energy to get through my day.
But if one thing goes wrong or distracts me I go completely off the rails. I have no focus and no motivation. Particularly if the project I was about to work on is not interesting to me.
Adults with ADHD have trouble focusing on tasks that seem boring to them. But we also have an exacting attention to detail when we ARE interested in something. This is often called hyperfocus.
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On one hand, we can learn a new skill or hobby quickly and become proficient in a snap. On the other hand, the rest of our life falls away and we might forget to pay attention to what is going on outside of our own head.
For example, when I work on writing for this website I frequently forget to feed my child, my dog and myself. I am so hyperfocused on getting what I think is the MOST important thing done – I neglect other important aspects of my life.
Social Butterfly v. Social Reject
I have always vacillated between enjoying getting out and meeting new people and experiencing new things – and then wanting to stay inside my house in my pajamas without seeing anyone.
I actually wrote about my weird social anxiety issues that developed in my 20’s in this post. While I am better than I used to be, I still clam up and get a little sweaty and nervous when I have to introduce myself to someone new.
There have been times in my life when I was able to speak publicly and make my way through a social situation. In fact, I recall a few errr cocktail parties where I daresay I danced on tables. (And in cages) with people around to serve as witness.
My point here is that for every night I have spent at home alone, I have also gone out on another night tripping the light fantastic.
spontaneity v. Routine
As you know I love me some routines. I have community members who tell me that they also do better and feel better with a routine in place. Routines are life for some of us. Without a routine many of us would be unable to get out the door every morning.
I recall a few years ago my husband got up on a Sunday morning and wanted to go to Ikea. At the time our son was about 2 years old, and I had a plan for how I would get all of the chores done that day. (I was a stay-at-home-mom at the time.)
When he proposed that we take an impromptu trip to Ikea my head about exploded. To this day I feel bad, but I just freaked out and started yelling about how I cannot cook, clean and shop with so much pressure.
I am so un-spontaneous that I don’t know how to describe a fun, spontaneous woman with ADHD. I know these women exist. If you are this way – fill this section in for me. Ok?
Disorganization v. OCD tendencies
I am disorganized. It is really tough on the people around me. I have piles of papers, piles of clean clothes, and piles of dirty clothes. I have piles of my son’s school artwork. I move the piles around when people come over.
Wacky fact: I am disorganized but also OCD.
I am a germ phobe. I disinfect surfaces in my house and the handles of my fridge every day. I use Clorox wipes on my desk at work every day. Oh, and I use the paper towels from the bathroom to open and close doors in my office building.
My desk is a disaster but it is germ free. If that isn’t a contrast I don’t know what is.
Racing Thoughts v. Mental Exhaustion
So many women have told me that they have racing thoughts. Not just women with ADHD, but women in general seem to suffer with this. Often there is no real pattern to when the thoughts strike, it seems to happen at all times of day. (And night.)
My racing thoughts usually involve writing that I need to complete, clothing I need to wash or even a phone call I failed to make. My mind races even when I try to meditate.
Yes I am trying mindfulness meditation. No, I don’t know yet if it is working.
The flip side of all these racing thoughts is that by 8pm I am totally exhausted. After we read at night with little man, I pretty much let my brain shut down. Actually, if I am honest with myself, my brain shuts down around 3 pm.
I work 5 hours per day. Yes, I know this is ONLY part time. But I have to work hard to discipline myself during this time. When I get home I immediately dive into working on this website. By the time I get home from picking up my son at 3:30 I am spent.
Sometimes I think some of my worst ADHD-inspired traits are offset by other positive contrasting traits. Sometimes I have no idea what I am thinking/talking/writing about. I could write more about contrasting personality traits, but I will spare you.
Maybe I need a cocktail, or more coffee. Or liquor in my coffee.
What are your contrasting personality traits?
Do your strengths offset your struggles?