This ain’t no lifestyle blog.
Just in case that wasn’t clear. I have no answers. NO. ANSWERS. I mean, of course my exquisitely curated life is dope, and sure, my friends and neighbors are always saying things like, “You know who’s got it together? Midge. I wonder what her thoughts are on guilt-free desserts you can make in under 5 minutes!”
But no. Just…just no.
Having a neurobiological condition affecting the frontal lobe that impairs executive function (SCIENCE, BETCHES) pretty much guarantees that no matter how hard you try to be a Regular-Ass Productive Member of Society, you’re almost certainly destined for a meager, frantic existence as a Half-Feral Creature Thing Somehow Managing to Pass As an Adult Human Person. Personally, I’m OK with that. Well, I’ve become OK. Having ADHD forces you to get super realistic about what you’re able to achieve when you’re too broke or too stubborn to bring in organizers / coaches / therapists / nutritionists / housekeepers / personal assistants… A small army of professionals, whose job it is to fill in for those parts of your brain that don’t quite measure up to what everyone else gets to work with. Since two of the things I hate most in this world are “being told what to do” and “paying for things”, I’ve come to terms with the fact that, sometimes, good enough really is good enough.
Allow me to illustrate, anecdotally:
When I was single, living on my own in Chicago, I didn’t own dishes. Or silverware. Or cookware. That’s not to say I don’t love to cook. It’s sincerely one of my favorite things to do, and I’m pretty goddamn good at it, if’n I do say so myself. But when you cook, you make a mess – and when I make a mess, I don’t clean that shit up. Here’s how the decision-making process played out in mah melon:
Do I want to have a clean house?
Do clean houses have dirty dishes piled up in the sink for weeks on end?
Nope. They most certainly do not.
What’s the simplest solution to avoid having dirty dishes pile up in the sink?
Don’t own dishes. Nothing to get dirty, nothing to pile up. Duh.
That seems drastic. Why not just do the goddamn dishes like a normal person?
Because washing dishes is the fucking worst, and I can’t understand how everyone doesn’t feel that way. Every moment I’m washing dishes, I’m also wishing I were dead. #multi-tasking
But everyone has to do chores, and no one likes them. What makes me so fucking special?
Dunno. It’s embarrassing, and it really sucks. But it is what it is.
OK, smartypants. If I don’t have dishes, what will I do for food when I get hungry?
I’ll eat tamales from the supermercado on the corner, which are way more delicious than pretty much anything ever anyways. And because I’m both high class and a functioning alcoholic, I’ll wash those suckers down with the ginger ale and brandy “technically it’s only one” cocktail I’m always carrying around in my 32 oz Nalgene bottle. If I must have a home-cooked meal, I can bust out that bbq fork I found on the sidewalk the day I moved in, spear a hot dog with it, and cook said hot dog over a burner on the stove.
(Note: When my boss heard how I was living, she went home, gathered up her excess kitchenware, and tossed it into a box – which she dropped on my desk the next morning, saying, “That was the saddest fucking thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Get your shit together.” It came from a place of love, I promise.)
In case you’re worried, I’ve quit drinking, except for once every few months at casino bottomless mimosa Sunday brunch – because it doesn’t count as drinking if you’re doing it on the Lord’s Day, and you stop before 2pm. Also, I have dishes now. Mad dishes. They’re cute af, too. But I’m still me. Yes, I’m older; I have a house and a Real Job, and I wear reading glasses and do lots of other grown-up shit. I’m adulting my ass off over here.
But you don’t grow out of ADHD.
What got me out of the feral life is that now, I have a husband who both isn’t disgusted by the feeling of old, gross, WET, half-eaten food (omg throw up), and is able to stand in one place for more than 15 seconds; and to him, it’s not a big deal to clean up after the kinda-feeder he married. He doesn’t even get mad when it’s 11:30 pm, and I’m all like, “I think I need to make some creampuffs right fucking now.” 5 minutes later, there’s flour everywhere, water boiling, and I’m whipping the living shit out of some cream, and he’s just like, “Awwww yisssss…..” Because to him, by being willing to take on this particular household chore, he wins twice: he gets to enjoy tasty treats on the regs, and he has a wife who is smiling, and singing, and truly happy.
This is the dude I tricked into marrying me. He’s a fox.
If you’re wondering why I’m so goddamn sure that it was the bearded fox (which, I now realize as I’m typing it out, sounds like a euphemism for “penis”) that helped me be a person person, it’s because I’ve accidentally tested this. When we moved out to Reno, he stayed behind in Virginia to sell the house. In the three months we were apart, I didn’t get around to purchasing any furniture, and was happy to spend my time lying on the floor. If I needed the remote, I wouldn’t get up to grab it; I’d roll, log-style, until I reached it, then roll back to Start. Also, all I ate were those dank frozen veggies they sell at Trader Joe’s, because they were healthy-ish and microwavable, and I could eat them off of paper plates with plastic cutlery. On the floor. Lying down. Yeah. That shit didn’t fly for long once he finally made it out here for keeps.
So, I guess I do have one piece of advice to offer.
Find a partner. For me, that’s my husband. Maybe, for you, that means your spouse, or your roommate, or your best friend, parent, pastor, therapist, weed dealer, or dominatrix. You do you, homey – I ain’t here to judge. Just reach out to someone, anyone, who understands, accepts, and values you. And ask for help. Sure, it’s going to feel awkward having a convo that’s literally about you and your needs omg I’m a snowflake and I demand you deal with me THUSLY. But trust your Auntie Midge when I tell you, it’s going to be OK. And if you don’t know what this would even look like, here’s a quick guide to get you started:
- Invite them over, if they don’t already live with you.
- Make them a delicious meal, and enjoy it together with many heavy-duty cocktails or a big ol’ bowl of dispensary weed (HELL YES PROP 2).
- Tell them that you trust them, and that you hate how the way you act sometimes makes them feel. Be sincere. Which shouldn’t be hard, since #nofilter is pretty much The ADHD Way.
- Fess up to having ADHD, and draw connections between observations they’ve made about you in the past, and the medically accepted symptoms of the condition. If you’re concerned about them holding onto the entirely too common notion that ADHD is just an excuse for a bevy of character flaws, it can help to start off by explaining how ADHD works from a biological perspective (betches love biology). Then, tell them how the difficulties caused by the stupid under-active portions of your brain have affected your everyday life.
- Be clear that this is not about you making excuses, or refusing to take responsibility for your actions. Acknowledge how difficult it must be for them to make adjustments to the way they live their own life because you can’t seem to get yours together. Let them know how much you appreciate them, and everything they’ve done for you.
- Tell them what you’re doing to try and help yourself, and ask them for their help as you work to figure the rest of this shit out. Be specific. They’re not in your brain, so it’s imperative that you provide them with the next best thing – a view from the inside.
Trust me – I know that this isn’t fun or easy (unlike your mom). I know how isolating a lifetime of dealing with ADHD solo-style can be, and how difficult it is to admit that you’re NOT REALLY OK. But I think you’d be surprised at how many people are willing to take this on. Not out of a sense of “Bless her heart…” (well, not always), but because they fucking love you. See, here’s the thing: we often bring things to a relationship that you don’t get with someone who has a regular-ass brain. We’re spontaneous. We’re authentic. We’re enthusiastic. Where others see no option but to zig, we gleefully find a way to zag. We’re intolerant of boredom, so we keep things interesting – which can be awful, if we’re dealing with stagnation in a relationship by picking fights over nothing, but can also be marvelous if we’re staying engaged by mixing it up in the sack, or taking our partners with us on weird adventures. We’re never boring, and we go all-in. When we love someone, they know it, because we love them SO HARD. Our hearts are big because our biology makes it hard for us to mute our feelings, so just as anger, frustration, sadness, and anxiety are broadcasted loud and clear the instant they’re felt, so are expressions of love, happiness, hope, compassion, and excitement.
I’m sorry to have to tell you that you can’t control what goes on in your frontal lobe, and I can’t change that there are always going to be some things you struggle with – things that aren’t a BFD to everyone else. I also can’t fix how it’s going to make you feel, seeing others seemingly sail through life like it ain’t no thing, while you’re struggling to do what seems like the bare-ass minimum. So, if you don’t want to lose your fucking mind, enlist help. Be open and honest. SHARE. Try to explain what hyperfocus feels like, and why it’s different from normal engagement; they won’t know why it’s so hard to capture your attention otherwise. Be honest when you space out in the middle of a conversation. Ask them to repeat what they said, rather than scramble to catch up and fake your way through; they deserve to know that you really are interested in what they have to say, and that their ideas are valuable.
Many of us ADHDers are on edge our entire lives, constantly adjusting and observing and adjusting and observing and adjusting and observing, ad nauseum. We’re aiming for “average”, and wind up frustrated and embarrassed when we fail, which happens more often than not. Ain’t nobody got time for that mess. Give yourself a break, and enlist an ally. Find that person who loves you, loves being around you, and has the time, energy, and patience to join you on your journey. Find a partner, someone who doesn’t expect – or want – you to be someone you’re not. Find a person who appreciates what you bring to a relationship, and is happy to help create an environment in which you can be your truest self, spastic warts and all. And once you’ve found them, be open and honest about how grateful you are that in this world of ME ME ME, you were able to connect with someone like them; someone who is living their own busy and challenging life, but is generous enough to share what energy they have left at the end of the day. Take on all the chores that you don’t find repugnant (in my case, I handle household bookkeeping and any non-wet cleaning chores) and complete them cheerfully, proving to yourself more than them that you are contributing to the relationship, and not a burden. Most importantly, ALLOW THIS PERSON TO HELP YOU. Accept what they’re offering with a clear understanding of what that help means. It’s not “You can’t do it.” It’s “I love you, and I am willing to do whatever I can to help you.”
So yeah. We’re all messed up. But we don’t have to be all messed up alone.
P.S. I don’t particularly want this blog biz to just be about my stupid mental illness. Right off the top of the ol’ dome, I can think of about 50 things that are more interesting than “life with ADHD”. Like art. And nachos. And nacho art. Next time, maybe I’ll talk about something else. But maybe not. Who knoooooows. Just be aware. It’s comin’.