Woman. Warrior. Writer. Health 1-22
Vol. 3 No. 2 | Thursday January 13, 2022
As I mentioned across my social media and in an earlier note, I’ll be writing on substack for 2022 and I will cover health issues and writing.
Today, I wanted to discuss ADHD. While I had suspected I may have this, I was only recently diagnosed with this condition. The extent of my condition was prompted by my own child’s diagnosis. The facts of “Predominate Inattentive” (PI) ADHD subtype describe my reality which makes me easily distracted, particularly when presented with what I think of as a mundane task or boring information. It also explains some of my disorganization.
I recommend: A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD by Sari Solden, MS and Michelle Frank PsyD. I usually don’t like workbooks because in the true spirit of ADHD I get bored filling in the blanks. There was a time where I loved filling in forms. It made me feel good to write in little boxes as I felt organized and complete. That phase has passed. I digress.
Dad and The Datebook
To illustrate possible genetic or social links to why or how we behave as influenced by what is familiar, I like to tell the story of my father. Dad headed a medical division, published extensively, and exhibited an extraordinarily high level of competence in specific areas that I cannot even begin to fathom. He’s publishing his last article of his career on Alzheimer’s in another few months.
Yet, he is and was one of the most disorganized people I have ever known. When he was in his 60s he visited me when I was living in Seoul. In his hotel room he pointed to a pile of datebooks he had brought (back then, no Google calendars etc…) in different sizes and styles.
I looked at one and then another. Instead of recording ten appointments in one book, he had ten books that listed one appointment in each book! He had recorded one appointment in every single datebook! I pointed this out to him. We laughed together. That was the end of his attempts to organize.
My father did not have ADHD, but he was a legendary example of disorganization. I am my father’s daughter, but to reassure myself I am slightly ahead of Dad, I readily admit that I am disorganized and have so for many years. Then again, maybe Dad was ahead of the game as he had lots of people to help him out. Dad was a prized son in a Korean Confucian family and could therefore, in his mind, never be disorganized—no, the world was disorganized. He was the organized one! He had Mom and administrative help, and everyone running around dealing with his datebook issues. No such situation with me.
So I will offer below an example and solution to household organization that may help my fellow ADHD women.
Steph’s Organization Solutions That Would Make Mari Kondo Cry
I love Mari Kondo. I am a huge fan because she executes an impossible ideal of organization and clothes folded into little rolls look great. I love organization systems. Loving these types of things is not the same as doing them. I also love to look at sharks. I don’t want to see one in the water. We may admire from afar, but that doesn’t mean anything. And yet, thanks to Kondo’s wisdom I have ceased to needlessly accumulate (more or less). Divorce worked in tandem with the tidying-up mantra. Organize yourself out of a miserable marriage and you will find yourself quite tidy indeed!
Women with ADHD who do not have inherent interest in closet organization and general tidying must take Kondo’s wisdom with a grain of rice. I will explain here why: Women have been tasked by the patriarchy with keeping a neat home.
Failure to have a neat home means you are not fulfilling your womanly obligations. This can really wreak havoc on your sense of self. If you are not inclined to enjoy clean up (some women do, cool, but not me!) you will feel inadequate because you are unaware that what is really an assigned gender role of housework does not fit with how your brain functions.
My ADHD cleaning rolls like this: I need to clean! I will organize my closet right now! But wait, I need to look at that photo album because I hit that part of organizing my closet that is too much to deal with and I’m getting bored and wow, I love these old pictures. Help, my sleeping bag has sand in it and now it is all over the closet floor and I need to vacuum. Where is the vacuum part with the little brush? OK, wait, back to organizing the closet, wait, that picture that fell out of that photo album a year ago that I stuck in the book needs to go back in. Wow, I am hungry, I need a snack. It’s a Saturday, how can I be fixing my closet! I need to go out and hike! Life is too short to clean! Where is the vegetable peeler for my carrot snack?
When I lived in Hong Kong I had help to keep tidy and organized—forever grateful to the women who helped me with household tasks. But for me to do so now without serious assistance would be a full-time job that I would find deeply, if not tragically unfulfilling.
This has been my own solution. PURGE. I threw out almost all of my T-shirts except for my own. I adapted the Kondo idea of only having items around you that spark joy. But just because the joy is sparking does not mean I have to fold these items. Forget it. Folding does not spark joy. Ever. Ever. EVER.
I simply know everything in this drawer is a T-shirt. I did this to all of my drawers and with everything that comes out of my laundry. If I had help, yes, it would be folded, but no help means no folding. Since my kid is also ADHD, this is how we are rolling now. Everything has a drawer. Nothing is folded. Not towels. Not sheets. Not clothes. Wow, I am so much happier.
Mari would be upset, but we cannot seek validation from outside sources.
I am whole. I am complete. I am joyful. I am, as I have said throughout my life, structurally messy. But I am not dirty. I am clean.
Ask yourself this:
1) How much time do I spend folding my laundry?
2) Do I enjoy tidy up?
3) How does folding clothes and presentation affect my accumulation of goods?
4) How important is the organization of the interior of my drawers to my sense of self-worth?
ADHD forces some serious choices. You must reckon with it.
I was driving a few months ago when my mind drifted and I started thinking about Ophelia and Hamlet. Steph from Days of Yore may not have had the discipline to pull over to the side of the road. Past driving records suggest she would have tried to keep on driving and write at the same time…hello high risk insurance $$$. But now, I stop the car. I grab the notebook and pen. Write the poem down. (Now, to find that notebook in the stack by my bed…. but I will do this!)
ADHD allows me to intensely focus. But it is merciless beast when I am not interested in the subject. In school, I was so often bored I would fall dead asleep in the front row of a huge classes, one I recall, held by Famous Russian Politics Scholar who was no doubt rather aghast that I had the nerve to politely snooze every single class, and not in subtle ways, but full on snooze. Wide open mouth. Head tilted back against chair. Fast, fast asleep. I sat in the front row because I thought that I would be too inhibited to fall asleep, but no, boredom triumphs every time.
This is a long way of stating that the key to coping with ADHD is to focus on what compels you.
Cleaning does not compel me.
Russian studies: I was awake for the stories of Stalin’s horrific dinner parties wherein people would be invited to dine only to be hauled off from the table to get shot. But the part about military campaigns, admittedly, not so much.
Ophelia and Hamlet, ah, yes!
In short, ADHD really brings to the forefront what you may already know about yourself, but perhaps what you may want to suppress.
You have to make the best of what you can. Follow your bliss!
Look out for new work coming out from Scarlet Society – this new publication is for women 40+ and covers relationships, finance, sexuality, travel, health and more.
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