(This is the first of four posts discussing life with ADHD)

Depending on how you met me, you may not have realized that I’m about as ADHD as they come. Like many ADHD adults, I’ve learned to cope with many of the social tells that I had as a kid and have calmed down a little bit. Dealing with ADHD is still a significant part of my life challenges and in many ways causes me far more difficulty than being transsexual. This may sound odd to some, but being trans never stopped me from completing work on my own projects, with my own tools and no help needed; my poorly managed ADHD has. Its cost me jobs, respect, and and severely damaged my self-image. At times it even threatens my relationship.

No matter how deeply Lissa cares for me, it is impossible for her or anyone to hide how frustrating I can be. She’s the type of person that always wants to be early, and plans things out weeks ahead of time.  I’m always rushing and have one last thing that I have to do before we go. I don’t complete tasks and regularly have real difficulty with even doing simple things. It’s a regular topic of discussion between us, and one that she’s shown more patience for than I can tell you. Recently during one of these discussions, I found an answer to the question,  “What is it like?”

For me, living with ADHD is like there’s a sock on the floor. You’re walking past it so you bend down, pick it up, and take it to the dirty clothes. Then you go back to what you’re doing when you notice another sock, then another. Pretty soon you’ve forgotten what you were doing and are off on some other task; which gets interrupted by a sock on the floor.

The source of some distractions are really easy see from the outside.  Trying to put a knife sharpener away leads to 10 minutes of attempting to sharpen the serrated knife that is also in the block, while the dishwasher door is down and the rest of the plates remain scattered across the counter. I’ll get frustrated with how a sentence or a function is working out, catch a glimpse of my empty tea cup when I look away for second, and spend 20 minutes futzing around the house before I realize I’m not focused. Let’s not even get started on what twitter and blogs do to me.

On second thought, let’s. Y’see, the distractions that are easily seen from outside are only half the problem. Even when I’m not getting distracted by whatever objects happen to be sitting around, my mind tends to be busy fiddling around with the socks on my mental floor. I’ll be cleaning and think of something I want to say on twitter, or a response to a blog post, or just some completely random idea that needs to be worked out in my head. One thing leads to another and it’s 30 minutes later.

Many of the people I’ve spoken too seem to think that the distraction part of being ADHD is like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. While this seems correct, it really implies a connectivity to the pattern of distraction which distorts the ways ADHD is confronted. Many of the distractions that I deal with on a daily basis are completely non-linear, and in reality it’s closer to “If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want to pet a moose”.  Removing things that act as distractions only has a temporary effect, and even in a completely spartan environment, my mind will insert plenty of distractions without any assistance.

The other common assumption about ADHD based distraction is that it is because the person just doesn’t care, has misaligned priorities, or is just plain lazy. While this can be true about individuals, in general attitude isn’t the cause of ADHD distraction. Authority figures treating people living with ADHD as though they are lazy or uncaring can also lead to severe depression, which exacerbates any existing problems. I don’t pretend to have the right answers and I doubt that the “right answers” for me are anywhere close to universal, but we’ll talk about that in a few days.

*As a side note, I suspect that many of the children misdiagnosed with ADHD actually have symptoms of depression or other mental problems that lead to difficulty focusing on schoolwork or acting out.