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November 3, 2010 / Jenny Ann Fraser

The Day I Got To Work On Time

One day last week, I managed to get to work on time.

Now, for ordinary people, this is not news. I realize that. But my job as the Head of Wardrobe at a theatre is not really all that ordinary and neither am I.

I work every day like most people, and I often work anywhere from 40 to 80 hours a week depending on how busy we are.  But last week, we were the complete opposite of busy, which makes me want to dig my eyeballs out with a spoon.

I am really bad at getting myself to bed at night, so getting to work at a certain time in the morning when no one cares if I’m there or not is more than difficult. And since I have nothing interesting to do when I get there, it’s pretty much impossible.

Add that to the fact that I live my life in ADHDland and it becomes even more impossible not to hit the snooze button repeatedly.

Many people (sadly) see those who live in ADHDland as somehow damaged or defective and sometimes annoying. I try my best, give my all and make a real effort not be annoying. But if you are easily annoyed, bad tempered or impatient I’ll annoy you anyway, and I can’t do anything about that.

But while I fail miserably at certain things, I excel in ways that more than make up for what I’m lacking.

According to me.

It is common, though of course not a rule, for those who live in ADHDland to be really dysfunctional in the morning, and I am no exception.


So I set simple goals that I can achieve so that I don’t feel like a total loser. I never remember to write these down and if I do I tend to forget to look at the list.

The goals are as follows.

  1. Get out of bed. 20 points
  2. Feed the cat and cuddle for a few minutes so that he doesn’t torture me more than necessary at night. 10 points for remembering to feed him. 2 for cuddling because he pretty much makes me do that.
  3. Shower if I have to, (but it is best not to strain myself so I try to do that in the evening.) Brush teeth and wash face. 15 points for showering. 10 each for teeth and face.
  4. Put some sort of clothes on. Clean is best and I’m pretty good at that. Matching socks are optional. 10 points
  5. Do not get side-tracked by the internet. 25 points (This is super-hard.)
  6. Leave my apartment. 8 points because I always do eventually and that makes an even 100

That’s 6 things and 6 things are really hard for me to do without walking into walls or tripping over my own feet. This routine does not take more than 20 minutes most days which is good because the longer I spend at home, the more I risk complete distraction and/or injury.

If I manage to do all of these things without any mishaps, I’m off to a good start. I don’t actually add the points up because I can’t speak in the morning so I’m not about to waste my time trying to do math.

By the time I’ve walked my 45 minutes to work, my brain is pretty online and I am capable of doing normal morning things like putting on makeup without losing an eye, boiling water for instant oatmeal and making coffee. I am also capable of speech by this point, so I make up for lost time, if there happens to be anyone around to talk to. (I still avoid math though I’m good by about 11:00 AM).

So the other day, I scored 75 points as I didn’t need to shower and I brushed my teeth at work which doesn’t get any points.

I would have made it to my desk with coffee in hand at 9:00 am which is a miracle because I got out of bed at 8:05. I’m still impressed.

The only problem was that I had forgotten my keys.

Fortunately, another co-worker was able to let me into my shop,  and I stayed there, tethered to my desk for an hour until my boss arrived and loaned me a set so that I could move around the theatre. It was a brutal hour. I do not like to be tethered.

The good news is, that while I am usually pretty impressed at my ability to show up to work with keys almost all of the time, I’m not so good at remembering them every other time I leave my apartment, so I keep a spare set of apartment keys in my wallet or I would be locked out constantly. At least I knew I would be able to get into my home at the end of the day.

As I mentioned, we’re not all that busy at the moment, (next week will more than make up for it) so I spent most of the day contemplating how much of my ADHD is a problem because it actually screws up my life and how much of it is a problem because other people say that I should be able to fold myself up into some tiny box of normal that I clearly can’t fit into. I wouldn’t really want to if I could.

I’m contemplating the years of expensive therapy that saved my life but didn’t re-wire my brain enough that I can make doing my dishes a habit. And I’m thinking that not being an anxious, suicidal, depressed human without an ounce of self-esteem trumps a clean kitchen any day.

The night before I got to work on time, I actually managed to do all of my dishes in one focused attempt while practising singing, and I started to think that I might be my very own super-hero.

It might be a while before this happens again. But more and more I’m beginning to think it doesn’t matter. I’m not living in filth, I’m just slightly behind. Almost all of the time.

I’ve been feeling bad about this inability to keep things in order since I was a child, and yet more than 20 years of trying to fix this has led to some improvement but hasn’t eradicated the issue.

At some point in the last couple of years I realized that I was sick and tired of feeling bad about myself!

So I stopped.

Whenever I find myself worrying about things that I struggle with I ask myself, “Am I hurting anyone?” And I’m not.

Then I take a look at all of the things that I have accomplished and overcome, and the things I’m doing today. If I look in the mirror and there is still a good person staring back. Things are as they should be.

It doesn’t mean that we stop trying. I will not stop trying to become more organized. But I’ve decided to stop feeling bad about what I don’t do well, and I no longer base my self-worth on other people’s standards. Even if I would love to reach some of those standards in my life.

So, this leaves me wondering. How much of our lives do we spend worrying about things that really don’t matter? How much of what we worry about is really just a reaction to judgement from others? More importantly; Who would we be if just let some of those concerns fall away and instead made the choice to accept ourselves where we are, and as we are today and worked at personal growth?


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22 Comments

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  1. Cooki / Nov 3 2010 4:05 pm

    If you place an armed mouse trap on top of the snooze button, you will never sleep in again.

  2. nrhatch / Nov 3 2010 6:57 pm

    Fun post!

    I often write about worrying endlessly about trivia: http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/its-just-your-imagination/

    When we choose to let go of endlessly circulating and percolating toxic, negative, and/or non-productive thoughts, we free up time and energy to enjoy the here and now ~ a good strategy to follow, since most of what we worry, fuss, and fret about, never happens/happened anyway.

    But . . . definitely hang on to that extra set of keys!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 3 2010 7:43 pm

      Thanks NR!
      Oh, I so hear you about the keys! Especially since I can develop great strategies for such things, (which is why I’ve gone to work without them 3 times in 10 years.)… but I never know when my brain might take a 30 second vacation and some carefully honed habit is temporarily forgotten. Back-up plans are a must!
      Looking forward to checking out your post!

  3. lisa@notesfromafrica / Nov 4 2010 3:41 am

    I recently found your site, and am busy catching up on some of your older posts.

    Although I do not have ADHD, I struggle with chronic migraines and some neurological problems, which result in pretty much the same symptoms. I have over the last few years developed some of my own coping mechanisms, but have found the coping mechanisms you describe in your blog very interesting and helpful. Thank you!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 4 2010 9:30 am

      Hello Lisa!
      Welcome. I am so happy that my blog is helpful. That, more than anything is my real goal!
      So, thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I wish you much luck and healing.
      Blessings

  4. DM / Nov 4 2010 5:51 am

    self talk….my wife and I were just talking about it last night. I’d read a book on ptsd a couple of years ago…one of the exercises in it had to do w/ building up your self worth…and they listed dozens of different activities we all do…plus encouraged you to identify things you were relatively good at…not perfect mind you, but do relatively well…then write them on a couple of index cards for review. for a few weeks I read them every day, now just on occasion when they catch my eye…..amazing how something that simple can graduadually rewire a persons self talk messages….your post today reminded me of that activity.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 4 2010 9:34 am

      Hello DM!
      That is interesting. I find myself wondering if our culture puts way too much emphasis on doing things really well and we learn to dismiss the small things that we are “relatively good at” as you say. Let’s face it. Most of our day to day activities really don’t require any perfection at all!
      Thanks for that. There is some more for my brain to chew on!

    • nrhatch / Nov 4 2010 9:52 am

      We have plenty of time to dip our toes in the water and decide where to focus our talents . . . unless we get caught in the dreaded trap of perfection.

      http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/good-enough-2/

      Music, Art, Writing, Life . . . it’s all a wonderful dance, even if we step on toes or stumble along the way!

  5. Jk / Nov 4 2010 7:24 am

    Hi Jenny – I think your effort for self-awareness is great. I too create these stigmas in which I feel others judge me by, although I may have never even experienced the direct feeling of judgement. It’s likely something that I myself see as a flaw and figure others pickup on it as well. One area that I run into this is public speaking. It’s funny, because I have a client facing role where I interact with business executives of fortune 500 companies, and I manage to do well – but deep down inside I have this layer of uncomfortableness. No one has ever made mention that I come across this way in business meetings – and I’ve even asked for the feedback from peers…but I still feel a sense of uncomfortableness for whatever reason. One way I combat that is by being ultra prepared. This allows me to create ‘talk-tracks’ to manage the conversation and builds my confidence because I know my business well.

    When it’s all said and done – I waste so much negative thought and energy focusing on something that doesn’t even impact others. I actually get complements often on how well I’m prepared for meetings and how I conduct formal business reviews – but I don’t give myself a break. This post of yours has opened my eyes wider on this activity and I’m going to work on being kinder to myself. Recognize that I have fought hard to overcome my weaknesses, and drive to keep doing so.
    Thanks for the knowledge, Jenny! Great Job!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 4 2010 9:49 am

      Hello JK,
      I am so happy that you find this helpful and always grateful for the kind words.
      I really do know what it is like to feel as though you are lacking even when others are praising you. It is such an energy sucker!
      Being kind to ourselves, and others might be the most important thing we ever do to work towards our own growth.
      I have never done this before, but your comment made me think of a post I wrote in September about singing which is something I have struggled with and I thought it might be helpful to you. I hope you don’t mind.
      https://jennyannfraser.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/singing-my-way-through-the-fear/
      And by the way? You are a great speaker! (I know 🙂 )
      See you tonight!

  6. tobeme / Nov 5 2010 4:35 pm

    Ah, to simply be, that is the answer! There is much to think about and nothing to worry about. I worry not. Peace and love to you!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 5 2010 7:07 pm

      Thank you very much Mark!
      You always have so much wisdom to share.
      Peace and Love right back at you. 🙂

  7. Andrea DeBell - britetalk / Nov 6 2010 10:50 am

    Hi Jenny! Your system is really great. The point system is hilarious. It gave me a glimpse of the ADHDland, and for that I’m really grateful. Do you take ADHD medication also or just work within your system? Sorry to pry but I have a friend going through this and she is contemplating taking medication to be become functional. Thanks for your input on this. Loving blessings!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 6 2010 2:54 pm

      Hi Andrea,
      Thanks for the compliment, and no need to apologize. What’s the point in having ADHD if I can’t share what I’ve learned? 🙂
      I do not and will not take medication. I have tried everything that was available in the past and found that it really wasn’t all that helpful, and there were some side-effects that took a long while to wear off even after I stopped using them.
      That said, everyone doesn’t have the same experience and there is some reason to suspect that I in particular can’t physically handle stimulants. I don’t think that medication as a short-term solution is a bad thing if it works. It can be very helpful to help you focus while learning new coping techniques and therapy, but I can’t see it as a viable long-term solution as all of these meds can really damage the body.
      What I have told a newly diagnosed friend in the past, was to focus on changing the things that really impact your life negatively and don’t worry about what other people think you should be. I wasted a lot of my life trying to “cure” myself of symptoms so that others would approve and I realize now that it wasn’t possible or helpful.
      I don’t entirely buy into the idea that ADHD is truly a disorder. There are some who theorize that the real problem is a brain that is very sensitive to chemicals in food and environment as well as other unnatural stimuli and so it goes a bit haywire. Combined with society and an education system that has a painfully narrow view of how we should be, life can be difficult.
      There are fabulous benefits to this type of brain, but sadly not enough opportunity to use them.
      An example of this would be that when my work is stimulating and requires a lot of intelligence, creativity, freedom to move physically and do new things… I’m the one you want. However, apparently we’re all supposed to be able to sit in one place for hours, repeating the same tasks mentally or physically… someone like me just won’t function well enough to meet expectations.
      Some corporations are starting to get this and in allowing employees more autonomy, they’re getting fabulous results. This can be where your ADHDers will be the top contributers.
      OK. I’ll stop now. I think I just wrote another blog post.
      Thanks for the question!
      Good luck to your friend. (I will also mention that she should read EVERYTHING she can get her hands on, both mainstream and alternative. That will help!)

  8. Ollin / Nov 7 2010 7:13 pm

    Didn’t realize how hard it is to do simple things when you have ADHD. I have a good friend who has that. Makes me think of how hard things are for him, explains a lot about how he’s late all the time, forgets things, and goes off topic often. lol. Thanks for sharing your experience, I think this is the kind of thing people need to read because it teaches people how different we are, and that conditions that we have can make life more challenging versus others. Which means people with these conditions should feel more proud of themselves that they are able to face life’s challenges successfully in spite of it all, and should make people who don’t have the condition more humble. Anyways, I am humbled at least. You are a fighter and a warrior. Thanks.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 9 2010 1:30 am

      Well, thank you Ollin!
      That is really the point.
      We all excel at some things and suck at others. If we would stop judging each other and celebrate the gifts that each of us has while we work to grow… What a world we would have!

  9. Will / Nov 14 2010 3:46 pm

    I have to get up for work at 5:4am. And, like you, “I am really bad at getting myself to bed at night”. I mean night is where it happens, right? What I am really jealous of is that you can walk to work. 45 minutes is quite a walk, do you walk home at night too?

    I have been told many times I have “ADHD tendencies” whatever that is. I have never had any interest in an official diagnosis and think I do quite well by focusing on staying organized. One of the things that it has limited me in is long term stellar accomplishment. I am interested in so many things and focus intensely for short periods of time on them. But then I have had friends that tell me that is the main thing that makes me such an interesting friend for them.

    Just found your blog after noticing you visited my website. Thanks. Your writing style is fantastic!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 15 2010 10:09 pm

      Hello Will,
      I’m so glad that you dropped by!
      Yes, I do walk home from work too, and often go for a walk in the evenings. It is a bit of a compulsion as well as other things…
      I too am told that I need to focus on one thing but I have become skilled at so many things in life because of my variety of interests. I couldn’t bare it if I stopped learning new things and quite frankly, I think that it is important to be able to learn new things and adapt to a rapidly changing world… there’s a blog post right there!
      If you can actually stay organized and your “ADHD tendencies” while they may be totally valid are not impeding your life then embrace what they offer. It is far from all bad and I wouldn’t change much if I could.
      Thank you so much for your lovely comment regarding my writing style. This is all new to me and the encouragement that I receive means so much! Thank you again!

  10. rob white / Nov 17 2010 8:10 am

    You have a great sense of humor, Jenny Ann. We all have our challenges and humor always helps us see our own insanity. We often create habits that work for us in the short term (I used anger to get my way as child). Eventually I realized the habit of anger wasn’t satisfying my inner urge to grow and develop in the least; on the contrary – anger is downright dissatisfying … and I was doing it to myself! I had to look at the truth of the matter and realize that the habit of anger was insane.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 17 2010 10:05 am

      Hi Rob, nice to see you!
      I can relate as I have spent so many years obsessing over and feeling inferior for the things that I just can’t seem to do like other people. I look back now and think I don’t want to waste my time like that anymore!
      I consider myself lucky to be able to step back and observe a bit as so many seem to spend their lives stuck in patterns that they can’t shake.

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