Saturday, October 1, 2011

Confessions of a Soon-To-Be-Diagnosed ADHD Mom

I admit it...I'm messy. Actually, to say I'm messy might be putting it nicely. My house is, quite honestly, dirty. The dishes aren't done, the dog-hair dust bunnies hop out to greet you, there's a pile of clean clothes that's been sitting on the couch waiting to be folded for about a week (TheODDDad washes them, but I volunteered to fold them and put them away), and the bathroom...well, let's just leave the bathroom for another time, shall we.

Add to that all my papers that I can't seem to get organized. I work from home, so my house is my office and my office is my house. You know how disorganized your office can get when you haven't done your filing or you have a number of projects on the go? Well, imagine that spread throughout your house. I have piles of books and papers everywhere, and I mean everywhere. If you must know, I do actually have an office in the basement, but I have yet to use it in the year and a half since we created it. Yes, it has furniture, but it has furniture covered in papers and files. Seeing a trend?

Before you go call the producers of one of those hoarding reality shows, let me reassure you that it's not bad enough to require an intervention. When we put our minds to it, TheODDDad and I can get the house looking pretty good in a day. You still wouldn't want to eat off the floors (but that's just a gross idea no matter how clean your floors are), but nor would you be afraid to sit down.

This is the way I have always lived and worked. In the past I've just chalked it up to a major personality flaw on my part -- my being lazy and messy -- something that I've always wanted to change but just couldn't seem to. Again, I put that down to laziness on my part. I've always envied people who could say "Sure, come on over!" instead of requiring at least a few day's notice (a week would be great!) before someone comes to visit. I've envied them and wondered how the hell they managed.

My mother-in-law is the exact opposite of me. The dishes are done three times a day, right after you finish eating. The entire house is vacuumed twice a week, once quickly and once thoroughly. Towels and bedding are washed once a week, on Saturdays. When you're finished with something, you put it away. (Now there's a concept I've never managed to grasp.)

I kid you not, early in our marriage I used to get panic attacks when my mother-in-law was coming over. Bless her, she's a wonderful lady and I love her to bits, but I was terrified that she was judging me as unworthy of her son. I admit that she never gave me even the remotest reason to think that and I understand now that I was projecting my own feelings of inadequacy on her, but that's not the point. The point is that I felt so bad about my abilities as a wife/housekeeper that I worked myself into a tizzy every time she came over.

Nine years of marriage later, I now call her to come clean my house. Originally the thought was that she would help me, but it has turned into me helping her. Actually, it's turned into me trying not to get in her way. It was only while watching her last year that I began to realize how different our cleaning styles are. She's very methodical and can accomplish more in a day than I can accomplish in a week. As I watched her, I began to reflect on how I clean. This is how it works for me:

1) start dishes
2) notice Bear's book that's been sitting on the counter for a week and has finally started to bug me
3) stop dishes and take book to Bear's room
4) notice dirty socks on Bear's floor and take them to our room to add to dirty laundry
5) decide to throw a load of laundry in, so gather up clothes and take them to basement
6) throw laundry in washer and take clothes from yesterday out of dryer
7) take dry clothes into playroom to watch some TV while I fold them
8) decide to pick up toys on playroom floor before folding clothes so that no one trips over them
9) realize I have to pee, so abandon unfolded clothes and half-cleaned floor to go upstairs
10) after peeing, decide I'm hungry so make myself a snack
11) go to put my dishes in dishwasher only to realize it's clean
12) unload bottom of dishwasher and then stop to go send an important work email I've forgotten about
13) see an email that I've been meaning to reply to for days and start to respond
14) realize that it's almost time to start making supper and I still don't have any clean pots because I never finished the dishes
15) go back to find water is cold
16) begin process again

That's pretty crazy, and that's just how I clean! Imagine that in every aspect of your life. You'd get nothing done, right? You'd be overwhelmed, right? You'd have no free time because everything would take you twice as long, right? Right! RIGHT!
Up until now, we've assumed that Bear inherited his ADHD, which is genetic, from TheODDDad. He was extremely hyper as a child and he's rather unorganized, so it wasn't a big leap to come to that conclusion. I, on the other hand, don't have a hyper bone in my body (those of you who know me can just shut up's rude to laugh at friends) and somehow manage to juggle a whole bunch of things all at once, so it couldn't possibly be from me. Could it??? Then last week I came across an article that described the very unique ways in which ADHD manifests in women. Wow, was that ever an eye-opener. Here are some of the questions. (

  • Do you feel overwhelmed in stores, at the office, or at parties? Is it impossible for you to shut out sounds and distractions that don't bother others? Uh, yah...sometimes.
  • Is time, money, paper, or "stuff" dominating your life and hampering your ability to achieve your goals? Did you read the above description of my house?
  • Are you spending most of your time coping, looking for things, catching up, or covering up? Do you avoid people because of this? Ssssshhhh...nobody's supposed to know that. I've done a really good job covering it up for 40 years.
  • Have you stopped having people over to your house because of your shame at the mess? "Stopped" would imply I ever started.
  • Do you have trouble balancing your checkbook? Do people actually still do that? I have a cheque book and I do actually write things in it, but that's about it.
  • Do you often feel as if life is out of control, that it's impossible to meet demands? I'm on anti-depressants for anxiety -- take a wild guess.
  • Do you feel that you have better ideas than other people but are unable to organize them or act on them? Yup!
  • Do you start each day determined to get organized? Oh, hell yes! Every day is the day I'm going to get organized and caught up before someone figures it out.
  • Have you watched others of equal intelligence and education pass you by? I'm doing pretty well, but that's because I hide it really well. But there are jobs I know I simply couldn't do because they require too much organization.
  • Do you despair of ever fulfilling your potential and meeting your goals? See above.
  • Have you ever been thought of as selfish because you don't write thank-you notes or send birthday cards? Let's not even go there with this one. I think only half our wedding thank-yous got sent out, I can never remember birthdays, and I don't do Christmas cards. (My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is stuck at home recovering from surgery, so she did her Christmas cards last September!!!)
  • Are you clueless as to how others manage to lead consistent, regular lives? Oh my goodness, yes!
  • Are you called "a slob" or "spacey?" Are you "passing for normal?" Do you feel as if you are an impostor? Don't think I've ever been called these things, but what I'm called and how I feel are two different things.

When I read the article to TheODDDad, he asked when I was going to make an appointment with my doctor to talk about this. When I talked to my parents about it and described what ADHD-Inattentive (or "girl" ADHD) looks like, my dad said that a lot of things from my childhood now made sense (another article, but all the signs were there, just not recognized). My mother-in-law laughed herself silly and told me that she's never met anyone like me. Apparently I do a good job cleaning so long as she tells me exactly what to do and keeps reminding me. And reminding me. And reminding me.

So where does that leave me? Well, I saw my doctor the other day and scored pretty high on the ADHD pre-screening test. Next is a visit to the psychiatrist to make sure that it's ADHD and not something else. That process in itself will probably take a couple of months, so I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I'm really bothered by one thing. What if it's not ADHD? What if it's just me? That would really suck.


  1. Having been there and done that, I own the t-shirt rights... Want one? ;) lol

    In all honesty, I can't tell you how much of a relief it was to finally be able to look at my life and realise that I wasn't ever dumb or lazy. That all of those things that people could do so effortlessly and took for granted that they were simple to accomplish would never be easy for me.

    I still have issues today. Not because I don't try... More often because I try too hard. It's a very fine line, but you know what? I'm getting better at walking it...

    Thing is, I could have written your post. I could have written it years ago, before I knew about ADHD, and I could have written it earlier today.

    I find that my ADHD allows me to better understand the struggles that my girls face as they go to school, learn and grow with their ADHD. I can only hope it helps me be a better parent to them as they make their way through life.

  2. My motto is "if you're coming to see us, come in. If you're coming to see the 2 weeks ahead and don't open any closets."
    I am currently working in the spare room that is becoming my office because working at the kitchen table isn't working any more. I have stuff piled everywhere, and a deadline, so the stuff can stay piled and I'll sit on an angle for now because it's the only way I can fit the chair in...I'm afraid if I give up and take the computer back to the kitchen it will reattach itself there. Apparently, families are supposed to eat at a table instead on their laps in the living room...who'd a thunk...
    (And I laughed out loud at your how to clean the house list...yep, pretty much, except I have to hand wash the dishes.)