Friday, September 26, 2014

ADHD and the Automatic No—or Yes

Have you heard of the "Automatic No"? It's one of those phrases that describes a phenomenon among some people with ADHD that is so obvious, so clear, that no doubt a multitude of people have come up with the term, assuming they were the first. I count myself in that group.

My husband used to be the Master of the Automatic No. Once he was diagnosed with ADHD (in 1999), I started understanding how he developed this habit.  When I interviewed him, a few years ago, for an article on his best tips for slowing his own ADHD roller coaster, I asked him about the Automatic No. Here is his response:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Stop—And Smell the Gardenia

“Ohhhh, smell this gardenia,” I said to my husband, lifting a freshly picked specimen to his face. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. SniffSniffSniff. His quick succession of inhalations over the ivory-petaled flower produced no reaction. Continuing at that pace, however, he'd soon be hyperventilating.

What a shame, that he couldn’t partake in the pleasure of the rich fragrance, a fond remembrance of my growing up in the South. In the summers, the scent of gardenias—along with their larger cousins, the magnolia tree flowers—would hang in the warmly humid air. It was practically the only good thing to come from that oppressive heat; our house had only spotty air-conditioning back then.

That little gardenia bush had produced nothing but leafy growth for the past eight years. They are notoriously finicky bloomers in the Bay Area, I've been told. And, this summer marked the first success: a constant profusion of velvety blossoms against shiny, deep-green foliage. The bush is pictured here, along with a metal goat stuck in the rose pot behind it. It is fitting for this post, because my husband’s nickname is Dr. Goat. Here, the goat looks like he might eat the gardenias, fine-smelling or not.

This wasn’t the first time when my husband could not share my appreciation of scented flowers. “I must have blown out my olfactory receptors in the lab,” he always says, speaking of his time spent studying to become a biologist and dealing with various chemicals during experiments in the lab.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cooling "Heat of the Moment" Despair

Back in the “bad old days,” when my husband and I were getting whipped around on the ADHD roller coaster, we desperately needed better strategies—fast! Unfortunately, there was very little worthwhile reading in those days about ADHD and relationships.

Both of us learning about ADHD and my husband taking medication helped immensely. But that went only so far to counter entrenched patterns developed not knowing that ADHD was in the picture. One of those patterns I call the "downspiral of despair," the feeling of futility each time the roller coaster dropped again. In the early days especially, when progress sometimes means two steps forward and one step (or even three steps!) backward, it's tough to keep believing that things will progressive get better. 

In honor of Valentine's Day, I offer to YouMeADD blog readers a few tools that I wish we'd had then and which we will use now. I hope they help to ease the drops and dips in your relationships (not just the romantic ones, either), including your relationship with yourself.   

At the end of this post you'll find a musical dance-number my husband and I created just for you!

A Treasure Chest of Memories

When I spied this box at a local store, I knew I'd found the perfect gift for my husband Valentine's Day: A Treasure Chest to store the hand-made cards and funny notes we have made for each other over the years, along with little mementos of good times together. Why such an idea?  I'll tell you.

It is all too easy, when caught up in the heat of an argument or disappointment,  to forget all that's good in the relationship—and the other person.  Of course, this is true for humans in general but it seems especially true in ADHD-challenged relationships, especially in the early days after diagnosis.  Reacting "in the moment" sometimes means forgetting the Big Picture. If a trove of positive remembrances sits prominently displayed, you needn't go digging into drawers, folders, and envelopes to spark your memory. It's right there.

Even single adults with ADHD often find themselves losing sight of the Big Picture in their lives. That old adage about there being two kinds of time for folks with ADHD, Now and Not Now, can leave them stuck in Now, with no conception that things might look different in Not Now. When their string of successes is interrupted with one slip, they "hyperfocus" on the slip, giving it undue weight and forgetting all they achieved before it and will go on to achieve after—if they don't let themselves become preoccupied with the one slip. They can benefit from an active strategy for offsetting this negative pattern, to avoid sinking their mood and self-esteem and paving the way to an attitude of "why try?"