Habits and ADHD

I was looking around tonight and making my list of things that needed to be done. Big jobs, little jobs, every thing that is broken and needs to be mended, things that need to be cleaned, or painted, straightened or sorted. It’s a very long list. Staggering, actually.

I have been at the mercy of the not so nice side of ADHD. Procrastination. Forgetfulness. Not prioritizing. Chaos. Floundering and fumbling.

Last post I mentioned wanting to get control of those symptoms and not letting them rule me. It’s a big job, gaining control once it has slipped through your fingers. I realized tonight that it is all a matter of habit, really.

You’re going along just fine, doing what you must do in order to be an adult, when something happens. You slide. You slip. You get tired of having to expend so much energy just to keep up. So you rest. You take a break from thinking so much. No big deal, you tell yourself, you just need some time, you say.

But once the routine is broken, once the momentum is lost, once you start allowing excuses for not doing things and letting them slide…well, in a matter of mere seconds, it seems, that is the new normal. It goes on for a while, and suddenly, all those things are now habits. Bad ones. Interesting how good habits are so difficult to maintain for someone with ADHD (okay, for me anyway) but bad habits just come right in and run amok; tying the good habits to a chair and putting duct tape over their mouth. Then those bad habits dance around the good habits in some sort of weird, savage ritual, proclaiming themselves the new king. Damned cocky little buggers.

And that’s what happened. Sometimes, those habits are deep rooted. Sometimes they begin for a reason. A long time ago, when I wasn’t very happy, I pretty much got tired of trying. I’m not going to go into the whys and wherefores of it all. Let’s just say I’d had enough, I was at the end of my rope and I was sick and tired of trying so hard for nothing. So I started to let things slide. At first it was an experiment. Then I just said the hell with it all. When you live a life where nothing you ever do is good enough, and you are made to feel unworthy and small, no matter what you do – there comes a time when you realize you are hating the wrong person. You’ve been hating yourself, working like mad to make everything “perfect” and for what? It isn’t like it’s doing any good. So you stop. One day you just stop.

The house gets messy. So what? If I’m going to be belittled, then why not give a reason? You stop being responsible for taking care of every little thing. For someone like me, with ADHD and Anxiety, the problem is when you let things slide and it starts getting out of hand, well then you’re overwhelmed and you don’t know where to start to begin to fix it all again. And it takes more energy than you have. So you don’t.

I lived that way for a while. Then life got better. Now life is good. But some of those habits remain. Sometimes I just don’t feel like “adulting.” And I don’t. I leave dishes in the sink. I don’t fold the clothes. I don’t take out the trash. Nothing wrong with that, except that sometimes not doing those things becomes the habit. And that isn’t good. No one is going to do it for me. If I don’t take care of things, they just pile up. Then there’s way too much to do and I can get overwhelmed. (let me just stop right here and say there is also a vast difference between messy as in cluttered and in filthy as in nasty. I do not let things get filthy. Gross.)

Habits. It’s all habits. In order to do what I’ve set out to do for the year and tame my ADHD and my symptoms, I’m going to have to start with my habits. I have to chase out the bad habits with a broom, untie the good habits and tell them I’m sorry. We need to kiss and make up to learn to run like clockwork again.

I’m pretty sure this can be done. I can tame the chaos. I started with a day planner my sister gave me for Christmas. It is on my person nearly all the time. I am apparently a low tech gal. There are numerous apps for planning and time management. I have several. I do not use them. Ever. But I’m also forgetful. So, from now on, everything goes into the planner. Appointments, phone calls I need to make, my schedule, and tasks I need to complete. Index cards. I love them. I have an index card for each day of the week. It has the day’s schedule on it and the chores that need to be completed for that day. A control journal in index card form.

Habits. It’s all about replacing bad ones with good ones. It’s about taking control, and realizing that when you take the time and energy to tame the chaos, you feel better, you have more energy, your focus is better and the more you can accomplish in a day. It isn’t about being perfect. Some days, when you are feeling particularly petty though, it CAN be about showing the people who never believed in you that you are thriving and happier than you’ve ever been.  You can take satisfaction in knowing that you are now living the life you want, doing what you want, chasing dreams with nothing and no one to slow you down. Yeah, you can take a minute to smile about that.

In order to follow my dreams and live life to the fullest, I can’t be bogged down with clutter and a slave to procrastination. So I choose not to be be. (and it’s an awesome feeling!)

6 thoughts on “Habits and ADHD

  1. My number one problem is replacing bad habits with good ones. I have created a daily/weekly/monthly to do list for the regular stuff but I don’t follow it and can’t figure out why I sabotage myself all the time. Then I get frustrated and more falls by the wayside. It seems to be a never ending cycle. I look forward to reading about your progress.

    1. I am very familiar with the vicious never ending cycle. Seems so easy to stop self sabotage when you THINK about it, but actually stopping seems impossible sometimes.
      But I am determined to keep changing this time. The overwhelm and cycle of struggle is in direct opposition to the life I am determined to lead.
      I will keep posting on the process – and the outcomes.
      Have a great weekend!

  2. I always love your posts, Kristi. You make me feel so much more ‘normal’ – in a sense that my behaviours are a norm amongst adhders. My goal this year was to be kinder to myself about falling off the wagon because I do it regularly and feel like everything’s fallen apart. Need to accept that I will not be able to adhere to my routines 4 out of 4 weeks per month, but 1-2 on a regular basis is ok.
    Thanks for posting. 🙂

    1. Thank you for reading and for your comment! I began this blog because I was so inspired by others with ADHD, and appreciated their sharing of themselves in order to promote awareness, reduce stigma and allow others to relate. I hoped that I would be able to do the same, that by sharing my ups and downs, I’d help others to feel like they weren’t in this all alone. Knowing we can all offer support to one another, whether it be a good laugh, a few tears, or tips and tricks that can help with symptoms is what makes me so proud to belong to the awesome ADHD community. Happy that you can come here and enjoy reading the posts! I hope you continue to find something of value here to help you along in your own journey. 🙂
      Glad to hear your goal is kindness towards yourself – you deserve it!!
      My routine will never be perfect, but I’ll keep striving for improvement!

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