“Passionate” is just another word for S.M.A.R.T.-ass

Just in case you didn’t know, people with chronic illness get “normal people” (aka acute) illness, too. I’ve been fighting a respiratory infection for the past week. Thanks to dysautonomia screwing up my temperature regulation, the 100-degree fever that others in my office got with this bug has randomly oscillated between 96 degrees and 100+ for me. Yuck.

It’s also the end of the year. In my office, that means time to create new S.M.A.R.T goals at work. S.M.A.R.T goals – for those who don’t know corporate speak – are goals that are 1) Specific, 2) Measurable, 3) Actionable, 4) Realistic and 5) Time-bound.

As a girl with ADHD and brain fog, trying to remember what I’ve accomplished on my previous goals – much less what those goals were – can be a bit challenging. My Passion Planner helps. I adore my Passion Planner. I think of it as the bullet journal for girls who can’t stick with a project long enough to create a bullet journal. It has space to write notes during the week, to-do lists organized into “work” and “home,” plenty of scratch paper (including graph paper), and a visually salient priority section each day/week for “get this done, or else!” reminders. It also offers a few prompts at the end of each month to reflect on monthly progress. Filling these out throughout the year has been one of the S.M.A.R.T-est things I have done yet to prep for end-of-year goals. I don’t have to remember what I accomplished in 2017. I already wrote it down.

My Passion Planner offers weekly inspirational quotes and ideas for self-care. I typically read the self-care ideas and vaguely think about trying them, but then don’t follow through. I usually gloss over the inspirational quotes. I love my Passion Planner. I love it very much, but – especially when looking through it while feeling sick – I often suspect that the passion I feel for my planner might not be reciprocated.

Continue reading ““Passionate” is just another word for S.M.A.R.T.-ass”


Membership BADDges: Identifying ADHD in Girls with Co-morbid Anxiety

It’s rough being an intelligent girl with ADHD. If such a girl is halfway successful, multiple doctors’ 15-minute default assumptions that she merely has anxiety/depression will too often have been the reason she spent most of her twenties ineffectually medicated with SSRIs – and labeled treatment resistant – instead of receiving the medications that will eventually change her life.

Such a girl has probably railed against the gatekeepers that barred her from having a shot at becoming truly successful – not just halfway – for so many irreplaceable years. She probably has become lost in an RSD spiral at least once after scoring off the charts on her ADHD self-assessment and being shot down anyway because she “did okay in high school.”

Such a girl may even have spent the first year after her formal ADHD diagnosis doubting it. She never forgot the doctor who said her difficulties were due to a lack of skills, not a neurological condition. She may have heard the bully-in-her-brain aping that doctor – telling her that she chose a job she “wasn’t good at” – for quite some time before she learned to trust her lifetime of ADHD experience over an ignorant GP.

If she has learned to trust in diagnostic criteria over doubt, she may become incandescent with rage when she sees other smart girls in Facebook groups and on WordPress being treated the way she once was treated. She may start to write an angry blog post after thinking back on what it was like to be told that she “didn’t need ADHD medications to solve her problems” – she just needed to choose a job within her “realistic personal capabilities.” She may instead realize that diagnostic criteria and angry rants wouldn’t necessarily have helped her in her own diagnosis journey. They wouldn’t necessarily have penetrated the fog of self-flagellation at the time.

She might then wonder what would have helped her feel more confident that she really did have a neurological condition back in her undiagnosed twenties. One thing that would have helped would have been to know that the “ADHD” versus “anxiety/depression” dichotomy is a false one. If a smart girl has ADHD, she most likely has anxiety and/or depression, too. It would have further helped her to have learned how to recognize her ADHD lurking behind her anxiety. It would have helped her to recognize her shibboleths: little traits of hers that stem from the diagnostic criteria for ADHD and aren’t as easily confused with other diagnoses as a non-specific criterion like feeling overwhelmed.  It would have helped to have some way to laugh about just how ADHD she was, not internalize the issues.

The following are some of those shibboleths that one such girl, known as Lavender, shared with another smart girl still in the process of being diagnosed. (She has added a few since that original exchange!) They have no formal diagnostic validity as an ADHD screener, but they probably have a fairly high specificity (though maybe not sensitivity!) To use the guide, assign the female subject +1 points for each item as described below. There is no clear-cut diagnostic threshold for ADHD. As in Improv, everything is made up and the points don’t matter. However, if the girl happens to self-identify with a few of these traits, she is more than welcome to an unofficial Membership BADDge, at least in this girl’s book.

Continue reading “Membership BADDges: Identifying ADHD in Girls with Co-morbid Anxiety”

Improv #1: Levity is a Ladder

Dealing with people is not easy for girls with the hyperactive flavor of ADHD. We miss social cues, we talk over people, we fidget, we can’t modulate the volume of our voice, we interrupt. We see the complete picture of how to bring a project together, but can’t explain why you should believe us. We do all of these and more in an RSD spiral.

I’ve had some varient of “needs to stop clipping people’s sentence with her own reply” written on every performance evaluation I’ve ever gotten. This was true before dysautonomia, but trying to talk coherently when your blood pressure is 80-something over 50-something during your review doesn’t help. Thank heavens for planned out replies. I had a reasonable review, even though the new diagnosis amped up the challenge rating.

Dysautonomia alone shouldn’t further deteriorate social skills. My history of corporate ridiculousness practically guaranteed it would. My boss set my review for 8am, the earliest possible slot of the whole team. Between dysautonomia and ADHD, mornings are not my most clear-headed. Mornings after a night out “bonding” didn’t help. (We were on retreat at a hotel with corporate meeting rooms.) The others drank. I didn’t, and I left at a sensible time. However, even those few extra hours of socializing apparently were too much for dysautonomia. ADHD is socially awkward, but dysautonomia is just asocial.

Continue reading “Improv #1: Levity is a Ladder”

*Press It* What It’s Like to Have ADHD As an Adult

Yes. This. So much this, with a side of RSD.

I work as a statistician, but I once got told I had to stop doing a volunteer job as a registration taker at a charity walk. I got fired from a charity walk position, guys! Talk about embarrassing! (Well, technically I only got fired from that particular job duty. They moved me over to taking care of the financial recording after booting me from registration, and that worked out well for me and them. RSD didn’t care about that distinction, sadly.) I kept not being able to understand the people coming up and giving their names to register. The noise and outdoor heat, combined with the auditory confusion, equaled sensory overload and customer service failure. Math is my friend. Many loud people trying to explain what they need at once? Not so much. I could probably never have survived as a waitress!

Also, did I mention how much I hate open offices? I really, really hate open offices.

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

Mental Health Matters

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