We ADHDers present with a marked attentional inconsistency, at different times displaying intense perseverative focus which is most often inappropriate (as it interferes with us doing the appropriately prioritized things that need to be done - getting to work on time, versus effectively organizing the socks in my dresser) and at other times an inability to maintain long term attention (e.g. drifting away, fighting to maintain attention in a meeting, or during a monotonous, drudgery-filled task).
So there is a constant battle whereby we need to ensure we get a handle on both perseveration, and on drifting away. Medication, in my case, has helped me a fair amount to put structure around my attention, to contain it appropriately. Therapy, coaching (self-coaching included) and bibliotherapy (reading books to learn skills and theory and information about ADHD) are all methods that can help with your attention issues. Setting up an uncluttered office at work helps me not get distracted easily. Setting alarm reminders helps me to not get 'stuck' in some interesting tasks to the detriment of me missing a meeting, etc...
I read somewhere that an ADHDer's mind is like mercury in a thermometer. Properly encased in glass, the mercury does what needs to be done - it performs its function as designed. But remove the glass structure and the mercury spills this way and that, racing all over the place, scattered in every direction. Just like an ADHDer's attention.
So structure is key to ameliorating attentional inconsistencies in us ADHDers: pattern planning, day-timers and calendars, alarms and reminder notes. Using friends, professionals, and family to act as accountability resources (e.g. "Hey, just thought I'd give you a phone call and ask if you have cleared the gutters yet this weekend, as you asked me to remind you...") can provide structure around our attentional resources too.
But there are sometimes inadvertent or under-noticed secondary gains for engaging in ADHD perseveration or drifting away. This also partly explains why we do this stuff...
Drifting away is useful if you are in the most boring meeting ever, the type that can actually cause your eyes to bleed, and for your brain to coagulate. It is probably best in advance to decline the meeting, or ask the organizer to prepare an agenda in advance, or ask if you can leave after the relevant sections have been presented. If the meeting is unavoidable, and is de facto destined to be incredibly boring, then feel free to attend to shiny things and birds flying by. Everyone else, even the non-ADHDers will be doing the same, so you'll be in good company.
In all seriousness, the secondary gain obtained here is the avoidance of an almost intolerable boredom, a mental state that is distressing.
Perseverative attention is useful if you are coding, or building a scale model of the Eiffel Tower, or are reading a fascinating text book for your studies. But it is also employed while anticipating or trying to avoid a racing mental state that is distressing, as is frequent with ADHDers.
Note: Some call this perseverative attention 'hyperfocus', I think this a misnomer: The problem is not super-focused attention per se, it is inappropriately overmaintained super-focused attention on something. In that you can't switch gears. You get stuck doing something when you more appropriately should be doing something else.Poor sleep habits are to ADHDers like poor diets are to alcoholics - a secondary effect of the disorder. And not getting enough quality sleep exacerbates ADHD symptoms.
As much as I enjoy my own company, and can find myself endlessly interesting (!), sometimes when I lay down to sleep, my brain begins to hop around like an old car radio being switched about madly. I try bodily relaxation exercises, sometimes even anxiolytics before sleep, and that can help. Hopefully I can engage in a daydream of camping, or doing something fun and interesting - or make lists in my head. But often I get unstructured crap racing around my cranium.
And this is likely why I delay going to bed so often, why I keep reading the internet blogs and newspapers I do, why I watch movies on my computer until way too late. Now that I have my diagnosis, at least I can better understand why I engage in this 'just-one-more-thing' habit - to avoid an uncomfortable ADHD mental state. I find it especially worse on the weekends, when I have the least time structure of all.
So maybe the solution to my poor sleep habits is in the same league as the solution to attentional inconsistency - providing structure to keep me on course. Maybe a set bed time. Maybe a quick read before sleeping. I may have to contend with my racing thoughts, and hopefully this will be therapeutic in that I will be able to confront and explore this tendency, and hopefully find a way to encompass and take ownership over this habit. And at the very least, I will get some better sleep which will improve my ADHD symptoms and perhaps indirectly lead to fewer racing thoughts, thus encouraging me to stop avoiding laying down to sleep at an early hour.
Phew. My brain hurts from writing all of that.
Hope you're having a terrific day,Cheers,
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