#MHJ Explaining My ADHD with Memes

It’s Not Laziness, It’s Executive Dysfunctionality

This is me every morning when I wake up and I don’t yet have any plan structured that involves meeting other people that day.

From the outside look, it would seem like I just lay down ‘lazily’ on the bed or couch in the corner of my messy surroundings. While inside my head, I continuously think about how I know I have to do A, B, C, D, and E. And especially when it’s just domestic chores, I clearly know how to do it all.

But I didn’t even move an inch.
Until noon.
Or sometimes until the sun goes down.

Because that’s the thing with ‘usual chores’: they’re not interesting. I know how to do it, I know how the outcome would be, and I know it’s repetitive, meaning I will need to do it again soon anyway. So, my brain said, “why do it now? There’s no urgency to.”

I specifically mentioned ‘involving other people’ on the first paragraph because other people would act as external pressure, just like how deadlines are at work. And before my diagnosis and eventually medication, that executive part of my brain only really function under pressure.

But can I be plain lazy? Yes, of course. Although, it really is different when I’m lazy lazy vs when I’m ADHD lazy.

ADHD and The Struggles with Time

There are 2 things this meme specifically could be talking about. One is how in my perception, time just slips by. The concept is called time-blindness. Most studies attribute it to intense fixation or hyperfocusing, especially when it involves activities that I’m really into. But unfortunately, it could also happen during a normal day.

For example, I woke up in the morning at 4 a.m. I scrolled through my phone, then suddenly it’s 6 a.m. I showered, had breakfast, booted up my laptop, then I glanced to the corner of my taskbar, BAM, it’s 9 a.m. I researched some topics and wrote 3 paragraphs about it, oh apparently it’s lunch time already.

Time in my world don’t flow; they fly.
At supersonic speed.

The second thing has to do with both procrastination and “go big or go home” mentality slash perfectionism. If I don’t do X correctly by a certain timeframe, my brain would rather give up and not do it at all that day, especially if it knows that it’s permissible to do it later or tomorrow.

My other struggle with time is how I can’t accurately predict how much time would I need to do something and I tend to overestimate it.

I used to travel with my ex-partner and back then I often felt anxious about how they planned our itinerary. The most obvious was when it comes to hotel check-out time. During a chillax day, at 11 a.m., my bags would already be packed, ready to go. Imagine my anxiety when one day we were still on our way back to the hotel at 11:45 a.m., and arrived at 11:52 a.m. I rushed and tossed everything I have in my weekender bag, while they were on the other side of the room, calmly rolling up the cables of their laptop. We ended up walked out of the room at 12:03 p.m. I’ve only realized after my diagnosis that it’s a real-life example on how neurodivergent and neurotypical people differently process time in their brain.

The Curse of Having Both High IQ Score & ADHD

I have taken an IQ test only two times so far. First time in junior high, where I scored 142, and second time in senior high, in which I scored 136. If you’re unfamiliar with IQ test scores, those numbers put me in the so-called category of “having superior intelligence”.

This high IQ allows me to somehow academically breeze through my school years. I rarely study at all. And because I never had trouble with my grades, near top of my class every year, my parents always saw me as their clever girl, and that it’s my normal state, that I’m capable.

Also, this intelligence thingy apparently helped masks my ADHD symptoms for years, without me even realizing it. “Masking” is a term used in the neurodivergence communities meaning “to hide”. I’ve always felt that my childhood and teenage years are generally problem-free. Only after my diagnosis earlier this year (February 2022, at 26 years old), I reflected back and noticed how the signs have always been there my whole life.

The first time my IQ finally loses against my long-time hidden ADHD is when I was starting to write the final paper for my bachelor’s. I procrastinated it for 2 years. Just thinking about typing on Word was already so overwhelming, resulting in me avoiding it altogether. During those 2 years, I kept myself busy by working, traveling, exploring hobbies, and learning things I came to love, without telling anybody about my struggles.

Only after my parents gave me ultimatums that I need to graduate soon (because I was still partially living out of pocket money from them), lots of tense phone calls ending with my Mom wailing while my Dad saying “you are so clever, we know you can do that, but why don’t you just do it?”, the help from my then therapist, and unmatched patience from my two amazing professors, I was finally able to force myself to write. The thing that I avoided for 2 years, turns out only needed 4 months to finish.

So, yeah.
Fuck you, undiagnosed ADHD + high IQ combo.

The Paradox of Storytelling Sidetracks

The meme perfectly captures why I always provide every angle of backgrounds and sub-stories imaginable when I try to tell a story to my audience. This happens because my brain is trying to anticipate every question before anyone even ask it.

Say, I want to tell you about “Trixie Motel”. Instead of simply saying “it’s a reality tv show about a drag queen named Trixie buying, owning, and renovating a motel, matching their branding and personality“, I will also tell you the definition of a drag queen, that ‘motel’ is a play on words of Trixie’s last name which is Mattel, and that, yes, it’s Mattel, the company, because she’s obsessed with barbie dolls and collecting them.

On the other hand, I can’t stand when people don’t get to the point quickly when they’re talking. It’s because my attention span is so limited that if you waste those precious time with filler words (“eehh” or “emm”), unrelated details that I don’t care about, or your speed of talking is really slow, sorry, but you’ll lose me. If I have the option to increase some people’s speech speed to 2x like I often do with lots of Youtube videos, I definitely would do it.

Creating a More Effective To-Do List System

What makes it hard for me to persevere on projects is because I view them exactly how it was portrayed on this meme. It’s always a big block. Unlike neurotypical people, I struggle to see that the big block I’m aiming to build is made of small blocks being stacked on top of another.

The cliché suggestion of “just make a to-do list, break it down to specific things, and do what’s easier first” never works with me. So, I have to upgrade it, by gamification.

I use an app for this and the gamification aspect has to do with the ability to put colorful checkmarks on my to-do list when I did something, however small it is. Seeing multiple checkmarks (+ some “YOU DID IT!” animations) creates spikes of dopamine, which –because of ADHD– I naturally have deficiency of. This is why I don’t have a morning routine; I have a morning to-do list.

That morning to-do list consists of mundane tasks like stretching, showering, taking meds, Duolingo, tea, breakfast, read/listen to the news, etc. Neurotypicals usually don’t put those on their to-do list; it’s an automatic thing for them.

But not for me.
I can never build habits.
Because I can’t remember them.

I genuinely need to see my list in writings every morning, and put checkmarks beside them, so that:
(1) I don’t get defeated by my executive dysfunctionality,
(2) I have fewer excuses of escapism activities, and
(3) my brain gets the dopamine rush it needs, which creates this momentum going for me to tackle the more serious stuffs for the rest of that day.

Also, the gamification aspect works well because I’m a streak-freak. My habit app tracks streaks for individual entries, and I just hate breaking them. I am now on my 153rd day of Duolingo streak and my 177th day of NYT’s Wordle streak.

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