A few small victories over ADHD

It’s 2:36 on Tuesday afternoon. I’m sitting calmly in a coffee shop in Ann Arbor, thinking back over the last hour or so. It wasn’t pretty, but I think it might be helpful for some of the folks in my ADHD tribe to read about it, so here goes.

It’s about the emotional reguation piece. It’s about small victories over anger, feelings of overwhelm, frustration, hopelessness, etc. – all of those un-cool side effects that come along with the creative, curious, and constantly surprising ADHD brain.

The week started off badly.

I shattered the screen on my iPad. I’m experimenting with some green screen video editing and I’d set my iPad up on a stool to take some test footage. As I stepped back, it decided to do a belly-flop onto the basement floor. (Notice how I blame the inanimate object for its own destruction? Can any of y’all relate? Yep, I see the heads nodding…)

I handled that fairly well. I do have footage of me picking it up and saying a lot of nasty things – mostly anger and recrimination toward myself about breaking things – but I stopped it as soon as I noticed it. Small Victory #1 – stop the negative self-talk. I did some research online and found some local repair shops to check out on Monday.

But, that started the cascade.

Sunday night is when I make my plans for the week. So I started slogging through the backlog again to see what I wanted to tackle this week.

Mine looks like this:


Mind map 2016 0223

(A mind map is a very cool and helpful way of organizing the things in your head. Mine has sections for everything from “songs I want to learn” to “things to fix around the house” “TED talks I want to listen to” to “guitar lessons” to this week’s To-Do list.)

I started into it, but when I saw that I’d put 20+ items into “This Week”, I realized something was wrong. I stopped, looked for items that “must be done Monday”, then closed down the program. Small Victory #2 – knowing when you need to step back.

I spent about half an hour just playing guitar. It cleared my mind a bit. Small Victory #3 – remembering to take time to play.

There was more but this is getting to be a long post, so no details. But, between Sunday night and an hour ago, I:

  • lost all of the tasks that were in the mindmap
  • found out that my backup program doesn’t backup the /appdata folder – which is where the mindmap data lives
  • learned about the mind map’s internal Trash bin – which also didn’t have my data
  • found that the last 2 digital rips from my VHS tapes didn’t copy the audio tracks
  • had the tasks mysteriously reappear in the software (which I was hoping might happen)

Things were not looking good. The week was not off to a good start.

So, what happened earlier that prompted this post?

I started the day with a firm resolve to recover from the weekend and get the week planned. I mean, it’s only Tuesday, I can still save it, right?! I packed up my things and got myself to the coffee shop. About five minutes after I’d settled in, I got a phone call. A really good friend of mine was in a tight spot and needed some help. (I’m leaving out the specifics so their feelings won’t get hurt.)

Have you noticed ADHD-folk don’t take interruptions well?

I exploded. Inside my head, I mean, but I lost it. As I packed – looking perfectly calm and collected to the outside world – I fantasized about getting in my car and driving to Chicago to hide out for a week. Or Canada. Or heading to a local restaurant and pigging out on fat, greasy burgers loaded with bacon and cheese (my menu of self-destructive behaviors is evidently pretty tame). So, so dramatic!

So, I ran the errand. And it was magical. As I was doing it – seeing the appreciation on my friend’s face, experiencing the feeling that I’d done something helpful – all of my anger just vanished.

I got back in my car and sat there for about six or seven minutes, wondering what was going on. I even tried to recapture the anger, but it was impossible. And it seemed pointless. It was just so much additional negativity that I didn’t need.

I started up the car and headed to a different coffee shop thinking about this: some of the typical ADHD strategies had worked – taking a pause, stepping back, doing something else for a while – but the best one turned out to be this: doing something for someone else.

Not a bad lesson to learn.


Peer Support Group for Couples is Near!

For the last few years, I’ve been involved with the Ambassador’s group inside ADDA (the Attention Deficit Disorder Association). Our mission is to foster communication among members of ADDA. We phone new members to welcome them to the group, host informal get-togethers at conferences, and have recently set up some weekly peer-support phone calls.

One of the areas in which I’m particularly interested is relationships: how does ADHD impact what’s going on between us and our partners?


Over the last few years, I’ve gathered together information from dozens of sources, including those who specialize in relationships (like Melissa Orlov), those who write more generally about ADHD (Ned Hallowell and Russell Barkley), and even writers who look more at the social context and the way neurodiverse people are viewed and treated. I’ve interviewed several couples and had the great fortune to be part of a long-range couples group in Ann Arbor.

At this point, I’ve got an opportunity to share what I’ve learned (both from research and first hand) with the ADDA community. Starting this week (Thursday, Feb 4), I’ll be hosting a 3-session mini-workshop on ADHD and Relationships. The sessions will be done over the telephone with no visual (this time!) and will run from 8p.m.-9 p.m. EST.

Most everyone connected with ADDA should have received an email in the last few days inviting you to the sessions. If you haven’t, please contact us by emailing to ambassadors@add.org. Please send the names of both partners in the couple, your email address, and a telephone number.

Here’s a link to my webpage, I’ve got more to upload there, but it will give you the basics: Feb 2016 couples group

I’m really looking forward to this. I’m sure I’ll learn as much as I share!

ADHD Accountability Group

From about September through December last year, I signed up for Eric Tivers ADHD Coaching and Accountability Group. It was a great experience. Eric’s exactly the right kind of guy to be running a group like this. He knows a lot, he’s an experienced coach and therapist, and, significantly, he’s very, very clear that he’s on the journey too. He isn’t the expert handing down wisdom from on high, he’s the guide who’s a few clicks out in front of us, surveying the landscape, sifting and sorting through all the data (and apps!), and then living into and through it.


There were a dozen or us. We met between two and four times a week, depending on what was going on. Typically, we’d meet on Monday to set goals for the week and to get insight some aspect of goal setting and time management. Then, on Friday, we’d meet to see how we did and, always, talk about what worked. That’s one of the things I really liked – being pushed to review “what worked” – though I admit I sometimes found it hard to do. I had (and still have) difficulty believing I will take those successes and learnings and implement them in the long term. Reality argues against it – I’m continuing several of the things I learned – but the fear is still there.

One key learning for me was to really embrace the category: “things I’m not doing any time soon” and even “things I may never get to.” Over the last year (and probably longer), I’ve spent a lot of time culling my “to do” list. At one point, I was averaging at least an hour a day on this. It was insane but I was trapped in my model. (I was using a modified version of SCRUM [a software development methodolody] and did have the categories of “active work” and “backlog” [my terms, not theirs], but even at that, my “active work” list contained dozens and dozens of items.)

I hate walking away from any of my ideas. I feel like I’m abandoning them. I love the idea of “things I am not getting to soon”. It’s very helpful – I don’t feel like I’ve orphaned good ideas or like the ideas were bad. They are all good, I just can’t do them all. (Right now.)

Getting the backlog out of my head and on paper has side benefits: it both frees up bandwidth for you to think about other things, and it can transform what seems like an infinite swirl of ideas into a finite number.

The other thing Eric introduced was the mind map. (I use the desktop version of Simple Mind, though I’m not recommending it over others, I haven’t used many others. There is also a free app that does an excellent job.)

When Eric introduced the idea, I was reluctant. I already had everything dumped and organzied in Wunderlist (a tool I also love and recommend) and I didn’t want to go through a data transfer. By hand.

On the other hand, I wanted to really engage in the class, do the work, not resist. So I gritted my teeth and went for it. And it turned out I liked it. It’s a nice way to see everything at a glance, a lot better than my “pages of Post-it notes” approach.

The biggest benefit to me was having everyone visible at once – I’ve heard that from others too. A big side benefit was that I dropped a lot of the backlog, which reduced my workload by about 30%. I just printed out those lists. I wasn’t going to manually input things I may never get to.

I’m on-and-off about working with Star Charts. I understand the benefit and I’ve done it a few times (in fact, I’m doing it this week), but I don’t think it’ll last forever. I’m good with a checklist I have embedded in my day planning sheet. I’ll put up a post on that later, someone might find it helpful.

The other facet I wanted to mention was the people – the other folks enrolled in the group. There’s more I want to say, but this entry is getting long, so I’ll just say that it’s always a treat meeting people who are facing some simliar issues and all of us working through them together.

And, circling back to something I said earlier, I think this is one of the strongest things Eric brings to the experience: a very clear sense that we’re all going through this together.

That’s very important to me, knowing I am not alone.

Physical / Tactile / Nostalgic / Beneficial?

IMG_3240I’m still working my way through digitizing all of my old reel-to-reel tapes but I noticed something today. I’m going to miss the feeling of threading the tape through the transports and onto the take-up reel. I remembered how much I liked threading the 8mm film through the projector or even crawling under an old beater car to wire the muffler and tailpipe back to the frame to save a few dollars on repairs (my cars never lasted more than a few years anyway).

Naturally, that got thinking…

There’s been a lot written over the years about the value of engaging with the physical world. One of the earliest I remember is the book “Chop Wood, Carry Water” (the title comes from a Zen quote “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water”). I’ve seen articles about how kids are being affected by being distanced from nature, whether it’s urban/suburban living or the X-box (etc, etc). The topic is even subtext for movies like “The Matrix” or “Surrogates” (a truly creepy movie).

In ADHD world, I’ve seen it mentioned in a few places. For example, an article on kids and gardening in ADDitude Magazine or a study from University of Illinois about how walking can help with ADHD symptoms.

I think a lot of us have experienced this. And if not, why not give it a try?

If you  hit the wall on a problem, get up and take a walk around the office or around the house. If you feel some frustration coming on with the task you’re doing, stand up and take a few breaths or stretch.

Make sure you spend some time during the day doing something physical. Maybe not “build a playhouse in the backyard”, but sit down and doodle or color a few pages (all the rage these days). If you have kids, play a little catch or take a bike ride. (OK, I know I’m writing this in January, but you get my point.) If you have a pet, play with it.

If all else fails, you can try to use this as a positive motivation to go do the laundry.



Major Victory over ADHD brain!

OK, I know that for some of you, this is not going to sound like a very big deal. But for the rest of you – especially members of my tribe – this might throw a little glimmer of hope into your day.

Earlier today, I mentioned that I’ve been doing a once-a-year interview with Lisa (and Amy, back when I could). Usually sometime around New  Years, sort of a way to recap the year and get ready for the next one.

Lisa’s graduating college this semester, and commencement is this Friday. So, I thought I’d like to do the interview this week and capture her feelings at this major transition in her life.

A couple of the folks who were in the session with me said they’d like to do something similar and would I post the list of questions. I said “sure.”

Then, realized I didn’t know where they were.

I was pretty sure they were in one of two places. This is often the case and, most of the time, I’m right. But not this time. It wasn’t in “get to this soon” and it wasn’t with the camera – the 2 logical places.



I didn’t take my Adderall today and I don’t take frustration well when I’m not medicated (I’m working on it).

Today was a good day to skip meds. It was a very structured day, I was well rested, and I just came off of a great weekend. But, I didn’t need a monkey wrench like this one.

I realized I’d have to go the archives. The basement. Where I send things when I want to clear the deck up here on the first floor.


As I walked down the stairs, I just kept repeating “breathe, breathe.”

It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to dump the boxes on the floor and shuffle through the papers, looking for what I wanted, then leave the wreckage to clean up “some other time.”

It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to carry on a steady stream of self-abusive insults about losing the paper in the first place.

But neither of these happened.

I looked through three or four boxes, stopping whenever I recognized that familiar feeling coming over me that meant “you’re gonna lose it.” Another few breaths – the pause, the mindfulness, whatever you want to call it – and then I continued.

When I finally found it (in a box I’d already looked through once), it was kind of amazing. “Kid in a candy store” time! I haven’t felt that kind of pure joy in a long time.

Like I said, for some of you, finding 2 pieces of paper buried in a box in the basement might not be a big deal. But, for those of you who “get it”, here’s hoping you get that same feeling soon and often!

Video Clips from “Who Am I Living With?!?!”

I’ve put up a few clips from the June 2015 performance of my one-man show on ADHD “Who Am I Living With?!?!” They are in a playlist at this link: WAILW 2015 playlist. There are currently 3 of them. I’ll put up more later.

I Want to Leave You But

I Want to Leave You” – a short blues tune.

“Control Freaks, Support Group, and ToDoList” – a bit that includes “I forgot to tell my wife I was retiring from my job…”

The Spinning Wheel of Attention” – a graphic example of how our brains work

I hope you enjoy these. Please send any comments or feedback. I’m not sure where or when I’ll be doing the show next, but watch for it!

“Who am I Living With?!?!” – comments afterwards

The show was Tuesday night and I spent most of yesterday catching up on things I’d been putting off until “after Tuesday”. (1) It went well. The Q and A afterwards was especially good, which is great because that’s kind of what I’m really after. Introducing people to new information and then getting them to talk about it.

That said, it IS a lot of fun getting up and doing characters and bits I’ve written. I have a whole stack of comments that I wrote up at about 5a.m. Wednesday, but I wanted to put a couple of them down here.

– I’m glad the song “Mommy, Which Daddy?” went over. I like the underlying theme, I like the structure and arrangements, but there are a couple of parts that are just embarrassing. “Will my kids walk on eggshells whenever I’m around? I really won’t like it if they do.” Incredibly clunky. I left it like that, though, because it’s being sung from a kid’s point of view and I think they might say it that way. But it hurts singing it!

– Lou’s character (representing ADHD as a disability, not a gift) became a gay man during a run through on Sunday. It was a whim – I’m not much of a actor and wanted to try on different characters. What I really liked was the line about “I don’t want to be identified by one aspect of my personality.” So, I kept it. I personally found that saying the line “I love him and know that he loves me” flowed very naturally. So maybe I’ve added one dimension to my acting. Still not comfortable trying different ethnicities or accents, but at least I got a little bit out of myself.

– I really appreciated everyone who showed up and their level of engagement. I watch for nodding heads and for cross-talk among audience members and there was plenty of it, so that felt good.

– To everyone who was there: I really think I should NOT have shown that last video. The wire between that laptop and the sound system was the one piece of tech I left home and maybe unconsciously that’s why I didn’t show the video where it was scripted. The decision to show it was impulsive and I think, in the long run, a bad choice. There was good information, but I think it looked really silly and forced out of the context of the show itself. So, sorry!

More later, but I wanted to put something down before people start wondering where the heck I vanished to.(2)

endnotes to the webpost (wow, really?)

(1) this whole bit with “does the punctuation mark go inside or outside the quotation mark?” just drive me crazy. Putting the dot inside the quotes was a concession to early printing presses. But it was being changed as early as the late 1800’s when newer typesetting equipment came around. And with most of this being done electronically now, there is no excuse for not doing it right. Except that “Britain changed and America didn’t.” Not much of an answer if you ask me. But nobody did, so you don’t have to read this…

(2) or “to where the heck I vanished.” I just had to put that down  because I know how much it pains Lisa to head the grammatically incorrect title of the show. 🙂