ADHD and (Lack of) Spontaneity
I just called the supervisor at the camp my son’s attending this week, to let him know that my parents were going to pick Lawrence up tomorrow. I couldn’t remember if they were on the emergency form or not. “I’ll check on that when we get back from Berkeley Ironworks,” he said. I knew they had a field trip planned (it’s a climbing gym) but I had assumed they were doing it in the morning. It’s now almost 2:30. And Lawrence had a 5:15 doctor’s appointment. Oh, crud, I thought. “When are you all going to be back?” I said. “Probably between 5:30 and 6:00.” Double crud. “Um, Lawrence has a 5:15 doctor’s appointment.” Brad said, “Why don’t you pick him up at the Ironworks? It’s pretty easy to find.” “Uh,” I said, “maybe I’ll cancel the doctor’s appointment.” Of course I realized that we would be charged a fee for canceling at the last minute, but I was panicking. “Are you sure?” Brad said doubtfully. “Um, um…no, you’re right, I’ll pick him up at the Ironworks.”
I got off the phone thinking, “He must think I’m a complete nutcase.” When I searched for the Ironworks address and ran the directions to the Ironworks and then to the doctor’s office, I found that the distance from the Ironworks to the doctor’s office was actually shorter than from the camp, so I would be ahead of the game, time-wise. However, the wild card was my lack of knowledge about the Ironworks. I’ve never been there, and that’s the kind of thing that throws me for a loop.
See, here’s the thing. I panic when plans change. In this case, as usual, I had my directions all printed out. The directions from my job to the camp, and then from the camp to the doctor’s office. I had been to both places, so I was in my comfort zone. I was a little worried about cutting things close, but was pretty sure it would work out. But when things changed, I freaked out. I also felt kind of bad about taking Lawrence away from the Ironworks early, but he’d probably only miss half an hour. I’ve been planning to go with him on the weekend anyway, and maybe get a membership. And to be honest, that was not the part that was making me hyperventilate.
“I’m not good at spontaneity,” I told my therapist recently. “I need at least fifteen minutes to get used to the idea of a last minute outing or a change in plans. It freaks me out.” “It’s probably due to your ADHD,” she replied.
Huh. I never thought of that. But it did make sense. Attention Deficit Disorder has some positive aspects, but one thing I’ve never liked was my brain going off in a million directions at once.
Mind you, this resistance to spontaneity is not necessarily the case for all people with ADHD. In fact, spontaneity is one of the hallmarks of ADHD. But I think for me, spontaneity is the enemy because one of the coping mechanisms I’ve developed to deal with with my mind going off in a million directions is creating and sticking to schedules and details within those schedules. It’s one of the few ways in which I can control the negative affects of ADHD, and when anything threatens that control, I panic.
So maybe next time plans change, I need to just tell myself that it’s okay if things are not totally within my control. As long as I have the directions printed out.
Deborah Gray wrote about depression as a Patient Expert for HealthCentral. She lived with undiagnosed clinical depression, both major episodes and dysthymia, from childhood through young adulthood. She was finally diagnosed at age 27, and since that time, her depression has been successfully managed with medication and psychotherapy.