In making our second PBS documentary, ADD & Mastering It!, Patrick McKenna and I share ADHD strategies we’ve found help with this mindset.
Some were strategies we learned after being diagnosed. Others were ones we had stumbled across before we knew what we were up against. We found these tricks and practices worked for us, even if we weren’t clear why. Perhaps the most dramatic example of the latter is Patrick’s practice of ‘Journalling‘ every morning, summing up the previous day in a few sentences. It struck me as a powerful way to track one’s life. Being able to look back and see all the things you did in the last month, or a year ago, can provide some perspective and a real sense of accomplishment. As in, “Wow, I forgot about that… and that… and that…” In a series of notebooks he has his adult years laid out, day by day. What a great touchstone.
What was most striking was that he had been journalling for decades. Long before he was diagnosed with ADHD while filming ADD & Loving It?! Patrick was tracking his life and bolstering his memory, so he could recall what he had done and how it worked out. So many of us have spotty memories of our early years, and even parts of our adulthood.
A few years ago we did something in our office that was inspired by Patrick’s suggestion of journalling. I set a huge glass jar labelled ‘DONE’ by the door of the edit suite. Every time any one of us did something we’d write out a quick description on a small square of paper and the date, fold it up, and drop it in the jar.
“Newsletter Done-July 7”, “Speech in Philly-Oct 24” “Final Edit of Sleep Video March 11” and so on. Yes, sometimes we’d all forget the jar was there, or think, “I’ll write it out later.” Later never happens. After a week or two one of us would notice the jar, and we’d wrack our brains and consult the calendar to try to remember what we’d done.
By the end of the year the jar was stuffed. On New Years Day we sat together taking turns pulling out slips of paper and reading aloud them aloud. It was stunning. “Oh right! I forgot about that!” “Me too!”
I’m not the only person who fails to pause and reflect on accomplishments, to note successes, however small. The moment I finally complete a task I’m ion to the next one, and the next. No appreciation for what’s been done, only aware of what still needs doing.
Adults with ADHD may be embarrassed to admit that their ‘To-Do’ list includes ‘Shower’ and ‘Brush my teeth.’ But on some days, on tough days, those are real victories. Taking a moment to pat yourself on the back and remind yourself, “I’m capable,” may be the little shot in the arm, or squirt of dopamine in the brain, that becomes the tipping point for having a good day.
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