Is it that Time Already?

How is your time awareness? Does it feel like ADHD time is different than everyone else’s? Do you always get to your appointments 10 minutes late? Do you annoy your loved ones because you’re always rushing at the last minute to get somewhere? Does it take you longer to get things done than you had imagined?

People on ADHD time can sometimes seem like they are time blind. They  lack an inner clock. They see the phenomenon of time as “now” and “not now.” They agree to meet their partner at a certain time for lunch and end up being late. This risks the wrath of their partner. Others often misunderstand this behavior. Neurotypicals can mistake this for “My partner just doesn’t care about me.” This can really put a strain on these very important relationships.

You can manage this by focusing on the departure time instead of the arrival time. Keeping in mind the time of the appointment, work backwards and figure out how long it takes to do each step of preparation. Instead of thinking of the overall time it takes to get ready, break down preparation into steps. I have to brush my teeth, I have to put on my clothes, eat my breakfast, etc., and time each step.

“Think through the steps you’ll take before you leave the house. Gather belongings and double check directions, if needed, the night before. Avoid getting sidetracked as you head toward the door by reminding yourself repeatedly “I’m leaving now. I’m going to the car.” (ADDitude Magazine.)

Then, have the intention to get to all your appointments 15 minutes early just in case something unexpected happens along the way. Bring a book or magazine with you in case you truly are early and don’t want to hang out with nothing to do.

How Much Time Does It Take?

People with ADHD also often don’t calculate adequately how long it takes to take care of a particular task or project. They end up underestimating the amount of time needed to get to completion. This contributes to the problem.

When it’s a routine task to be done, set a timer that goes forward and time yourself. Then, in the future, you will know approximately how long it takes to do that task. If it’s something bigger, like planting in the garden, estimate how long it will take to do each step along the way, and then add in an extra half an hour to each step just to give yourself a cushion. Then when you are doing your planting, actually time each step so that you know how to estimate for the next time.

And finally, wear a watch and place an old fashioned analog clock in each room you spend time in so that you become more aware of time ticking away. Make friends with alarms and use them to remind you of when it’s time to start something and when it’s time to stop. Have different alarm sounds for different activities to make it harder to ignore them.

And make sure you schedule time to have fun!

Getting Beyond the Shame

Do you feel like you’re constantly falling behind in all the things you have been planning to do in your life? Do you feel behind the 8-ball all the time? Does it seem like so many people around you have their acts together so much better than you? Does it feel like you’re constantly apologizing for being late, or missing an appointment altogether?

The constant questioning of themselves that people with ADHD seem to do, often result in feelings of shame and disappointment. They rarely live up to their own expectations. And these feelings of shame and self-doubt can have their negative impact on the ADHD relationship.

Defining Shame

“Shame is characterized by a constant sense of inadequacy and agonizing feelings of embarrassment and humiliation,” says Dr. Edward Hallowell in an online article for ADDitude Magazine. He goes on to say that shame can be the most painful symptom of ADHD.

Contemporary scholar Gershon Kaufman says, “Shame is the most disturbing experience individuals ever have about themselves; no other emotion feels more deeply disturbing because in the moment of shame the self feels wounded from within.”

What Shame Can Lead to

The result of feeling this sense of shame can be depression, and lead to defensiveness and anger in relationship.  I hear about this from non-ADHD partners. They complain about their ADHD partner’s frequent defensiveness when they bring up issues that are causing problems in the relationship.

The depression often arises from feelings of inadequacy.That  they never get it right. The defensiveness and anger are the response to “being attacked” even when that is not what their non-ADHD partner had in mind. The ADHD partner is often on guard for any criticism that may come their way.

Moving Beyond the Shame

For the ADHD partner, it is important to acknowledge the shame, and to work to get beyond it. A way to do this is to remember that the ADHD is a neurobiological condition, and it is real, and not something to feel ashamed about. It’s important to keep in mind the strengths and talents of the ADHD partner. They can be very bright, extremely creative, persistent, and usually forgive easily.

It would behoove the ADHD partner to do the best they can to not use their ADHD as an excuse for inappropriate behavior, but to instead be working on self-improvement all the time.

And for the non-ADHD partner, it is valuable to recognize that shame is often present, so developing patience and a willingness to observe your partner’s good points is a very valuable endeavor. Constant critique just reinforces the shame.

It’s very important  to always keep in mind that both partners are always doing the best they can with what they know in the moment. You are just very different people with very different brains. Patience, and the willingness to try to understand, can go a very long way towards acceptance of oneself and the other.