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Dancing with a hole in her stocking:Blog | One woman navigating life with ADHD

Dancing with a hole in her stocking | One woman navigating life with ADHD.


So, you have ADHD. Now what?

I received a message from a woman who was recently diagnosed with ADHD and found herself feeling pretty overwhelmed as she tries to come to terms with this new way of seeing herself. For her, and for anyone facing a recent ADHD diagnosis, here is the most important advice I can share:

Stop reading and start doing.

Look, you have your entire life ahead of you to learn about ADHD. I want you to do one thing today to combat your ADHD.

(If you’re not sure what one thing to do, choose one from the list below. Just one.)

Just having an ADHD brain is overwhelming enough. Then we get a diagnosis. And we try to figure out what that means. We read a book (or start to read it). And another book. And another book. We look for information online, and findCHADD, and ADDA. We read blogs. We start blogs. We go to support groups and meet-ups and conferences. We discover the New York Times’ sanctimonious crusade to keep ADHD stigma alive, and in our shock and hurt and anger we drive up pageviews until we realize we are the NYT’s most trollable audience. We sign up for list-serves and subscribe to podcasts and buy coaching materials and shiny smartphone apps and organization tools. And we work so hard tounderstand our ADHD that we are exhausted before we ever get around to doing something about it. Use this drive and curiosity and nervous excitement to start making real steps toward managing your ADHD in a way that will make you and your loved ones happier.

10 Things You Can Do TODAY to Better Manage Your ADHD:

(1) Go get some exercise. Walking counts.

(2) Look at your calendar.

(3) Eat some healthy protein.

(4) Have a conversation with the sole goal of listening to what the other person has to say.

(5) Set a timer and spend 15 minutes decluttering one piece of your life. When time is up, stop. Try your purse; your to-do list; unopened mail; a drawer; a space on your desk; the kitchen sink; your inbox; your unused smartphone apps.

(6) Write down something you want to remember. Now you won’t forget it.

(7) Strike one thing from your to-do list and put it on the back burner, so you can focus on what’s most important. Just because we rarely prioritize doesn’t mean we can’t. Start now.

(8) Thank someone. Your spouse for taking care of dinner when you worked late. Your kid for calling you out when you weren’t paying attention. Your colleague for reminding you of a task. Your friend who forgives you for interrupting.

(9) Turn devices off an hour before you want to fall asleep. Phone, TV, computer – anything with a screen. Let your brain wind down so you can fall asleep.

(10) Go to bed at 10:00 p.m. Even if you lie awake for a while – let your brain and body rest (and you might fall asleep sooner than you think).


Let’s See Some Natitude: Why You Should Pay Attention to the Washington Nationals

The Nationals have no shortage of story-lines unrelated to ADHD, including a joyous All-Star ace who dominates in Chicken Mode with curveballs and slip-and-falls, the most talked-about pitcher who won’t pitch in the postseason, theleast talked-about pitcher who will pitch in the postseason, a rock at third base who’s savoring his first chance at a championship since Little League, a shark roaming center field, a Beast who needs neither bat nor ball to hit a grand slam, and bullpen readings of Fifty Shades of Grey. Heck, even the Nats’ broadcasters are compelling: Color commentator F.P. Santangelo visits Abner Doubleday’s grave, follows closer Drew Storen’s mom’s Twitter feed, and can still barehand a foul popup from the press box.

Amidst this fabulously entertaining season, the Washington Nationals are quiet but compelling evidence of a fundamental sea-change in how people talk about, think about, and manage adult ADHD.

The Accidental Poster-Child of ADHD

The Nationals sparked interest on the ADHD front heading into the 2011 season when they signed Adam “Cool” LaRoche, the veteran first baseman with thesweet swingsnappy glove, and the most publicly diagnosed brain in the major leagues. Around the same time, the Nationals signed Tom Gorzelanny, a left-handed pitcher who is also open about having ADHD but whose diagnosis received far less public scrutiny than LaRoche.

Then again, perhaps no one’s ADHD diagnosis has received as much publicity as LaRoche, the son and brother of professional ballplayers who made his own major league debut with the Atlanta Braves in 2004.

Before Andres Torres became Gigante, before Shane Victorino and the “Own It”project, Adam LaRoche was a talented young Atlanta Brave who ”unlocked” on a routine defensive play in May 2006, leading to 4 unearned runs and anointing LaRoche the accidental poster-child of ADHD in professional sports.

Take nothing away from the courage of Scott Eyre, who in 2001 became the first major league ballplayer to publicly admit having ADHD (Eyre, a left-handed reliever, played 13 years in the majors with the Giants, Cubs, White Sox, Blue Jays, and Phillies). But Eyre’s announcement some 5 years prior did not prevent the popular derision that rained down on LaRoche when his diagnosis became public in 2006.

LaRoche has handled the public examination of his personal challenge withgrace and courage, urging people – especially children – not to be ashamed about asking for help. He’s brought the same poise to the ballpark in 2012, providing consistently excellent offense and defense that has carried the Nationals through a remarkable spate of injuries that threatened to derail their season. Tomorrow, October 7, 2012, after years of bad teams, bad luck, and bad injuries, LaRoche will be back in the playoffs for the first time since that fateful mental mistake in 2006, batting cleanup for the top-seeded team in the National League.

The Rookie Who’s No Accident

As if LaRoche’s tale of quiet vindication wasn’t enough, I started playing around with a post on the Washington Nationals in mid-June, when teen phenom Bryce Harper matter-of-factly explained how he’d felt sitting on the bench for the first time in his brief major-league career, then scoring the winning run as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth inning:

“I don’t like sitting. I have really bad ADD, so I’m always off the wall, and just crazy when I sit . . . . [In] spring training this past year, sitting down and really trying to learn the game while . . . sitting really helped me out here.”

– Bryce Harper, MASN post-game interview, Fenway Park, June 10, 2012

That wasn’t the first time the rookie had publicly described having ADHD, and  it probably won’t be the last. Sure, he’s only 19, but Harper has spent plenty of time in the spotlight, simultaneously heralded as the next Ruth / Mays / Mantle / Junior / insert-all-time-great-ballplayer-here while somehowexceeding all expectations. He’s an attention magnet with a flair for the dramaticand un/intentionally hilarious.

But for all the attention paid to Harper’s every word and deed, his occasional mentions of having ADHD seem to prompt, at most, a shrug.

It’s no big deal.

Harper, like any ballplayer, makes the occasional mistake – not often, but occasionally – and when he does, it’s not blamed on ADHD; reporters don’t call up experts who’ve never met him to opine on how ADHD is affecting his batting average or his personal life; no one speculates on whether he’s taking medication or gaining some unfair advantage; there aren’t insinuations that he might not “really” have ADHD.

Instead, as the rookie leads the Washington Nationals’ first-ever charge into the postseason, we wait with breathless anticipation to see what Harper will do next.

It Is a Big Deal

Compare today’s collective blink to the scorn LaRoche faced 6 years ago. For Harper’s ADHD to be no big deal is, in itself, a very big deal.

It’s a big deal to hear ADHD treated as simply a challenge to be addressed, rather than a shameful secret or a punchline.

It’s a big deal to learn that having ADHD doesn’t give the world a free pass to delve into the most personal quirks of your brain.

It’s a big deal to see people with ADHD excel on the same playing field as everyone else by cultivating other abilities to overcome this disability.

It’s a big deal to know that people with ADHD can reap the benefits of well-directed hard work.

So, to Adam LaRoche, and Bryce Harper, and Tom Gorzelanny, and everyone else who wakes up every day facing ADHD along with life’s other challenges – thank you for the inspiration, keep up the good work, and LET’S GO NATS.

You mean I can get credit for this?!

So many of us have accepted that the effort we put in is unrelated to our result. For people with unmanaged (or under-managed) ADHD, that’s frequently true. But it doesn’t have to be.

It’s a hard mental path to break. For starters, if effort is related to result, we have to take responsibility for poor outcomes – and we usually have buckets of ‘em.

But the benefit of shouldering responsibility for the bad results is that we actually get – and deserve – credit for the good ones.

Example: I’d been thinking about changing my dental insurance from my super-primo plan to a basic coverage level that would take a smaller chunk out of my salary every month. Then last week at my routine exam, my dentist identified some dental issues and referred me to a specialist, who confirmed that I need some relatively minor but important dental work done that will probably run a couple thousand dollars. My initial reaction: Man, I’m lucky this happened before I gave up the high-level dental coverage.

But I realized that luck had nothing to do with it.

  • I scheduled my routine dental checkup before switching my insurance coverage.
  • I took the time to prepare for my dentist appointment ahead of time, writing down all my questions ahead of time (This tooth feels funny / Is my gum supposed to look like that? / Is this normal?).
  • I double-checked my list when my dentist asked if I had any questions.
  • I asked my dentist for a referral before I left his office, and scheduled my appointment with the specialist right away.

I did everything right – so I get to take credit for saving myself a couple thousand dollars. Luck had nothing to do with it.

Procrastination = love

This about sums it up:


Why we don’t get the benefit of the doubt with ADHD


We all tend to cut ourselves breaks that we won’t or don’t extend to others. See LifeHacker’s Why You Think You’re Unlucky When Others Think You’re Careless and the BBC’s rundown of fundamental attribution error.

But this general human unfairness can be especially harsh for people with ADHD, because with poorly managed ADHD we use up our “free passes” more quickly than others do. Ari Tuckman explains the impact on friendships and other relationships:

Although we all make the occasional social blunder, most people are pretty forgiving if it doesn’t happen too often. However, those with ADHD tend to use up their free passes too quickly, causing others to make deeper assumptions about their character. As a result, people with ADHD can be seen as irresponsible, self-centered, or rude, even though they’re really not (or at least not any more than anyone else!).

So, yes, life isn’t fair. But it’s not that people with ADHD get fewer chances than others – we just tend to blow through them. I like Tuckman’s podcast response, to earn more free passes. I sometimes need the reminder to nudge myself from bemoaning the unfairness to actually taking steps to overcome it. One reason many of us with ADHD get stuck on the unfairness is our frequent lack of insight into how our actions (rather than out intentions) affect others, coupled with our notoriously short, or unreliable, memories.

A tool I use to combat this is a chart- or calendar-style checklist that lets me seemy recent track record on a few key ADHD-defeating, personal-contentment-boosting habits, such as exercising 4 days a week, checking my calendar every day, and dedicating 15 minutes a day to overcoming my ADHD. There are many apps that do this sort of habit- or goal-tracking, of course – I use Track N Sharemyself (test the free trial version first), and also like previously mentioned HomeRoutines for ticking off daily or weekly routine items. But I find pen and paper helpful for keeping my basic priorities on the front burner, mentally speaking, because I can’t snooze paper, turn it off, or do it only halfway, and even when it’s done, I can still see its importance (unlike a digital to-do that disappears once completed). There’s something satisfyingly absolute about a big blue check or a big red X. Writing the basics out by hand each week also forces me to prioritize in a way that a feature-rich tracking app doesn’t – I only have so much room on the page.

There are also some elements of Seinfeld’s productivity secret, not wanting to break the chain. If that motivation factor works for you, great. Most valuable to me, though, is the reliable, unignorable snapshot of how well I’m actually keeping some of the key promises I’ve made to myself. I am generally convinced I’m not a slacker (just unlucky, of course) – but this comfortable assumption can lead me to not recognize those times, or days, or weeks, when I do slack off. A tracking chart replaces my assumptions with actual information; and with a more accurate self-assessment, I can actually make meaningful choices instead of winging it.



The New York Times published a lovely profile of Bubba Watson, whosees connections other people don’t:

“In the beginning, [Bubba Watson] said, ‘I just want to let you know that I have A.D.H.D.,’ ” [Andrew] Fischer said. “I told him, ‘No, you have a hyper-observant ability. You can look at a ton of things and process information like a Mac computer.’ When people call Bubba childish, I correct them and say he’s childlike. He has an unbelievable ability to tap into his imagination, an ability most of us lose as we grow older and try to conform.”

It’s a poignant sketch of a very human man and unparalleled golfer who happens to have ADHD. Worth a read.

Make it fun (with apologies to Tim Gunn)

I love bright colors – always have, judging from parents’ good-old-fashioned photo albums. A particularly eye-popping outfit of my choosing was a ROYGBIVrainbow striped shirt paired with a pastel blue, pink and green plaid skirt, captured in a Polaroid when I was about 5 years old. Small wonder, then, that I was so drawn to Barbara Kingsolver’s heroine in The Bean Trees, Taylor Greer, who like her mother

…went in for bright colors. It was a family trait. At school it was a piece of cake to pick me out of a lineup of town girls in their beige or pink Bobbie Brooks matching sweater-and-skirt outfits. Medgar Biddle, who was once my boyfriend for three weeks including the homecoming dance, used to say that I dressed like an eye test. I suppose he meant the type they give you when you go into the army, to see if you’re color blind, not the type that starts with the big E. He said it when we were breaking up, but I was actually kind of flattered. I had decided early on that if I couldn’t dress elegant, I’d dress memorable.

While my penchant for splashy clothing may be…noteworthy, I’m not alone among people with ADHD in responding well to bright colors. Consider:

Color code everything that you can….You want bright colors that really stand out so you can still seem them when you shut your eyes to remember….

from Additude magazine, and

Use beautiful things. Plain things may feel invisible to you….I use ones with designs on them — birds, patterns, funny sayings — because the designs help me to remember what is inside them…. If it’s not pretty, I’ll lose it or forget it. If I like looking at it, chances are I won’t forget about it.

from Unclutterer.

Anyway, I decided to put my bright-eyed obsession to use when I had to replace my running shoes: I opted for some neon-safety-orange sneakers that are bright enough to stop traffic (which I suppose would be helpful, if the need arises). They are AMAZING. I don’t actually see them when I’m running, but I set them next to my dresser every evening, so each morning when I lurch out of bed to turn off my alarm that’s strategically just out of reach from the bed, I see my neon sneakers.

I LIKE my neon sneakers.

So I put them on and go for a morning run, instead of falling back into bed.

Should you tell people you have ADHD?

Whether to reveal you have ADHD can be a pretty momentous decision. Ari Tuckman gives a thought-provoking rundown of some of the major considerations here (for CHADD members) and here (free podcast).

To tell or not to tell?  For me, for now, I have told the people I’m closest to who are affected by my ADHD and who can help me deal with it and can deal with me more effectively and happily with that knowledge. I do not tell co-workers, loose-lipped friends, or most other people in my life. A primary reason for this is my profession, which is notoriously…well, unwelcoming of ‘other’ in whatever form. I’m not saying this is OK – but I am determined, for now, not to personally shoulder this stigma professionally. Not yet.

I’m not ashamed of having ADHD, and I believe any stigma attached to having ADHD is unfair and uninformed. But the stigma exists all the same.

I keep saying ‘for now’ – not because I believe popular (or unpopular) prejudices about ADHD will change, although I hope they will. I say ‘for now’ because I know my complacency with keeping my ADHD hidden could change with another’s heartbeat.

Any biological child of mine is more likely to have ADHD. It is not a certainty, but it is a probability (as wanting children makes it more probable, but not certain, that I will have children).

I wouldn’t want my child to be ashamed of having ADHD, to feel the basic, unalterable wiring of her brain is a shameful secret to be hidden from the world.

Wouldn’t I be my child’s first example? Her first and lasting glimpse of how to handle this quirk of biology?

If I hide, wouldn’t that say I was ashamed of her?

I cannot ask a child to be braver than I; I cannot demand courage from another that I do not demand of myself.

Does this mean I must be open about my own ADHD before I even know whether I will have a child with ADHD? For my words of pride and strength to ring true, do I need to speak them before there is someone listening?

For now, at least, I choose to stay hidden, but not silent. I don’t have to tell people I have ADHD to challenge prejudice, ignorance, or negative comments.

NAMI StigmaBusters

The ‘Own It’ Project (submissions through June 6, 2012)

‘Gigante’ (forthcoming documentary on Andres Torres)

ADHD Awareness Week (October 2012)

ADHD: Is Stigma Back in Style? (February 2012)

9 Myths, Misconceptions and Stereotypes About ADHD (June 2011)

ADHD: The Stigma Is Gone (July 2010)

Social Stigma Awaits Kids with ADHD (May 2007)

Career Advice from Powerful ADHD and LD Executives (December/January 2005)

Finding a Career that Works for You (undated)

Myths and Misconceptions about ADHD: Science Over Cynicism (June 2003)

Overcoming the ADHD Stigma (April/May 2003)

ADD (ADHD) in the Workplace (from Kathleen G. Nadeau’s 1997 book)

Born late

Probably shouldn’t be surprised by the recent finding that babies born post-term are more than twice as likely to develop ADHD as babies born at term. The study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology (abstractfull text).

We really were born late.

Some news coverage of the study:

Daily Mail
NZ Herald


Why are there so many cooks in my kitchen?

Cooking with ADHD is . . . let’s just call it an adventure, shall we?


Preparing a meal requires a vortex of executive functions that are particularly challenging to people with ADHD, including planning, budgeting, calculating ingredients and servings, attention to detail (did I already add salt?), time management (do I have time to make this now?), awareness of time passing (is it done yet?), multi-tasking, and impulse control (no you can’t eat it yet / yes It needs to include vegetables / no I shouldn’t add in a side with 60 minutes of prep if I want to eat in half an hour).

So it is with great pride that I present the following recipe for what is quite possibly the greatest meal I have ever made: Broiled salmon fillets with asparagus and fingerling potatoes.

Why is it so great?

It was easy for me to make. Notice I said easy for me to make. The instructions are precise, complete, and brief. I worked out the exact timeline for each portion of the meal so I knew when to do each step so that everything would be ready at the right time. There is very little that needs to be done (and could be overlooked) in the last several minutes before things are done cooking.

Remember, ‘easy’ doesn’t mean ‘simple,’ especially for people with ADHD. Prime example: This “it’s too easy” recipe for 15-minute tomato sauce, which my boyfriend tried his hand at when I was traveling. He made it as quickly and easily as advertised, loved it, and passed it on to me, thinking I would thrive with such a simple recipe. In my hands, it was a disaster. I should have been suspicious of ingredients like “a bit of garlic if you like that kind of thing” and time estimates of “I usually start the sauce just as I begin to get the pasta ready, and they both are done at just about the same time.” Simple, yes – easy, no. For something to be easy, for me, I need structure, I need precision, and I need to know when the heck to put the water on to boil.

It’s good for me to eat. Good for everyone, really.

Broiled Salmon Fillets


Salmon fillets (6, about 4 oz each, skinned)

Plum tomato (1, finely chopped)
Olive oil (1 Tbsp)
Red wine vinegar (2 Tbsp)
Rosemary (1 Tbsp
Sage (or thyme) (1 tsp)
Lemon zest (1/2 tsp)

Preheat broiler or grill. [If broiling, cover cooking sheet with tin foil, shiny side down, and position oven rack approx. 4″ from heat source.]
Rinse salmon fillets and pat dry with paper towel. Marinate fillets in Ziplock bag for 30 minutes to 2 hours (keep in fridge). Discard marinade.
Broil salmon fillets on sheet for 5-6 minutes. Flip fillets and broil for 4-5 more minutes (until fish flakes easily with fork).


(1) Marinate salmon, above.
(2) Preheat broiler (top rack 4″ from heat, bottom rack at least 6″ below that) and cover 2 cooking sheets with foil, shiny side down.
(3) Parboil potatoes until just soft (10-20 minutes for fingerlings). Drain, place in oven-safe dish, add herbs and drizzle with olive oil, and set aside.
(4) Place asparagus on foil-covered sheet; drizzle lightly with olive oil, toss, and set aside.
(5) Place salmon fillets on sheet on top rack and place asparagus on bottom rack. Cook 5-6 minutes.
(6) Flip salmon fillets. Place potato dish next to asparagus on lower rack. Cook 4-5 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a knife.

And some more takes on cooking with ADHD:

On the challenges of cooking with ADHDEven real chefs have ADHDTerry Matlen, Why I Hate to CookIdeas/discussion board for cooking, and following recipes, with ADHD