There’s no question I have ADHD. When I walk into a room, I must give off some kind of ‘ADHD Vibe’ as I have been asked countless times – most before my official diagnosis in July 2020 – if I ‘have ADHD’. My behaviour fits the DSM-5 criteria like a scarf fits a snowman and I know I am one of the gang: a neurodiverse creator with limitless passion and uncanny distractibility!
Yet, I am also the organised one.
I am the person who gets up every morning, completes the business admin, calls her first customer two minutes early and keeps track of everything with military-like precision. Additionally, I am the person who rarely runs late, almost never forgets appointments and regulates her finances to the point of obsession. Doesn’t sound like ADHD, right? Wrong! What you are seeing is an effective coping-mechanism I have developed over the years to regulate one of the most distractible brains walking Earth. Let me tell you more…
I was a chaotic, messy child.
‘Untidy’ was my middle name at home and my parents despaired with my messiness. Every method was used to try and get me to tidy up and one in particular – the dump it on the floor and make you organise it properly trick – finally got me to understand the reasons behind keeping organised. From the age of about eleven onwards, I was the hyper-organised child who wanted everything to be perfect. I grew into perfectionism like I grew into teenage clothing and what was once chaos became order. However, sanding against the grain quickly caused me to develop anxiety and, whereas I had been carefree when I was messy, I quickly became nervous as I developed into the girl who ripped out pages when she made even the smallest mistake. People-pleasing became the remedy I used for self-doubt and I sucked up to teachers more every year as I tried to decipher what was going on in my confused head. Even though my school bag was like the inside of a military barracks, my head was filled with rainbow ideas sparking off in different directions – I was the epitome of organised chaos.
Even now, I don’t plan lessons in the way other tutors do.
When I stepped out of the office environment (okay, I was fired) and entered the world of private tuition, I quickly realised the world I had created for myself wasn’t really the correct fuel for my hungry brain. Drowning in lesson plans and paperwork made my neurology ache and I pined for creativity and spontaneity as I followed the crowd and put organisation above adaptability. Every week, I would write out elaborate plans and then mourn my lack of rigidity when I danced off on a tangent; the child might have learnt more in my creative chaos, but I thought I had achieved less. Then, one day, I decided to stop writing plans and start teaching the individual who appeared at the lesson, adapting my teaching to suit the mood and requirements of the day. How quickly my world improved. The children learnt more and I gained a calmness I’d never felt before. Surely this was against everything I thought true about myself? I was the tidy one, the organised person. Wasn’t I destined for a life of creating order out of chaos? Suddenly I realised I wasn’t!
You see, I am the ADHDer who both loves and loathes organisation.
Yes, I need structure, but it is only a coping mechanism for my chaotic mind. An ADHD diagnosis helped me understand my brain for the first time in thirty one years and I’m still proud of what I have achieved. I am the organised ADHDer and I’m rarely forgetful or late. However, what people don’t see is what goes on behind the scenes. In order to be punctual, I spend a ridiculous amount of time watching the clock, double and triple checking timings to ensure I don’t drift into a black hole of distractibility. Moreover, I am obsessive about forgetting things and go out of my way to ensure I don’t miss appointments or lessons. People who know me will appreciate how important it is for me to ‘do it when I think of it’ as, with a brain so active as mine, things can be forgotten quickly. Being this organised takes an enormous amount of energy and it doesn’t reward me in the same way as spontaneity. My brain is fuelled by creativity, but structure doesn’t really stimulate dopamine production anymore than waiting in a queue does. I live for the imaginative activities which provide me with the ability to be impulsive and creative, where my ADHD becomes a superpower rather than a hindrance. However, I know I can only enjoy such activities if I have organised myself first, as anxiety does little to encourage my creativity.
Remember, always embrace the awesome person you are!
For more information on how you can improve your ‘organisational skills’, please see my Coaching & Mentoring page!