Fast forward eight months. That’s how long it’s been.
I’m now on ADHD medications. The middle finger of my left hand has been bandaged in one form or another for two and half months as I recover from tearing part of a tendon. Typing isn’t a breeze.
If I try to catch you up any more I’ll get bogged down. I figure that the way to pick up the thread is to use my photos in my iphone. I’ll just search by month and figure out what needs to be shown that way.
2020 April and May were peak “at home” quarantine times for me with school closed and my daily life indoors
True, there’s a current state of emergency in effect for Tokyo and we’re having a huge spike and vaccines haven’t even started being distributed but now I’m expected to take the train into Tokyo mon-fri to teach two school’s worth of children each week ….let’s not unpack that yet.
I sewed those months. Oh boy did I sew. See the pattern below? McCall’s M6696. After some early tests to get the pattern fitting right I CRANKED out the dresses.
My stash didn’t have many fabrics in the quantity I needed (about 4 meters) so the fabrics were ones I found on Mercari and the fabric shop located near the dentist I saw 12 times between May-August. I figured if I had to go to the damned dentist that much I might as well make use of those trips to gather essentials like food and fabric.
You see that? The oranges? That’s the inside of the dress. all french seamed and everything. That’s due to this invaluable sew along youtube series about the pattern by Kittenish Behavior.
Ebony had also given me a few patterns earlier in the year including Simplicity 4077, so after bust adjustments I made three shirts for work.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. How about the McCall’s pattern variation with the slim skirt? I made it…in a fabric featuring apples and hedgehogs. See the fabric on the floor? You’ll see it again.
In July or August (Summer break after school started again) I found an awesome traditional styled Japanese fabric with hidden kitties. I also had some Japanese fabric I found too overwhelming once I sewed it so I over-dyed it a purple hue. Same pattern but now with band collars.
I also made myself this Vintage Simplicity from one of Ebony”s patterns. Unlike the button and go style of the McCall dress it isn’t suitable for work so I haven’t had the chance to wear it anywhere. I’ve worn the McCalls dresses SO MUCH for work it is insane. It has pockets, ya know.
It should be noted that the vast swinging between “I can sew everything I HAVE FOCUS” and “I cant focus on anything I’m going to do nothing” in March/April/May is what got me to get on ADHD medication.
And that is the start to returning to bloging…wonky finger be damned,
What do you wear when it’s time to take the train into Tokyo to sign a work contract and you know that Japan is not socially distancing?
I’ve made many styles of mask but by now there are 20 times the online tutorials that there were towards the end of February when I first made one. There are ample places to get that info.
Today at the company office I entertained a handful of “OMG did you make your mask?!” which, if they noticed my matching shirt (and how could they not?), means they also wondered “Are matching button-up shirts and masks now commercially available?”
Nowadays everything seems simultaneously possible and impossible.
Let’s skip back a few days.
Shortly after my post, March 24th, about having found a job for the next school year came the family reactions to the news, most noteworthy being my mom’s.
My mother is strong. She’s a whole universe to me. When she’s scared…it’s not something I can handle.
When the texts reminding me that she had started restricting early because I had worried…they hit hard. Reminders that neither of us live somewhere where we should trust the government to be honest…yeah
They also gave me flashbacks to 3/11 Tohoku/Fukushima. Things like panic buying have reminded me of those days…but just reading my mother’s stress brought me back to her tired and crying face on Skype in those days. The emotional return to a time I wrote extensively about and then tucked away.
By 4am I was ready to accept financial help, study Japanese online, turn down my job offer, and live in a bunker for the forseable future.
I was also ready to jog because it was 4am and I hadn’t and couldn’t sleep. A few minutes into jogging a blister made me aware that jogging wasn’t a possibility and I’d just have to be awake with my thoughts. Screw you, feet.
I slept from 5-7am. I made a few dramatic LINE texts to friends about my plans to give up work and be a studying hermit… which might violate my visa..yeah. They asked reasonable questions.
I started to focus again and remind myself:
You have two hours of sleep.
You are emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed.
You have ADHD.
Those things combined are a recipe for making impulsive emotional decisions. The sort of flamethrower decisions that burn away all other options, leaving you no other path but the one you were sure was THE ONLY CHOICE…and no way to retreat. I know. That’s how I once rolled all the time.
I told myself :
No. Decisions. Are. Being. Made. Today.
I contacted the company office to move the contract signing from that day to Friday…and to discuss a bit about their plans if COVID19 shuts down Tokyo (because really, how can it not?).
I believe that there are going to be huge changes between now and two weeks away when I’m slated to start being in classes.
I video chatted with my mother.
Mom had also lost house wifi during all of this and had only her phone…which wasn’t adding to a sense of security. We figured out a usable app for her not-apple phone and just video talked. It was good.
Going forward near daily videochats will be essential. We’re both more rational when we can see and hear each other and know the other isn’t being reckless.
I’d go ahead with my job and contract signing. I’d accept financial help so we could both know that if things got scary I could drop my job. I’d check in more regularly.
Then there was a whole day of “do I nap or power through?”
I’ve had so many days this week of bad sleep and naps to help offset it that I knew I couldn’t rely on naps to reset me.
Instead I stayed awake and busy. I listened to podcasts and youtube advice about ADHD and sleep issues.
I’ve had lifelong sleep issues. I have medication but it can only keep me under for about 4 hours.
Everything about sleep habits always screams “USE THE BED FOR BED THINGS ONLY AND DON’T USE ELECTRONICS IN BED.” and I always say “THAT MAKES SENSE” and then watch tv on my computer from bed and “sleep” with my smart phone next to me.
I’ve moved a very comfortable chair, one of two, from my sewing room (where it never gets used) to my bedroom to create a “cozy electronics nook”.
It took some testing and additional pillows to make it both slumptastic and useable as a chair if I actually want to type.
I’m trying to train myself when the impulse comes to flop on the bed and check my smartphone to get my butt in this chair instead. I’m also trapping my phone over here at night, out of bed reach, and going back to reading printed books as a bed wind-down.
It’s gone well for 2 days but….we’ll see.
Ready for more video chats with friends. We both are.
General JinJur is quite a hit during video chats. She and I are about to have our birthdays in April…so I switched my journal temporarily from Plague Motif to Hedgehogs and Birthdays.
I’m also starting a page of tracking my sleep times and notes. I have a notebook by my bed to write both sleep and wake times (before charting them) AND so that if a thought wakes me up at night I can write it down and move it to morning instead of fixating on it.
Last night I woke up around 3am and, instead of trying to follow through on the thoughts that popped into my head, I wrote them down. Can you figure out the difference between my awake-wearing glasses handwriting and my 3am handwriting?
I can actually read that but I assure you that in the light of day it it was an idiotic idea not worth following through on.
I’m also taking down notes to figure out a bedtime routine (when to dim lights, what pattern to stick to to remind my body it’s wind-down time).
What are you doing to help yourself sleep in these uncertain times.
My friends know this: my love of Mari Kondo (known here as KonMari) the writer of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up, is deep and unshakable.
Many of my friends have also known this: if I am hyper-focused on organizing to the detriment of other aspects of my life it might be a sign of my anxiety ramping up prior to a depressive crash.
Now we can add this layer to those knowns: I am an adult woman with ADHD and, like others of my ilk, I have a life-long complex relationship with the concept, and execution of, Being Organized.
Yup. My mental clinic doc agrees: ADHD. However, Japan has a difficult historical relationship with medical stimulants so there are only two available choices for ADHD: Concerta and Strattera. Ritalin exists in Japan but can only be prescribed for narcolepsy, it’s prohibited to prescribe it for the treatment of ADHD. My doc is wary of prescribing either of these due to the common side effects of nausea, loss of appetite, and sleep issues. For now I work on behavior modification and knowing this new part of me I’ve lived with all my life.
Back to my BFF, KonMari.
I’ve never viewed her as someone denying me things. I’ve never cast her as a bringer of stoic minimalism set on banishing my joy.
To me she’s one of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse friends we just never got around to meeting. Pee-wee, like me, enjoys joyous objects. He’s filled his playhouse with them. Like me, he thrives with some structure….I don’t wear only out outfit but I get the uniform impulse…but I don’t get the sense that he’s the sort of guy who came to organization naturally.
Thus, he had a KonMari somewhere who helped him learn how to organize his house, understand the feelings he has about each item in the place (like KonMari he’s literally speaking to his objects… although they answer verbally instead of having to spark joy) and not get overwhelmed. KonMari and PeeWee are friends. Friends of PeeWee are friends of mine. Period. Fight me on this.
I’m not alone in the ADHD world of having INTENSE FEELINGS about KonMari, positive and negative, a fact I’ve learned from scanning ADHD podcasts.
It’s time for me to glance back at KonMari through my emerging understanding of adult ADHD to see how my love of her is part of my neurological makeup.
First and foremost: Unchecked ADHD creates clutter. Let’s take that as a given instead of diving into how and why.
Fact: I create clutter and confusion. As a child it was rampant and as an adult I’ve got a lot of coping mechanisms for wrangling it when it’s reached certain levels…but I’m usually wrangling my chaos and very rarely just entering, functioning in, and leaving an area without MUCH WRANGLING.
My adult life has been one of actively looking for more answers to corralling object chaos. KonMari was just one of many things I looked into, but she was the first to really help make a large difference in my life…and keep me away from the cycle of trying and failing at the latest organizing trick…and disliking myself for my failure
Difficulty in prioritizing and properly sequencing steps in achieving anything is part of ADHD.
Knowing what step to take first is hard. Knowing what a finished step looks like is hard. Understanding the progression the steps must take….(brain shuts down)
This is an accurate graph of my mind starting on most things.
(Collect Underpants -> ??? -> Profits!!! Meme)
KonMari doesn’t take any chances.
She has steps. Lots of them. There is an order to those steps. She explains why that order is there. She explains why the steps yo’ve been told to use before aren’t going to work. She keeps reminding you that the order of the steps and doing the steps right is essential. There are clear steps.
For some people this is probably patronizing. I needed this.
People with ADHD are often afflicted with Time Blindness.
This is hard for an outsider to grasp. The idea that uninteresting tasks feel like they take longer and that interesting tasks create a time bubble where three hours can pass unnoticed is fairly universal. Everyone accepts it as facts.
But with ADHD that feeling isn’t limited to the extremes of interest and disinterest. It’s a constant expanding and constricting of time calibrated to the smallest fluctuations of thought and mood. It’s a time accordion given to a small child who isn’t losing interest in the squeeze box anytime soon.
It creates very real problems with estimating time. Period. How long will this take? How long have I been doing this? What time is it?
This problem is one I’m working on currently with a stopwatch and notes. Fun.
Attached to time blindness (when it’s not a known issue) are the feelings of shame and failure at not having managed time correctly…again.
KonMari tells you right off that there’s no way to estimate how long this will take. This undertaking will vary wildly. There are no estimated times to fail at meeting. There are just the steps.
She notes that things will look extra out of control for a while, because everything is out of hiding and can’t be ignored , but that’s a sign of the process and the steps being done, not a sign of failure. Adhere to the steps.
The wells of shame an adult woman with undiagnosed ADHD contains feel bottomless.
I’m immature. How can I be an adult and still like this? I’m lazy. Other people can do these things. I’m an imposter. The better I hide my true self the further I shall fall when it is revealed.
This is our soundtrack.
Confronting things we’ve failed at in the past, like being organized or cleaning our kitchen, increases the volume of this soundtrack.
This soundtrack gets even louder when we simply think about starting something perceived as difficult, increasing our distance from executive function and tying us tighter to procrastination (our most successful relationship ever).
KonMari has ways of addressing our shame…and a lot of them get called “woo woo”
Do I want to thank the items I’m getting rid of? No. I feel foolish.
But she’s right, I do feel shame about how much I’ve accumulated. I feel guilt about what I have and haven’t done with those things: the hopes they represented and how I felt they would define a future me.
So I have to find a way to process that shame. To look at something that cues up my soundtrack and not say “I failed” and instead say “I’ve learned from you. You taught me this isn’t where my priorities are. Thank you.”
“You brought the thrill of perceived change to me, thank you.”
“I wanted you to be part of my life but it’s not working. We deserve better. Thank you. Onward to your new life.”
Shame doesn’t just evaporate. you need to find ways to process it. Transform it. Bleed it off a bit.
If talking to objects gets me to process my feelings…and it did…I’ll do it.
I’ll procrastinate a bit but I’ll do it.
People with ADHD are very visual and as such we can be overwhelmed by visual clutter.
KonMari removing extra labels from boxes as not to be assaulted by too many words in a pantry or medical cabinet. Oh, I SEE you.
KonMari simultaneously suggesting we can line our closets and storage spaces with feel-good geeky images that we wouldn’t want on our main walls despite the fact this might count to some people as visual clutter. Oh, I SEE you too.
And I am seen.
I REALLY need places to be tidy and run on schedule. I can’t handle outside unnecessary clutter and disorganization throwing me off course because I’m expending so much energy just existing an staying focused.
I mean this only for places I need to do things in (home, class, workplace). I don’t care if I visit people who have messy houses.
KonMari: I get that…but if it’s not your space you can’t expend energy on it. Focus on your own things and place and stop trying to change others, you’ll only mess up interpersonal relationships that way.
Me: Buuuut I’m hyper focused on it and it’s driving me crazy and.
KonMari: Nope. Fix yourself. Know what your space is. Define it. Set it up. Defend the boundaries of your space. Let the world beyond that fall into chaos. It’s ok. you are master of your space and your space only. Now, please, go talk to those shoes you don’t wear.
She speaks to me and now I’m better understanding why and how.
“At that time (and all my life), I had a little room in one part of the house in which I spent each night and weekend trying in vain to “get organized.” I had no idea that other people weren’t spending each weekend as a bridge between Friday and Monday trying frantically to dig their way out of the “rubble” before Monday arrived again. As I began to understand AD/HD, I began to notice small things; for example, I heard other people making plans to go to the park on the weekend or to a concert. To me, it was like hearing people from another planet. Each Friday at the agency where I was working, my friend and colleague, Lisa, would ask me, “What are you doing this weekend?” I would say, “I’m getting organized.” After a few months of hearing this response, Lisa finally said to me, “Oh, you must be working on a major project!” And I said, “No, I’m just getting organized.” It started to dawn on me that others weren’t living the same way, but I had no idea how they did it.”
— Women With Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life by Sari Solden
I didn’t know others didn’t live the same way. I mean, I kinda know but I just thought that those who didn’t were better at life than I am.
And when I read a simple example of short term memory, that functioning short term memory storage does things like help you store a phone number you’ve just been told, I laugh. I know in theory people can retain a phone number….but if you try to tell me yours I will stop you and grab something to write with. I cannot store a string of numbers I have just been told. I’d assumed it’s because I’m bad with numbers…but it could be how my short term memory works. No. It could be how my short term memory doesn’t work.
Then I think about the other subject I always thought I am bad at. Languages. My only bad grades in high school were in Spanish, a subject I loved. I struggle with Japanese despite living here.
I Google ADHD and foreign languages and read.
I feel both hungry and finally seen.
As I read this book, Women With Attention Deficit Disorder , and listen to the audio version of The Queen of Distraction by Terry Malte (another book about women with ADHD) I keep wanting to cry.
I read about the internalized shame undiagnosed women with ADHD have.
There I am, naked, described.
I hadn’t seen myself in discussions of women and girls with ADHD before because of how it’s generally stressed that they are more likely to be inattentive instead of hyperactive.
I wasn’t the quiet girl in my class. I wasn’t so loud as to be hyperactive either. I didn’t have bad grades.
“One of the most telling signs of the child with this type of AD/HD is disorganization. One look at her locker, desk, room, or maybe even her handwriting might give you a clue that she may be struggling with this disorder. They might also be extremely sensitive to visual stimulus and physical movements and be highly distracted by both their internal and external worlds.”
— Women With Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life by Sari Solden
It wasn’t until I started seeing descriptions of how the specter of clutter haunts women with ADHD and first-person accounts of how they deal with the seemingly simple task of putting things someplace that I thought. That’s me.
My obsessive days spent trying to organize. Those days that my shrink, and my friends, and I, think of as a sign that my anxiety/depression isn’t properly balanced….I now wonder if those days are a symptom of ADHD and the feelings of shame, stress, and worthlessness are what presents as anxiety/depression.
It’s, of course, not exactly an either or equation. Anxiety/depression and ADHD are often linked together in women.
The idea that I can’t function with too much visual stimuli and yet am wired in a way that creates piles and clutter would go a long way to explain my documented decades of decluttering and cleaning.
(Sigh) I want to keep writing. I’m hyper focused on these ideas. I’m good at focusing when I’m interested. I’ve read a lot in a short amount of time. I could write for hours.
When I’m interested I go deep. My mind makes connections fast and time falls away.
I function the same way creating things.
It’s yet another reason why the term “attention deficits” never rang familiar with me.
But now, reading that ADHD isn’t a deficit in attention, that it’s more like a surplus of attention that is hard to prioritize, I know I must now seek help.