How many times have you walked into a room only to forget why you went in it? You might laugh at yourself and blame it on your age, but this happens more often than not for those of us with ADHD. It also can expand to a whole range of situations. For example, constantly forgetting things you need when you leave the house, forgetting where you have put something, forgetting important events or dates. It’s not because we’re lazy or blatantly don’t think, though some ignorant people would like you to believe this. It’s because our brains are so busy making random connections that we don’t see the bigger picture.
Most people when they are completing tasks, see the smaller details or elements needed leading up to completing it, where as people with ADHD tend to see the finished article with no idea how to get to it. To put it another way; we’re forward thinkers; we’re always looking to what we want to happen, what could happen or what should happen, as opposed to what’s happening in the hear or not. It’s hard to remember something when you’re so focused.
So as those of us with ADHD know, it’s incredibly difficult when we forget things or lose things, but imagine how difficult it must be for those around us too? Our friends have to put up with us constantly forgetting about their significant events or even just things they have planned with us. People we live with have to put up with not knowing where we’ve put certain things so they can’t use them either. For everybody involved it’s a frustrating process, but if you do love or support someone with ADHD there are also some things you can help us to do. If I have two pieces of advice for supporting someone with ADHD it’s this; ‘be firm with kindness’ and ‘make everything visual’.
“People with ADHD tend to prefer visual stimulus instead of audio, though this can vary for each individual.”ADHD Girl
We ADHDers tend to rely a lot more on visuals than audio input because audio tends to go on and on with so many different subtexts which you have to interpret, that’s not including the unwritten rules of socialising. In other words the brain has to do much more processing for audio input that it has to do with visual input. While there is still room for interpretation including how we feel or think about we are saying, the visual stimuli itself in terms of what is there or around us requires a lot less processing because there is less room for interpretation i.e: A cow is a cow. Sadly, that doesn’t mean we don’t forget some of the visuals too, but it does mean that visual stimuli makes for a great part of effective coping strategies.
I find it very difficult to relate to this particular ADHD trait, not because I don’t forget things or don’t have it, but because I’ve spent years building up effective coping strategies to the point where it doesn’t seem to impact me as much as it once did. I thought I’d share some of these coping strategies with you, so they help you or others you know with a similar issue.
I was watching a BBC show years ago that was on around the time that GCSEs were taking place and it was trying to suggest a way in which people could memorise information so they could easily retrieve it. The point the show made was that there needed to be an association between the items to be remembered and that way it could help memorise information.
Let me give you an example; I used this method while studying for my psychology exam as part of my degree where I had to remember all these different theorists related to social and emotional needs to write about in a written piece. In the end I made up an amusing story which went something along the lines of ‘John Bowlby was in bed with Mary Ainsworth when Urie Bronfenbrenner came in and said, “What’s going on here?”……..” I can’t quite remember the rest now, but you get the idea. Of course this doesn’t work for everything but it’s great for memorising certain things for exams etc.
“Effective coping strategies are the key to helping a poor memory and ensuring positive mental health at the same time.”~ADHD Girl
Another thing I have found very useful, is writing everything down! I know it’s a pain, I know it can seem tedious at times, but I grew sick and tired of growing paranoid in trying to recall previous information. When I say write everything down; I don’t mean absolutely everything, but dates and key events are certainly big useful things to remember. It’s for the reason I have a diary and Family Calendar/ organiser. Now if you’d have met me pre-university days, you’d have met the most disorganised clumsy so and so that ever existed. I had no sense of whether I was coming or going and bounded through life like a misdirected fairy with a broken wing.
Now a days people actually call me organised and it fills me with an enormous sense of pride; it’s not some natural gift or ability; I work hard everyday to achieve it. So yes, as soon as I get an email, a phone call or a text inviting me somewhere I check my diary or calendar then fill it in immediately before I inevitably forget. I even bought my foster children ‘do it yourself calendars’ for Christmas which they love, and our monthly family activity includes updating our calendars, which sounds sad, but it’s actually great.
For things people tell me I need to do, or I know I need to get done, I sent a reminder in my phone for a time I know I’m going to be free, then put the task as the label. It’s almost like giving myself a verbal warning….’ok these needs doing now; you said you would do it and now you need to do it.’ Of course, I may hit the snooze button if I can’t be bothered, but I won’t let myself actually stop it unless I reset it or it’s complete.
“My personal pet peeve is losing things. It drives me completely crazy because I start convincing myself that somebody must have moved it or I can trust my own memories.”~ADHD Girl
Everything has a place!! If it doesn’t have a place in my house; it needs a place creating and it gets place!! My biggest pet peeve is losing things, especially when I’ve literally had it two seconds ago. I’ve found one of the solutions to this is putting everything in it’s rightful place. For example I got a key holder because I kept losing my keys. Don’t get me wrong some days I forget to put my keys there, but I’m slowly training myself to do it.
Of course, there is a big argument at the moment for how we all need to be kind to ourselves, and this is something I whole heartedly agree with. I think everyone with ADHD is either kicking our own arse and beating ourselves up for not doing things or allowing ourselves to just lay in bed and have a chill telling the world to get lost; there is no in between. This can be one of the hardest things about ADHD, because how do we work out which things to leave and what things to do, especially when you combine our passions and challenges into the mix.
One thing that has taken me the longest to learn is to do things while I have the chance and while I remember, especially in terms of writing it down or setting reminders. It’s only really since I have foster children that you learn to appreciate the silence times where you can get things done. So I schedule myself one simple rule; I try to do as many jobs as I can while they are at school and also try to give myself time to write each day within that too. That means I get to relax once the children have gone to bed and that’s my time. Of course, if I get my jobs done during the day and I’m not in the mood to write or have written quite a bit then I can choose how I spent that time too.
It goes without saying that most people thrive of having some sort of routine and people with ADHD are no different. This is because a routine helps us to know where we’re meant to be going and what we’re meant to be doing. In other words it’s less likely we’ll forget if we’re going the same kinds of thing over and over again.
The trouble is apart from those who still attain school or have a repetitive job then routine can be pretty hard to come by. Mine has to change a lot per week because of my foster parenting responsibilities which is why I like to keep a calendar on the wall and a diary to hand at all times. There are still times I get frustrated if the routine changes last minute, but there is little I can do about it except try to be kind and understanding to myself and those around me. The bottom line is that life is all about balance and that’s no different for people with ADHD, we may just need to make more of an effort to balance everything that other people do.
All in all, dealing with the forgetfulness of ADHD can be such a frustration thing, you start to doubt your own memory which can lead to all sorts of paranoia, which is why we need effective coping strategies and just as importantly; people around us who are patient, understanding and caring.