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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My ADHD Life - a guest post by Laura Benedict

I write in happy, forgetful chaos. I used to have children underfoot--and under my desk--but now they’re in college and sixth grade, so I can’t blame the chaos on them (any more). The chaos is my own creation. It lives in my head and in my office. It lives on my computer desktop, and, to some extent, all over our house. I used to beat myself up about it, but now I embrace it. It’s part of me, and now that I’m well over forty years old, I even kind of appreciate it.

I didn’t know I had ADHD until I went in for counseling because I was struggling with parenting an ADHD child. I thought that everyone woke up in the morning and saw the day as a vast, gray, roiling ocean out of which anything might suddenly jump: dentist appointments, interviews, electric bills, head lice, agent phone calls, parent-teacher meetings, whaling ships, intergalactic space travel.

“Oh, my,” the therapist said. “I think you and the people around you need to look at some checklists.” Before I knew it, I was stuffed full of Adderall and lugging around useful counseling books of which I would read the first thirty pages. I became very good at making lists that I sometimes remembered to look at, and felt somewhat relieved that there was an actual name for the chaos inside my head.

Unfortunately, the drugs began to affect my job--which is writing. The kind of writing that requires not only hours and hours of attention, but also a nimbleness of mind that springs from what is probably a personality disorder of some kind. My second novel, under contract, was late. It had no energy. It bored even me. My first novel was a sprawling supernatural thriller with a cast of dozens, if not hundreds. Its plot was a dark, restless fractal. Now, I could sit, but I couldn’t think. So, I ditched the drugs after a long, puzzling six months, and rewrote the heck out of my second novel so that it scares even me. I’ve been riding my ADHD jones like a madwoman, ever since.

Here is a sample day: Wake up. Put on workout clothes. Empty dishwasher, move a couple of loads of laundry one step forward. Send Child 2 off to school with Daddy. Check email during breakfast. Read blogs, tweet, update Facebook. Oh, look! It’s the most interesting post on llamas in Argentina, ever! Remember that alpaca is awesome for sweaters. Spend twenty-five minutes shopping on Peruvian clothing website for stuff I don’t buy because it costs too much. Remember that I meant to update my extended family/friend birthday list. Try to find it. Realize I took it out of town on my last book tour, and discover it crumpled in the bottom of my computer bag, next to the reading glasses I thought I lost. Oh, they’re grubby! Take glasses into the kids’ bathroom. Notice the counter is coated with toothpaste. Realize I should help Child 2 make out his own bathroom-tidying routine. Clean toilet and tub, forgetting the toothpaste mess. Notice the dogs seem to want to go outside for something--but what?


I need to update my blog, but I really should write my 1000 words of fiction. Dither on twitter. Lunchtime? No, it’s way past lunchtime, and I haven’t worked out. Oh, no! Forgot that I was supposed to meet with a woman about the school’s Spring Carnival. In twenty minutes! Shower. Arrive ten minutes late, without makeup. Assiduously make notes throughout the meeting, looking as organized as possible. Pick up Child 2. Have a long talk with him in the parking lot about schoolyard politics, then drive halfway home before I remember I meant to go to the store to get something for dinner. Go to the store. Come home, work 15 minutes on the blog. Update Twitter. Jump up from my desk and run to the kitchen when hubs pulls in the driveway. Sneak back to my desk while pasta is cooking to finish blog. Come running when hubs wants to know if I mean for the pasta to be boiling over onto the stove. (Such a comedian!) Open microwave to discover mug of tea I lost earlier. Serve dinner. Assist with homework. Plant the herbs I bought a week earlier by front porchlight. Tuck in Child 2. Tuck in husband. Look ruefully at the pile of mail on the kitchen island, and try to remember if I paid for Child 2’s Friday pizza at school. Go into office, write 250 words on the novel, go into kitchen for chocolate and/or handful of goldfish snacks. Lather. Rinse. Repeat three times. Perform my ridiculously long ablution ritual as quietly as possible, hoping that I actually did remember to brush my teeth that morning. Fall into a coma.

I love every crazy day of my life. No one is ever the same as the one before. What are your days like?

Laura Benedict is the author of the novels Isabella Moon and Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts. She edits the Surreal South Anthology of Short Fiction series with her husband, Pinckney Benedict. Surreal South 2011 will be available in October, 2011. Visit her at her website, www.laurabenedict.com, or at her Notes From the Handbasket blog. (http://laurabenedict.blogspot.com/)


  1. That sounds so much like me. :o)

  2. It does sound like so many moms, doesn't it? We all have to be multitaskers, 24/7.

    One huge problem for me is the anxiety my inability to prioritize produces. Everything looks the same--the story deadline and the piled up laundry seem no different from one another. So, often, it comes down to which is going to happen first: running out of clothes or knowing that I'm in danger of getting a phone call about something being late. I'm almost never late with work, and no one has chased me down yet because they're out of underwear. Despite the stress, it all works on some level. But I couldn't tell you how, lol.

    Thanks so much for letting me visit, Liana!

  3. I get overwhelmed if I don't have a to-do list. I look at what needs to get done, and don't know where to start.