Must Always Be So Flexible…

As I keep saying, flexible structure. Flexible structure goes with my own health challenges- I can’t always predict what I can do, so minimizing the fixed structure is useful- despite what they say about routine and structure being right for people with ADHD.

This is something I’ve struggled with over and over again. Ad nauseum. It always seems like, if I just had a structure in place, where I knew what I had to do when, it would be so useful. I’d be productive, and the crux of it is that I wouldn’t have to make decisions about what to do when. This juggling of possible activities and tasks, and on-the-spot decision-making, is precisely what’s hardest when I’m not at my best.

This is particularly hard because I had heard time and time again that people with ADHD need structure. That setting up routines (even if they’re hard to stick to) and schedules, bedtimes and mealtimes, alleviates the chaos.

I used to have a regular job; a reasonable one at that. I was working in Europe, where people are expected to be home for dinner with their families, take off when they’re ill, and go on vacation several weeks a year. There were a lot of nice things about it, like that regular paycheck and benefits; like the way my day was clearly demarcated into work time, playtime, mealtimes, and so forth. But it didn’t fix everything for me at all. True, I could focus on the micro level of how to refine productivity; by writing notes to myself about what I had been working on when I left for lunch, so I’d know where I was on return; like advocating for quiet workspace to get uninterrupted work done (and failing to get it, which is part of why I left).

But the regular job didn’t change some of my basic challenges; I have a widely fluctuating energy level, which I now know to be largely hormonally related– which interacts with my ADD (read: when hormones are kicking my butt, ADHD is kicking my butt too). This left me sitting and staring blankly at my desk and screen for, well, a good chunk of each month. The routine didn’t fix that. I was lucky, too, because despite feeling quite ill I generally made it to work. I was lucky because calling in sick quite often isn’t a mortal sin in the civilized lands across the Atlantic. But it sucked. And there was no give, no flexibility in that structure. I was paid for being there, and over time rewarded for being productive. I’m not saying that a regular job, or a regular routine, isn’t for everyone, I’m just saying it didn’t solve my problems.

True, working on my own I have to grapple more with the inattentive hyperthinky process around doing something or not doing it. But I’ve been able to allow myself the space – to get to know my own cyclical energy and the different ways I can respond to it. And over time, this is what has relieved some of the crazy circles of decision-attempting as to what to do next; it’s quieter here and I can step back and notice where I’m at, or where I’m currently capable and incapable.