I was going to write about the impact of alcohol as an addiction in my life, but I can’t really do that without discussing the problem that it solves first; though by solving that it creates many others. So I decided to write about the larger problem.
I have ADHD. I was diagnosed when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, my parents put me on meds long enough to know they reeked more havoc than it was worth, and then I was home schooled from then on. The home school schedule took the pressure off me and allowed me to excel into the life I live today.
Yet, the life I live today, as a programmer who owns a business, runs into the same issues I had as young child. There are deadlines and estimations to make, tasks to keep track of, and the constant beat of time pushing me forward. It is nearly impossible for me to keep the creative drive to complete a project with something akin to satisfaction for me. It’s created in me a perfectionist attitude in which I’m never happy even with the smallest win for long.
Here’s what a day feels like for me. My tailored sleep alarm goes of for me, I wake up, I often start hearing about the various finances that need taken care of in this period. Often my wife beats me out of bed to start taking care of the children. My head is already thrumming with work ideas and I don’t have the ability to gather them into usable parts yet.
I go brew some coffee.
I stumble through the house and wake up my children according to an exactly timed schedule I’ve worked out over the school year. I then sit down and quickly dash out some code that’s been wandering through my head.
Time to grab the coffee.
People are swarming around the kitchen putting together lunch for school. It feels like bees buzzing loudly and doing their business. It’s so loud my head rebels and I want to scream.
Instead I put my headphones on and shut the doors to my office.
I procrastinate for the next 20 minutes or so. I try to get code together. I try not to look at facebook or other distractions.
Finally the coffee kicks in. I have 15-20 minutes to make sense of last nights code and the quick stuff I dashed off. Then I’m off to making sure the kids are ready, or perhaps we’re running late again. I prefer to drive them because I seldom get to spend the time I want with them due to how the rest of my day goes.
During my drive, after dropping the kids off, I try to compose myself for the day. My head is basically numb from all buzzing so much that I can no longer make sense of it and it ends up as noise. Sometimes I listen to mass and go through a cycle of prayers to give my day order. Other times it’s dubstep or deep music that is my touch stone.
When I get home I walk my last child out to the bus stop and talk with her while waiting; precious time with her.
If by the time I’m home, I have not fully prepared for the day, having my mind ordered, I go out for breakfast with my wife. I’m grateful that I have this luxury because I don’t often have the time with her that I want to have either.
If my mind is in work mode I hop online to start pair programming for a short burst.
When I’m in work mode my mind is thrumming with almost an electric buzz. I can feel all of my energy focus on the screen. My pupils dilate, my fingers fly, and I am fully part of the computer at that time.
This mode lasts for anywhere from 15-20 minutes to an hour. Then the dreaded phone calls begin.
I can do one of two things. I can put my call in auto text mode, flip it face down, and pretend it doesn’t exist, or I can peek constantly at it to see if I’ve missed an important call, email, or text.
The former makes me feel like a selfish jerk, and I cannot do it for long because of the overwhelming guilt both driving me to change that and breaking my focus. The latter breaks my focus in microseconds every moment, lead me to get distracted, and hours later I find I’m not where I planned to be, putting even greater stress on me.
The phone calls don’t stop.
That is one of my greatest fears. I love the people on the other end and would never want to have them stop calling. It literally feels like I am being stabbed in the back of the head when it rings though. After 2-3 calls within a half hour to an hour I have a piercing headache. My work is ruined for the next hour.
Bug! Well there goes several hours of my day. In the middle of a bug hunt, and likely phone calls, emails, texts, chats, skype calls, all necessary, tend to interrupt.
Did I mention I missed lunch?
I start making it and get distracted. I find it 30 minutes later after my lunch break is up. You see, I told everyone I was on lunch and suddenly I have a free moment to think and act; thus lunch being forgotten about because I’m productive again.
Back to work, eating lunch at my desk. Partners and co-workers need me for quick tips or questions about how to file taxes, etc.
My oldest children file in home. Sometimes I’ve managed to get a nap in before then. If not, nap time. My eyebrows are twitching from the strain, my arms have been tense since sometime in the morning, and my fingers have been numb from shortly after that. A nap is the only relief I have from that tension and stress; that or a couple of beers which then force a nap often any ways.
Power nap for 20 minutes.
30 minutes to put myself back together and get the context of where I was coding.
Press myself to code for 20-30 minutes. Youngest kid gets home.
I try to shut the doors, put my headphones on, and listen to music, but then I have my pair with me remotely, so music is out. I code between spurts of noise and bouts of me crabbing about said noise to them. This is really my grumpy time.
Soon it’s supper time. I usually miss the putting together of this; literally time wise, and in terms of a human relationship event. I very much miss putting together supper with my wife often.
If the day hasn’t gone too horribly bad I can afford to sit with my family and eat at the table. Sometimes I do any ways because I need that time.
Kids get up, get noisy, and yet I try to work. I often can’t until they are put to bed, though I waste many hours beating myself against the keyboard any how.
After they are in bed I get a few blissful hours without anyone interrupting my coding. Sometimes I spend it with my wife instead, though not as often as I should.
I work until exhaustion. My wife and I sit on our couch by the fire trying to decompress; we limp off to bed eventually, usually around midnight.
Now there are variations on that theme. I’ve been setting aside time a few days a week for church related things or charity (which I love and it keeps me grounded). That helps immensely. My days and weeks would be far worse off without it. You can also pepper in distractions like writing a blog post when the inspiration suddenly overwhelms me and I can think of nothing else.
Altogether, I need help. I’m not managing it. I constantly miss dates, underestimate work, and just make a mess of my life. I have calendars, and alerts, and methods galore. I can’t manage it and I need to.
It’s time to get some meds I think.