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Is it just stress, or could you be a woman struggling with undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder?
Most of us are familiar with hyperactivity and attentional problems in kids, and the debate over whether Ritalin is being over-prescribed. You may have also read an article here or there about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in adults. John Ratey and Ned Hallowell's book on ADD - Driven to Distraction - made its way to The New York Times bestseller's list. But chances are that you haven't read much about girls or women with ADD. Why not? Because ADD has long been considered a male problem that affects only a few girls and women.
All that's beginning to change, however, and ADDvance Magazine: A Magazine for Women with ADD has been received with excitement by women across the country, women who are finally beginning to understand that the problems they have struggled with all of their lives are related to a very treatable, but misunderstood disorder: ADD in females. The editors of ADDvance - Patricia Quinn, MD and Kathleen Nadeau, PhD - are both women with ADD, as well as nationally recognized specialists in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It is their mission to publish a magazine to educate women about ADD, to provide the latest in research on ADD, and to give women with ADD a forum to exchange ideas, humor, support, personal stories and coping strategies.
What are the signs of ADD in women? ADD in females can often be masked. Women with ADD are most often diagnosed as depressed. And many women with ADD do struggle with depression, but that is only part of the picture. As Sari Solden, author of Women With Attention Deficit Disorder, describes it, ADD in women is "the disorder of dis-order." In other words, for most women with ADD, their lives are filled with disorder which can feel overwhelming - piles and clutter out of control. There are some women with ADD who have successfully compensated for their ADD, but the price they pay is to expend most of their waking energy combating their natural tendency to be disorganized. Many women with ADD feel a powerful sense of shame and inadequacy. They feel constantly behind, overwhelmed and frazzled. Some women with ADD feel that their lives are so out of control that they rarely invite others into their home - too ashamed to allow anyone to see the disorder, too overwhelmed to combat the disorder that pervades their lives.
ADD can be mild, moderate or severe. Some women are able to cope with the demands of daily life until they become mothers. For other women, their coping abilities don't collapse until baby number two comes along. The job of housewife and mother is especially difficult for women with ADD because of its very nature. To raise children and to run a household well women are required to function in multiple roles at the same time, to cope with constant, unpredictable interruptions, to function with little structure, little support or encouragement, and to not only keep ourselves on track, but also be the scheduler for everyone else in the family. Who has soccer practice? Who has a dentist appointment? Who needs new shoes? Who needs a permission slip signed? Where is the permission slip? Who needs to go to the library? Who needs mom to drop everything this minute because they skinned their knee or because they have an ear ache and want to come home from school? And in the midst of all this we are supposed to keep on track - planning meals, doing housework and laundry, planning social events, and for the majority of mothers, working full-time.
ADD has become a more challenging problem for women as the demands in our late-20th century lifestyles become greater and greater. Now women are expected to juggle homemaking, child care and full-time employment, along with a full complement of extra-curricular activities for our children. What is highly stressful for a woman without ADD becomes a continuing crisis for a woman with ADD. These women frequently suffer from anxiety, depression and low self-esteem because they find they can't live up to the superwoman image that so many women attempt today.
What is the difference between ADD and stress? Stress is temporary or cyclical. A woman who feels disorganized and overwhelmed due to stress will heave a huge sigh of relief when the holidays are over or when the crunch at work has passed, and will set about returning her life to order. For a woman with ADD, the stressful times are bad, but even in the best of times there is a feeling that the wave of "to do's" is about to crash over her head.
You may have ADD if you
have trouble completing projects and jump from one activity to another;
were told by parents and teachers that you should have tried harder in school;
are frequently forgetful; have trouble remembering to do the things you intended;
are frequently rushing, over-committed, often late;
make impulsive purchases, impulsive decisions;
feel overwhelmed and disorganized in your daily life;
have a disorderly purse, car, closet, household, etc;
are easily distracted from the task you are doing;
go off on tangents in conversations - may tend to interrupt;
have trouble balancing your checkbook, have difficulty with paperwork;
Having difficulty with one or two of these things doesn't mean you have ADD. This list isn't meant as a questionnaire for self-diagnosis; but if you find yourself answering "yes" to many of the questions listed above, it may be very helpful to seek an evaluation from a professional very experienced in diagnosing ADD in adults. (A good place to begin your hunt for such a professional is to call the ADD experts in your community who work with children.)
If you are a woman with ADD who has not been officially diagnosed, help could be just around the corner. Women who have blamed themselves, calling themselves lazy or incompetent, have received help through ADD-oriented psychotherapy, medication and ADD coaching, and are now feeling and functioning much better.
Organize your family's essential information in case of an emergency
My mom had a minor stroke last week and was unable to speak. (She's fine now, thank God.) But when it happened, we had no idea where her "stuff" was - her insurance info, her bank accounts, even the location of the keys to her house was a mystery. Ultimately, we were able to get everything pulled together, but it was a waste of precious time that we could've spent on other, more important things.
If there's ever a time when you don't want to be caught unorganized, it's in the middle of a health crisis. You need certain documents on hand and ready to go when you're in situations like these. Today I'll show you how I've gotten my procrastinating booty in gear (finally) and made my very own essential information kit.
Up-to-date medical insurance information
An updated will
Power of attorney information
Life insurance info
A basic guide to your bank accounts - numbers, passwords
A basic list of bills in case someone else needs to help you pay them
Doctor and vet info
Spare keys for both house and car
Now, this was just my list for me and my family. You can customize it as you see fit, but these were the most pressing items I had to track down for my mom last week. I'll probably add to this list as time goes by, but it's a good start for an essential info kit that your family and friends will be able to utilize in order to help you more completely.
Best ways to organize your info
Obviously, some of this information is not going to be able to go onto a computer, and that's actually (believe it or not) a good thing. Not everyone who will be in charge of taking care of you should you be medically incapacitated is the computer-savvy ninja that you are, so let's make this as simple and easy access as possible. You have a few options that are written in order of what works best:
First, start a paper trail: All your paperwork in one file in one place couldn't be easier. Make copies and hand them to your significant other and one (or two) friends and or family members that you trust, literally, with your life.
Next, scan and save: Y'all still have scanners, right? Scan those essential documents in and save them to your hard drive, a CD, and a USB stick. Label everything, and give simple directions on where this information can be found to your already mentioned friends and family. Make sure that they understand how to access this information - don't assume that they can figure out how to use a CD drive or a USB
Lastly, store it on the web: This is technically one of the ways that I'm advising you to store your essential info, however: do NOT use this as the only way. Please. I'm begging you. There are a myriad of online storage options available to you, including the multi-faceted Gmail, and it's a pretty easy and secure option for making sure your stuff is all in one spot. This particular option is advisable after you've completed the paper trail and electronic backup; be absolutely sure to write down where this information can be found in case you can't help out yourself. Definitely, this is a super backup option, but I'm putting extra emphasis on the "backup" part of that sentence.
Don't put this off
Last week was a wake up call for me, to put it mildly. I don't ever want my loved ones to be put in the frustrating position of scrambling for paperwork for me, and I'm pretty sure you don't either. For more information, I invite you to read the following resources; but please feel free to chime in with your essential paperwork strategies in the comments as well.
Organize paperwork on your Mac
One way to digitize and centralize paper documents
How to organize your financial documents in a filing cabinet
It Is Easy To Learn How To Organize Your Life
Lives today are so busy that we seldom have enough time on hand to complete important tasks which is why it pays to understand more about what it takes to learn how to organize your life. Today, the internet has made vast amounts of information available to all of us and then when you have schoolwork and ideas as well as notes to keep track of your task can seem to be quite unmanageable.
Even if you were meticulous enough to file away all your notes, finding them in a hurry would become quite a chore which is why it pays to learn how to organize your life.
The first thing you should do in order to be more organized is to keep on hand a tiny-sized notebook and a pen ‘ both of which help in jotting down ideas and keeping track of appointments and tasks that need to be completed.
Even when you are speaking on the phone you can learn to be more organized by setting time limits on how much time a conversation should take. And, then you have to inform the caller that you can’t speak beyond a certain time limit; this helps to keep the conversation more relevant and it means that you can discuss important issues and cut out the trivialities.
Next, when you find that you have spare time on hand you should use this time to do things that promote organization; this means filing papers and performing tasks that help to remove clutter. Even when it concerns entrusting tasks to others you should always have kind words to say to your helper who will appreciate your appreciation and so will work more efficiently.
If you tend to procrastinate you will be doing yourself a big disfavor because procrastination promotes disorganization. So, as soon as you can, you must complete pending tasks and of course it does mean that you should start completing the biggest tasks first and also those tasks that are very disliked. Once you do this you will find it easy to complete all pending tasks and doing the less important ones will also be finished in the best manner possible.
If you do not have time to do things yourself be sure that you understand the value of delegation and so whatever you cannot do on your own you can delegate it to someone trustworthy. In a similar vein, it pays to do things as a group as this will prove to be time saving and it also means that you should list all the things that you need to do and then plan for each step at a time so that things can be finished according to a plan.
But, learning how to organize your life is not just about getting things done in the best manner possible because you must also set aside time which can be used to have fun. So, be sure that you set aside time that is your personal time in which you can do whatever you like including taking a walk in the park or having a nice and leisurely bubble bath.
Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at MetroSexual LA