Remember this ….
People with ADHD often find it hard to remember to do things that they intend to do.
It’s very common for people with ADHD/ADD to be challenged with working memory difficulties. Among other things working memory allows us to hold things in mind and then when its time to do something , recall that information and act on it.
Take the example below for instance …..
This morning started well. I went and switched my computer on, intending to do some work for a while before breakfast. I realised that I needed to set my time timer so that I didn’t go over the 20 minutes that I had available. I got up and walked into the other room to get it, promptly forgot what I had gone in there for, and in an attempt to remember what it was, assumed it must be my glasses, which I happened to have on the top of my head at the time. I moved them onto the front of my eyes, and marched out of the room into my office again, only to realise that of course it was my time timer I had gone in the other room for. So back I went again to collect it. Sat down in front of the computer, and completely forgot to put it on and set it. I got on with my task for a while, luckily happened to glance at the clock, and then realised what I had done.
I imagine this to be a fairly typical scenario experienced by many people with working memory difficulties. Add this to impulsivity, distractibility, possibly even hyperactivity, and almost certainly emotional regulation difficulties, and you have fun and games on the ADHD menu – or maybe not.
I can laugh about it now, however these things that I mention above were not actually life threatening circumstances, nor were the things I forgot to do, or lost track of, vital to my survival. It would have been extremely annoying if I had completely forgotten what time it was, and not looked up or broken off what I was doing until way past the time I needed to stop, and it might even have been excruciatingly embarrassing as well, but it wouldn’t have involved hurting or letting down anyone else, at least not on this particular occasion.
I’ve lost track of the number of times that I have felt I’ve let myself and other people down by missing important dates or appointments for instance, even though they were carefully recorded in my diary. However for a diary system to work, it is necessary to remember to actually check and look in your diary, or the system inevitably breaks down. Such are some of the challenges we face.
Taken day after day and year after year, these sort of things grind you down, waste your time and energy, destroy your trust in yourself and hammer your self-confidence and self-esteem to a pulp.
Before I knew I had ADHD and learned about the impact of working memory, I never realised just how much of the chaos in my life was caused by this inability to recall significant information like people’s birthdays in a timely manner or keep my intentions in mind long enough to act on them.
As another example, many of my family members have birthdays in October, and yet how many years have gone by when I have only realised what day of the month it was, or the significance of that day, when it had already gone past. I had many names for myself. Person with ADHD and working memory challenges was not among them in those days. Looking back, I can easily remember that I thought I must be some kind of uncaring irresponsible monster to virtually never be able to get cards off in time for the actual day.
Without the real explanation to work with, it is all too easy for us to buy into the negative stereotype labels that other people start off giving us when we are children and teenagers, and which we get so used to that we start believing them ourselves.
Yet there is light at the end of the tunnel, for people experiencing these working memory challenges. Once you can identify that you have these difficulties, and where they are impacting you in your life, you are in a much better position to be able to do something about them.
There are many strategies out there developed by and for other people with similar working memory difficulties. There are apps, there are technologies, there are inventions, and there are reminders of all shapes and sizes that can help people with working memory challenges. Bit by bit, step by step it is possible to address the most crippling aspects of this disempowering condition and aspect of ADHD, and other conditions, and begin to take control.
I urge you if you are affected in this way to go out there and see what you can find. Experiment and see what works for you. Over time I have tried and discarded many methods, yet I have found a few supports that really work well for me. Sometimes I need to ring the changes a bit, and try a new way of doing things, just to keep me engaged and interested. I still do slip up occasionally with keeping track of and remembering important dates, but the improvement continues to help me move forwards and feel much more optimistic.
Give it a go, and I would be delighted to hear from you about your own experiences!