Zoë's Pet Peeves: How Do I Measure Progress?Today’s Pet Peeve is about progress. If the goal of an ADHD diagnosis is to improve areas of your life that are problematic and to make your life the best it can be, and I believe these ARE the goals of diagnosis (for me, anyway), then how do I know how I’m doing?

One of the most troubling things I learned shortly after my diagnosis is that ADHDers are notoriously poor at self-observation. I was shocked when I heard this; I’d thought I had myself all figured out. Now I realize that when I was a child and my mom said, “I wish you could hear yourself!” she wasn’t the crazy one (my hearing was perfectly in tact; it was my listening that was wonky.)

Turns out, my self-image was mostly an odd combo of gorgeous mirage morphing into hellish nightmare, neither of which was  entirely accurate. Poof! Along came ADHD treatment and so much for Maya (the illusion, not the bellydance move; it’s still my fav!). Now, 6 years post-diagnosis, I’m still not sure how to tell reality from illusion.

So, how am I doing?

I realize that our views of ourselves and others are highly subjective, strive as we might for self-reflection, insight, and honest assessment – still – I would like to have at least some guideposts to tell me how far I’ve come, baby. Or not.

There are some obvious outward measures:

– haven’t been fired in several years
– in my current residence for some time now and not even bored and itching to move
– I still have the same friends (and that’s definitely not because of my post-diagnosis windfall; still waiting for that.)
– diabetic dog still living (she’s getting regular meals and hits of insulin; she may yet die of old age, not mom’s ADHD-related neglect, woo-hoo!)

There are also internal signs of progress:

– less extreme mood swings (but still a drama queen by anyone’s standards)
– taking on more responsibility without freaking out (e.g. house / dog sitting and the house is still standing, dogs still intact)
– talking to myself is now helpful rather than just weird (e.g. I’ve developed inner self-talk such as, “Now Zoë, is it really a good idea to write your blog post 5 minutes before leaving for work? Do you suppose that might make you a tad late?”, etc.)

Dusting the mirrors won’t help

Still, if one of the hallmarks of ADHD is that we don’t see ourselves clearly (and no, dusting my mirrors will not help; I can still skip housework as far as I’m concerned), then how am I ever going to accurately measure my progress?

If there’s a checklist for diagnosis, why isn’t there are a 2-, 5- and 10-year progress checklist?

I reviewed a handful of ADHD books, and verified that, nope, there is no questionnaire in the final chapter I could complete to say that I’d graduated from ADHD newbie and could now go forth in the world knowing I’ve accomplished all I could in licking this malady. This lifelong condition. This…whatever it is.

Sari to save the day

Sari Solden’s book Women with Attention Deficit Disorder is about the closest I came to finding a perspective on what it looks like when you’ve achieved the ability to, as Solden puts it, live successfully with ADHD. Solden calls this the 3 R’s. (I wish this meant, Really Relaxed, Riotious Joy, and Ridiculously Happy, but unfortunately it doesn’t.)

Solden defines the 3 R’s as restructuring (balancing strengths, needs and recreation); renegotiating (learning how to live more happily with yourself and others); and redefining (taking into account your strengths and ADHDness and coming up with a personal recipe for who you want to be. This is akin to giving yourself permission to drop the Barbie image, and buck the stereotypes. Can you say Renegade? (that should have been one of the 3 R’s – for me, anyway. Guess I’ve got that one covered.)

Why it’s an open-ended exam

I guess it’s obvious: life is a never-ending journey – scratch that – it’s a journey with a definite end, but one that must be lived with constant adjustments or stasis along the way. Your pick. (And we all know how boring stasis is for us ADHDers! Personally, I’m like a shark. I’ve gotta keep moving or I die. Literally.)

And the bottom line? Be happy. At least, that’s my bottom line. Be happy, make others happy. Can I do that? Good enough.


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