When Being Impulsive is not Spontaneous


When you think of spontaneous don’t you imagine someone saying, “Fuck it! Let’s drive 6 hours to the beach; we have a whole weekend for an adventure!” What about someone who is impulsive? I always pictured my spontaneity and impulsive behavior as the same… a fun outlook I added to life. Yet, as I get older and life gets more and more mundane with bills, obligations, and adult bullshit, I can no longer pretend my impulsive ADHD behaviors are fun and spontaneous because really they are making me anxiety ridden.

Daily I become more comfortable with my ADHD [read some posts about it here] and I am beginning to become aware of some crazy impulsive behaviors. Here is an example: Scottie and I are making dinner. All is good and happy and then I remember out of nowhere “OMG I forgot to respond to that email about Thanksgiving with my extended family!” and I rush to find the computer, abandoning the the peppers I am in the middle of cutting. I run out of the room in a panic as Scott yells after me, “Where are you going? I need you cut the peppers!” So, feeling very bad about leaving him in the kitchen, I tear myself away from my email and continue cutting peppers. But, this is where it becomes complicated, I am so anxious I will forget to write that email to the point where I begin to feel full of anxiety and dread. People without ADHD, like my wonderful husband, try to convince me I can write the email in 30 minutes when dinner is done. But I know, and fear, the need to write this email will dissolve away and it will never get done. I will disappoint my family by making them feel like they are not important. Or even worse, I will get this impulsive urge the next day at another terrible moment when I am driving or something. I will again feel this stress because I know I can’t complete this task or, the worst option of all, I give in and try to write this email on my phone as I drive.

I wish this was true of just little annoying tasks in day to day life, but I feel this way about almost all aspects of my life and I feel an intense, and all consuming, urge to do whatever it is I want at that moment. Most things are not even fun. It may be interrupting someone who is talking because I have a thought and I am scared I will forget it, getting so antsy in situations because I think of something different to do, etc.  As the email example shows, I am often missing out on the moment in am currently in because I am so caught up in my own insanely rapid thoughts.

Oh Dennis, you know me so well.

Oh Dennis, you know me so well.

Now, what am I learning to helps cope with these urges? My doc says the medicine helps to calm impulsiveness because it is a chemical imbalance in my brain that makes me feel this way. Great, but I can’t, nor do I want to, ALWAYS be medicated and use it as an excuse. I have a planner that I keep all my “tasks” in and this helps, but sometimes I can’t write things down and I often forget to look at my planner. I missed a doc appointment this week because I forgot my planner at home. My best friend K said I should start using my iPhone’s voice notes and then set aside a time to “action” tasks. Actioning tasks has been the best advice yet.

What are my steps to stop impulsive behaviors from become debilitating?

  • Use a planner/notebook/scrap paper/voice notes to record all tasks, ideas, and needs in that moment. Then allow myself to be free of them.
  • Have a time when I get home from work, about 30 minutes max, to sit down with all my notes and start completing them or delaying them to another time.
  • Do not buy things impulsively – it will be there tomorrow and if I need it I can go back and get it.
  • Do not make plans impulsively – I am married and it isn’t just me I am making plans for anymore. I need to be fair to Scottie and allow him to be a part of these decision [can you tell this is an area of great discourse for us?]
  • Try with all my might to listen when people talk and not allow my thoughts to become more important than theirs.
  • If I feel impulsive anxiety overtaking the moment I am in, I try and acknowledge it and let go of those stresses. Be more in the moment.
  • Forgive myself for being this way and don’t allow guilt to make me feel bad about myself.

I guess it is all about self control when it comes to overcoming impulsive behaviors. Yet, some of these behaviors are really fun at time. Life with ADHD is not all horrible. Sometimes those impulsive moments are indeed spontaneous adventures.

love, Sarah


Impulsive Shopping & Control with ADHD


Hey all! So, I have ADHD and have written a few different posts about how I cope. One of the most difficult issues for me to overcome throughout the years has been my relationship with money.  I was diagnosed when I was 25, so I was pretty much clueless about why I thought differently from my friends and my partner. One of those huge differences was my relationship with money and my compulsion to spend.

Ok, a lot of people have issues with money. For myself, It also doesn’t help that I come from an ADHD family who spends every single penny they have. I never packed my own lunch [or had my parents’ pack me a lunch] until I was 22 years old. Yes, you read right. From the age of 3 to adulthood I always had lunch money. This, in addition to my natural urge to spend because ADHD people are more inclined to act impulsively without thinking of the consequences, makes me more prone to compulsive shopping.

Now, onto the important stuff: how to cope and gain self control with ADHD.  My friend L told me this trick she learned from Suze Orman, Oprah’s financial lady. It has been around for a few years, but it is the WANT VS. NEED RATIONALE. So, for everything I buy I ask the question,

“Do I need this?”

If I don’t need it, like really need it, then I don’t need to spend money on it that moment. Why this is great for all people, especially ADHD people, is that it takes you out of the impulsive spending mindset. This thought process really does bring me back to reality. While I think this is initially designed to stop people from spending money they don’t have, for ADHD people [and other compulsive spenders] this can be used as a grounding method: to ground yourself back to reality. Maybe you do deserve that new pair of shoes… but if you don’t need another pair of black heels – walk away for today. If you find yourself thinking of them a few days later, this purchase may really have so validity and bring you happiness beyond the impulsive need to shop has passed.

Another thing I have noticed sparks frantic shopping: try to avoid falling for sales. If you find something you need on sale, go for it! But, if you don’t need it you are just letting the impulsive pressure of a sale take control of you.

Here is a small personal example, but a valid one: I was at Target getting some sports bras. Now, I actually needed some new sports bras because I only had two and I was working out about 4 days a week. While looking for sports bras on sale I came across a really cute work out shirt ALSO ON SALE! I frantically picked it up the shirt and immediately imagined how cute I would look at the gym; then I headed to the check out. In the line, I realized I literally had 30 shirts I could wear to work out in and I didn’t need this shirt. At the front of the line I gingerly handed over my work out shirt and said, “I changed my mind. I don’t want to buy this shirt.” It has been about 3 weeks and I still know I didn’t need the shirt! It might have only been $5, something I could afford, but I would have just bought it because I felt impulsive and wanted it. Impulsive shopping can be overcome!

love, Sarah

Stay Organized with an Old School Planner

Planner iphone moleskine

I am a child of the internet age and I love my iPhone, apps, and [of course] Google. If you haven’t figured out yet, I am a librarian so I love learning new technologies and the newest ways of organizing information.

I also have ADHD — see my story here.  Why this is relevant is sometimes if you are different you, have to accept some things work for you and some things just DON’T.  For today’s lesson, I am talking about time management and calendars.  I was a college student for 7 years and finally nailed down how and in what format to get myself organized.  I so want to be one of those people that has online calenders, receives little beeps when they have a meeting to attend, and syncs all my calenders to be connected at all times.  I tried a strict online time management for some time but could not (a) remember to write in the calender on my phone, (b) would ignore the little reminders because they were annoying and (3) could not text as fast as I can write.

For my ADHD, I learned through trial and error I have to handwrite all of my appointments, fleeting thoughts, cleaning lists, and phone calls in one place.  As you can imagine, I require a very large planner! Dork Alert! Who wants to be that old school loser toting around a giant planner? You either look like a crazy fucking coupon lady (no offense to coupon ladies!) or one of those people who micro-manages all their time and all the people in their life. Then the battle was over when I found the best planner in the world, the Moleskine 19-Month Extra Soft Cover Weekly Planner — and it isn’t dorky! At only $23, it is well worth the money to be successful.  That said, any planner could work as long as you learn to keep and manage information in a way that makes sense to you.

I am not joking when I say I write down everything in my planner. This photograph is proof! This is from the heyday of my graduate program. Here, I will share some tips that have worked to keep my successful and organized in school and in life.


A sneak peak into my personal planner.

How I use a paper planner:

  • Use the daily calender area for scheduled appointments such as doctors, advisors, school assignment due dates, sexy dates with actual times and dates. Other tasks you want to save for a different area in the planner.
  • Have a note area in your planner that looks like lined pages to write to do lists, tasks, ideas, and assignments. The Moleskin planner has two of these pages per week (planner heaven)!
  • On that note area, break the different areas of your life up and place those takes in the proper areas: i.e. Homework, Phone Calls, Errands, Home Stuff, Groceries, etc. That way you can always find your thoughts.
  • If you are even more insane, do as I do and highlight those notes on the days they need to be done. I use to use a pink highlighter for tasks I wanted to complete that day, blue for the next day, orange for a few days away.
  • If you are a student, when you get your syllabus from your course write down all the due dates, all the tests, everything that pertains to the course in your planner before the class even starts. This will help you look at the entire life span of the course and prevent you for getting overwhelmed.
  • Bring it with you everywhere! That way when you get an “ah-ha” moment, write it down. For example, just now I thought “Oh! I need to send that fax to the Rabbi who is marrying us.” If I do not write this down right this moment, I will forget by the end of this sentence. Until I complete the task I get strange waves of memory that ensues in panic. These thoughts go as quick as they come.

Do you have any good time management tricks?

love, Sarah

How to be Your Own Editor with Natural Reader

I was introduced to Natural Reader through my job working with students with disabilities. It is a great tool that reads text aloud.  Why this program is aaamazing is because it is (1) free (2) easy to use (3) can be used in multiple ways aside from just reading text.  This is what I discovered and it LITERALLY changed my writing life and helped me overcome my ADHD.

Here is a long, but educational, tutorial that explains exactly how Natural Reader works.  If you are like me, you wont actually click on this tutorial and will just fumble your way through the program. Let me explain quickly how it works:  It works by copying and pasting text into the reader — this allows it to be read aloud. You can’t open files in Natural Reader, it only works with copying and pasting.  Once you have text, you can control the speed and voice of the robot voice.  It also kindly highlights the words as you read which allows for better concentration and focus.

How I use it as an editor is a bit different than how others use it to read.  I first began using Natural Reader when I was writing my Master’s thesis draft.  My writing was littered with stupid grammar errors like “visual resource are a growing need in libraries” which should have been “visual resources are a growing need in libraries.” This has always been my biggest hurdle to overcome when writing… I make stupid ass mistakes and when I read it in my head I totally read the words as I meant to write it rather than how it is written.  How I use Natural Reader is to edit my own work: I write in Word and then copy it into the Natural Reader program. There I can hear the errors in my writing I was unable to see. This does add hours to my editing process, but it improves my writing and gives me the confidence I needed to continue on.

Click here to download Natural Reader. It will save your educational and professional life! Yes, I love it that much. I have seen it do wonders for students.

love, Sarah

Why I take medication for my ADHD


This little boy is my ADHD cheerleader.

I was diagnosed with ADHD at the late age of 24 when I was in library graduate school.  While this was something I struggled with my entire life, I had never been able to put an exact diagnostic to what was “wrong” with me. Being diagnosed, accepting, and embracing my ADHD was a blessing and allowed me to understand why I was different. This different-ness (yes, I made up a word) isn’t a curse, it really is what makes me — and others with ADHD — very special.

Women with ADHD are often not overlooked at a young age. This article from Additute Magazine really sums up the issue: many women are not diagnosed (or diagnosed late) because us ladies express hyper-activity much different than boys.  We express it through being overly social and other less disruptive ways (for example forgetfulness or failure to finish assignments).  Many women go their whole lives untreated; this results in low self-esteem and often substance abuse problems as a way of self-medicating.

My Background
From an early age I was always very dreamy, social, unfocused, and ditzy — but smart. I have lost my wallet and phones more times than I can remember. I have never been good at testing or reading, often find myself drifting away into thoughts, day dreams, and anxieties. I have so much energy I was often called “annoying” because I couldn’t stop talking, jumping around, and being excited. School was difficult for me and I was drawn to fields like the arts where I could use my hands. While I did ok in school, I had to work much hard than other people just to accomplish homework assignments. To be honest, I have entire courses in high school and college I was not mentally “present” for. Yet, I was creative and full of ideas. I was a happy kid with tons of friends and did well enough in school to not gain attention from teachers. Privately, I was struggling with self-esteem issues and hating how different I felt than everyone else around me.

I found ways to unknowingly cope with ADHD while growing up. I kept lists of everything I thought and everything I had to do because I learned I would not remember anything 2 minutes prior to the thought. I wrote down every homework assignment and my planners became my life line to success.  However, I discovered in my first semester at graduate school I could not be succeed with these constant distractions and I sought help. This need for help was highlighted by my boyfriend in our first years living together. I realized as we cleaned he could stay in one spot and do the dishes while I was literally running from room to room fulfilling very thought I had as they arrived in my head. It hit me like a ton of bricks: why can he stay in one spot and I literally CAN’T? I tried and I felt anxious and cloudy.

Help came in the form of a little pill called Ritalin.

How Meds Help Me
I was very hesitant at first, but I have had nothing but a good experience with ADHD medications. I was prescribed a very low dosage of Ritalin and have stuck with this dosage because it doesn’t make my heart race and I  feel like myself.  The first day I took Ritalin I remember feeling very clear. Like, fucking clear. My thoughts slowed down and I realized all these years I have been living in a cloud. A dreamy little cloud that enabled me from being present in my life. The next day I went to work and realized I had done one project for 2 hours straight! I cannot tell you what a miracle this is.  I had never before sat down on the computer and focused solely on one thing.  It was the most amazing feeling in the world — I remember thinking, “is this what my friends feel? Do they go through their daily lives like this?”

I don’t take my medication daily, but I do sometimes take it for work/school related assignments and extremely social atmospheres where I know I will get overwhelmed and end up talking myself into a corner. I can function well without it, but it is nice to have when I need to conform to the focus-driven world of today. My story is a success story: I finished my degree with a 4.0 and even wrote a 100+ page thesis.

Love Yourself — Embrace ADHD
If you are struggling with ADHD as an adult, I really have come to see what an amazing gift it is. We think differently and that makes us very special and a great addition to society. We are idea people and can make multitasking our bitch.  Learn those things that make you unique and embrace them professionally and socially.  In the fabulous book Delivered from Distraction, I read something that changed how I see ADHD: if we lived in a different time — i.e. the days of hunting and gathering — us ADHD people would be the most successful, diligent hunters.  We have short attention spans and are impulsive which allows for “hyperfocus” under the correct circumstances. It is the hunter vs. farmer theory; we are the hunters. The world we live in is adapted for farmer mind-sets, but we can still thrive if we accept that we are different and can bring a different viewpoint the world around us.

I hope this can help someone out there struggling with ADHD and if they should take medications.

love, Sarah