Sh*t my brain says and forgets about

Tag: ADHD Page 1 of 3

Reminders, ADHD, and Siri

I heavily rely upon Siri (and Google Home sometimes) to set reminders for myself. I have ADHD. I have hundreds of thoughts flying through my brain throughout the day, all at the same priority and speed. Once in a while, I catch onto something that I need to remember. ADHD brain says “oh hey, it’s important, there’s no way you’ll forget it!” – where my mindful brain says “lol, you’ve already forgotten it, jerkface!”.

HomePods with Siri have improved my life greatly. Any time I think of something that I must recall – even if it is something I’ll need to do or write down in ten minutes – I can yell into the air to have Siri remind me.

Siri, however, needs to listen better.

Yesterday I remember setting a reminder for something in the morning. This morning, I get the notification … and I have no freaking idea what it is for.

The first one is legible! What are filters filter?

It looks like Siri understood me about the delivery box needing to go out. But, what the hell are filters filter? The best part is, I think I remember Siri reading it back to me and I lied to myself saying “Oh, I’ll remember what that means!”.

Nope. Fail.

When my brain goes on a little adventure

It me.

Picture of a cartoon penguin wide-eyed with the caption: When my brain goes on a little adventure instead of attending the conversation I'm having.

What a funny (and accurate) way of describing the mental float during conversations when my ADHD is ramped up. This cracks me up! I feel like there should be some background sound effects with this. A nice animated parallax effect would finish it off. 🤪

A letter from your ADHD friend or family member

I worry a lot. Let me rephrase that – I worry often. Additively I think my worry amount is low, as if there were any way to measure worry definitively. Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, to me, shatters my day into so many small moments of time. When I worry about something, it doesn’t last long because my brain is moving onto some other concern or input. What do I worry most about? People and relationships.

I worry about friends, family, coworkers, and how all of those relationships mean something to me and to them. I dug deep into this feeling of worry a while back and came to the realization that I don’t often do much about it. Sometimes I’ll reach out to the person and resolve that worry. Other times I go down a small rabbit hole of permutations of a a possible conversation, of the history between us, and even of the future. I suppose it’s a form of analysis paralysis. By the time I come up out of the rabbit hole, I forget to engage and I’m off to the next thought.

I presumed that from the outside, being friends with someone with ADHD can be difficult. I started to write a letter to all of my friends and family to tell them more about me, how I think, and not to take it personally if I forgot to say something about a birthday or remarkable achievement. It was then I realized that maybe people I don’t even know could benefit from reading this letter.

You might have a friend, coworker, or family member with ADHD. See if this letter gives you any coloring around your relationship that can help it down the road. If you are reading this and you have ADHD, feel free to send the letter to people you know.

Dear Friends, Family Members, and Coworkers:

I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (sometimes the H part doesn’t apply). It’s hard to explain what my universe is like although I suspect you generally have an understanding as we all go through problems with attention and focus. Like other forms of neurodivergence you can’t see what’s different about me, you can only see how I act differently than yourself. If you don’t understand those differences enough, you can’t apply context to them and you may think my intentions are different.

Through thoughtfulness, therapy, medication, and meditation I’ve ruminated enough on what makes me different and have come to understand it. I feel like ADHD can be a super power as well as a super burden.

Maybe you see me as:

  • Impulsive.
  • Unreliable.
  • Disorganized.
  • Restless.
  • Procrastinating.
  • Hot-tempered.
  • Easily frustrated.
  • Anxious.
  • Moody.

I see myself as someone who sees a lot of things. Imagine a room filled with screens – televisions, tablets, phones, beeping signals, dogs barking. A normal person can see the thing that’s important and let the others become background noise. I have trouble picking the signal out of the noise. I have less noise because it’s all signal in my brain.

I see the random things on walks in people’s yards. I notice the painting behind you when you’re talking to me. I feel the seam of my jeans on my right knee when I’m driving. I hear the washing machine clicking in the basement when I’m on a call upstairs.

I have good days and bad days. I know that anxiety goes hand-in-hand with ADHD. There are times I get overwhelmed with stimuli and need to exit a situation. I know that can be hard to take when I might have to leave your birthday party at a Mexican restaurant when the table next to us gets fajitas delivered. Sometimes sounds, smells, and lights can send my brain off into an adventure.

There are other times when ADHD lets me see many sides to a discussion. When I can focus and listen to a story and connect, I can ask deep questions about things you may not have thought of. Maybe you think I’m insightful or thoughtful.

Then there are those things I miss. I forget to wish you a happy birthday or call you when you finish a race you told me about twenty times. Maybe you wonder how someone so insightful can be so forgetful. At times I bet you think I might not care about you as much as you do me.

The reality is I think about you probably 100 times a day in microsecond bursts. I remember those things you told me – I can see you at last year’s birthday party and remember it’s your birthday soon. But when I recall this fact, the next thing pops in my head and I don’t transmit that recognition of the day to you.

I leave cupboard doors and drawers open. You’ll find tools I’ve used in places you wouldn’t expect them. Then other days I’m criticizing your organizational skills because I see 15 different things out of place within moments. I’m also a creature of habit, and I have a habit of needing to change those habits for the sake of doing something different. I crave stability but I also crave change. I move furniture around a lot.

I want to be normal but I also want to be me. Maybe I take medication to help things out but I recognize that the medication changes my personality in subtle ways. Medication isn’t always the answer for everyone. Not everyone feels the need that they need to be fixed. I feel that if I’m honest with the people I live with, work with, and spend time around that we can learn how each other sees the world and we can help each other out. At times I may need a helping hand which can come in the form of therapy and/or medication. Don’t judge me if I’m doing either of these things. I’m not a pill-popper or weak-minded.

Even though I appear to be this self-aware, I need help from my family and friends. Remind me of things that are important to you. Make sure I’m putting important things into my calendar. If you notice me staring through you when you’re talking, connect with me on the subject and tell me why its important to hear your story. I need to feel accountable for things to be a better signal in the noise of my brain.

Thanks for listening, and I’m always here to answer questions. I’m glad we know each other.


The Impact of Sixty Seconds as a Kid

I have memories from my childhood but most of them are fragmented with how my ADHD brain works. There have been plenty of times talking with family about things that happened when I was young and I have no memory of it. I suppose my crappy attention & focus made it hard to store contiguous memories.

There are some things that are very clear in my head, though. One of those clear memories is of my dad and it lasted exactly 60 seconds.

Some days before I would get ready for school I would watch the kids’ game show called Double Dare. It was a 30 minute program that was a combination trivia and obstacle course. The unique thing about this show was the slime and gook used in the obstacle course – stuff that kids love to see people get covered in when they fall. The obstacle course lasted 60 seconds and was at the very end of the show.

One morning my dad was rushing to get ready for work. I remember him dressed in his work clothes and had his briefcase in hand. I was engrossed in the episode of Double Dare and my dad barely acknowledged me being there. I was excited to watch the obstacle course and I wanted my dad to watch too – I think because I wanted him to think it was super cool too. I told him to stay and watch – and then he said no.

I was persistent, though. “Dad, it’s only 60 seconds long! You can wait one more minute to leave!”

He looked at me and then the TV and he did something that was very atypical for him. He said okay and sat down to watch the obstacle course with me. I was so excited that he actually wanted to stay and watch!

It’s funny how 30+ years later I remember this small moment because it had a really big impact on my relationship with my dad. He’s often caught in his own head and doesn’t have a strong sense of empathy with how his actions affect other people. His universe orbits around him in a lot of ways but he doesn’t intentionally mean to isolate himself. He does care about the people around him but it doesn’t always show.

This one day I reached that bit of his mind that recognized the empathy I really needed. In that 60 seconds I connected with my dad in a meaningful way. I’ve reflected back on that moment so many times when I get frustrated with him especially now that he’s affected by Parkinson’s Disease. My dad’s disappearing little by little with what feels like dementia related to the Parkinson’s.

When you have that 60 second moment to have an impact on your kids, take it. You’ll never know how long it’ll stick with them.

Mondays through the Eyes of ADHD

A british-looking man flailing his arms and legs in front of a brick wallA man flailing his armsA cartoon character flailing his armsSkeleton cartoon character flailing its arms Kermit the Frog flailing his arms

Vacuum the Brain with Morning Pages

I’ve blogged a lot about my struggles with attention and focus over the years since I started working remote. I continue to find tools and adjust my behaviors tiny bits at a time to help align me with the world I work in. I’ve been doing mindful meditation daily, usually in the morning, to help calm the brain and prepare for the day.

Pencil and Paper

Just yesterday I was introduced to a fun practice called Morning Pages to help organize my thoughts in the morning to start the day. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, uses morning pages to spill out thoughts and ideas from her head onto three pages of paper. The daily practice involves stream-of-consciousness writing (or commonly called free writing) three full pages of handwritten text. Topic is unimportant – it’s whatever comes to mind. Julia says some of her students call it “mourning pages” as it usually turns into a bitch session.

The things you write during morning pages help clear out the brain for you to start the day. You’re not writing for anyone except yourself and even then the pages aren’t written to be read. Imagine the stuck ideas flowing out of your head onto the paper and then throwing the paper out at the end. The things that end up written may or may not be really true thoughts and feelings – they’re just what’s occupying the recesses of your mind. Don’t judge yourself during the process – just do it.

I’ve modified the technique slightly to fit into my daily habit. I’m starting this week with five minutes of morning pages and then my normal 5-10 minute mindful meditation. This all happens before I start work but after I get the dogs fed & insulin injected for the old guy, and the coffee put on. As of right now I’m physically writing the morning pages but I could see moving to an iPad. I do enjoy the physical sensation of writing with a pencil, however.

Learn more about Julia’s techniques at

Being Mindful for 122 Days

It’s been nearly four years since I started the journey of understanding how my attention & focus work. Along the way I’ve learned several things that have been key factors in developing tools to modify my behaviors to perform better.

Most importantly any tools/habits you use or create are ephemeral. The tool may or may not work for you. Maybe the tool works for you for a couple months but then it becomes a hinderance. Possibly even the tool feels like it has always worked but something lets you understand it never really did help. The key thing to realize is your toolbox will and should continually change with you over time. No matter what people say you’re a continually changing person – even old dogs learn new tricks. It’s okay to throw things out and to try new things.

Don’t try to change too much too quickly. This is probably just as important as the first key but it’s not very obvious until you start trying new things. If you try to change too many things or switch a habit drastically it’s much easier to abandon when you don’t feel immediate successes. Instead try to incrementally change towards something longer term.

I’ve always wanted to have a meditation practice and make it part of my daily regimen. I felt it was the one missing piece to my daily routine with exercise that could help curb some of the ADHD symptoms. The problem was I didn’t know where to get started and was really afraid of being a failure. I’ve always had a very open heart and mind when it comes to spirituality – if I couldn’t “get” meditation then that would make me question a lot of things. I realized that my biggest fear was based upon my perception of how meditation can work and look.

Mindfulness meditation is one of the many ways you can practice meditation. Specifically it focuses your mind on being present in the moment – to be aware of what you’re doing but not getting overwhelmed or misdirected by emotions, memories, and other inputs. My husband started meditating with the Calm iOS app to help with his challenges with anxiety. I learned that meditation doesn’t require hours of effort every day and having an app on my phone made the barrier to entry super low. It also helped that he broke the ice by starting the practice and the two of us support each other with motivation to try to get a session in every day.

Today marks the 122nd day that I’ve done a mindfulness meditation – either with the Calm app or on my own. I usually find streak analysis to be demotivating when life gets in the way and you miss a single day. I found after about 30 days of use of the app I started incorporating small moments of mindfulness meditation when I felt my attention slip. On the few days where I forgot to do a formal session with the app I logged a few minutes of time where I knew I was being mindful.

Mindfulness will slip into parts of your day where you don’t expect it. When giving one-on-one reviews with my team I frequently find myself popping into a moment of reflection before the video chat starts. Being mindful upfront brings the memories and feelings of that specific teammate into focus so our conversations are relevant and scoped to the purpose of a one-on-one. In the past those calls frequently were disconnected from the past because I got caught up in the actions of the operational nature of the call rather than the true nature of what they should accomplish.

It only takes a couple of minutes out of your day. Pick a time that is quiet and consistent throughout the week including the weekends. For me lately that’s been in the morning after the dogs get fed and before I have a cup of coffee. On average I’ll do a 10-minute session but try starting with a shorter amount. Calm uses a subscription model but they do offer a seven day cycle for free as well as several other options. There are plenty of other apps out there as well but I would suggest to start with one that provided some guidance narration.

Being mindful isn’t just about listening to yourself. Developing a mindfulness practice will help you realize when your own emotions and memories are preventing you from seeing things external. Think of it like wearing a pair of sunglasses that have been cloudy from smeared sunscreen for years. Laziness stopped you from cleaning the lenses and over time you stopped even noticing the reduced clarity. Mindfulness lets you recognize the cloudiness, without judgement, and lets you understand what you’re seeing differently because of the smudges. You can then choose to clean the lenses and see how the world looks with more clarity.

Flash Talk: Working Remote Saved my Life

Every year at Automattic’s Grand Meetup we’re required to give a flash talk of up to four minutes on any topic. This past year I gave mine on a subject related to my post “How Working Remote (Probably) Saved My Life“. I’m actually developing a much longer talk to dive deeper into what’s been involved with my successes and failures. Until then, here’s my flash talk for your enjoyment.

[wpvideo M5HpGRy1]

Focus & The Non-Permanence of Pencils

I’ve been trying to brainstorm ideas on paper lately before committing to an approach on how to solve a problem. For some reason I wasn’t getting a ton of satisfaction switching back to pen & paper – it wasn’t helping my focus. Then I realized something from my days in school. I used to prefer pencil over pen because of the feel of the graphite on the paper and the non-permanence it implies.

The biggest obstacle I have to starting something is my brain trying to understand an entire solution before I’ve started it. Brainstorming like this should be helping me with incrementally breaking down a problem into pieces and finding out what I don’t know. For some reason the permanence of ink makes me feel like I need to put more thought into things before writing them down. That defeats the point of brainstorming!

So for me, I’m back to a pencil.

Conferences & My ADD Brain

I drafted this post with an idea that I wanted to apologize to all the people I’ve met at conferences and I do not recognize them the next time we meet. It’s especially embarrassing when I’ve had conversations online with them and didn’t connect to two realities. The problem lies with how my brain works and how Attention Deficit Disorder can skew memories and how I process things.


Frequently when I meet people I’ve forgotten their names within seconds. I try to say their name over again and to reinforce the memory of meeting them with some facial features or bits about what they work on. This process works well in the beginning of most events but within a few hours to a second day or more, I’m toast.

Conferences are a unique challenge to me when coping with how to process information. I can combat the issues of focus & attention in my home office with tools. Using my treadmill / standing desk with exercise mid-day helps reset whatever brain chemistry is fucked up. Note-taking apps, reminders in Slack, and other apps help with reminders and not losing information that doesn’t make it to long-term memory. I lack most if not all of these tools at conferences.

I do try to exercise at a conference but it usually ends up being in the morning or later at night. This past summer at 360iDev I snuck out before lunch to go for a run on the hotel roof’s track. It was an absolutely brilliant idea and it helped recharge me for the afternoon. At my company’s annual meeting last month I did a similar thing and found it kept me going.

I try to help people with their own recall of who I am by being emotive and a bit more of an extrovert than I normally am. I also try to connect on Twitter or LinkedIn and add add them to a list with the conference as a title. Within a week or so after I try to interact. I also make sure my business cards have the same avatar that I use on Twitter and LinkedIn. I really find that makes the biggest difference!

So if you meet me at a conference or a work event, please do not be offended if I have to look at your name badge or ask your name. I have to entangle facts in my head with other reinforcements like your voice, stories from your life, and your general personality before I start to cement those memories for recall later.

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