Am I constrained or limited by ADHD?

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 17, 2022, 10:28 PM | comments: 0

Tonight I was trying to read through some technical documentation that I'm recreationally interested in, and try as I might, I couldn't get through more than a few lines at a time. After an hour of not really learning anything, I realized what was going on and I was deeply frustrated. It's also disappointing that the bupropion XL I started taking near the beginning of the year, built to treat depression but having an off-label use for treating ADHD, is definitely not doing much for the latter.

While I feel like I've made some great progress in reframing difficult situations in my life under the light of ASD and ADHD, I am starting to wonder if either of those things constrain or limit me in some way. (Sidebar: There's also a huge can of worms about identity and disability, which is another post.) I won't go as far as suggesting that there are things that I can't do, in part because that's the go-to word my child uses when he doesn't want to do certain things, but if I'm being honest and self-aware, I should deeply consider what might be really difficult to do.

Let's take my desire to write a screenplay as a prime example. It's almost embarrassing how often I've written about wanting to do it, but haven't written a page in years. To be fair, I did actually write one twenty-ish years ago, but it was just fucking terrible and based on my experiences in a sad and pathetic kind of way. Now, every time I see a movie that I really like, that moves me in some non-trivial way, I think, yep, that's what I aspire to. But I don't do the thing that most screenwriters suggest you do, which is... write. You have to write a lot of shit before you can write something great, they argue. The first problem might be that I feel like I have to write the epic thing that I think will be great. But if all I've been able to do is write some one-off scenes every few years, that not going to get me anywhere. Is it the ADHD? I realize everyone is different, but I've observed people talking about it who have written novels and plays and screenplays. I can't even get through a few paragraphs reading something I'm interested in tonight.

Then I remember, hey, I did write a technical book a long time ago. I am, in fact, an author, and it says so on my resume. How did I get 300 pages done? There were a number of factors there, not the least of which included having an editor asking for pages. But I also quit a contracting job to do it and there was little else competing for my attention. If I could do that, what's stopping me from knocking out 120 pages of dialogue?

Sure, the context of the moment matters, so it's hard to sort out which constraints are ADHD and which ones are the hundred other things competing for my attention. I like to tell people that ADHD makes me a better manager, because it forces me to make decisions and move on to the next thing, context switching like a boss (see what I did there?). But maybe ADHD is just one constraint, and there are others that I could mitigate. Or, am I just wired this way, and short of medication, have to roll with it?

"Know your limitations" seems like something the self-aware can handle, but our "if you just put your mind to it" culture nonsense makes that smell like failure.


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