It Ain’t Urgent Till It’s Urgent

Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till its over.” For those of us with ADHD, it ain’t urgent till it’s urgent. You may not have a normal experience of urgency until you are fast approaching a deadline. Like a cat who isn’t interested in a moth until it flies, you are unconcerned about a deadline until it is flying toward you.

I once asked a bright seventeen-year-old with ADHD why she thought people like us don’t activate until pressed against a deadline. She replied something like this: “I think we don’t really believe the deadline is going to come until we are close to it.”

A sense of urgency is a feeling that follows the thought of something needing your immediate attention. The reason you lack that sense of urgency when faced with routine or boring tasks, or tasks that require sustained mental effort, is simply your neurological difference. You just don’t get that alert from your brain chemistry that neurotypicals get when reminded of a deadline. Medication that stimulates the normal release of your brain’s dopamine can improve the internal alarm system. External alarms, like alerts on your phone or computer, can supplement your brain’s compromised attention manager.

If you have a co-existing anxiety disorder or OCD, you might be an exception. Adults with ADHD who are anxious or compulsive tend to arrive on time for their psychotherapy sessions. Worry is only pathological when it is excessive and protracted. It has a normal function. I would have a better relationship with deadlines if I had a more normal capacity for worrying. Normal worry serves to remind us of this thing called future.

Since you don’t have an effective internal alarm, try using an external alarm. Develop a habit of using the alert function on your preferred electronic device, or keep a paper calendar with you at all times. Then look at it often! Do not use your spouse like a calendar…it is not good for your relationship! If she already is your external alarm, relieve her of that burden. She will be grateful! She doesn’t like that job. She just worries that you will continue trying to rely on your unreliable memory. If your working memory doesn’t work, stop trying to use it. Forget it!

You can live well with ADHD, just as you are, if you are mindful and willingmindful of how ADHD symptoms affect you, and willing to take charge and use the tools in your toolbox. I am 24 hours ahead of my deadline for posting this blog…thank you!

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