I was 48, too, when I got diagnosed, and maybe 46 when I figured out that this might explain some of the things I’d been wondering about. I don’t know and often wonder if I’ve really learned that many tricks since, but it did give me the confidence that there are a lot of new tricks to learn - tricks that aren’t even in the playbook I’d been failing at before. Basically, I’m writing my own playbook now.
A German comedian who’s also ADD has this line that if you’re born a penguin, even seven years of psychotherapy won’t make you a giraffe. To stay within that image, coming to terms with ADHD made me understand that failing at being a giraffe doesn’t make me a bad penguin. Or, getting back to the original question: Before succeeding or failing to learn new tricks, we’ll first need a look at what these tricks are supposed to make us succeed at.
I’ve learned that there are things I’ll never be good at because they just feel wrong and against my nature, as well as others that I gravitate towards. (ADHD is a great BS detector that way. If I can’t get myself to believe something is worth doing, I just can’t do it.)
Like Neil, I can try anything for a short while but have problems to remember practising any new trick long enough to make it a habit. But sometimes I can tweak things until they’re easy enough to keep doing.
A small example:
I’ve been really bad at keeping an agenda for as long as I could think. I’d write down a date and then completely forget about not just the date but also the calendar until long after it was due.
I always keep a journal on me, though (still working on also having a pencil with me all the time), because the free format made it easier for me to keep notes. Keeping dates in there on pre-defined pages helped. I took some cues from bullet journalling for that.
This year, I’ve crossed over to an agenda again because it has lots of space for free-floating notes. It also has a good feel to it, because I learned that I’m more likely to pick a thing up that feels good in my hands. I’ve also developed ways of using both the free-form pages and the calendar pages in ways that worked for me.
It’s now been half a year, and I’m still using that agenda. On and off, admittedly, but I think that’s longer than I’ve ever used an agenda before. I got there through incremental tweaks and thinking about what did and didn’t work before.
Most people I know will tell me to just stop being so weird about finding the right kind of agenda and use Google Calendar like a normal person. Most people I know think what works for them must work for me as well because it’s normal and if it doesn’t, it’s my fault for not doing it right. I used to think so, too. Now I realize maybe I haven’t been doing it wrong enough for it to work.
So it’s not about new tricks. It’s about learning the right tricks. About finding out what works for you in a way that you don’t have to push through to make work.
What I’m still struggling with is to beat the impulse to try and do things “right” (aka normal) because that impulse keeps coming back with every new challenge. Normality is very stubborn that way: It doesn’t just go away if you ignore it long enough. Following that impulse will most likely send me down that rabbit hole of failing, then failing again, then getting stuck there.
Also, excercise. I just can’t get myself to waste my energy on a run if I’m not going anywhere. (So to speak. I’m more of a cyclist anyway.) I had my half-hour a day of excercise set for me by working 15 minutes from here and always taking the bike (which worked because I didn’t actually have to make that decision every day, it was just the natural thing to do) but now I’m working from home half the week, I can feel the lack of excercise.