Time Blindness

Francis Waters

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Generalisations, this piece is full of them and I can only apologise if I represent your group in a way that excludes you. I have no medical degree and the following can only represent my opinions, for what they are worth.

For all its faults, it is my experience that ADHD is handy in moments of crisis. At such times there is nothing to bear in mind or to forget to remember. There is only the situation right now, and how you respond to it. People with ADHD are great in such scenarios because they are largely incapable of doing anything other than thinking in the moment. Further to this, people with ADHD are very used to crisis. We are all so often late with deadlines, appointments and bills that we carry a sense of urgency with us throughout life, wearing it like a second skin. I have made a conscious effort in recent months to curtail my “battle stations” response to things because it is stressful and alarming for the people around me. I don’t mind intensity in dealing with problems. I’m very used to it, but most problems do not require intensity. They require diligence and hard work.

What I’m trying to say is people with ADHD are good in a tight spot because they are very well practiced at being in a hurry, and living life in the moment.

It seems strange in our culture to regard living in the moment as a problem when so many people long for it. They desire the ability to let their worries and responsibilities go, and to instead focus on being present with every sensation and thought. Really when you look at it like that, we’re blessed aren’t we? This ADHD crowd, with our of-the-moment thinking and our quick-witted emergency responses. Well living in the moment is all well and good, but if you are permanently stuck there you face a different set of problems.

Poor planning is the crux of it. ADHD means I have a poor sense for how long things will take. I don’t write things down because I am not considering the ‘later’ when I’ll need the reminder. And even if I did write it down: when later comes, due to my stimulus-response style thinking, I’ll only think to read my reminder if prompted to. I am no more thinking about the past than the future.

I won’t engage with anything boring because it seems like there is always later. And what could be so valuable later that would be worth the boredom now? When, because I am glued to the present, now is all I am capable of thinking about and a dull task can seem to take an eternity. These are the academic woes of ADHD, we require in-the-moment rewards for long-term hard work. It is difficult to write an essay because it will take hours to complete and no one will grade it for weeks anyway. The consequences are separated from the actual doing by vast oceans of impassable time and because I cannot see what lies ahead, I am incapable of steering towards it. In short, the thought of failing a few weeks from now does not motivate me at all.

Setting up artificial rewards has been one of the more useful tips I have learned for ADHD. There must be something at stake now which you care about in order to function. For example, I need to write an essay, but I want to play Elite Dangerous. Easy! 1 hour of essay writing is worth 1 hour of playing Elite Dangerous as a reward. But no ED until you’ve written for the time. And the alarm clock which chunks this time is god. IT MUST BE OBEYED. Yes, it would be quicker to just write the whole essay without the hour-long breaks, but I am not in the least bit motivated to do that.

This whole issue is why ADHDers will work ineffectually and sloppily right up to the moment the deadline rears its ugly head and only then will they get down to business. Because the thing they care about (the degree, continued employment etc) has finally come into their line of sight. Their short-sighted view of the future hid it from them until now. This is what is meant by time blindness.

There are many ways this myopic relationship with time causes problems. The morning suffers for the evening. The later suffers for the now. And most of all you suffer when you denigrate yourself for missing appointments and deadlines. For not having done what you should and for not being capable of the ordinary level of time management which most people perform relatively effectively.

Time blindness is a very helpful way to view ADHD. It is my go-to, when asked to describe what ADHD actually is. I say I am glued to the moment, responding to stimulus as it appears and dealing with threats as they come, unable to ignore either. I generally don’t get into how this stunts my ability to have long-term goals, or my ability to achieve the things I should. That part doesn’t make great natter at parties. But you know and I know that while living in the moment has its perks, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I’m starting to ramble now. This is just an interesting angle I wanted to approach our disorder from. I respect that some people with ADHD are better at time management than others. And I realise they probably aren’t all great in a crisis. After all there are different kinds of crises to be involved in. But I think the point stands. ADHD means time blindness, and I hope you appreciate this extra-poetic way to describe yourself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s