I don’t know how

I have never had a hard time admitting when I don’t know how to do something. I don’t know how to sing. I’m horrible at it. Even I can tell when I’m failing miserably to carry a tune. I don’t know how to change a recipe or create one on the fly. I don’t know how to play an instruments except the piano (and it’s been years). I certainly don’t know how to play most all team sports. I can’t speak any languages except English and Spanish. I don’t know how to write code or troubleshoot tech problems (except the most basic). I don’t know how to do so many, many things.

And that’s fine.

We can’t all know how to do everything. At least not us normal people. I’ve never felt constricted by these gaps in my knowledge. Most of the things I don’t know how to do I have very little interest in doing. And the ones I think about trying, I have faith I could eventually master.

But most recently I realized there is something I THOUGHT I could do that actually I CAN’T. And I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.

I’m still reading my Women with AD/HD book. It remains enlightening, if not a bit confusing at times. Sometimes I find myself nodding my head vigorously, relieved to be understood by someone. Other times the descriptions are so extreme, I wonder if I have AD/HD at all, or if I’m just someone who struggles with many of the same things those with AD/HD struggle with.

Moments that I recognize:

The woman who leaves the kitchen only to be called back by her spouse and grilled about why all the cabinets and dishwasher have been left open and why seven different food items are strewn about.

The woman who goes to find her checkbook but then sees two towels on the floor so takes them to the laundry room where she realizes the detergent bottle is dirty so she brings it to the bathroom to rinse it off and there she notices her electric toothbrush bases are crusty so she puts the detergent down and washes them and when she finally gets back to her desk she realizes she never even looked for her checkbook, let alone found it, and so the whole charade begins again.

The woman who is searching desperately in her purse for her parking validation/cinema ticket/driver’s license/iPhone/paperwork/prescription pill bottle/returns receipt/whatever else she desperately needs and can’t find and is SURE she just lost. The woman who is doing this on the floor of a busy public space, as she fights back tears, wondering how she could have lost that important thing she JUST HAD and berating herself that she must be the most incompetent grown woman on the face of the EARTH.

The woman who never manages to RSVP in time, to send thank you notes, to buy wedding presents. The woman who never invites people over to her house because the idea of making it presentable is just too daunting. The woman who can never reciprocate play dates so rarely goes on them. The woman who is constantly ashamed of the state of her home, of the way she lives.

Moments I don’t recognize:

The woman who can’t figure out what steps to take to get the dishes washed, dried and put away. The woman who never managed to turn an assignment in on time. The woman who always misses appointments and forgets about meetings (okay, the meetings part I do recognize).


Reading this book has been eye opening to be sure. I’m learning things about myself. I’m learning that there are some things I don’t know HOW to do. I always thought I just didn’t WANT to do them, but now I realize it’s more complicated than that. At first these things seemed like moments I didn’t recognize, but as I looked harder, I realized I knew them very, very well.

Take my extreme disorganization, the state of my classroom and bedroom (and most of my house). I always thought it got so bad because I just didn’t want to do anything about it, and I didn’t let it bother me enough to make the effort to change it. When I read that women with AD/HD don’t actually know HOW to deal with that kind of mess, I couldn’t relate. Certainly I knew what to do, I just didn’t want to do it.

But the more I read about it, the more I thought about it and the more I realized that I DIDN’T know how to deal with my chronic disaster areas. I don’t know how to tackle the overflowing in-box on my desk, which is meant for only the most important papers that I’m supposed to deal with in a timely manner. I don’t know how to manage the piles and piles of papers that are turned in to me, the color-coded grade sheets that are littered all over my room. I don’t know where to store the myriad piles of handouts I will need during the coming day or week. I don’t know how to keep my projector stand free of the clutter of the worksheets I’ve used throughout the day. I don’t know how to even begin to clean up all the shit on my floor in my room. It’s true that I don’t want to do it, but the main reason I don’t want to do it is because I don’t know how. I have no idea what to do with all those papers on my desk, all the clothes in my room. If I knew where to put them I’d have put them there in the first place. I’m overwhelmed by the idea of tackling them all at once. I can’t even fathom how to start, let alone how I might ever finish.

So now that I know this, what do I do? It makes me feel somewhat better to know that I don’t LET things get that way, but that they get this way because I’m not quite sure how to keep them from getting that way. But feeling better about myself only goes so far. The mess still bothers me and still makes me feel bad. I want to be able to do better, but I don’t know how.

The book says that specialized therapy exists where I can learn strategies for how to manage my life. I don’t know how available they are to me, here in the Bay Area but I’ll definitely look. In the meantime I’m not quite sure how to proceed. I need to do something, it’s becoming unmanageable very quickly. Soon it will cause me to make a serious mistake either at home or at work, one that will cost me financially or professionally. I really hope I can get a handle on it before it gets to that point.

4 responses

  1. I hope reading this book has helped, and will help you to feel more in control of you, and your life.

    I’m pretty sure I don’t have AD/HD. But there are certain things there I can relate to : like getting distracted when looking for the checkbook. I definitely do that kind of thing. I’ve been planning to post about it!
    And the piles in the inbox – oh yes, I try to start out with everything nicely filed and only the important stuff out. But it never ends up that way. Which reminds me, I have a major bill to pay …

  2. I can relate to almost all the things you said you could relate to, yet I’ve never considered I might have ADD. Hmmm. I get paralyzed by my lack of organization, and instead of just diving in and tackling a little at a time, I just ignore it. I frustrate myself so much. This is a good way of looking at it- I just don’t know how so I don’t. Great thought provoking post.

  3. I don’t think I have ADHD, but this sounds so much like me! I often wonder how other people are able to manage all this stuff and keep track of things in advance and keep their houses clean. The idea that I’m not just deficient, but might actually have something making me be this way, and even might be able to fix it (partially), is very appealing.

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