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May 25
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by Jess

I am an organized planner. I need to plan things. I need to see where the trail is taking me before I begin the journey.

I thrive on familiarity. I am a hopeless creature of habit. I hate vacations. I am anxious going anywhere I've never been before, yet I love to explore new places and their possibilities.

I feel nauseous when I talk to someone new; especially if I feel somehow inferior to them. I don't know what to expect from a new person. I am anxious about the unknown.

I am uncomfortable with spontaneity even though I am in love with the idea of it.

I hate a mess. I have an emotional and even physical need for order. I am always drawn to architecture, interior design, artwork, and patterns with symmetry. Anything left out of it's place sends me over the edge emotionally. Every object has its rightful home. 

In stark contrast, my ADHD son, Luke, and my daughter and husband (who I also believe are ADHD but are undiagnosed) are the complete opposite of me in so many ways. Luke and his sister, Emma, will go up and talk to any child, anywhere, to make a friend. For them, approaching someone new isn't upsetting. Being rejected by that someone is. 

They all three, Luke, Emma, and Daddy, have a blind spot when it comes to disorder. Literally, they don't see it. When I look around our home, I see complete chaos. The way we live in it is total chaos. When I walk into the kitchen and there are scissors on the counter, my radar goes off. This is not where the scissors belong. This is not their home. I experience a physical pull to go and pick them up and put them in their home in the pencil caddy in the cabinet. My subconscious rant goes something like this: 

who left the scissors here? why can't they put anything back where they picked it up from? they know where the scissors go, that's where they got them from in the first place. if they would just put things back where they got them, they would be able to find them next time without having to ask me. it is so much more efficient to always know where to find something. is that so hard? i mean, how difficult is it to have the one more quick step of returning the scissors to the cabinet? am i the only one who sees the logic in this? why can't they just do this one thing for me? oh, i'll put them away. no one else will. ugh...who took all the markers out of the pencil caddy and set them on the shelf? that's not where they go... 

For a long time now I have tried to teach everyone how to be organized. How to keep the household order I am most comfortable in. I get upset, I yell, I place guilt each time I have to return order behind them. I increasingly feel like I spend my entire home life working to return order, to eliminate chaos, to find my happy place. For me, order is a priority because it creates peace and calm for me.

Are the health and happiness of my family a higher priority? Sure they are! That's why I have tried for the last year or so to overlook the disorganization in the house. I tell myself it doesn't matter if the sofa pillows are lined up in a neat row or piled in a lump and some thrown on the floor. I tell myself it doesn't matter if the kid's toys are strewn all over the dining table, sofa, floor, etc. If it's not a safety or sanitary issue, it isn't that important. Why should I make them miserable trying to create order for me? Organization shouldn't be a top priority. 

That resolve didn't work though. I couldn't get comfortable in a chaotic setting no matter how much I reasoned with myself. So I decided to just pick up after everyone and quit trying to change them. I would be comfortable and I wouldn't make them miserable, everybody wins. But now I feel like a maid. I have lost my identity completely. I see myself as mom, nurturer, cook, maid, organizer, shuttle service. I feel like I spend my life doing for others. And I do. But the organizing, picking up part of doing for others is actually for me. That's a revelation, but it doesn't make it feel any different.

Despite all of these reincarnations of dealing with my need for order and trying to live comfortably in my own home, it struck me this morning that my family feels the same sort of misplacement and discomfort in my orderly world. It's not that they are too lazy to put things back where they got them from. It is just not a priority for them. They know logically it will make it easier to find that item the next time but they can't stay focused on the task long enough to follow all the way through to returning the item to its home. It is just the way their brains are wired. It is their nature. They are different, not damaged.

I cannot change the way any of us are wired. Therefore, I cannot change the way they don't even see that the sofa pillows are a mess and the scissors are not in their rightful place. Nor can I change that I have a physical need for symmetry and order despite knowing logically it is not a top priority. 

So how do we all stay sane when our starkly different worlds continue to collide abruptly? If neither of us can change, and neither of us can comply with the other, does someone just accept to be unhappy in the others' world.

I am essentially a non-ADHD personality in an ADHD world. And some days I struggle to survive it. But for these crazy non-issues like a lack of order, not because I have a child with a disability. It's the differences in the way we see and experience the world that are the greatest struggle. 

Penny Williams is the creator and editor of {a mom's view of ADHD} and contributor to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise. She is also a freelance writer, real estate broker, wife, and mother of two living in Asheville, N.C. She has published several pieces in ADDitude Magazine, the #1 national publication dedicated to ADHD, and has also been quoted in Parenting.com's Family Health Guide on ADHD and The High Desert Pulse article, When Ritalin Works.  When not writing, she can usually be found behind a camera.

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One Response to “Two worlds collide”

  1. Maybe the best we can hope for is that everyone agrees to try to understand or see the point of view of the other, and we all agree to try to meet somewhere in the middle. The differing “wiring” which leads to differing world views is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of (family) life, and maybe offers one of the greatest opportunities for ongoing growth as a person!

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