I used to be ashamed of my messy house until I got diagnosed with ADHD
- I used to be ashamed of my messy house, which made me spiral into anxiety.
- Then I was diagnosed with
ADHDat age 40 and things started to make sense.
When the pandemic started and I found myself at home all day, I remember thinking, "Well, at least my house will be clean." Instead of chatting at the watercooler or distracting myself with shiny things in my office, I imagined taking a moment here and there to do a load of laundry or wash the spoons. It seems I'm always low on spoons.
I have these fantasies a lot; all that stands between me and having my life together is this one, ever-shifting X factor that would make it all better. But it turns out the problem isn't the situation; the problem is my brain.
I've never been the type to clean as I go. I leave my empty cans on the window sill, play the "can I fit one more item on the pile of trash" game, and laundry rarely makes it to the washer without a multi-stop tour of my floor.
It's not that I never clean. I just wait until I have the time and energy to clean everything. I couldn't figure out why I could sometimes laser focus on cleaning, and other times I'd step over the same dirty sock for a week.
I wondered why other people had no problem getting up to throw granola-bar wrappers into an empty trash can. It's not that my house is disgusting — it's just in a perpetual state of "I'll get to that later."
I was too afraid of a diagnosis
I had ADHD as a child, and I still have ADHD as a mom. In retrospect, it was laughably obvious. And while I suspected it, I was too scared to seek a diagnosis. My whole life, I internalized the idea that I couldn't complete tasks because I was lazy.
This is especially true for women, since girls are disproportionately underdiagnosed as children. Our executive dysfunction tends to lead us toward a more inattentive flavor of ADHD, which leads to a lot of "she's smart but she doesn't apply herself."
Getting the diagnosis shortly before my 40th birthday let me take a step back and see the bigger picture. A mess isn't an emergency, nor is it a moral failing.
I don't need to feel ashamed of a mess, but I do need to recognize the ways it holds me back. I frequently point out to my kids that our difficulties are "a reason, not an excuse."
I like having a clean house
When I come home to a mess and immediately feel the creeping sensations of panic rising in my throat, I recognize ADHD's battle with anxiety, and I know I can't let everything spiral into squalor or depression.
Sometimes I need to figure out what will help at the moment — for instance, I sometimes work from a couch in a bar because my house is too messy. Later, I will try to clean "just a little bit." I try to convince myself that it's OK to just do the dishes — it's a start. I don't have to wait for the perfect time to clean the entire house.
I am happier when my house is clean. My goal is moving toward my values, not shame. I am not less of a mother, woman, or person when school supplies and junk mail cover the table.
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