I decided to write about this subject because there is surprisingly a lack of information out there. Yes, I’ve found other blogs, but I haven’t found anything from the medical, psychology, or ADHD field itself (other than one book, and he doesn’t cover much). If anyone knows of a credible resource please feel free to share it in a comment.
You work on a huge project. You already have a tendency to hyperfocus, but when the project is this big and the deadline is so close, that tendency kicks into high-gear. Everything else goes by the wayside. Nothing in the world exists but the project. You may forget to eat. When you do eat it isn’t healthy. If you’re lucky, your family understands because they know this pattern by now.
The most amazing thing is the mind chatter disappears. Mind chatter? Yes. You know, internal distractions. The mind is never quiet. One worry pops in just as soon as you push another aside. You’re constantly spinning on one thought or another. Meditation never seems to work. Relax, you say? Hah! Right…
“Mind chatter is the result of a lack of distraction for the ADHD brain.” (Driven to Distraction, Dr. Edward M. Hallowell and Dr. John J. Ratey)
I can’t speak for everyone. We all have our own techniques for handling our distractions so we can get the job done. I wouldn’t get a thing done without the whiteboard in my office. I see it every day along with the deadlines. I outline each project into small parts, giving each part a deadline. I cross off my deadlines as I meet them so I can see my accomplishments. The downside to this process is it encourages me to hyperfocus. The upside is I stay on track.
I’ve also noticed I experience a huge adrenalin rush when I hit the point where I’m hyperfocused on that project. Yes, I’m stressed about hitting my deadline but towards the end when I finally know things are coming together and it’s going to work – the relief just washes over me. I feel glorious! I want to shout to everyone, “Look at what I’ve done! Look at what I accomplished!!” I’m on top of the world.
The project comes to a close and I’m riding on that emotional high. It lasts for about a day.
As I’m enjoying the well-deserved downtime, the mind chatter begins. I’m not hyperfocused anymore. I don’t have anything to “spin” on, so I spin on myself. To the person who doesn’t understand the ADHD brain it would seem I’m scanning the horizon finding something to worry about. I don’t mean to; my mind is just wandering. Most of the time I snap out of it wondering how I got there in the first place; but by the time I find myself “there”, I’m an emotional wreck over whatever I’ve found on the horizon.
These are the highs and lows of working on a project. I used to think it was just me but in my search for more information on “post-project let down” and “post-project depression” I found others experiencing this same issue. People are posting in forums and blogs, both ADHD and Project Management, about this same pattern. Yet I get no hits in the medical field… nothing confirming why. We’re all just speculating. This truly surprises me. Surely there is more information out there and I’m just missing it.
My search was not for a solution. It was more for personal validation that I wasn’t alone. I needed to know if others had this problem or if I was just … crazy. I already have a solution. I’ll stick with my pattern of planning out my projects; I just need to adjust for the project close. I have a great method for planning out my deadlines until the project ends. I just need to make sure I have something lined up for when it’s over. Downtime? We all need it, but I suppose I need to start planning something for that, too.