My ADHD Brain, Episode Seven: The Invisible Pixies

My ex used to say to me on a daily basis, sometimes in an exasperated tone, sometimes in a downright nasty tone, “Did the pixies do it?” or “Ah yes, another one for the pixies”. And no, he was not talking about the band (but that has set off trains of thought in my head and a delve into my music collection…). He was talking about me. 

I didn’t understand what he meant, only that in that moment he thoroughly hated me because I was an irreversably bad person. Now I have my ADHD diagnosis, and am observing myself, I know why he said this. It doesn’t make his treatment of me right, of course. 

I exist on different plains of consciousness. This is no great revelation as it’s something most people, probably everyone, has. We all know about subconscious, right? The thing is, for me it’s like there is a subconscious version of me alongside the conscious one, and she is really messy. I can tidy my whole house and organise the contents, so that everything has a ‘place*’ and then, 2 days later piles of stuff will have emerged, and the clear surfaces will be cluttered again. And I will think “how/when did this happen and who the hell did it because I have no recollection?”. But it must have been me. It can only have been me. And it happens every single time. I have now started leaving notes around the place to myself to make me stop, but subconscious me just seems to be ignoring them. 

This subconscious/autopilot zone can be helpful at other times though. If I have done something enough times or it has interested me enough for me to dwell on it, then it can move from the conscious zone, where it might be pretty hard work, to the subconscious. Then I am onto a winner, because I love to do things by instinct. Cooking is a good example for me. I am in a lot of social media groups for people with ADHD and I know cooking is something a lot of people struggle with. However, I am pretty good at it and I enjoy it. Looking back I think it’s because I’ve always been interested in food, and come from a family of people who like to cook properly, so I learned repeatedly over many years, just absorbing it. I have always struggled to follow recipes and I probably always will, but I have a fairly large repertoire of things I can just make by instinct. I also absolutely never weigh or measure things like rice or pasta, but I mostly manage to make the right amount, because I instinctively just know. I do have recipe books, and I do use them, and the first time I follow a recipe is usually a painful and stressful experience, but once I get the jist I can do it on instinct next time, and instinct will tell me if the texture is OK, or what ingredients I could add or substitute. 

The thing I cannot master, however, is meal planning. I have tried and tried. I even have a planner on the wall that I never use. My strategy is usually to look at what’s in the fridge, see if anything edible is growing in the garden, open the ‘cupboard of tins’ if necessary, and rustle something up. I am often not even entirely aware of what I’m doing, as I am in pixie zone, but it turns out just fine 9.9 times out of 10. 

So, cooking has mostly entered the pixie zone, or ‘magic zone of instinct’. I am trying to get gardening into it too, and have had some good moments, but I think it still needs work. I wish I could get driving into it too, and all the other things I find really hard, but have had no luck as yet. And conversely, I wish I could pull the messiness and the disorganization up into the conscious zone so I could control them but, again, I have had no success with this. 

*This will take huge effort and send me into a state of frenzied misery, which makes the very quick undoing of the hard work even harder to bear.

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