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Foot Hammock Anyone?

by Simon Curtis 6 months ago in selfcare
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Why I’m rubbish at shopping (and why Amazon Prime is bloody dangerous)

One of the things about not getting diagnosed till you’re an adult and then subsequently ignoring your diagnosis is that you compound your terrible ADHD habits and assume that everyone is just like you. The truth is that they aren’t. The stuff you’re doing isn’t what the person next to you is doing, well it might be but for the sake of this let’s say it isn’t.

Having ADHD and going shopping is a minefield. Not an especially dangerous one. In fact the term minefield is a bit misleading, more of a nettle patch to a naturist. I think I should separate the two types of shopping I mean, the quick pop in for an item or two and the ‘big shop’.

The former can be the most treacherous as more often than not there will be a couple of things. Problem is, when you have a whole shop filled with interesting items you have a whole world of tangents you can disappear off in. So for example, if I need to go in for some carrots, bread and dog food I only need three items but I have to walk around most of the shop. This kicks up many problems, if I use my nearest supermarket as an example. As soon as I walk in I am confronted by the stationary. Now this to many may not be of interest but to me this creates a set of different scenarios in my brain.

“Those pencils are nice, mine are running down, maybe I should get them now just in case. Oh hang on, didn’t I need another pencil case for those new stencils I picked up the other day….”

Straight away those three original three items are now fighting for prominence, but this then continues aisle by aisle and it is a battle to stay focused on the few things I was looking for. It is highly likely that if I went in for five things I might come out with four, or worse come out with ten, but only four of them are on the original list.

So what are my strategies? Let me be honest, they are anything but foolproof. The first is to make a list, it is a good strategy and can be used as a check at the end but it does not prevent the inevitable distractions. The second is the “Sesame Street” method. This title will probably only make sense to those of you who grew up in the 1980s but it’s out there on YouTube. There was a little girl whose mother asks her to go to the shop to buy a ‘container of milk, a loaf of bread and a stick of butter’ which she then repeats all the way to the shop. I still do this to keep focus and along with a list I can usually remember to get everything. I also often use a smaller shop if it’s just a couple of things, less opportunities for distraction.

The big shop is often easier. Largely because I will need something from most aisles and therefore my focus stays that little bit more solidly though to do this I make sure my list is very clearly structured into specific groups such as fruit and veg, bread, tins etc. This means I’m not jumping around the list, or the shop and gives me a better chance of getting everything. It is also critical that I cross items off or delete them, if not it’s an opportunity for self doubt, distraction and forgetting things on the list.

My biggest challenge is B and M bargains. As a private tutor who also runs Maths clubs for kids I have to nip into this kind of general discount shop for resources. Of all of them B and M is the hardest to manage. When I walk in I suddenly become Doctor Strange investigating every outcome in the multiverse. There are so many useful things that I can rationalise a use for and that mental working through is constant all the way round. I can often walk out with things I have little need for but there is a long term plan for it as it is in the one outcome where I can defeat Thanos. The same strategies can be used but are more often than not less effective.

The truth is shopping is mildly problematic, but not crippling or life altering. What is most important, as ever, is just being aware of your brain. Have strategies and accept they aren’t always going to work.

Finally, and most frustrating of all shopping experiences, is online. This avenue is problematic for a very different reason. I haven’t conquered it, and as of yet I don’t have a satisfactory strategy other than self regulation and even that can be subverted far too easily. Even before the advent of Amazon Prime it was an area of concern. Something would appear in my mind, a quick search on eBay and without a thought a month or so later a completely useless item would appear at my door (or more irritatingly at the post office collection centre). A great example of this, as my wife so regularly reminds me is the ‘foot hammock’. One comment that my wife’s desk was uncomfortable to work at and I was off. Eventually I discovered this amazing product, a panacea for office based discomfort. As you can imagine it was absolute rubbish. For a start it didn’t fit the desk and on reflection it wouldn’t work for anyone over 4ft tall. Our house was filled with, for want of a better phrase, useless plastic tat.

The advent of Amazon Prime and one click purchasing changed the situation and for the ADHD brain it is a real problem. Think you might make scented candles? Click, a bag of wax is there next day. Problem is that now you want to read that autobiography of the former manager of the St Ives branch of Our Price Records that you heard mentioned on the radio this morning and the wax has been put on the same shelf as the harmonica you bought earlier in the week. It takes a lot of self regulation (and removal of one-click purchasing!) but is a balancing act between the convenience of the app and the hectic nature of an ADHD brain.

Ultimately this is one small part of the experience, and not one that is Earth shattering but if you live with someone with ADHD and they bring home a paddling pool and a basket of pegs don’t be too critical!


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Simon Curtis

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