I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) when I was about 15 years old. And ADHD thrives on routine and schedules.
However, quarantine has removed the external structure of normal college life. ADHD thrives on structure and routine, even when that structure is external. But you’ve probably never heard that phrase “external structure.” There are multiple ways to phrase it external framework, schedules, etc. A school schedule is a great example of that because it’s a framework that people follow regularly, ADHD or not. Being sent back home to continue this semester online has uprooted every schedule I had. And it wasn’t the distance learning aspect of it.
I’ve taken a distance learning course before. But this was different. I’m a full-time student and this semester had no online classes so I was on a schedule of going to class everyday, Monday – Thursday. And when I took online classes in the past, I’d have to at least go into the college to take tests, so there was some level of structure. I didn’t have a rigid, minute-by-minute schedule, but there was some sense of routine. I personally struggle with giving myself rigid schedules. I can do class schedules because there are often breaks in between (I intentionally try not to have classes back-to-back). This semester was uprooted and changed in a matter of two weeks. And even though I knew it was happening, my brain wasn’t totally prepared for it.
One of the probably more debilitating symptoms that can show up with ADHD is time blindness. I’ve joked in the past that sometimes time flies when I’m watching YouTube videos or even doing homework. I could be working on homework, think that only an hour has passed, look at the clock and realize it’s been three hours. That’s essentially time blindness at a more moderate (and for some, more normal) level. But lately with this quarantine, I barely notice when weeks go by. I’ve thankfully been able to keep up with assignments, but to be honest my bullet journal is what saved me from missing assignments. I’ve been back living with my parents since spring break (March). And I’ve barely felt the month and a half that has gone by since.
Before quarantine, my time blindness was just not noticing a few hours have gone by. But now, with absolutely no external or internal schedule, days feel like hours, weeks feel like days.
Now, I will say that many Neurotypical people (generally those with typical developmental, intellectual, and cognitive abilities) are feeling some semblance of time blindness with this pandemic. But for me, even on a more moderate level, it’s part of my everyday life. Quarantine or not. Class schedules and social events decrease the feeling of losing time because there’s almost always at least something on the calendar to remind my brain essentially that it’s another day.
But, not having in-person classes to attend or any social events has increased my time blindness. And I (personally) can’t “stick to a normal schedule” like people are suggesting on social media. I keep seeing that pop up on my social media feed. And I will admit, for many people it’s actually very helpful to set themselves a schedule to help them stay productive during quarantine. Trying to give myself a schedule to stick to doesn’t work because it’s not something I can just “do.” A lot of the structure that classes give people with ADHD is LOCATION based. I go to the same classrooms for each of my classes, my sorority meetings are in the same room every week, etc. But the key thing with that is that I leave my residence to go to class or extracurriculars. Distance learning has me back home and literally every aspect of university that was able to continue online is done all in the same place. I’m at my desk for class, sorority things, blogging, and my free time. The physical transition from class to class and then to extracurriculars helps an ADHD brain shift between the different things.
I’m thankful that I’ve been able to keep up with my classes, but it’s honestly been a struggle. I’m sure that those who know me personally probably aren’t seeing the struggle. And I don’t blame them. It’s almost an invisible struggle because I’ve been turning everything in and getting decent grades. But several of my assignments were turned in about an hour before it was due. And not because of laziness, but one of the main reasons is the time blindness.
If you are feeling time blindness, whether you’re neurodiverse or not, here’s an article that may help you out. https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/stop-wasting-time/ It gave me some clarification on how time blindness affects the ADHD brain.