Time, Writing, and ADHD

This post originally appeared on my tinyletter, Where is my Mind?

I am writing two manuscripts right now, both memoirs of sort. The first one, which is largely complete, is a collection of my blog posts over the past 8 years that fall under the umbrella of Bad Female Academic. A number of people are now graciously reading it and giving me feedback, and it is all largely positive, except that they are having trouble figuring out WHEN things are happening as I try to weave multiple blog posts together into a more solid whole. 

My other manuscript is called Reconstructing ’95, and it is my attempt to reconstruct that year in my life and how it continues to influence my life more than 20 years later. Also, rape culture. I have decided to format it thusly: each “chapter” alternates between a month in 1995, starting with January, and then comes a chapter called “Now-ish.” When I sent out a very preliminary draft, more of a detailed outline, the feedback I got was that the way I formatted the time was confusing and it all seemed really rushed. It was an outline, but I couldn’t articulate why it was important to format the chapters the way I did. 

From ADDitude Magazine (https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-in-adults-nervous-system/)

The ADHD world is curvilinear. Past, present, and future are never separate and distinct. Everything is now. People with ADHD live in a permanent present and have a hard time learning from the past or looking into the future to see the inescapable consequences of their actions. 

From ADHD Homestead (http://adhdhomestead.net/time-blindness/):

Time blindness isn’t just a matter of ‘feeling like’ time is moving quickly or slowly. It’s a failure to view time as linear, concrete, or even finite.

Or to put it scientifically (https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3896/2971646fa8c4cd19e780a25882c8859b2f97.pdf):

impaired dopamine dynamics have systemic consequences for cognitive function, essentially recalibrating the clock that sets the time scale for the subjective experience of temporal events.

I write like how I experience the world and time with ADHD. Everything is now. There is an immediacy to everything that happens, that has happened, that is happening. I think it’s why I took to blogging so easily. It was now and celebrated now. Pulling the posts together is, for me, all now, all happening still at the same time. And I think for an academic, when institutions are so slow to change, it might just as well still be now, all the time a permanent now for academia. 

As for my memoir, well, you know what? This is how I experienced the trauma and the aftermath. This even rudimentary organizational structure is more than my brain typically can process. It also shows how dissociative I have become with that year, that it cleaves itself off from the permanent now-ness of my memory. 

So while I think I do need more sign-posts for readers, I’m not going to fundamentally change my style. I’m going to explain (in the appropriate ways) that I have ADHD and that this reading will give you a glimpse into what my perception is like, how I experience time, how I process the events that are happening around me, and how I keep processing them long after the fact. 

I have a hard time because my way of seeing time isn’t the same as most people’s. And so my book is going to be different than most people’s. I think I really, really, really, really like that. 

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