Wednesday, October 30, 2013

ADHD & Careless Mistakes – Letterpress Style

Ever since it was first released, I have been a big fan of Letterpress for iOS. I have found it perfect for my ADHD. It’s mentally stimulating; the board can change drastically turn by turn; it’s a constructive pursuit to help me unwind; and it gives me an endorphin boost from the competition.

Letterpress is like weaponized Words for Friends. Fans of Scrabble will feel at home since it uses the same dictionary, but points are allocated differently, and you can steal your opponents letter tiles. As in chess, strategy is important since to win the game you need to have the higher score when the last letter is played. I won’t bore you further with detailed game mechanics of a game you may never play. All that is important to understand is that I take the game seriously, and I have a lot of fun playing it.

When I first started playing I quickly paid for the full version so I could have ten games going at a time. I didn’t get a lot of work done then, but I sure got good at the game fast. Now I am more metered in my game time. Of course, finding somebody to play with is a challenge. Today somebody resigned on the first word I played. I guess I can be intimidating. Fortunately, I usually get matched up randomly with very challenging players who keep a game going for days. (If you want, look me up on Apple’s Game Center. I’m Darkstream.)

From time to time, though, my performance is marred by ADHD glitches. One time I was playing against somebody who wasn’t so fun to be up against. I’d play “RESTATE”, he’d play “RETASTE”. I’d play “UPTAKE”, he’d play “TAKEUP”. Once or twice is fine since they are valid words, but after ten turns I was fuming. He’d steal back the exact letters I played. Didn’t this guy have any imagination‽ Finally, I began to get the lead on him. Each turn I could see victory within my grasp. Then I saw it. With one word I could end the game with the higher score. I loaded my word, fired it, and then did a happy dance. Yes! He was dead! I had won! Victory! Victory! Victor…egads! I had left one letter on the board. How could I have missed that letter? What was I thinking? It was there plain as ABC. For a moment I worried. Would he notice? Would he just replay the words I had just played?

He won the game seconds later.

I have to admit that I felt shame. Deep, crushing shame. I was only mildly irritated that I had lost the game to such an irritating player. I was more upset that I had FAILED. Once again, careless mistakes had robbed me of confidence.

I’ve searched through Hallowell & Ratey’s diagnostic criteria for attention deficit disorder in adults and couldn’t find any mention of careless mistakes. That is likely because they felt careless mistakes were a byproduct for adults with ADHD, not a criteria. However, careless mistakes is the one aspect of ADHD that challenges me most. It’s the bogeyman of ADHD that leaps out at me when I’m least expecting it.

Boogity! You left the burner on and walked away because of a text message!
Boogity! You left the donuts on top of the car and drove away!
Boogity! You left your wallet at the store counter!
Boogity! You just posted private comments online!
Boogity! You just cost the company money!
Boogity boogity! You’re fired!

It seems all the coping strategies in the world cannot protect the ADHD adult from this particular aspect of ADHD. A lack of impulse control creates easy distractibility, sometimes right in the middle of doing something. The mind glitches for a moment, just a moment, and makes you look stupid. I once left the cash register open with cash. Another time I forgot to lock up when I closed the shop for the night. Yes, I got fired. After a lifetime of this, feelings of failure and insecurity can become ingrained. Careless mistakes account for many of the self-esteem issues with adults with ADHD. They cost us jobs and relationships. Can you relate?

For me, I usually laugh when I catch myself making a careless mistake, and now I generally catch them before they cause any damage. In this case, I reminded myself it was just a game and that feeling ashamed over something so stupid was, well, stupid. Besides, adults with ADHD usually feel emotions very intensely, so I took a deep breath and moved on. Then I challenged the guy to a new game and destroyed him.