ADHD symptoms: Time blindness

I’ve said to my wife on many occasions that there are three ‘spheres’ of time in my life:

  1. The first sphere is “Now”. This is the most important sphere. Generally this encompasses today and anything up to a day or two either side, but can sometimes be as little as a few hours or even minutes surrounding the current moment.

  2. The second sphere is “Before”. This encompasses my entire life’s history. Before is patchy at best, but there are some vivid moments. Don’t ask me what I did yesterday or the day before though, as I’ll need to think & work it out.

  3. The final sphere is “Later”. This sphere encompasses all future events. This is the most dangerous of the spheres. You might think that Before is the most dangerous, what with it’s patchy recall and almost complete inability to confidently state what year anything happened without serious working out—but no. Later, is essentially a large, seemingly bottomless hole that I throw all of the important stuff I need to do, usually with the real intention of doing it ‘later’. The issue is that usually I forget, due to both working memory issues and because Later has no real scope.

Once something goes into Later, I almost instantly forget when it has to be done, especially if it’s further in the future than the next few days. If it’s in more than two weeks, the likelihood I will forget is very high. If it’s in several months, it’s about 99% likely I’ll forget, plus or minus a percent or so.

Occasionally the pit of Later will throw out a few oddments—a hazy feeling that there is an appointment coming up, or the bones of a half-explored idea. More often than not however, the sinkhole of Later hoards everything thrown at it, and defends it mercilessly.

In real terms, ADHD impairs a person’s ability to perceive time in a useful way.

People with ADHD are often late to things, in part because we cannot judge time accurately. We think things will take less (or sometimes more,) time to complete than they would, due in part to time blindness, but also to executive function issues. This makes planning and organising difficult at best. For some it’s almost completely impossible.

For me it’s meant things like turning up to work on days I’m not scheduled, (this has happened several times, usually because I forgot when I booked time off,) and also I’ve not turned up on days I was supposed to work, and then had to rush to get on a train.

This can also be exacerbated by working memory issues;

“Where did I put my keys? Gets phone notification “Wait, what was I looking for?”

Add in object permanence issues—like forgetting that keys are even a thing until the last minute, then scrabbling to look for them—and you have another challenge for ADHD’ers to navigate.

So what we think will take five minutes to get ready, will invariably take much longer, making us late.

Personally, I’m not often late, due to a dread of tardiness being instilled in me as a child. I can’t remember a specific thing that caused it though.

I am also utterly useless at quiz questions like, “What year was this film/song/whatever released. Most of the time while people around me are saying things like, “Well it must have been around (x) year because… (lists memories of that year,)” while I sit blank-faced, unable to contribute.

Time blindness can seriously impact an ADHD’ers life, especially when in conjunction with working memory issues and executive function issues.