The good, the bad and the distracted stories of my ADHD family.

ADHD with a touch of OCD

The Shop Vac

My husband Nathan has ADHD with a touch of OCD, and I’m an “attention surplus” task master. Sometimes the combination is a lesson in patients, sometimes it’s frustrating, and sometimes I find myself saying “what the…?” Recently, I experienced the latter with our weekend “To-Do” list. I started on task #1, and Nate started on task #2 – Taking some boxes to the garage.Forty-five minutes later, I’m on task #6 and wonder, “What happened to Nate?”

I went to the garage in search of my list partner, and found the car removed, wire shelf units pulled away from the wall and Nate cleaning the corners of our garage with a shop vacuum. “What the???”

Just to be clear, vacuuming the garage was NOT on the list.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A – The Shelf Mess

Many times ADHD has co-conditions. One of Nate’s is OCD. It usually manifests itself in the cleaning department, which can be great when I need help doing the dishes, but sometimes it gets on my nerves.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Getting all the spiders and crap cleaned up.”

“This wasn’t on the list,” I reminded him.

“Well, it needs to be done, and if I don’t do it, no one will.”

He was right. I would not be vacuuming up spiders in our garage any time soon. I imagine his ADHD/ OCD moment played out something like this in his brain:

  • “Take boxes to garage.”
  • “Look at all this other crap piled around.”
  • “ I’ll have to pull the shelves out and re-organize them”.  
  • “Uh oh… I can’t put more boxes on the floor because it’s dirty”.
  • “I’ll need to sweep the garage.”
  • “But before I can sweep, I need to remove the car”.
  • “… Ok. The car is moved, and now I can sweep”.
  • “Now pull out the shelves and re-organize them to make room for more boxes”.
  • “Uh oh… there’s more dirt and spiders behind the shelves.”
  • “I better get the shop vac”.

 And this is where I come in.

“Fine. But hurry up, we still have a lot of other stuff we actually planned to do today.”

Thirty minutes later, I’m on task #10 and I hear the shop vac outside.

“What the???”

I went outside our front door and found Nate vacuuming the driveway.  He was hunched over, using the extended attachments in a back and forth systematic pattern like one would vacuum the rugs inside the house.

Looking up and down the street, I feared our neighbors would think we were totally mental for vacuuming the driveway. Seeing no one, I sighed in relief.

“Nate! What in Gods name are you doing?” I yelled above the loud hum of the vacuum.

“Getting all these pine needles,” he replied, as if it was a totally normal thing to do.

Exhibit B

Exhibit B – The Pine Needles

At this point he had taken the ADHD and OCD thing too far. I marched out onto the driveway and put an end to the vacuuming.

Irritated, “I thought you were going to help me with the list?”

“I am,” he replied.

In his mind, he was helping with the list. However, the list I created was written in black and white on a note pad. Nate’s list was made up as he went, distracted by one thing or another.

We came to a mutual understanding that vacuuming the driveway was not the best thing to be doing at the moment, and agreed the garage should be put back together.

Thirty minutes later, as I’m on task #15, I headed back to the garage wondering what happened to my husband. And there I found him, on his hands and knees with a pile of blackened baby wipes, cleaning the road grime off the rims of our car tires.

“What are you doing now!” I exclaimed.

“Cleaning the tires. They were dirty.”

ADHD coupled with OCD can be an interesting combination.  On the plus side, he gets things done I would never dream of putting on the list.  But after this particular episode of “shared” chores, I learned to clearly define who would be responsible for what. Regardless, ADHD still manages to work its way into the situation, and I find myself repeatedly thinking, “What is he doing now?”

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