Yesterday was a special day in the US (although sadly not a national holiday, which it should be, along with Election Day). It was the last day to file your income taxes. It’s a pain to do, but as a fan of things like social welfare and infrastructure, I actually like paying my taxes. (To be fair, I like it better when I get a refund, but ANYWAY.) Every year I say I’m going to do my taxes early and not wait until the last minute. HA HA HA HA HA guess what I did this year? Yep, the same thing I did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.
As soon as I got home from work yesterday, my mood crashed. Doing my taxes was the last thing I wanted to do. “Come on,” I said to myself, “you know it’s not that bad. You’re single, you have one source of income, you don’t have any special exemptions or weird financial nonsense going on. It usually takes you an hour tops. Just sit down and do it.” It didn’t help that my cat got even needier than usual. Cat cuddles are far superior to anything related to adulting. That’s just science.
But I put on a playlist of fun music and pushed myself to sit down at my computer and go to the free tax site I use every year. Joke was on me because the site had crashed from so many people using it. Not gonna lie, I got really anxious, hitting refresh, checking their Twitter for updates (it was just a long string of apologies to people, saying they would be back up as soon as possible) (I felt really bad for their social media person), pacing around my apartment, hitting refresh again, pacing, hitting refresh, hitting refresh, hitting refresh, texting my friends to say “I THINK I’M FUCKED”, hitting refresh. It finally came back up at literally the eleventh hour–just after 11 p.m., with taxes due by midnight.
Lots of people procrastinate, but when you have an ADHD brain, procrastination is super easy to do…or not do? What I’m saying is, ADHD makes it awfully difficult to start doing something, even when you know it’s something that needs doing. (Sometimes even when it’s something you WANT to do, but that’s a topic for another time.) It’s part of how our brains are wired. It’s difficult to prioritize when everything seems equally important and you can only see the big picture. It’s difficult to get on task when there’s no immediate reward grabbing your brain’s attention. Fun now, work later.
The reward is the big shiny key to all of this. There’s no such thing as a future reward to an ADHD brain. If you’re not getting a reward RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND the ADHD brain doesn’t care and will even actively push against doing something. So even if I can intellectually understand that doing my taxes in February or March will give me one less thing to worry about later down the road, my brain will find ANYTHING ELSE to do instead, including sitting on the sofa and staring at a wall while eating cookies.
BUT…as anxiety-inducing as doing my taxes at the last minute is, there’s an adrenaline rush while doing them. It’s exciting, in both fun and not-so-much-fun ways, but it’s the fun ways that the brain hooks onto. And when I woke up this morning, I felt the reward. It got down to the wire and I came out successful! So satisfying! So empowering! I DID MY TAXES AT THE LAST MINUTE SO CLEARLY I AM A SUPERHERO AND CAN DO ANYTHING! TOP OF THE WORLD, MA!
Of course, that just reinforces procrastinating. Is that really so bad though? If I can get something done at the very last minute, is there a benefit to doing it early?
My ADHD brain says “NOPE.”