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Yesterday was great...but what happened to today? (A.K.A. "the slug monster phenomenon")

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

Yesterday was great. And by great, I mean productive for me. I woke up early, wrote in my journal, and without (much) delay I started the marathon laundry session I'd been avoiding the past two weeks. (Of course, I also vowed--for the 239th time--to NEVER let it pile up like that again, but that's another topic altogether.)

With ADHD, sometimes the most basic tasks are the hardest to stay on top of--staying consistent with mundane household chores is therefore, VERY hard. For me, anyway. I mean, I always do this stuff eventually; it's the follow-through AFTER the "heroics" that I find so challenging.

Today, for example--one day after yesterday's triumph (eight straight hours of washing and folding clothes and linens)--I noticed the momentum I'd established in my long-overdue, home-organizing spree was fading fast. "Day Two" (today) was supposed to be devoted to the huge paper pile on the carpet in the corner of the living room that serves as my office. But my brain conveniently and completely blocked out the promise I'd made myself to keep the decluttering "train" on track. In fact, until an hour ago I'd forgotten there even was a "Day Two."

It's not just me. Having a gloriously productive day followed by a "WTF am I doing?" day is common for adults with ADHD. It's become clear that whenever I put forth a multi-hour or daylong stretch of sustained effort, especially toward things I don't enjoy, I need to anticipate a bout of time-drunken, mindless activity soon afterward. Probably the very next day.

I seem to morph from laboring like an ambitious ant, carrying a workload twice the size of my body one day, and then find myself sprawled out aimlessly the next, like a slow-moving slug, doing pretty much nothing for hours on end.

The ideal way to relax after a hard day's work? Not really.

Did I backslide today because I got overconfident, assuming I could pull off a second "Day of Boring" after yesterday's thrilling, come-from-behind laundry triumph? That's like hitting a grand slam on Monday and expecting to do it again Tuesday. I mean, maybe I set the bar too high.

Or, perhaps the mistake was that I "head-scheduled" rather than calendar-scheduled this multi-day snooze-fest of maintenance chores. In other words, I didn't really PLAN anything; that is, I didn't write today's agenda anywhere. I just thought about it a little bit, which is NOT the same thing as making an actual commitment to something important.

For sure, not committing my intention to paper or digital planner was one mistake, and planning one dull day of tasks followed by another was another; still, my most glaring miscalculation was not taking the Slug Monster Phenomenon into consideration. She (the S.M.) inevitably awakens and crawls out of her slug-cave just when I'm riding a wave of efficient behavior. She lulls me into a state of complacency because I've been "good" (i.e., stuff got done); that is, until I realize my productivity spree is now yesterday's news. Noting that it's now 4pm and I've yet to eat a decent meal, taken a shower or change out of pajamas, I panic. I realize that yesterday's mindfulness has devolved into today's mindlessness...and I have no idea how it happened. So I start to worry, the worry turns into anxiety, which ignites my fear of being a complete failure--a terrifying thought--and the SHEER POWER of the fear of failure (F.O.F) breaks my cozy, slug-cocoon and forces me into action again!

This pattern of overdoing work followed by underdoing work may reap results for me (sort of); however, it's jarring and unpleasant and bad for my health. It's not my fault either; it's part of living with an ADHD brain. When my prefrontal cortex doesn't politely remind me of what I need to do, my limbic system (the emotion center) takes over and SCARES ME into doing it. And now that I see this clearly, I'll be vigilant to anticipate the Slug Monster, especially when I'm finally making progress on something difficult or tedious.

And, while I’m at it, I’ll also avoid playing “catch up” by overexerting myself---because the Slug Monster will be waiting for me afterward, beckoning me to the sofa, TV remote in hand, saying, “Where’ve you been? You look tired; you should take some time off!"

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Pamela Berg
Pamela Berg
Aug 07, 2020

Great article Merle! I really enjoy your writing about what ADHD is like for you. I also I feel like I am reading the story of my life.

This sentence really nails it... "I realize that yesterday's mindfulness has devolved into today's mindlessness...and I have no idea how it happened". I have no idea how it happened.

I also really appreciate what you said about your brain not telling you to do something so your fear system wakes you up and gets you to do it. For me, that means I am also in a panic. That is the basic problem with my brain. Maybe our ADHD brain wiring just needs to be plugged in to the right lifestyle. L…

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