Living with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder is a real pain in the ass! However, I have chosen not to continue taking medication. The thing about medication for me is that it has a tendency to build up in my system. So an amphetamine used to calm my hyperactivity and improve my focus has a tendency to zone me out after a while.
It was a happy day for me when in my 50’s, I was diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. I wrote a paper for a Psychology course on the subject and the material felt familiar. I found a test online and all but two characteristics fit, I typically don’t lie and I don’t shoplift. I made an appointment with a Psychotherapist and after 15 minutes, he diagnosed me with Adult ADD. You may think it was a quick diagnosis but it was a no-brainer for him and I had a second diagnosis when I went to a Psychiatrist for medication. So many of the characteristics I resented were not my fault but with the diagnosis came the responsibility to change the way I functioned. My focus could be managed with medication but the rest was up to me because it had become habitual. Because my brain moves faster than my mouth and body, I can get myself into some real pickles. I have a tendency not to think before I speak, it is out of my mouth before I have even had a chance to consider what I am going to say. I offend people unintentionally if I don’t make a conscious effort. Its like having Tourette’s syndrome except that I can control it if I stay present in the moment.
My handwriting is pretty illegible because my brain moves faster than my hand can keep up. It is very frustrating for me to handwrite because I have a tendency to want to skip the middle and go from the beginning to the end. It’s just too frustrating. When I take notes, I usually have a difficult time discerning their meaning later. I learned to tape record lectures when I attended community college. Computers are my saving grace and I have always loved to type.
Girls are more apt to have ADD as opposed to ADHD. The difference is that while both can be responsible for lack of focus, girls have the tendency to be more inactive rather than active. Both can flip flop from lack of focus to hyper-focusing and back and forth. While I can speed through life, I can also become obsessed and do the same thing for hours. I like doing repetitive tasks because I don’t have to focus, I can zone out and still get it done. I like to do accounting but I am not good at it. Yet, I will spend hours trying to find an error and get halfway through doing it one way and start doing it another way. I have been trying to find the same error for months and while I have made some headway, when I make myself stop after realizing that I am doing the same thing over and over and not getting anywhere, I make myself stop. However, when I pick it up again I have to start all over. I must be insane because I do the same thing over and over expecting different results. I can play the same game or work on a puzzle for hours and hours and not want to stop. I once had an apparatus that was like a watch you wore on your wrist that would ding every 30 minutes or so to remind me to focus on what I should be doing. It didn’t go over very well at my workplace because it called attention to my ADD. Now Danny and I have an agreement that I will take breaks every two hours from whatever task I am working at. Sometimes, it just takes getting up from where I am sitting and having a snack or turning my attention from one task on my computer to another task and sometimes I have to quit for the day.
I break things, have automobile accidents, have constant bruising on my body, and physically hurt people by not paying attention to their whereabouts. I have a tendency to do everything as fast as possible and move too fast. My brain is already finished with what my body is trying to accomplish.
I get bored with tasks so I multi-task. I work jigsaw puzzles on my computer or color in my Colorama coloring book while I watch TV. I listen to Audible books while I clean, do yard work, drive or even stand in line. I often have several books going at the same time. I will have one on Audible, one or more on Kindle and sometimes even a book in print. I am a quitter. I have a tendency to start an exercise program, a hobby or any number of things and just quit. Sometimes it is because I get bored but most times I just forget. I start a regimen of taking care of my feet and start to get good results then stop and complain that my feet look so bad. I find solutions to problems and don’t continue the process. I start to lose weight, get compliments on my progress and quit. Quitting is rarely intentional. Yes, laziness can play into it but for the most part, I just lose focus. I want to do so many things that I can’t keep up with all of them so some important things get sacrificed. I am sure that immediate gratification also plays into it and I’m not sure that is a fault of ADD. I want it now and if I can’t get it now, I quit. It is also a mark of perfectionism.
Lest you think that I am just making excuses, believe me when I say that ADD has had a negative impact on relationships, career, education and self-esteem and who would choose those things? The good news is that it is manageable. Often it is exhausting to have to stay conscious of everything you do or say. Zoning out is my comfort zone. I have to place things in the same place every time, like my car keys. Often people in my life don’t understand why I get upset if they borrow something and don’t return it to the same location. Not only can I not find it, I go into an anxiety or panic attack looking for it. Unfortunately, my go-to is that someone took it but that is my paranoia. I will put things down without focus, spend time looking for them and find them in some odd place.
My entire family, mother, father, sister and brother have ADD. It does run in families but the entire family? My mother, sister and I have chosen to look at the bright side., ADD can be very entertaining. When we get together, we swap ADD stories because though our mistakes frustrate others, we have learned to laugh at ourselves. I once dated a guy who said, “Life is too important to take seriously.” And I have pondered that statement over and over. To my mind, it said that dwelling on mistakes or problems take time away from enjoying life. When I was diagnosed the first time literally after 15 minutes with a therapist/life coach, I read everything on the Internet I could find. Many of the articles recommended embracing the humorous side of ADD and I have. Our daughters say to me, “I wouldn’t tell anyone that.” Well, I do because if I take it all too seriously, I will totally lose what confidence I have. Here are a couple of recent examples of my ADD moments.
Last night, I fed the fish and frogs shrimp pellets that are tiny little balls that expand when they are in the water. I became focused on finding Danny’s frog that seems to have disappeared. I finally gave up and took my phone and bottle of water upstairs where Danny and I had a conversation about the frog. I threw my hand out for whatever reason and shrimp pellets flew all over the bed. I did not even realize that I still had the food container in my hand and it was open. I insisted on putting every pellet back in the container so as not to waste them in spite of Danny wanted me to get the vacuum cleaner and suck them up. After I had picked them all up, I went to check under a pillow to make sure I had all of them and flung them all over the bed again, I had the container in my hand and it was still open so I picked them up again and closed the container like a good girl.
Danny and I ate Thai food a few days ago and I ate some sweet and sour sauce. I thought, “Hmm, this taste sweet and sour.” Duh! When I laughingly told Danny about my thoughts, he said, “Sometimes I wonder about you.” I replied, “You don’t have to wonder, you know.”
Danny’s mantras to me are, “Think about what you just said.” or “Think about what you just asked.” He challenges me constantly and sometimes it is helpful and sometimes it is frustrating. He doesn’t allow me to lean on the ADD diagnosis and I guess that is a good thing because if I do then I will cripple myself. I have read that people with ADD and/or ADHD are normally of above average intelligence. I believe that it is an important statement because we can be seen as “dumb” or “stupid”. So to constantly tell yourself that you can’t because you have ADD or ADHD would be to sell yourself short and become a class A quitter. ADD/ADHD is frustrating for those who live with and love us but even more frustrating for us who have it. I have told our grandson who has ADHD that though it’s not fair, we can do anything anyone else can, we just have to work harder to get there.”