Living with ADD as an Adult
I was diagnosed with ADD when I was 35 years old. I went to see my psychiatrist by referral due to my ongoing depression, and had no idea he was going to do anything other than listen to my sad stories and write a prescription for what I hoped was something to make the heavy stone I felt resting on my heart easier to bear. He asked a few random questions about my home life, my marital status, my kids about my work, and of course how “I felt about all that”.
I did what I always did. I rambled on. I guess (like I always do) I was trying to cram as much into my allotted hour as I could to paint the clearest picture of my life to him without leaving out any major or minor detail that could lead him down the wrong path of diagnosis. I told him about all my successful and unsuccessful jobs, even the jobs I tried out for only a few days before deciding to move on! I told him about my horrible home life as a child, about my loss of love as a grown up, and how my life lead me down the path I eventually followed. When I was done rambling an eerie quiet ascended over the room.
Now I never have been, or never will be uncomfortable with a quiet lull in a conversation, but this one felt like a verdict was going to be delivered to me, something I may not like. He finally blew out a deep breath and asked me if I knew I had severe ADD….!
Well, if stunned could be described as an understatement I suppose you could say I was. Apparently I also had a mild case of OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder), and would be requiring meds. My overly active brain immediately wanted to know exactly what this meant, how did he know I had it, and most importantly, how it would affect my future. When an ADD diagnosed person describe a few symptoms to friends in a friendly chat there will ALWAYS be one or two that will tell you they too, think they have it because they are always forgetting things, talking too loud or too much or being daring and impulsive.
It’s more than that.
In a nut shell (and I’m no expert or a doctor so this is not a medical diagnostic list, and please if you think you have it go see a proper psychiatrist, not just your GP, because similar symptoms are easily confused)
A person with Add (a sub condition of the ADHD group of conditions) also called Attention Deficit Disorder has trouble focusing on a single conversation, work piece or project with distractions, people or noise around. It is almost where a normal persons neurons fire, and the brains receptors receive the messages immediately our brains have a second or millisecond “gap” between the neurons firing and our brains receiving the information. so if anything distracting happens in that second or time split, it distracts our attention from the task at hand. I sometimes tell people in a social setting in a bar or restaurant that where they are focusing their attention solely on me (hopefully), my attention is on them, but also on the table behind me, on the people next to us, at the door, on the music and if the constant drone in the room is disrupted by something subtle that the person in front of me would not have picked up on, I immediately notice it and it distracts me. I will then probably loose my train of thought and forget what I was talking about with them (the gap between the neuron firing and the brain receiving). People find it embarrassing to them, and sometimes they don’t even know what I was talking about (how rude of them!)
As a short list (in my own experience, in my own life) these are the typical things that I experience as symptoms of my ADD:
- NO FILTER – or a severe lack of social cues. I normally say what I think, or before I can think through what I’m about to blurt out I already said it, or did it, and often times it is offensive, impulsive or downright dangerous. and sometimes it has no relevance at all to the conversation at hand. Most of these happen when a word or sentence trigger a feeling or memory and I immediately want to share it (often times interrupting the current speaker) without even realizing it (again the lack of picking up on social cues).
- Attention Problems – I was once at a party where a person started a conversation with me and while he was talking to me I apparently turned my head to the group next to us (something distracted me), and he walked away. I did not even notice! When he struck up the conversation again later the same thing happened. When it happened a third time that evening my friend asked me what the hell was wrong with me, I kept on walking out in the middle of our conversation, why was I being such a bitch! I apologized profusely, and told him how my mind is distracted without me even having control over it, too many things happening around me, the noise level too loud, and the energy level too high. I used to get lost on my way to classes when I started in high school. I was classified “a dreamer”, and had to endure the constant embarrassment of the teachers sending students out to find me if I did not arrive in time for classes, or even worse, being called on the school annoucnement system to my next class (with directions)!
- Getting bored Quickly – I think the longest I ever stayed at a job was 3 years during my career of 22 year career. Also I never kept to the same routine. I started out being a clerk for the government, then I left to become a receptionist at an IT company, left that to become an order clerk at a hearing aid and hearing protection company. There they saw me getting bored and moved me to the sales side of things, but I as still bored with the company and left. The next job I took was a recruitment consultant position, and after two years of doing that I got a job as a sales processing clerk in an IT company. I moved into a junior training position there, and went on to become a Technical Writer (writing help guides and user manuals). I also did some work for a pest control company as a consultant (yes, I sold rat poison for 3 months of my life), I did a stint in a research company, compiling data for corporate client surveys doing market research.This sounds like an awful lot, but strangely enough I was always the one to leave, I as never stuck without a job, and had more than enough offers to keep me busy (I still get called occasionally by recruitment consultants, despite having my own company for the past 7 years, and you guessed it, I went through all the “positions” myself first, then recruited a suitable candidate for it, fired myself, and went on to create the next position. I’m now in a position where the company can run itself 90% without my help, but I also know not to leave my biggest asset in the hands of other people so I keep working there, being the boss, and making sure everything moves along well.
- Impatient – I want things to happen (my way), and I want it to happen now. But everybody wants that. With me it’s a compulsion. If I want to have a portrait hung, it has to happen now. Not tomorrow or next week, now. I will pace up and down, telling hubby he is lazy and not interested in helping around the house. I get very irritated and will verbally tell him off (while he is innocently lying on the couch watching football or some trivial show)…. (see what I mean?)
- High Risk – I don’t think my actions through carefully. I will find myself walking home from a friends house in the middle of the night, or when I fought with my boyfriend I would open my door in the middle of him driving on the interstate (high way) without thinking through the consequences – I could fall to my death, be run over by other cars or worse, kidnapped and raped. I cannot tell you how many guardian angels I have gone through in my 42 years of life (it’s 2003 while i’m writing this), because heaven only knows how I made it in one piece to that psychiatrist’s office that day. When there is a rope to swing and everybody hesitates, I will grab and swing. When there is a ledge to jump and everyone cowers away, I will vault accross and hope (while in the air) I make it, because I did not think about what would happen if I didn’t. Fortunately as I grew older this lack of IMPULSE CONTROL improved but in essence a person with ADD has no control over it unless medicated.
This brings me to being on meds. Man I wish they discovered this in 1975. I would have been an Astro physicist by now (kidding), but where I could not even do a proper math calculation on a calculator before, I suddenly could focus so much that I started writing and compiling databases for our quote system on the computer, capturing statistics (my new favorite subject) and client data. All my employees click on the items the client wants, and then click on the print button. The system calculates and compiles the quote neatly on our letterhead, all the staff member has to do is send it via email, and of course follow up. If somebody told me I would be capable of doing this 10 years ago I would have laughed at them, and then forgot I spoke to them at all !
Being medicated changed my life in many ways, yes I have some side effects like a dry mouth, and loss of appetite but that is a small price to pay for being able to tell a story at dinner, being interrupted by the waiter, and being able to carry on where I left off after being served! In a normal persons world, this is nothing, in my world this is the difference between being a social outcast and being normal.
I did not really appreciate what normal was until I was medicated by a professional (It took at least 6 months to get the dosages right and I go back once a year for checkups), I now pick up (more) social ques, I still speak my mind, but I do have a small little filter I use when I used to just spew it out there, I have learned to listen to others, rather than to only speak to them about me and then forgetting half way through what I was talking about.
It’s not a curse and it is not a reason to have a full life. Yes, there are many sub conditions, depression which is one and OCD which is another (there are many more), but after awhile you learn to trust your friends and family, talk to them about it, and they understand. You are not forgetting them, they keep on reminding you of things to do, and you are not offended. They get to know and understand you are not being mean and unreasonable, that these things are factors out of your control, and you never wish them harm. You get to keep few friends. But those that stay are worth keeping. 🙂