I’m going to be very open here for a minute in the hopes that this post might help a handful of people (or even just one person) out there if you are willing the bear with me for a minute.
Every day of my life, I deal with Adult A.D.D.. I was diagnosed as a boy and as I grew up denied that it was even a real disorder. For years I resented my parents for sending me to a doctor to “fix” me. I felt like it was a cop-out for them not being able to handle a bouncy, rambunctious, and bubbly boy. I spent a fair amount of time in the “slow kids” classes throughout school as a result, despite the fact that my test scores far outdid those of my classmates. I was a fast reader and a fast learner. If it wasn’t interesting or engaging however, I quickly lost interest. In subjects where I was fascinated (Spanish, Language Arts, and Geography), I excelled! I remember the test results at one point stating that I could spell with the best of high-schoolers in just the 2nd grade. None of this mattered however for the boy who never participated in classwork nor ever turned in homework.
I grew into an adult and had been married for about five years and had two children. I had been suffering for years from the side effects of this disorder without realizing it. I let people down constantly when they expected me to follow through with commitments. I constantly forgot items I was supposed to do. I spent money very impulsively and struggled through some minor (non-substance related) addictions. Around this time while working through some of these difficulties, I met a man for whom I had a great deal of respect who shared with me that he dealt with adult A.D.D. each day. He then shared with me a list of common symptoms for adults with A.D.D. and it almost described me to exactness! I couldn’t believe it. I started doing research and learned more and more about this condition and subsequently myself than I had ever realized I could. The symptoms between adults and children are different. As one grows, the symptoms change and affect your life differently. With this new knowledge, I now knew with a certainty that this was very real and was not just an excuse for procrastination or “laziness”. I’m one of the hardest working people I know, but I struggle greatly to complete so many things! Thus, the perceived “laziness”.
When I was a boy, the people around me had a favorite term for me (unbeknownst to them) which was “annoying”. I immediately from as far back as I can remember “knew” without a doubt that there was something wrong with me. I was not good enough. I was different. Next to the other kids, I was the one who was annoying, obnoxious, irritating, too hyper, couldn’t sit still, you name it. I “knew” had a character flaw and was not as good as the other kids. Then I had to go to other classes away from my peers because my teachers couldn’t handle me. I knew I was a good person, but from a societal perspective, I was bad. Defective. I “knew” I was not good enough for anyone’s standard. This was a feeling that I was going to have to live with for the remainder of my life. At times it still affects me at 36 years of age. These things I “knew” are of course, untrue. It affected my life immensely nonetheless. I was a secretary on my LDS mission in Chile in charge of letters home and passport control. During that time, I forgot some very important things and never was able to get organized enough to get everything done that was needed to fulfill that calling and those failures absolutely tore me apart. With A.D.D., there is nothing wrong with you! You have unique gifts! You just have to handle the world and your circumstances a little bit differently than others would.
Earlier this week, I was listening to a book on how to better organize my life while dealing with this disorder and it struck me suddenly that my sister seemed to be struggling with the same things. I looked back through high school and realized that she seemed to be in the same boat! I texted her immediately and shared the book with her. I expressed with her that I think she may be faced with the same condition. She began to study it and read about it and during this week she feels as though her eyes have finally been opened. She may or may not have this disorder, but the simple possibilities being opened to her has been a life-changing experience for her and she has already begun to implement many of the suggestions that are already helping her to stay on task and to improve small areas of her life. Seeing what this has done for my sister has inspired me to share this publicly in the hopes that it might help someone else, too.
If you or a loved one answer “yes’ to 15 or more of the following questions (from ADDitude.com), I would highly encourage you to pursue the possibilities further. You can still have ADHD even if you answered yes to fewer than 15 of these questions. This informal test is intended as a general guide only:
- I have difficulty getting organized.
- When given a task, I usually procrastinate rather than doing it right away.
- I work on a lot of projects, but can’t seem to complete most of them.
- I tend to make decisions and act on them impulsively — like spending money, getting sexually involved with someone, diving into new activities, and changing plans.
- I get bored easily.
- No matter how much I do or how hard I try, I just can’t seem to reach my goals.
- I often get distracted when people are talking; I just tune out or drift off.
- I get so wrapped up in some things I do that I can hardly stop to take a break or switch to doing something else.
- I tend to overdo things even when they’re not good for me — like compulsive shopping, drinking too much, overworking, and overeating.
- I get frustrated easily and I get impatient when things are going too slowly.
- My self-esteem is not as high as that of others I know.
- I need a lot of stimulation from things like action movies and video games, new purchases, being among lively friends, driving fast or engaging in extreme sports.
- I tend to say or do things without thinking, and sometimes that gets me into trouble.
- I’d rather do things my own way than follow the rules and procedures of others.
- I often find myself tapping a pencil, swinging my leg, or doing something else to work off nervous energy.
- I can feel suddenly down when I’m separated from people, projects or things that I like to be involved with.
- I see myself differently than others see me, and when someone gets angry with me for doing something that upset them I’m often very surprised.
- Even though I worry a lot about dangerous things that are unlikely to happen to me, I tend to be careless and accident prone.
- Even though I have a lot of fears, people would describe me as a risk taker.
- I make a lot of careless mistakes.
- I have blood relatives who suffer from ADHD, another neurological disorder, or substance abuse.
After sharing these thoughts with my sister and during her self-discovery this week, she shared a poem via a Facebook post that I absolutely LOVED and would like to share here:
Take my hand and come with me,
I want to teach you about A.D.D.
I need you to know, I want to explain,
I have a very different brain.
Sights, sounds, and thoughts collide.
What to do first? I can’t decide.
Please understand I’m not to blame,
I just can’t process things the same.
Take my hand and walk with me,
Let me show you about A.D.D.
I try to behave, I want to be good,
But I sometimes forget to do as I should.
Walk with me and wear my shoes,
You’ll see it’s not the way I’d choose.
I do know what I’m supposed to do,
But my brain is slow getting the message through.
Take my hand and talk with me,
I want to tell you about A.D.D.
I rarely think before I talk,
I often run when I should walk.
It’s hard to get my school work done,
My thoughts are outside having fun.
I never know just where to start,
I think with my feelings and see with my heart.
Take my hand and stand by me,
I need you to know about A.D.D.
It’s hard to explain but I want you to know,
I can’t help letting my feelings show.
Sometimes I’m angry, jealous, or sad,
I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and mad.
I can’t concentrate and I lose all my stuff.
I try really hard but it’s never enough.
Take my hand and learn with me,
We need to know more about A.D.D.
I worry a lot about getting things wrong,
Everything I do takes twice as long.
Everyday is exhausting for me…
Looking through the fog of A.D.D.
I’m often so misunderstood,
I would change in a heartbeat if I could.
Take my hand and listen to me,
I want to share a secret about A.D.D.
I want you to know there is more to me.
I’m not defined by it, you see.
I’m sensitive, kind and lots of fun.
I’m blamed for things I haven’t done.
I’m the loyalest friend you’ll ever know,
I just need a chance to let it show.
Take my hand and look at me,
Just forget about the A.D.D.
I have real feelings just like you.
The love in my heart is just as true.
I may have a brain that can never rest,
But please understand I’m trying my best.
I want you to know, I need you to see,
I’m more than the label, I am still me!!!!
I again hope that this has helped someone to consider the possibility that it may be more than just you having a “character flaw”. It may go deeper than you not being able to control procrastination or forgetfulness. More than anything, I’d hope to convey the knowledge that you are not alone in the struggle. It is very real and many people are affected by it. It IS something on which you can get a handle in order to live the life you truly desire. You are a gift to this world! You were given gifts that makes you who you are.
I hope that this helps you to become the best version of yourself that you can be. We are all in this together!