I have Adult ADD...Yippee!
The night that I found out I actually had Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, I went home and sent out an email to my close friends and family with the title,"I have ADD, Yippee!" People, especially my teenaged children, thought I was crazy for being happy about this and proclaiming this fact to the world. But to me, it was a reason to celebrate, and in the following story, I will tell you why.
When I was a child, growing up, I did not have very good self-esteem. I procrastinated a lot, and my room was always messy. I hated to do chores, but if I found one I liked, cleaning out my closet, for instance, it would take me hours. I remember my Dad calling me lazy quite a bit. Especially because I procrastinated about doing chores. I ran late a lot, and my mom would come to my rescue, ironing my clothes in the morning or before my shift at McDonald's because I had forgotten to do it. She would often help me type a paper at the last minute because I had so much trouble focusing and getting the work done in advance. This really did a number on my self-esteem.
The First Job of My Career
It wasn't until I got my first job in social work, and often stayed later than most of the other workers, doing extra little things for the young children on my caseload, writing extra thorough notes in records, etc. that I realized I wasn't lazy, and I was a hard worker, at the things I really loved to do. That took 23 years for me to learn. The office was on three floors, and I worked in Child Welfare, so there were four units on each floor, each unit being set up only with desks huddled together, each unit of desks facing each other. There were phones ringing all the time. There were no dividers, no privacy or quiet areas to write reports. People would walk by all the time and stop by my desk starting up conversations. I had trouble focusing back on my work. Although I worked with a lot of students who required Special Ed services, I had no idea I had any issues myself. What I did come to understand though was that there were times I would get behind in my reports and that I was also easily distracted by other workers in a busy office. With the approval of my supervisor, I would seek out empty offices to use so I could have quiet and focus. Once I remember holing up in a closet for the day to get reports done because there were no empty offices. Once I could get into a quiet area, I was able to churn out reports, but I needed a quiet place to be by myself with no distractions.
My Married Years
After getting married, and having three children, the messiness continued. I didn't see the mess like a lot of people did. I saw card table forts, or piles of coloring books and crayons where my children had been happily playing, not messes that needed to be cleaned up. I ended up running around a lot at the last minute before company came and trying to get the kids and my now ex-husband to help clean up. Mail would pile up in clutter around the house because I would start to look through it, get distracted by something else and forget where I had put the mail. I would start to clean a room in my house, walk into another room to put something away, and get distracted by something in that room, and never make it back to the first room I was supposed to be cleaning. Before I knew it, it was time to start dinner, and I would have a few different rooms I had started to clean, and never finished any of them. I was late a lot for meetings and appointments, sometimes because I didn't plan my time well and wanted to give the kids a few more minutes at the playground, not realizing this would make me late. Being late and constantly having to apologize was embarrassing. I did try to get organized and started using a calendar system. But that only works if you remember to look at the calendar! And sometimes I started to trick myself into leaving for a meeting...planning to leave 15 minutes before I had to, so I would leave at the time I really needed to. That worked if I remembered to do it. About ten years ago, the neighbor across the street arrived on my doorstep with an article about Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. After a brief chat, she handed me the article, and said, "I think you have this." I looked at the title and thought it was very insulting of her to accuse me of having a disability. But when I actually sat down and read the article, my eyes were opened. Here they were talking about people who were disorganized, always late, messy, had clutter everywhere, in their homes, cars, desks, ex-husband had trouble starting and finishing projects, daydreamed a lot, had trouble focusing on conversations, blurted comments out without thinking that sometimes hurt other people's feelings, although they hadn't meant to, had racing thoughts with lots of projects they wanted to try always running around in their heads, zoned out in the middle of conversations and had trouble focusing. I began to think maybe she was right. I showed the article to my then husband, and he laughed it off, telling me things my father used to tell me ...that there was nothing wrong with me, I was just lazy and messy, and didn't want to bother to finish projects I started. (This attitude over 17 years is part of the reason he ex-husband!)
After the Divorce
After the divorce, I started to work at a high school with Special Education students, I learned a lot about disabilities, and some of the students seemed to be struggling with the same things I had struggled with over the years. They had ADHD ( Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity), or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and I began to relate to them and talk to them about ways I had learned to cope with similar issues. I then found a few tests online at different websites I learned about from work about ADD. I took the tests, and low and behold, the tests all came back that I was in the low to average range of Attention Deficit Disorder. I still didn't totally believe it, because of the attitude of my Dad and my ex, somehow still believing that maybe I was just lazy. But things came to a head when I was talking to a counselor one day about some issues with one of my children, and she suggested I take an official ADD test. A professional has to administer it, and she offered to. I took the test, laughing about some of the questions they asked that described me to a T. When she tallied the results of the test, she looked up at me and told me that I was right in the middle range of having Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. I began to cry. Tears ran down my face. I reached for a tissue, and we were both surprised by my reaction. When she asked why I was crying, I realized that I finally had validation for my actions, or sometimes lack of action. I wasn't lazy, or messy on purpose, or distracted because I didn't care. There was a legitimate reason for these things, and why I was the way I was. And it made me SO happy. From that moment on, I began to accept myself more, for all that I was, and for the things I wasn't and had struggled with all my life and even today.
Since My Discovery
That was two years ago this month. So what happens after a person finds out they have a disability? In my case, I looked up everything I could about it on the Internet. I wanted to know all about ADD, and what I could do to live better with it. I found out that there's medication a person can take, to help them stay more focused. I don't like medication, though, and it turns out because of another condition I have, I can't take it. So the next thing to research was behavior techniques to use. There are quite a lot of them, and most involve helping yourself to stay organized. Using planners well, making very detailed lists and lots of them, keeping a notepad and pen next to your bed so you can write things down before you go to sleep, hanging things you need to bring with you the next day near the door ( or in my case on the doorknob) so you don't forget them on your way out, etc.I found a very helpful list of 50 tips at this link, and that has helped in a big way: http://www.faslink.org/adhdtips.htm
But I found out some really interesting and positive things about having Adult ADD. People who have Adult Attention Deficit Disorder are very creative. They have lots of ideas always flying around in their heads, and it's important to write them down, and if there's a goal you want to accomplish from these ideas, write the steps down, so they don't get lost in the chaos of flying ideas. Also, when people with ADD find something they really love to do, they can focus on it really well, and that's a very positive thing. For me, I really think that is writing, and I am having a lot of fun with writing articles for Hub Pages. For years I have written newsletters in different jobs I have had, and truly enjoyed that. They also have a high energy level...probably due to all the ideas flying around in our heads!
Well, that's my story. I have ADD...yippee! I do love the positive aspects of this condition and am constantly trying to do better regarding managing the not so positive ones. One of the best books I have ever read for people with Adult ADD is the book You Mean I am Not Crazy, Stupid or Lazy? It really helped me understand Adult ADD and not make me feel bad about it, even though many other people had made me feel this way my whole life. You can purchase your own copy of this book below.
Copyright by Karen Hellier, 2012.
Attention Deficit Disorder
Do You Have Attention Deficit Disorder?
© 2012 Karen Hellier