Living With Undiagnosed Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (AADD)
Walking down a deserted hallway he imagines he is holding a bowling ball. Coming to a ready position, he takes five smooth steps, swings the imaginary ball back and forth in a perscribed half-arc, then slides on his left foot to an imaginary line. Bringing his right arm forcefully forward, he releases the ball and watches in his mind's eye as it slides right, then back left in a hook movement, ending up in an imaginary 1-3 pocket. The phantom pins explode, flying off the deck. Perfect! Another strike in the game of life for this man affected with undiagnosed Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.
That man, who lives with this type of moment every day, is me. I struggle virtually every minute of every day to control my thoughts, my actions. Oh, I have gotten pretty good at hiding myself under a veneer; but it can be a very, very thin veneer. All it takes is a moment of relaxation at any time during the day to allow the inner self to come out and play.
I hate it.
He walks into his office. He knows no one is around, so up comes his arm in a simulated dunking motion. In his mind, he is floating through the air towards a basketball goal which hangs above the doorway. Cupping his hand, he throws the basketball forward and down through the imaginary goal.
Another one of my "moments" which occur countless times each day. No one is witness to them but me. I hide myself in the moments others are around. Over the years, I have become adept at this kind of camouflage; this hiding in plain sight. I have to. To do otherwise would invite possible ridicule and a trip to a doctor. What choice do I have?
Are you or someone you know afflicted with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder?
I am one of thousands, perhaps millions of adults who live every day with an undiagnosed case of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. We grew up in a time where this maladity did not exist. We were considered full of energy, hyper, sometimes even spaz's. We had teachers who dealt with it the old fashioned way: they browbeat us into submission. If we failed to keep quiet in class the threat of "Do I need to speak with your parents?" still held enough content to cause fear in us at what would happen if they received a call from the school. Grounding at least; a spanking definitely not out of the question.
Now, just because I was quiet in class and did not disrupt the room does not mean I was on task, as they now say. As early as my first grade class I remember not being able to pay attention to the teacher. My mind would not, could not focus for more than a few minutes on what I was supposed to be doing. Once it was free, unfettered from that classroom work, I was drawing. My favorite show at that time was Sea Hunt, with Lloyd Bridges. I drew sharks; lots of sharks. My favorite was the Thresher Shark, with that long tail. I colored them all sorts of colors, but gold was my favorite.
When I was caught (which happened often) I was told in no uncertain terms to put my crayons away and pay attention.
But I couldn't.
Once I reached High School, I had a diagnosis for my troubles in school. I needed glasses. The reason I was doing so poorly in class was because I couldn't see the board. At least, that's what the doctor told my parents. So, I got glasses and while I could see a little better, my work failed to improve. For a time, my parents shelled out the money for a tutor once a week. She and I had our troubles, I can tell you. This was the hardest time I had, this sitting down beside another person for two hours or so just working on schoolwork. It was unbearable! I was not allowed to escape reality for even a few moments here and there.
I did graduate, barely. 205th out of 240 students in my class; 1.05 GPA. No colleges came calling, not that I wanted any more of school I assure you. But a couple of years later I was dating a girl who wanted to go to college after she graduated. So, I decided I wanted to go. I took the ACT test and wonder of wonders, did well. A 25 overall! I applied to the school she was going to and believe it or not, received a scholarship offer; full ride. Then the bottom fell out.
We broke up in the summer just weeks before we were to go away to college. I did not want to go where she was going so I decided to go where a friend of mine was going. A few last minute plans and I was off to Arkansas Tech University in Russelville, Arkansas. I went two years here, and while I had a blast, I was definitely not a good student. I wonder why?
My inability to focus on the job at hand cost me my education. I played basketball, fished, hunted, did everything except try in my classes. Oh, I had my moments, like when I took a test in Organic Chemistry. The teacher, who was also the Dean of the department, counted one of my answers wrong. I felt the answer was right and confronted him. It was balancing an equation, and he told me there was only one way to do it and I did not do it that way. But the answer was correct and each step made sense from beginning to end. Because it wasn't the one way he knew, I was wrong. He admitted my answer ended up correct and each step made perfect sense, but he still would not give me credit. Seems I should have gotten extra credit for finding another way to the right answer!
Ultimately, I flunked out of college. The fact that my family happened to move that summer made for a good excuse to not return, but inside I knew the truth. I could not focus on the work; too many things divided my attention and I wasn't mature enough to be able to fight through it.
He stands up from his desk to move over to the filing cabinet, intent on pulling something from a file. But as he stands his hands automatically come to a position of a baseball batter. Once set, he swings both left handed and right handed, smooth and sure. He then continues on to the filing cabinet, another moment lost in his day.
Ten times. Twenty. Thirty. Maybe more every single day. I experience these every time my mind comes off of a task. The pressure of constantly remaining on task, or trying to, can be overwhelming at times. If I give my mind just a smidgen of a crack, off it goes, running amuck, cavorting through fields of daisies and such. It is tiring this trying to maintain my focus.
He walks every day from his office across the parking lot to meet the buses on the main street running between the schools. His job is to run the transportation department, and he takes this job seriously. But the walk to and from is a playground for his mind. No pressing phone calls, no radio traffic just yet. The round trip is just over a mile, including walking up and down the bus line making sure the children board and de-board safely.
A rock lies just in front of him and suddenly he is in the Super Bowl. A long field goal awaits, and a championship if he can make the kick. A couple of steps along a diagonal and a soccer style swing of his leg. His foot connects with the rock and sends it flying. The rock curves left a bit but just sneaks inside the imaginary upright on the road.
Wikipedia describes Adult Attention Deficit Disorder as follows:
"Three subtypes of ADHD are identified in the DSM-IV (inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, and combined). In later life, the hyperactive/impulsive subtype manifests more frequently.p44 Adults with ADHD typically have difficulty following directions, remembering information, concentrating, organizing tasks, or completing work within time limits or meeting appointments. Low self-esteem is common. These difficulties cause life problems within several different arenas, such as emotional, social, vocational, marital, legal,or academic areas. Adult attention deficit disorder (AADD) is marked by inattentiveness, difficulty getting work done, procrastination, and organization problems."
This is me in a nutshell. Oh, I have flashes of brilliance, punctuated by moments of glory, but the day to day living with this wears on me. I remember things farther back in time much better than recent things, it seems. A part of me wonders if this is one of the roads to Alzheimer's. My mind wanders to and fro, leaving at inopportune times before returning. What if one day it wanders....
And doesn't come back?
What if I am headed towards this hell on earth, this living in the past, not recognising people close to me; not being able to complete simple tasks?
Charactoristics of AADHD/AADD from Wikipedia
- Forgetful during daily activities
- Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
- Losing important items (e.g. pencils, homework, toys, etc.)
- Not listening and not responding to name being called out
- Unable to focus on tasks at hand, cannot sustain attention in activities
- Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort
- Makes careless mistakes by failing to pay attention to details
- Difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- Always asking for attention
- Fails to follow-through on complex instructions and tasks (e.g. homework, chores, etc.)
In adults , these evolve into: 
- Indecision, difficulty recalling and organizing details required for a task
- Poor time management, losing track of time
- Avoiding tasks or jobs that require sustained attention
- Difficulty initiating tasks
- Difficulty completing and following through on tasks
- Difficulty multitasking
- Difficulty shifting attention from one task to another
Hyperactive/Impulsive-type (ADHD-H)In children:
- Squirms and fidgets (with hands and/or feet)
- Cannot sit still
- Cannot play quietly or engage in leisurely activities
- Talks excessively
- Runs and climbs excessively
- Always on the go, as if "driven by a motor"
- Cannot wait for their turn
- Blurts out answers
- Intrudes on others and interrupts conversations
- Chooses highly active, stimulating jobs
- Avoids situations with low physical activity or sedentary work
- May choose to work long hours or two jobs
- Seeks constant activity
- Easily bored
- Intolerant to frustration, easily irritated
- Impulsive, snap decisions and irresponsible behaviors
- Loses temper easily, angers quickly
So how does this affect me? For example, I love writing. I have enjoyed my time here on Hub Pages immensely, but at a cost. My goal is to write a book or two and get published. But I get distracted away from writing by writing. Sounds stupid, doesn't it? But it happens.
As of this moment I have no less than twenty, that's 20 stories going on in my mind. At any given moment I have story lines playing out on one or another of them. Some may be only a few hundred words in; others over 30,000 words and counting. There's the time traveling hit man; the spinster teacher who is really a serial killer; a doctor who is working on a way to place a person's mind into a computer; a person recently departed who finds they are "paying it forward" by being a guardian angel; a person whose child is reaching a point of no return; a natural disaster in the heartland; a story of retribution; the list goes on.
And every single one of them crosses my mind every day, whether I write anything new or not.
By the time I reach my home after eleven hours of forcing my mind into the little square I have allotted for my work, I am exhausted. Physically, mentally exhausted. I collapse on the couch after dinner and do my best to interact with my children and my beautiful wife but it can be tough at times. My mind just wants to go where it will and I am not always successful in maintaining an alert status to help with homework, or carry on a conversation with my wife, or any of a hundred things normal people do.
To focus and write is a near impossibility at times in the evening.
I believe that the only reason I made it to where I am today is because I love to read. That skill I learned while reading helped me to focus as much as I can today. If I had not read, I shudder to think where I would be.
So, where am I? Well, I am reasonably articulate; can carry on meaningful conversations with people when I really try my best; perform tasks which others say are difficult at best and impossible at worst. I have taken several online IQ tests and found my scores come very close to what is termed "Genius" levels.
But I have no friends outside the scope of my family. Many times during the day I am alone and lonely, counting on the love of my wife and her support to get through one more day, knowing that if I fail at this I let more than myself down.
I find myself going from one to another hobby, from training a show dog to tying flies; from learning to shoot a muzzleloading blackpowder gun to writing stories; from reading multiple books at once to researching my ancestry back to the 800's.
In short, I am a fart on a hot skillet, bouncing around constantly looking for something which may forever elude me: an ability to focus for long periods of time.
I am writing this to let others know, you are not alone. You are not weird, you are not crazy, you are not the only one who has trouble every single day. I have heard it said that we "fight the good fight" and I believe this is so. We fight, we struggle, we manage to live each day literally one moment at a time. Our next thought may have absolutely nothing to do with the previous one, but that''s the way we are. I do believe that this has allowed me to become known as "The Idea Man" at several places I have worked. And, in thinking just a bit differently than everyone else, I have come up with ideas which changed the direction of my company. I have seen an idea of mine become a fishing lure; a standard for multiple companies in the battery industry; teach others how to market everyday items in a manner whereby consumers feel they cannot live without them; and make a difference in the everyday safety of our children. This final one is the one I am most proud of, and it isn't even mine alone. But my way of thinking about things spurred others I work with to think outside the box and devise a plan that might just save a child's life.
We are placing a camera under the bus which will allow the drivers to see if a child has fallen under the bus.
A small inexpensive video screen mounted on the dash and a small inexpensive camera under the bus. Total cost? About a hundred bucks. Dividends? Priceless.
So maybe other people throughout history who developed ideas which make our life safer or better were just like us. They just didn't have an acronym or a tag saying they were different.
They just went on and lived with it. Perhaps that is what I need to do; just live with it and see where it takes me.
It is late in the evening and the rest of the family is in their rooms, either already asleep or heading that direction shortly. He walks through the darkened house, going from living room to kitchen. A wall becomes a defender to elude, a hallway a cut through the defensive line. An imaginary football thrown by an imaginary quarterback sails towards him and he raises one hand to capture it. Folding it securely under his arm, he spins this way and that, turning as he heads towards the goal line that is the kitchen. As he crosses the goal line, the crowd erupts. But there is no crowd, no quarterback, no football. He is alone at the sink, finishing a glass of milk before he goes upstairs to bed.
He slips under the covers, leans over and kisses his wife good night. As he lays his head on the pillow he is stepping into a canoe on a north woods lake. It is calm, near twilight. He looks above and spies his favorite constellation just beginning to appear: Orion, the hunter. He settles on the seat and grasps the paddle, dipping it into the still waters. A loon calls out, beckoning him towards a calm place. Sighing deeply he closes his eyes and allows his mind to drift along, paddling on the lake. After only a few strokes, he is asleep.
Each of the scenarios above is what I do each and every day. They are strange, I know. This is the first time I have allowed others, beyond my wife, into my world. It was difficult to write this, and more difficult to decide it needs to be read by you. I pray it helps others come to grips with this affliction and to see that you are not alone.