Think adult ADD doesn’t exist? Think again. J.R. Reed looks at life with the illness and shows that it doesn’t have to control your life.
Let me dispel a myth right off the top; adult ADD is a real thing. I know because I was diagnosed with it in college and at age 46 it still rages on in my brain.
For purposes of this post I’m considering ADD and ADHD to be the same thing. Yes there are differences but there are more similarities between the two than differences.
Some mental health professionals believe that people grow out of the disease around age twenty-five but they’re wrong. My psychiatrist is one of those disbelievers and that means I can’t currently get the medication I’ve taken most of my adult life so I have to find other ways to deal with the problem.
I was ADD as far back as elementary school but in the 70’s and 80’s kids weren’t considered ADD unless they were physically bouncing off the walls. Kids like me were simply labeled “stupid” or “lazy” because little was known about the ADD brain at that time.
I was neither stupid nor lazy. I tried my best but it was never enough. I now know that a lot of the problem was with how I was, or rather wasn’t, learning. When it came to math I usually got the answer right but since I couldn’t show the work in the way the teacher wanted I got D’s.
I was and still am constantly told that I don’t live up to my potential and to this day I despise that word because when you take the spin off the phrase what I’m being told is that I’m a failure. It was in high school that my spiral into low self-esteem began.
Luckily more is now known about ADD and my teenage daughter has the advantage of dealing with her ADD while in middle school and high school.
As adults it manifests itself in the workplace in similar ways. Many ADD adults try to go with the flow and become part of the team but since ADD is a hidden disability and not a physical one it usually goes unnoticed by co-workers, customers and the boss.
I call ADD a disability because it is but it’s a disability that can be treated with medicine and coping mechanisms. It doesn’t have to control your life. It’s not an easy battle at first but like any good habit will soon become second nature.
Over the next few weeks I’ll show how you can overcome the disability and have better relationships at home, work and with friends.
If you’re an adult with ADD you need to know that you’re not alone and that you’re actually in good company. Among the many successful, creative and talented people with ADD are Albert Einstein, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Samuel Clemons/Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell, J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie and Justin Timberlake.
In my case I have a hard time focusing because my brain sees the big picture and wants to fast forward to the end of the project. This is similar to my math problems in school where I was able to get to the answer but didn’t necessarily know the proper steps to get there.
Visual learning is how I figure things out. A book or other written material is good but I also need to get hands on with the project. Earlier this year I built a website for my brother’s business. I had no clue what I was doing and it took me a month full of frustration and swearing but I finished it and it works so I guess it was a success. My point is that if this was for school and it was all book learning I would never have figured it out.
I also have trouble communicating, especially verbally. Things make sense in my brain but the recipient generally either doesn’t understand what I say or the message is misinterpreted. Suffice it so say it makes for a lot of frustration,
What I’ve found is that I do better with written communication. I can write it out and go back to arrange my thoughts in a clear, cohesive manner. If I do have to talk with someone I make sure to have a piece of paper and pen so I can make notes about what the other person says. That allows me to follow the conversation and not get lost. I also use the paper to write down questions or talking points I may need during the conversation.
If you have ADD there are some basic things you can use to get through your day. I’ll go into greater detail in the rest of the series but if you start by writing everything down you should notice that it’s easier to get through your day.
My lifesaver is a six-foot by four-foot whiteboard I made. I call my beautiful mind board because it reminds me of the character Russell Crowe played in the movie A Beautiful Mind. I use it for work to brainstorm and to write down things I need to do.
Another tool I use on a daily basis is an app called Evernote. I have it on my iPhone and on my Mac. I can make quick notes about things and then go back to it later. It also allows you to “clip” web pages and with the push of one button takes that URL and makes it an entry in the app.
If your phone has an audio recorder on your phone I suggest using it to leave yourself reminders or to record thoughts and ideas that pop into (and quickly back out of) your brain. I use a digital audio recorder from my radio days and it goes wherever I go.
If you think you may have adult ADD don’t be afraid because it’s not as bad as you may think. With proper medication and some coping tools you will see your life improve dramatically.
Find a good psychiatrist and when you call to make an appointment don’t be afraid to ask if the doctor believe that adult ADD exists. If they don’t then move on to another doctor because you will be wasting your time. Keep in mind that just because a doctor believes ion ADD that doesn’t mean that they will diagnose you with it.
Google local ADD support groups so you can get to know others like you and learn from them. Remember that as an adult with ADD you’re in good company and aren’t weird.
Part two in this ADD series is dealing with the family dynamic so be sure to write down a reminder to come back and read it.
Photo of man with sign courtesy of Shutterstock.