Do you wonder if you have Adult ADHD? This post is for you. Here is your opportunity to laugh, cry and be moved to take action.
How often is your attention hijacked by something you read on Facebook? If you are like me, that happenss about every 14 seconds.
A post about Adult ADHD caught my attention because of the tagline: “For those who have ADHD or ADHD tendencies.” ADHD tendencies pretty much describes 99% of humans today.
I was intrigued because I have often wondered if I have ADHD, so I clicked and spent the next two hours learning about ADHD and writing this post.
The Unintended Irony of ADHD Websites
Looking around the ADHD post, I immediately lost focus. The site was distraction heaven for me. It contained enough distraction to occupy an entire Saturday:
- Social media links
- Holiday giving ideas
- Go Daddy internet
- 20 links for related content. There were more, but I lost track when I saw the ad about the wine.
- An ad for wine… Really? I call that a stereotype: “You think you have ADHD, here take a drink of this, it may just calm you down”
- A search button for for ADHD professionals
- A newsletter sign up button
- A list of ADHD friendly careers
- Becoming an ADHD coach. I love the idea. Being strategically unfocused and getting paid for it.
- An ADHD self test. Like we really need that by now. If we can get through all of your distractions, we all feel like we have ADHD!
- 181 words of actual content – the post was thankfully short because by then I couldn’t be bothered.
This list is like my brain most days. I appear calm on the outside, but inside my mind is playing ping-pong. I learned to appear calm so that I don’t seem weird and so that people feel comfortable around me. My nickname is Yoda-Ninja: I say that I am Yoda on the outside, Ninja on the inside. Damned true.
My one recommendation for ADHD websites is to calm down a little. It seems simple to me, but if someone is curious about ADHD we don’t need the over stimulation.
A Fearless ADHD Inventory
Some distraction is normal and technology can make our inattention even worse. In the past, I brushed aside the possibility of ADHD because I tell myself, “I am just this way because of my age and my over-reliance on technology.”
Then I rationalize, “How can I have ADHD?” Most times, I can actually sit down and get things done so I must be okay. I conducted a fearless inventory of my attention and I encourage you to do the same thing. I realized two things that sobered me up:
- My desk at work, along with nearly every one of my personal spaces are a mess. I bring the mess with me wherever I go. I feel comfortable with mess. The corners of my home and my desk bear the remnants of leftover projects that began as excellent ideas, only to be discarded for the next one.
- My browsing habits. Most times when I work on a content development project (ie: writing an article, putting together a power point or writing something for work) I have anywhere from seven to twenty-two windows open.
So I took a non-standardized online ADHD test and I have many of the symptoms. Want to know more about ADHD symptoms? Take this test. Then talk to your Doc.
Prompted by my revelation, I signed up for a professional ADHD assessment. The kicker is that you agree to an assessment for your less-than-stellar attention, and they make you wait three months. That’s over three hundred thousand hours of waiting, three hundred thousand possibilities for distraction.
I call that clinical torture.
Webs of Distraction
Typically we think of ADHD as a set of visible symptoms, but ADHD can look different for different people.
- For some people it can be a struggle with focus caused by overwhelming external stimuli. Messy desks, unfinished projects, areas of vigilance and hyper-activity.
- For others, their internal world is a Web of Distraction. They experience mental-ping pong from all of the thoughts and emotions running around their brains.
After attending my assessment, I learned that I fit the second category. I don’t need other people to distract me because I do a pretty good job of that myself.
One reason that ADHD can be so challenging comes from our emotional life. The inner life of ADHD is like having the emotional radar stuck at maximum sensitivity all of the time.
ADHD can make you oversensitive to emotions that are both real and perceived:
- Feeling you are constantly a failure, self judgment
- Feeling sensitive to criticism, or feeling continual disapproval from others
- Tension and constantly feeling on edge, vigilance
- Irritations that can lead to quiet rage or more externalized raging
- People pleasing as a way to avoid rejection; resulting in loss losing track of yourself and your goals
- Shame and self protection that may manifest as judgment of yourself or others
For more, see ADHD Emotions by William Dodson, M.D.
ADHD can be a challenge at any age. As an adult you are saddled with additional pressures because you are expected to have it all figured out by now. Being constantly distracted is not something that works well with family and work responsibilities. Here are the things that you may find helpful.
9 Things You Can if ADHD Has Friended You
- Talk to the Professionals. Probably the most important thing to do is talk to your doctor. They will make a referral and will give you info. Don’t trust online quizzes. Go to the pros. And when you meet with them, ask for handouts because you will probably forget most of the things they say. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Talk to others, but don’t take their advice. If you know someone with ADHD, talk to them but know that their experience with ADHD is unique and will look different than yours. Most mental health issues are like that. What works for you may be unique from others.
- Take care of yourself. Not knowing what is going on with your brain can result in some hard-core habits. Easily distractable brains love to over do it: food, alcohol, TV, exercise, activity, sex… anything that stimulates the brain. Get the help you need and be kind to yourself.
- Don’t suffer alone. You need people, therapists, groups or some other place where you can talk about the stuff inside your head. This will help to reduce some of the noise and get the support that you need.
- Find a place where you can let yourself go. Creativity and writing is my free space. For you that space may be when you go outside, when you are in your garage, when you are doing sports or when you are at social gatherings. Know yourself and give yourself permission to do have a place to let go.
- Listen to music. It can be a powerful tool in your mental health toolkit. If you are interested, have a look at this excellent article Music May Be The Best Medicine for Your Mental Health.
- Develop a Never Do list: Make a list of things you will avoid. Again, go easy on yourself because you can be an easy target. Examples of things you and I should not do:
- Don’t beat yourself up – also known as perfectionism
- Don’t try to make other people happy – closely linked to #1
- Don’t avoid– creates more problems and stress because we can’t seem to get past anything. That’s probably because we are avoiding stuff
- Don’t settle for tunnel vision – having too narrow a focus can make us feel easily overwhelmed. Journalling can help with this, so will meditation. If you cannot bear to meditate, try music meditation.
- Don’t avoid planning – it is a pain in the ass to plan, but you feel better after. Ask for help from people who are better at planning.
- Don’t have your hands in everything – a definite way to lose focus, energy, and follow through.
- Don’t try to do everything well – being a life-long learner means making mistakes and cleaning up messes.
- Don’t tackle all your problems now – that will just become overwhelming. Slow progress is progress that you can maintain.
- Don’t neglect breaks or exercise. Taking breaks and exercise are one of the best things for a distracted brain. They are opportunities to go ‘free range‘ and will pay enormous benefits.
- Don’t make excuses – having ADHD or ADHD tendencies is not an excuse to avoid responsibility. Sorry, just isn’t. We all have stuff to deal with. Knowing you have it just helps to be better prepared.
- Don’t tolerate mess everywhere – Piles just make you feel more overwhelmed. They are an externalization of what is going on inside your brain. You may need to ask a friend or partner for their help to slowly become more organized. Whatever system you figure out has to be something that is simple enough to actually use it. That’s kinda the point.
- Don’t let the ideas float around your head – This just makes it more confusing. Get a simple notebook and have one at home, in your work bag and in your car. That way you don’t have to remember them. I do it and it helps to keep track of all of the ideas.
- Think of it as your Distract-Ability rather than as Distractability. You have a super power now. Your brain is a Porche and your job is to figure out how to let it be successful.
- Respond – We want to hear from you in the comments. Do you have Adult ADHD and what helps you to maximize your uniqueness? The Good Men Project is your tribe.
Okay. I am exhausted. I need my coffee and my stuffed animal.
If you enjoyed this, you should read 10 Reasons ADHD is an Advantage, Not a Deficit.
Keep it Real
A version of this was originally published by smswaby and is republished on Medium.
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Thank you so much! I am currently waiting to see a specialist for the Official Diagnosis (dun dun daaahhh), but everything I have read about ADHD lately describes me and my entire life pretty much perfectly. I’m trying to not be bitter about the fact that it has taken until the ripe ol’ age of 33 (and a plethora of medications and medical professionals) to reach this conclusion/explanation for…me, for who I am and why I function (ha) how I do, but hey, better late than never, right? Story of my life… Anyway, thank you for this extremely helpful and… Read more »
Thanks for your comment! Diagnosis is not a straight line, it’s a dance in a snowstorm. And then when you have it,,, things may or may not be different. But that’s for another article.
Congrats on the MSc degree! Glad it is helpful, Hope you learn to see yourself as strong and capable.
Keep it Real
J Walter, I have probably paid around a Thousand dollars to the library over my lifetime in late fees. You are so right.
I would add, never get books from the library that you don’t want to buy. If you forget to take them back you have to pay for them.
The don’t list is a really good thing , made me smile. I always forget to be kind on myself. I’m only 21 but I’m finally accepting myself and see ADHD as something positive. Arts, drawing, paintings and going to the museum are my favourite mediums to concentrate and focus as well as taking care of the people around me.
Glad you enjoyed the Don’t list. Love the idea of being kind to yourself. Your ADHD is definitely a positive. The important thing is that you are just you. You have many strengths. A Psychologist friend of mine believes that the ADHD brain is constantly striving to make connections and this can bring out more creativity. In my office of 16, 4 have ADHD and all have advanced degrees and are very successful.
Never sell yourself short.
I love the Don’t List. I need to remember more of that. Excellent article and I totally agree about the distractibility factor on the ADHD websites – I know exactly the one you’re referencing. Oh, and I’m totally stealing the yoda ninja thing.
Use the Yoda Ninja, but remember where you heard it. Yoda knows.
Have a great day.
Expect to not be believed. If you are over 25 every doctor will think you are a junkie. What you need to ask for is the gold standard, the Wais 4 test.
Expect to be treated like a criminal.
Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your experience and perspective, but that is not my experience. I found that having a relationship with my doctors is the key. I totally agree that the proper testing by genuine experts is what you need.
Criminal? Perhaps for committing the crime of paying attention. Again, not my experience. If your doctors treat you that way, you may need a new doctor. Patient care is about the patient and the care… not just about the symptom.
I guess have the wrong doctors. I have to pay for drug tests on demand. If I don’t leave work to be tested in a certain window I am done. 10 minutes of every appointment is being grilled about my illegal drug use. Which is none.
J Walter, Sounds brutal. It sounds like a suspicion based system. I don’t know how this can be good for your physical or mental health.