It wasn’t always pretty.
This post may not be the best business decision. You see, I help other people get over the hurdles that hold them back from enjoying their lives to the fullest. I’m a life coach, inspirational author, and transformational specialist. I also have attention deficit disorder (ADD).
I finally hit the hurdle of my ADD so hard, that I knew I had to do something I’ve never done before if I was going to be able to get up and run the race. It was time to ask for help. And it’s time to write about it, because I know millions of people are struggling out there, and I want to assure them they’re not alone.
Three days ago I finally got an official diagnosis of ADD. I’ve known I had ADD for much longer than that, however. I’ve battled it, embraced it, struggled with it, accepted it, rejected it, and self managed it my entire life.
On the one hand, getting an official diagnosis doesn’t change much. I’ll continue to manage it the rest of my life. I’ll continue to enjoy the benefits of a quick and creative mind, and at the same time be frustrated by my difficulty in organizing large projects and seeing my exciting ideas to completion.
Some things change when you get an answer.
There’s a fine line between having an explanation and making up excuses, and I’ll be mindful of that line, but it does give me comfort to be able to say, “Well that explains why…”
It explains why I feel like a high speed engine is driving my mind and body nonstop.
It explains why sometimes the smallest of things can become intolerable for me. Like sitting still, a tag in the back of a shirt, tight shoes, a ticking clock, multiple voices in a room…
It explains why I can create big, bodacious things and at the same time never seem to get on top of the clutter in my house.
It explains why in the past I was quick to lose my temper at the simple annoyances of life.
It was time to get to the bottom of this.
This time I took an evaluation from my medical doctor’s office, and not from Google.
The evaluation involved answering several questions and tallying your score at the end. Think of a score of zero as meaning “you have zero ADD”, and a score of 100 meaning “you 100% for sure have ADD”.
I scored a 91.Yes, even in this exam, I was a high achiever.
Part of me felt like laughing and part of me felt like crying. So I did what I always do, I made a light hearted, self deprecating joke about my case being an ADD emergency. In real life, living with ADD is damn exhausting, physically and mentally.
Let me share with you what it’s like inside the mind and body of a person with severe ADD
“The ADHD brain is like a Ferrari engine…with bicycle brakes.” — Dr. Ned Hallowell
I fidget nonstop. I tap my feet, I stroke my hands, I change positions in my seat. I have to get up and move about every 15–20 minutes. If I’m not moving my body, an intolerable energy builds up inside me. It’s not an option to not let it out.
I sit down to work and realize I want something to drink. Or I have to use the bathroom. Or the chickens made a noise. Maybe there’s an egg in the nest! I have to go see!
I’m constantly on the go. Go go go all day. And if I could, I’d go go go all night too. I resist unwinding to go to sleep. Even when I feel ill, I’m up and doing things, because movement makes me feel better.
Not long ago, my husband stayed in bed an entire day from the pain of a sinus infection. I was partly perplexed, partly jealous, and partly concerned. The next day I explained that if he ever found me staying in bed an entire day, he should take me to the hospital.
I partially joked when I said that, but it’s a glimpse at the ADD engine that drives me. “Normal” people rest when they’re sick. If I’m ever so sick that I don’t get out of bed, I need help.
I have stacks of open projects. Writing, course creating, marketing, and bookkeeping. I take care of a large piece of property, tend to our chickens and our dog. I love to exercise. And don’t forget connecting with friends, and picking up random hobbies like, I don’t know, wood carving! or Irish fiddle! or learning German!
Similar to fidgeting, I just don’t like to stay still. Knowing it’s benefits, however I do take short breaks for meditation and prayer or just sitting quietly to appreciate my surroundings.
I lose and forget things.
To help organize my thoughts and my day, I make notes and lists. Then I lose the list. It may turn up days later mixed in with the mail, or in a stack of books in the bedroom.
More than once I’ve cried in frustration over forgetting a meeting or appointment.
I’ll make a water bottle then run out the door without it.
I know these annoying things happen to everyone, but do that happen more often to me with ADD? And the stress. The stress of staying constantly vigilant, so I won’t forget so many things.
I’ve spent my life taming my sudden outbursts of anger.
ADD is much more than a 9 year old kid who can’t sit in his seat at school. People with ADD are prone to sudden outbursts of anger, and I’ve sure had my share of those. So when an innocent forgetful moment happens, or when I leave my grocery list at home, a spike of rage shoots through me like a searing bolt.
The discomfort of wearing pantyhose (something I never wear anymore), or some article of clothing that doesn’t feel quite right, could put me in such an agitated state that the sorry person who asked me the wrong question would learn to stay clear of me.
Add to that list, the confined feeling of riding in a car, or someone being disrespectful in a meeting, or being told a restaurant ran out of that one thing I needed to quell the engine that drives me. Any of those things could result in me losing my temper.
Sustained effort is agony.
Don’t get me wrong, when I’m in the exciting newness of a project that inspires me, I’ll work 20 hours a day on it and barely fatigue. But if something doesn’t interest me, putting up with it is nearly intolerable.
There’s an internal tug of war. I want to sustain the effort. I might beat myself up for not sustaining the effort. But the effort just will not move forth. At the least, I need to get up and step away from the project to return later with a fresh attitude.
I hyper focus on too many things.
It’s not that the ADD brain can’t focus on things. It’s more like having hyper focus for too many other things.
That hyperfocus works for my advantage when my focus and my needs align. Hyperfocus is the superpower of people with ADD. That is, as long as it’s pointed at the task at hand.
What happens when I’m forced to stick with something that doesn’t interest me? My hyper focus turns to the discomfort of my chair, the temperature of the room, the hunger in my belly, the pain in my neck, the weeds that need pulling in my garden, or the project I’d rather be working on.
Think of a dog trying it’s hardest to stay sitting when a lovely ball bounces past. It may have been trained to stay sitting, but all it sees is balllllllll!
Here’s the thing about ADD. When my brain reaches the conclusion that I’m thirsty, I have to get a drink immediately. When my brain decides I have to pee, I have to get up to use the bathroom immediately. If I’m not able to meet those needs right away, the thought becomes the primary focus for me. I can’t pay attention to what you’re saying to me, or the television, or trying to fall asleep.
That hyperfocus is like a monster that needs to be fed. It gets louder and louder until I give into it.
I get consumed by new projects until they bore me, and then I set them aside.
I love creating new things! I love idea generation, and even the step by step planning needed to get a project up and running. Some of the major things I’ve created are 3 chiropractic practices, a 501c3 non profit organization, a writing career, a life coaching career, and I've written and published a book.
That list is small compared to the list of things I’ve poured my energy into before tiring of them and setting them aside with little to show for my work.
The high I get from launching something new is irresistable. The fears and doubts that plague most people about starting a business or cutting loose from the safety net don’t exist for me.
It’s easy to dismiss ADD as a garbage can diagnosis of the past 2 generations. Nothing more than a label put on “difficult” children. We’re considered lazy, impulsive, lacking self control, spoiled, fussy, sensitive, space cadets, and often even stupid.
I know I’m an enigma for many people.
I scored in the top 2% of aptitude testing but barely made it out of middle and high school because it bored me. Then, with minimal effort, I graduated summa cum laude from college because it interested me.
My brain and body feel assaulted by adrenalin, but people tell me they consider me unflappable, calm, and centered. (My husband says I’m a duck, floating smoothly and effortlessly on the surface and paddling like crazy under the water.)
Because my mind is frequently shifting to the next great idea, and I see possibilities everywhere, I can appear indecisive. That frustrates others and gives them the impression that my opinions aren’t important to me.
The feeling of being misunderstood is what’s best helped me to better understand that we’re all functioning with different wiring.
Generous, compassionate, and empathetic are the three most common adjectives used to describe people with ADHD by their friends.
It’s easy for someone without depression to wonder why someone with depression doesn’t just snap out of it. Or wonder why someone with anxiety can’t just stop worrying.
You might be wonding why people with ADD don't just calm the f*** down and stay focused. People with ADD are working as hard as they can to curb their impulsiveness, to pay attention, to finish a task, and to even out their energy extremes.
The experience has reminded me most people are managing the best they can, and life for everyone is a constant journey forward.
What’s my next step?
I’ll write more about this in a future article, but after 50 years of self management, I’m going to try medication.
Is medication the right step to take?
That’s a tough question for me. Since my teen years, I’ve subscribed to the philosophies of positive psychology. I should be able to just think differently, right?
I also studied Christian Science for many years, and in Christian Science, there’s no reality to anything that’s less than the complete and perfect reflection of our divine creator. So, there would be no reality to a diagnosis of ADD. It simply couldn’t be true for me because it’s not part of the perfection of God.
From my chiropractic background, I thought I could do my best by tending to my spine and nervous system with good spinal alignment, eating a healthy diet, and taking care of my body.
In the end, that trilogy of life experiences made me very skeptical and stubborn about seeking traditional medical advice.
I’m still glad I have the background I have. Maybe my symptoms would be unmanageable without them.
ADD will be my lifetime companion.
Like any other chronic condition, the symptoms of ADD ebb and flow. At times, it’s barely a hindrance to me at all. Other times I can feel like I’m caught in quicksand and can’t get out of it.
Being in the midst of a pretty bad flare up, I finally reached out for help with ADD. I’m embarking down a new path. I have no idea if medication will help or not, or if I’ll be willing to stay on it long term. I’ll share my journey with the hopes that I can help someone else, and hopefully before they’ve waited 50 years for it.
I want people with ADD to know there’s nothing “wrong” with them. The ADD brain is not damaged or defective. It’s a beautifully tuned nervous system that works with its own set of rules.
A beautiful gem resulted from my diagnosis.
My youngest son also has ADD. He’s 21 now.He could hear pain in my voice when I shared with him that I scored so high on the ADD assessment.
Here’s what he said to me,
“You know mom, I like to think about it like this: We can be told we think a certain way, or have a certain diagnosis, but that doesn’t have to become a box for you. It doesn’t have to dictate what you can and can’t do. It doesn’t have to be your label.”
God, I did well. He heard me say those same words to him when he was 11, and he took them to heart. And he’s right.
Update: I wrote this article one year ago. Medication was not the right answer for me. I'll share what has worked for me in a future article. Cheers until then!
all images open source form pixabay.com