ADHD and life – a little personal experience

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I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder when I was 5 years old.  Then again, it was 1979, and I was simply labeled as “hyper” by my pediatrician (granted, the same pediatrician who once said if I didn’t stop “acting weird,” I would never have any friends)  As I grew up, there were a lot of things I didn’t know about ADHD, and it felt almost like my problems were all my fault.  It took some time to learn how to move past that without assuming a “victim mentality,” but now I’m learning so much more about this condition and it’s been greatly beneficial.

First, let me begin by saying that, despite what you might read, you never really “grow out” of ADHD.  Since it is at least partially a genetically-linked situation, ADHD is something which is with you throughout life.  Just like someone with addiction in their genetic background can demonstrate self-control but must always be on guard, so too is the person with ADHD when it comes to focus and concentration.  In my case, focus has always been a challenge.  The notion of a new challenge or opportunity makes my eyes light up like fireworks.  Motion is something I find relaxing – be it walking, driving, or biking, I have to be on the move.  Mental motion is no different – when I”m in a situation where I feel like I’m “spinning my wheels,” frustration sets in easily.  I’m fairly convinced an ADHD person who literally gets their car stuck in the mud would be more likely to get out and walk than wait for a tow truck.

I read a blog post about how Gchat posts are like laser pointers to a cat.  This is true of many things, not just chat bubbles.  Moving mental targets are maddening, but they are also enticing.  The one thing which drives me positively crazy is when someone sets a goal for me, and then moves the target.  If you’re going to move the goal posts, let me know first – don’t just do it to “mess with my head.”  I could be going along nicely, in a semi-comfort zone, and it’s just that “SQUIRREL” moment.  If you want to get an ADHD person to do a good job at work, be consistent, be honest and don’t mess with their head.

It’s easy to spot an ADHD person by their blog.  For me, I’m usually either extremely organized, meticulous and detailed in my thoughts, or I’m so all over the map everyone around me wants to shoot me with a blow dart dipped in Adderall.  So-called “random thoughts” posts are particularly appealing; it tends to allow me the chance to clean out the mental closet.  Jimmy Buffett was on target with his song Mental Floss, it really is sometimes in one ear and out the other.  Then there are other moments when I stare at a blank computer screen, and I can’t seem to think of one damned thing to write.  The best equivalent is the pack mule that won’t budge, even if you set off a wad of explosive under its rump.

And forget about relationships!  When you have ADHD, being married or even just dating requires herculean effort.  I’ve been married a long time and, as those of you who follow my blog or on social media may know, I don’t classify myself as even a mediocre hubby.  Women tend to be like laser pointers to me, and it is a justifiable source of endless irritation to my wife.  I’m grateful she’s patient, because ADHD doesn’t help there – it’s like looking at shiny objects in a toy store (sorry ladies, not meaning to objectify the gender – it’s the only equivalent I can come up with), but knowing the teddy bear you have  in your arms – the one you’ve had since the start – is the one you love and the one you’ll always be able to count on.  I don’t want another teddy bear, but there are days I love looking at that Transformer in the shiny package!

There are a few upsides to being ADHD.  For one, when you need to focus and are able to, you can get “in the zone” WAY more efficiently than others.  If you have learned how to hyperfocus, the ability to drown out the “white noise” of the surrounding environment can be a serious help.  This is especially useful for artists, athletes and writers.  Also, ADHD allows one the ability to not realize the situation around them – this comes in very handy when responding to an emergency situation and you need to forget about your own mortality for a moment or so.  The notion of “running into a burning building” is so ADHD in theory, the person who cooked up that term must have had focusing issues their whole life.  Let’s not forget about the fact that many ADHD people also tend to be highly creative – our minds are already going a zillion miles a nanosecond, so why not cook up some crazy ideas in our spare time?  As for sex and relationships, it’s a two-edge sword – while we can be doting lovers and energizer bunnies in the sack, we are in constant danger of losing interest and seeking out excitement, which often can and does lead to risky behavior.

I’m not apologizing for anyone with ADHD.  Those of us who know our condition have no reason to apologize for it.  It’s what we are, but playing the “victim card” doesn’t cut it, either.  For those of us with this condition, managing it is the way to go, and turning what others perceive as a weakness into a strength and using it to leverage abilities some would consider superhuman makes it worth exploring.  I’m going to focus on it now, right after I’m done finding that stupid squirrel!

3 thoughts on “ADHD and life – a little personal experience

  1. John — Thanks so much for writing about this. I know I exhibit a few of these quirks myself. I can zone-out with the best of them, and I do get easily distracted during conversations or running through a task list. But my son is a little more involved than I am. It not would be unusual to see him distracted by seven different things going from the shower across the hall to his bedroom to get his PJs on. And he must engage each one of them despite my little verbal reminders to keep on task. It can be very frustrating, and sometimes I raise my voice, but I keep trying to remind myself what is going on.

    What I hate (a word I don’t use much) is when people consider it a “behavioral” problem. It most certainly is NOT a “behavioral” problem. It is just a different way of working that some people find annoying. Your analogy to the cat is one I’ve been using for a while. When you see something, your brain needs to focus on it and deal with it before it can move on to the next step. This sort of “hyper-focus” is completely unrelated to “purposely not paying attention to you.”

    I feel good knowing that there are many children in my son’s classes that understand his differences, His closest friends are very patient and forgiving if he tends to wander or have a mild temper tantrum, and I hope he will one day learn how important that is. I also hope that his friends find a great deal of satisfaction in such a selfless act, when they could just as easily leave him behind for other “normal” friends.

  2. For many years I thought of myself having ADHD all the symptoms and train applies on me, since i was a kid i’ve been suffering to focus, and concentrate on something but when something interest me, i find myself in this hyperfocus which allows me to do more than most people can do.
    Sadly for me I grow up and live in one of the most ugliest places on earth for ADHD person, almost all doctors know nothing about it, and the environment here is very chaotic to point that make you lose your mind.
    Now im seriously considering traveling and leaving this place after many years i learned few tricks that helps me focus and work,
    it seems when i stick with a plan and discipline things become more easier, even if there is something i feel not like doing it and no interest i force myself simply cause it’s on the plan
    so lifestyle, food, and environment are top of 3 factors so far,
    Now im considering getting diagnosed when i travel
    I work in a job that require me to stay focused most time, but in order to achieve that ive to be in a very quiet place, no noise, or distractions and really stick to plan

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