Life Story: How One Woman Conquered Adult ADHD and Depression

Adults seeking ADHD support and treatment sometimes find that depression is a side effect of attention deficit disorder. Learn how one Ivy League graduate with ADHD took back control of her life.

Jordana's Story, Part 2

Jordana: My other big problem was organization at home. That’s always been a struggle for me and a sticking point for people I’ve lived with. When I shared an apartment, I usually managed to do my share of the cleaning and keeping the common areas from being taken over by my stuff, but I had to be pushed.

Johanna: Jordana and I lived together at college and for a few years after we graduated. She was very messy. During our freshman year, she left so many papers and books lying about that you couldn’t even see the floor in our room. Papers and bottles would just pile up, and she never noticed when it was time to empty the trash. After that, Jordana had her own small room, and it was really cluttered. You had to jump from space to space to get across the room.

Jordana: Barbara came over and helped me organize my apartment in a way that fit my personality. The hands-on help made a big difference. She helped me sort through my possessions and found a place to put everything. She even showed me how to fold clothes and sheets right, and do other tasks I had never learned.

Barbara: If someone says, “My place is a mess,” that isn’t descriptive. For one adult, “messy” might mean that there are a few things out of place. For another adult with ADHD, it means that the whole floor is covered, and nothing is organized.

Working with Jordana in her own environment, I could watch how she did housekeeping tasks. I learn a lot by observing the ways someone organizes. Even in the messiest of places, there’s some element of organization. I like to build on the things people are already doing, to follow the contours of their personality. It makes more sense than giving everyone the same strategy for an organized life.

When I saw that Jordana tended to toss her shoes onto the floor of her closet, I suggested using clear plastic bins as “target practice,” so she wouldn’t have to constantly hunt for matching pairs.

Jordana: One reason I’m messy is that, if I don’t see something, I forget it exists. If clothes are at the bottom of a dresser drawer, I never wear them. Organizing visually is better for me. Instead of using drawers, I now hang all my clothes in the closet, so I can see them. And I keep a lot of things in clear plastic boxes, so I know what’s inside. I took the doors off my cabinets. It isn’t neat, but I know what I have.

Another idea I got from Barbara was a kind of “curfew.” Every night, at a certain time, I put everything back where it belongs. This keeps piles from accumulating.

Johanna: Jordana’s apartment is much more organized now. She has baskets and cubbyholes where she puts things. Before, there was no organization at all.

Jordana: I can’t say my apartment still looks as good as it did the day Barbara came and first helped me organize it, but it’s a lot better than it was. Barbara also helps me organize my medical information and manage my health care—my psychologist, psychiatrist, and GP—making sure everything is integrated.

Barbara: Most of my clients see doctors for medication, and they may be seeing a therapist, too. A lack of organization makes it hard for them to get to the right people for the right treatment. Because I have Jordana’s permission, I can talk with her therapist if I feel that some difficulty is related to her mood problems and can’t be corrected by coaching. The benefits are reciprocal: The things I notice point out what needs to be worked on through therapy. And the work the therapist does allows us to move forward in dealing with other challenges.

Jordana: I think the work we’ve been doing has helped my mood. It was helpful to realize that my being depressed was largely a reaction to ADD.

Barbara: ADD can be a huge contributor to depression. It’s depressing not to have a life that works. And when people gain some mastery over the parts of their life that aren’t working, their mood starts to lift.

Jordana: For me, ADD is not all about focusing and paying attention. Organizational and social skills give me particular trouble. I have learned to organize my apartment better and to communicate better. I’m better socially, although it’s still hard to be in a large group and to listen to only one conversation at a time. I still say things impulsively sometimes. But I am aware of my problem areas and of my power to change them. The more control I have over what’s important to me, the less reason there is to be depressed.


This article comes from the August/September issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: ADHD and Depression

 

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