Having It All with Adult ADHD

After a midlife diagnosis and with help from an ADHD coach, this ADDer is on a mission to change, well, everything.

ADD Adult: Life Story, Part 2

Abby: His absentmindedness frustrated the family. He was always losing his cell phone and keys. I’d remind him six times to pay a bill, and he still didn’t do it.

Randy: In 2006, Abby took me to see a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania, under the false premise of ruling out Alzheimer’s or memory disorders. The neurologist said I might have ADHD. He sent me to a neuropsychologist for testing, and I was diagnosed as having ADHD.

Abby: I felt vindicated and relieved. Now that we finally knew that ADHD was the source of Randy’s symptoms, we could figure out how to manage them. Up until then, it was a battle between the two of us.

Randy: My first reaction was, “OK, now what do I do about it?” When I met Michele, in August 2006, I was on a mission to regain my life. She encouraged me to learn more about ADHD, and we came up with solutions for getting things done at home and work. Six months and three medications later, I settled on Concerta, which gives me clarity I never had. Now, instead of just reacting to situations, I make a conscious decision about what I will do and say.

Michele: Randy struggled with work issues that many with ADHD face. He had problems staying organized—finding materials and prioritizing. We worked on mastering the “D” words: deleting, delegating, and diminishing tasks. Randy was one of the hardest-working people I know, but he wasn’t getting much done. I suggested he start outsourcing some of his administrative tasks, so he hired a college student to help out with filing, timesheets, and expense reports.

At his previous job, Randy was hired as a sales consultant, but he was spending time on strategic planning and marketing—for which he wasn’t being paid. We talked about renegotiating his contract, or setting boundaries at the job, so he wouldn’t get waylaid by these additional tasks. I suggested he start wearing a reminder watch to help him stay on top of his many main responsibilities.

Randy had another goal: to be calmer and less critical at home, so he and his family could enjoy their time together. A second dose of medication in the late afternoon, along with behavioral strategies, helped him achieve serenity.

Randy: Group counseling also helped me a lot. Michele runs a nine-week group called “Succeeding with Adult ADHD.” Before I attended, I thought I was the only person who consistently showed up late and misplaced things. I’m a very positive person, but after years of tardiness and absentmindedness, you get down on yourself. Your self-esteem takes a beating. At the first session, I realized I wasn’t the only one.

Nancy: Randy and I struggled with organization. We’d bounce ideas off each other. I came up with a slogan: “If you don’t put stuff away, there’s hell to pay.” This became the mantra of the group.

Randy: I thought Nancy’s slogan was great, but I wondered how I’d remember it at the office. Michele suggested I take a photo of myself grimacing and pointing a finger at the camera—like a drill sergeant standing over a new recruit. That photo hangs in my office, with the caption, “Now, or hell to pay.” It’s a vivid and personal reminder to complete the task at hand. Or else.

Nancy: Randy added a lot to the group, because he talked so openly about his struggles. He was also skilled at creating processes, like his filing system to tame paper piles.

Randy: When it comes to paper, my philosophy is “everything has a home.” I bought a bunch of inboxes from Staples, stacked them five-high in my office, and organized the piles of paper on my office floor into dozens of categories. Then I labeled and color-coded the inboxes to correspond to the categories, and filed each pile in its own home.

Nancy: Randy’s extremely energetic and very funny at times.

Randy: Having an overgrown sense of humor is a plus. When you have ADHD, you need to laugh at the situations you get yourself into.

Michele: I also met with Abby, so she would better understand ADHD. I explained to her why it was so difficult for Randy to do things. Abby is a wonderful resource for him.

Abby: Michele introduced us to the “body double” strategy: I sit and read a book in the same room where Randy is doing tedious paperwork. My presence helps him stay focused.

Randy: Getting a diagnosis, finally, working with Michele, finding the “right” medication, and openly discussing ADHD with my family and friends have increased my confidence. I understand myself better. I’m able to say, “Look, you’re going to be late at times, but, more often than not, you can control it.” I feel better about me.

Michele: When I first met Randy, he talked about what he couldn’t do. Now he talks about what he can do. When we got together, a couple of months ago, he was positive and smiling. I could tell he was really enjoying his new sales job.

Randy: I understand now why my brain ticks the way it does. I have accepted that ADHD will be with me every day—at every family event and every business meeting. Now I have the tools and structure to manage the challenges. Life is good and getting better every day!

This article comes from the Spring 2008 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Adult ADD: Late Diagnosis, Organization Tips for ADD Adults, ADHD Coaching, Cleaning Up Clutter

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