Hyperactive Children Grown Up

  • AD/HD in Adults

What does it mean to be an Adult with AD/HD?

It's a hard question for anyone to answer. The non-ADD person can only discuss it from a clinical perspective. But even those of us who have the disorder find it difficult to explain.

How can I explain AD/HD when I have been AD/HD all of my life? I don't know what it's like to be "normal," other than that I have seen normal and I'm really not that impressed. As a teacher, I always told my students that normal is what the average person can accomplish with little or no extra effort. "Why be normal?," I would ask.

For all my bravado, there are days when I want nothing more than to be like everyone else. I want a family and a career, yet a strong argument could be made that being AD/HD has interfered with both. I want stability, security and a sense of peace. Again, AD/HD seems to stand between me and those goals.

People who don't have AD/HD have these same frustrations. For that matter, most people who don't have AD/HD occasionally lose both their focus and their car keys. One of the problems of AD/HD is that the symptoms are so common that many people who don't qualify for the diagnosis still believe that they have the disorder. But AD/HD is a disorder of extremes; it's the everyday problems of all people, multiplied many times over. Everyone gets bored; for the AD/HD person, boredom is a crushing weight akin to paralysis. Everyone feels restless from time to time; for the person who has AD/HD, restlessness is a state of being.

Most people deal with the occasional bought of insecurity or self-doubt. But for many people who have AD/HD, these insecurities extend way beyond any rational reason. Most of us grew up hearing about our great "potential." But the promise of all that potential turns to frustration, as years go by and our goals remain largely unrealized. You begin to grieve over things you missed, things you never had, and things that seem to be always just out of reach.

Maybe you suppress the grief. Suppressed grief becomes either anger or depression, both of which destroy lives and lead only to more frustration. This is what Lynn Weiss, Ph.D., calls "The Inner Pain of ADD". "Adults with ADD feel angry, frustrated, confused, and out of control," she writes in the book ADD in Adults (Taylor, 1992). "And no wonder," she continues, "when we consider how their lives have been filled with failure. Why would anyone so used to failure want to undertake new experiences or enter new situations that seem to set them up for yet more failure?"

Still, there seems to be a certain "never say die" resiliency among AD/HD people. Maybe it's because we can't remember our failures or maybe it's because we're always looking for something new. We learn, we cope, we deal.

It's only a disorder if it's messing up your life.

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