If I Only Had a Heart...

Confessions of an ADHD adult who was diagnosed at 37 and, thanks to ADD medication, finally learned what it meant to empathize, to feel, to reclaim his life.

Personal Journey, Part 3

Jeff: I've been working from home for nearly four years now. As a single father, I find that it makes life easier. I get to see more of my kids, and I don't waste time driving to and from work or hanging out at the water cooler. I'm so productive that I get more done by noon than I used to get done in an entire day. I tell myself that, if I can't make it working from home, I'll end up in a cubicle with someone constantly breathing down my neck. It's great motivation.

Pete: Unless they know how to slow down, people with ADD can go till they drop. Especially if you work at home, it's vital to set a time when the workday is over. Otherwise, you're always working - and often burned out.

I persuaded Jeff to take frequent pit stops. Several times a day, he gets up from his desk and spends five to10 minutes walking around his office or around the block. The breaks help him relax, and relaxation helps him communicate better and be more patient.

Jeff: One thing I never leave out of my schedule is exercise. Around the time of my divorce, I had one of those moments when you wake up and look at yourself honestly. I was 40 pounds overweight, and my energy was shot. I still played hockey and went mountain biking, but I got winded easily and was prone to injuries. Now I eat right, work out in the gym, and run 10 kilometers three times a week.

Getting into shape has given me more energy and increased my ability to concentrate. Now I find that if I skip exercise for a day or two, I start to feel agitated. I know that I have to hit the gym.

Exercise was especially helpful a little over a year ago, when I went off medication. After taking a stimulant for about two years, I felt the benefits had maxed out. It wasn't helping me do new things, and it was starting to make me feel over-stimulated. Whenever I skipped a dose, I felt better. I talked about this with Pete and my doctor, and they agreed it was time to try stopping meds.

I weaned myself off of them slowly. For six weeks, I took the pills every other day. Then every third day, then I was off. I've been off medication for 11 months now.

Pete: I urged Jeff to talk to his doctor about stopping medication, and I warned him about becoming too attached to the idea. Otherwise, if he went off meds and things didn't go well, he would be incredibly frustrated.

Jeff: I have to say that I was worried about going off medication, because I had made such progress on it. Would it all fall by the wayside? As it turned out, I felt better right away. My new skills and ways of thinking had become part of me.

Realizing how much I have learned and the ways in which I have grown - that was a big turning point in my life. I'm a better father now, a better person. I have been dating, and I'm enjoying the experience of being single again. Being in tune with my communicative and emotional sides has definitely helped.

Coming to grips with ADD hasn't been easy. But it's been the best experience of my life.

This article comes from the April/May 2006 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Adult ADD: Late Diagnosis, ADHD and Relationships, Exercise and ADHD, ADHD and Marriage

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