When Blythe Stagliano was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD), at age 26, the Philadelphia-based human resources manager finally had an explanation for the unease she'd lived with since grade school. But life did not fall into place once the diagnosis was in hand. Instead, learning that she had ADD turned out to be the beginning of a difficult three-year journey of self-discovery.
Blythe Stagliano: About four years ago, I was out on a second date with a nice guy. Halfway through the evening, he told me that he thought I had ADD because I'd paid only inconsistent attention to him at dinner.
I'd had difficulty organizing, concentrating, and completing tasks for years, but I thought that, if I just worked hard enough, I would overcome these problems. I worked in an open cubicle, and I found it so hard to concentrate that every day was a struggle to be productive. And just that week I'd had a car accident after I got distracted and plowed into the stopped car in front of me. But when a man I hardly knew could see the inattentiveness I'd been hiding for years, it was the last straw. Soon thereafter I consulted a doctor, who diagnosed me with ADD.
I began therapy sessions but, as much as I truly wanted to change my behavior, I didn't seem able to do it on my own. I decided to try medication, but a year and a half later, I still hadn't found the right one for me. One medication made me spacey. Another gave me mood swings. I tried three or four antidepressants but none were right. During this time I also tried homeopathic medications and biofeedback, but neither treatment had much impact.
I've recently begun taking a slow-release stimulant, and I'm noticing improvements: It's easier to initiate tasks and I don't put projects off the way I used to. At work I can move from one project to another much more easily. Feeling productive makes me happier and makes work much less frustrating.
Barbara Fowler, Blythe's therapist and coach: Blythe first saw me in 2003 to so she could get help with organization. But in our first meeting, it became clear that she was tremendously sad. It was a tough time in her life. She'd lost her job, had had major surgery on her knee that left her temporarily unable to get around, and had been diagnosed with ADD. Although she'd known for years that she was "different," she now felt sure that she had a mental illness and would never be okay. She felt defective.
For a year or so, Blythe and I met once a week. Blythe's first task was to recognize how sad she was and take steps to address it. Anyone who loses a job also loses an important social network. And for people with ADD, the loss can be devastating. ADDers function best when they have commitments. If an entire day is free, an ADDer can easily accomplish...nothing. With no place to go and no accountability to anyone, Blythe didn't know where to start.
This article comes from the April-May 2005 Issue of ADDitude.