By almost any standard, Sally Harris has a full and enviable life. She's happily married, with three grown children. She has both an apartment in Manhattan's fashionable Murray Hill neighborhood and a country house in the Berkshires. She's built a successful career as a screenwriter, yet she still finds the time for volunteer work, including serving on the national board of the Salvation Army.
But like many people with undiagnosed attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD), Sally spent years frustrated by difficulty in coping with the basic tasks of everyday life. Even simple chores, like shopping and cooking, were exhausting to her. She always felt that she was falling short, disappointing herself as well as her family and friends. Worst of all, she never knew why everything seemed so hard.
Today, thanks to her own efforts and the help of Boston-based ADD coach Nancy Ratey, Sally's good life has gotten a whole lot better.
Sally Harris: I was one of those ADD people who fall through the cracks. I didn't have trouble in school, and the problems that showed up later in life weren't obvious to others. I never felt lazy or stupid. I always knew I was talented, but I would stumble over all sorts of things. I couldn't seem to get stuff done. I felt thwarted.
Being diagnosed with ADD changed my life. I call the diagnosis my "Rosetta Stone," because behavior that I had never been able to understand suddenly made sense.
Fred Harris, Sally's husband: It really bothered Sally when she had trouble with things other people could do easily. She would need to find her keys or her notes before a meeting, and she wouldn't have a clue where to look. She took that sort of thing very personally. It was always "What's wrong with me?" It's painful to look at someone you love, and see her so tormented.
Sally: I was a theater major in college. When I was 31, I produced and played the lead in a successful feature film, The End of August. I came to New York to continue my career in acting but found that I couldn't have a career and a family. On impulse, I'd start projects - screenplays, fund-raising for charities - but not finish them. Time always ran out. My husband said that I was always trying to put a quart and a half into a one-quart bottle.
Fred: This used to come up all the time. We'd be going to the airport at 3:00 p.m., and at 2:30, Sally would still be shoving clothes into a bag. She could never estimate how long it would take to do something. It takes about 45 minutes to take a cab crosstown in New York City late Friday afternoon. Sally would always leave just 15 minutes. She never thought anything was impossible.
Sally was relieved finally to understand her behavior and not to feel embarrassed by it. She deserves a lot of credit. It was her own research that inspired her to go out and get diagnosed.
This article comes from the February/March 2006 issue of ADDitude.