Mental health counselor, West Plains, MO
Ahh, me and my ADD. I'll be 67 years old in a couple of months, and it's been the two of us, hanging out and wandering around together for all 67 of them. I assume I was born with ADD. However, since it was 1945, ADD hadn't been "invented" yet. Everyone thought I was lazy, spaced-out, and crazy. They called me "annoying little Susie."
I earned two college scholarships, but I crashed and burned the first year in school, due to my still-undiagnosed, rip-roaring ADD. This was in the early 1960s. For the next two decades, I was a recurring guest at state and private mental hospitals.
In the mid-1980s, when I was correctly diagnosed, I was put on Ritalin -- and my life began! I made it my job to find out everything I could about ADHD. I was a determined woman on a mission. Back then, not much had been written about the adult disorder, so we ADDers started writing things ourselves.
Today, I work as a Certified Peer Specialist, helping others like me adjust to the impact of their diagnosis. I encourage them to define their goals and figure out how to reach them by battling the stigma -- the world's and their own -- that may be holding them back.
So, listen up! No matter what stage of life you are in when you are diagnosed, rejoice! Now you know!
Buyer, Huntington Beach, CA
I didn't always recognize my ADHD traits as a blessing or a roadmap to my goals in life. It wasn't until I accepted my intricately wired brain, and embraced who I am, that my life changed. I stopped being a shadow of everyone's expectations. I could say, "This is who I am, love me or leave me!"
ADHD makes me curious about many things. My interests range from Italian cooking to knowing how DVDs are made. I can watch the History Channel for hours or a Disney cartoon while eating dinner. Some mornings I relax while listening to Beethoven, but later in the day, I'm dancing to rap music.
Such a range of interests has allowed me to connect with people from all walks of life. Everyone has a story, and most stories include lessons learned, or what Oprah calls "aha moments." These little trinkets of information evoke compassion and empathy for others. I get excited when I talk with people. If my brain was being scanned during conversations, it would be lit up like a Christmas tree.
My ADHD brain craves stimulation, and what better way to stimulate it than to meet a lot of people? This is why I’m always joining groups and clubs, and getting involved in the community. My personality puts others at ease, so they share their stories. These abilities have allowed me to excel at work. There are others who may be more qualified to do my job, but the compassion and teamwork I bring to the workplace has gained respect. I've been at the same company for 23 years. Now I can appreciate my ADHD brain. It's something I feel good about.
Housewife, San Jose, CA
Before I was diagnosed, I felt I was climbing a mountain with no peak. For decades I had jobs that went nowhere. Too many abandoned endeavors took a toll on my self-confidence. My frustration and determination to get my act together led me to a therapist's office, where I told the story of my life.
Most of my life, I have felt lost and restless. I didn't have specific goals, so I worked at and quit jobs that were incompatible with my strengths. I once moved to another country to experience a different way of life. I took courses to learn new skills, and tried every workout DVD ever made. None of it made me a skinny, youthful millionaire, living in a foreign country, but I took chances to find out what life had in store for me.
I'm an expert at trying -- and sometimes at failing. I know that, whatever happens, I will be OK. The challenges that ADD brings may leave me frustrated, but I would be bored without them.
This article appears in the Fall 2012 issue of ADDitude.
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