The Many Faces of ADHD

In celebration of 2014's ADHD Awareness Week, these 11 essays explore the perspectives and diversity of people with attention deficit.

Howie Mandel

Howie Mandel

Entertainer, Comedian, Los Angeles, California

I was diagnosed with ADHD and OCD as an adult, but I don't remember a time when I didn't have them. Back in the 1960s, when I was growing up, my symptoms didn't have a name, and you didn't go to the doctor to find out. They were called "Howie."

As I grew older, those quirks found their way into my comedy. Deal or No Deal works nicely with my ADHD symptoms. I show up, meet the contestants, and move around the set. I'm not stuck behind a pedestal reading trivia questions. I've always had problems sitting still and listening for long periods of time.

My parents accepted my quirks and differences. I have the best family -- everyone shows me nothing but love, support, and strength. If you asked my wife about my ADHD, she would say it's difficult to deal with. She can't get through a conversation with me without having to reel me back in.

After I impulsively revealed on a talk show that I have OCD, I was devastated. I often do things without thinking. That's my ADHD talking. Out in public, after I did the show, people came up to me and said, "Me, too." These were the most comforting words I ever heard. Whatever you're dealing with in life, know that you're not alone. Adults should know that it's never too late to seek help for ADHD. I didn't let ADHD prevent me from achieving my goals, and neither should you.

Maura Ladino

Graduate student, New York, NY

I finished my master's degree at Columbia University in one year, with straight A's. Who thought I could do it? I did. Because I knew what is inside of me, and I want the world to see it, too.

I was diagnosed with ADHD in second grade. During my school career, I had trouble on timed tests and in getting organized. In college, even with accommodations, I had difficulty with taking tests. It took me a year to prepare for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Yet, I would not change my ADHD for the world. Without ADHD, I would not be me.

The way I approach any problem is by piecing things together. Sometimes my strategy is a little different from my peers', but I still find the solution. In fact, I am a rigorous puzzle-solver. Every night I complete several Sudokus faster than anyone I know.

As I learned about ADHD, I decided I wanted to learn more about the field of psychology. I love helping others who have the condition. I make it easier for them to gain insight about and accept themselves. I have served on panels to increase awareness about disabilities among educators. My goal is to work as a neuropsychologist to diagnose those with ADHD and learning disabilities and help them to live a successful life.

I am not defined by ADHD; I define it. My ADHD takes a backseat to my ambitions and goals, because I am the driver of my life, not my ADHD.

Robert Toth

Sculptor, Artist, Salisbury, NC

I stayed back in the fourth grade three times. I was a straight-F student. The school called my mother and told her to send me to a private school, which she couldn't afford.

Then, at 14, I had an epiphany. Two teachers put together a demonstration in science class one day. As soon as I saw it, it was as if I awoke from a long sleep. It excited and inspired me. My teachers discovered that I was a visual learner, which was something my mother, a painter, knew intuitively.

As a result, I enrolled in art school at 21, and started my own design firm when I was 26. I sculpt busts of famous people, many of whom were thought to have learning disabilities — Einstein, Mozart, Edison, da Vinci. Some of my sculptures are in the Smithsonian.

When I sculpt and paint, I don't need medication. I don't feel like I have ADHD. There is hope for ADD children. My mom was the making of me. You can be the making of your child.

Cynthia Gerdes

Restaurateur, Minneapolis, MN

As an entrepreneur, I find that ADHD is a boon. It's easy to do a million things at once. I own Hell's Kitchen -- an award-winning restaurant in Minneapolis -- but I started my career as a teacher and owned several successful toy stores before I entered the restaurant business. I was always able to work the long hours my jobs demanded, but when it came to smaller tasks, like food shopping, I was lost.

When I found I had ADHD, I finally understood why I had more energy than everyone else. I attribute some of my behavior to ADHD, especially my frequent changes in careers. I like to get a project off the ground, but I move on when things settle into a routine.

I make adjustments in my schedule to keep my ADHD in check. I won’t do two meetings in a row, because I know I can’t sit still that long. Taking breaks while reviewing bills or menus helps, too.

I still have problems with grocery shopping. My husband is supportive. He is amused when I spin in circles around the house. Thank God he is a chef!

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TAGS: Myths About ADHD, Self Esteem, Talking About ADD, ADHD Role Models

 

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