Coming Out of the ADD Closet

Tired of feeling like a slave to the non-ADD population, I finally opened up about my diagnosis.
ADHD & the City | posted by Jane D.
Jane D.

It is a refreshing feeling and yet totally awesome. I finally came out of the closet and told a friend about my diagnosis of adult attention deficit disorder. The victim, as I jokingly say, is the 36-year-old super-anal swimmer friend (Triple AAA type personality), who has repeatedly crucified me for being late. Nearly a year later I am still reminded that I did not arrive on time to swim practices in the morning. So I am not an early bird, please kill me.

Yesterday I promised that I'd meet the friend at a certain time, and given that I know how much these things mean to him, I made an effort to get up earlier and get there on time. Low and behold just as I leave, I receive a text from him saying, "Please leave your home now and make your way to the destination." When I receive messages like that, I feel like I am being treated like a child, a slave to the regal and elite non-ADD population. How dare you? I am an adult. So what if I am five minutes late?

Later as we sat down, I discovered I couldn't hold it in anymore. I needed to say something. I used humor and said it made me feel crappy to be triply reminded to arrive on time, on the assumption that I wouldn't. True that I have trouble with sleep sometimes, because I get sucked into the Internet, sucked into ideas, sucked into my own thoughts and then I sleep at 1 or 2 a.m. and inevitably am late for work. Time doesn't mean anything to me, I continue.

It took me about an hour to tell the whole story of how the ADD was discovered, how the diagnosis started with butting heads with a curt general doctor who prescribed anti-depressants for what was anxiety. That led to a visit with a neurologist and psychiatrist, which led me to be officially diagnosed with ADD by the doctors. As I talk about it I notice a tightening in the throat, and notice how my eyes narrow trying hard to block out tears. Don't cry, don't cry, I say to myself.

From there the story spills out, the anti-depressants, the Adderall. There is sadness as we sit there, I pick at the straw and stare at the ceiling and then at the passersby on the street. It is overcast and I think in a week I will be 33 — the problems never escape me: the roommate wars, the dating nightmares, the search for love & self & happiness. The struggle is endless and I want to die.

The friend is quiet, and says a few things that shed light on a dark conversation: Did I talk with the father about this? Yes, to this day the issue is treated lightly. The response I get is I need to grow up, I am immature, I drink too much Diet Coke.

I turn to the friend and ask, were there signs? The friend says that he would never have known if I hadn't told him, except I do have this quirk where I topic-jump a lot, and of course I can’t get there on time. But tell me more about the drugs, he says, are you still taking them? Are you taking other drugs like recreational drugs? For a second I thought he was joking. He said maybe rather than taking ADHD drugs, I should talk with a psychiatrist.

I almost laugh. I've been on this journey for five years now, I've been to the Buddhaman, I've been a guinea pig, I've bought so many notebooks, calendars. I've suffered in silence. If only he knew. The friend says that there are worse mental disorders, like schizophrenia or manic depression where one is in a forever funk.

Maybe you need to find things and be with people who make you happy, the friend says. It might be the best thing anyone has said to me in a while. But the conversation confirms that whatever hope I had of a romantic relationship with him is over. Already I was tagged as serially tardy and now I admit I take meds for what is a real disorder. Who wants a girlfriend who is mentally damaged?

An hour later the friend is silent, says he'll get the bill (it's a guy thing). He remains a mystery, while I've done a striptease. I cover myself again in silence, not understanding why I chose him to share the skeletons with. But he did not run away, rather he said he'd see me at my birthday dinner later this week. "I consider you a friend," he said. A friend, that is all — but I somehow felt freed. That wasn't so bad.

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