I started responding by writing “Congratulations on getting diagnosed.” I then immediately deleted it, realizing how strange that might sound. There is something very beneficial, however, about finally seeing and understanding the walls of the paradigm you have been operating under in the dark your entire life.
It has been a while since I wrote the above post, and my thoughts on my diagnosis and the medication have substantially changed. I was listening to the book Driven to Distraction by Dr. Edward Hallowell, and one of the ways he describes taking the medication is like putting on glasses and putting your life into focus. I can confirm that this is an apt metaphor, at least for me. In conjunction with ADHD friendly organizational strategies, my life at the office and at home is entirely different.
If it is at all helpful to you or any of the other readers on this forum, I am going to set out below some of the changes I have seen in my life and some of the strategies I am implementing in the office and at home that are making the biggest impacts in my life.
I take my medication in the morning between 8:15 and 8:30. I feel the medication kicking in while I am on the interstate on the way to my office. As it sets in,I begin to feel more calm, less aggressive on the road and if I am biting my fingernails, I suddenly lose interest and stop.
When I get to the office, I start work by reviewing my open matters list and taking the time to write out a list of items I would like to accomplish that day. Since I do this every day, I also copy over anything from the previous day’s list that was not accomplished. I break my items out by matter/client and objectives for that matter. Once the primary objectives are identified, I also note a few matters/clients to keep tabs on throughout the day for any progress on the deal. What is amazingly different about this morning strategy after being diagnosed with ADHD and taking medication, is that I now use the same note-pad for all of this, I am able to keep track of that notepad throughout the day and I actually USE the list throughout the day to keep me on track. Previously, it was an exercise in futility; I would consistently lose the list, fail to return to it to keep me on track and fail to complete a majority of the objectives in favor of things that happened to pop up during the day.
In addition to keeping me on track, in now successfully implementing the above strategy I am now also able to keep my partner up to date on everything that is happening in our cases and what actually needs his attention that day. It is also fantastic for dealing with clients. I follow-up with them more regularly and in a more timely fashion. I am much more engaged in the individual cases because I can easily reference their status, what we need from the client or outside counsel and what obligations we have, what we have promised, etc. Using this list, I am now also able to bring myself back on track when I start to feel myself becoming distracted. When I start to drift to into reading the day’s news, I am able to identify the drift, stop myself, look at my list and return to completing my listed tasks for the day.
As for my behavior through the day, the medication also makes a substantial difference. I am now almost completely off of caffeine. I was previously drinking 32 ounces of energy drink and 4-10 coffees in a day to get myself focused and interested in the tasks I had in front of me. I was also biting my nails, tapping my feet and blasting music through my headphones to keep myself focused through a review of a document. Now, on medication, I do not need caffeine to keep me focused and generally do not desire it, although I do sometimes have a cup of tea or two if I had a late night or a poor night’s sleep the night before; primarily, however, I just drink water. I still sometimes catch myself starting to bounce my leg or bite my fingernails, but now I am able to just tell myself, “stop,” and I actually stop. I then take a deep breath, refocus myself and am actually able to be calm and move forward with the task at hand.
At home, my biggest problems were not completing chores, not following through on projects and not actually listening to my girlfriend through a number of conversations. On the last point (and the most important to me), prior to my diagnosis and treatment, my girlfriend and I would have entire conversations where I would respond throughout but not actually be paying attention. We would make plans and I would have zero recollection of doing so. Now, I am able to catch myself spacing out at the start of a conversation–finding myself giving an “auto response” in a conversation with my girlfriend and realizing that I was not actually paying attention. It is annoying for her when I have to say, “I’m sorry, I just realized I was not listening, can you repeat that for me?” but I am at least catching the attention slip early and putting myself in a position to be present for the rest of the conversation.
I am also able to get myself to complete my chores. One of my biggest problems prior to treatment was not paying bills when they required more than simply typing in my credit card information. For some reason, I just hate having to take the time to write out a check, put together an envelope, find a stamp, find a place to drop the post, etc. Now, although it is still annoying, I do not have that odd mental hurdle and just pay the bill. I also find myself just naturally cleaning up more regularly–e.g., doing the dishes immediately after eating, cleaning up immediately after and while cooking and throwing away junk mail before it accumulates. These are little things, but I feel very accomplished doing these things myself and on my own initiative as opposed to having to have my girlfriend put me under the gun to get those tasks done.
Similar to unintentionally tuning out my girlfriend, I think I have a tendency to tune out when I am with friends–to miss things or forget things and to have poor initiative in organizing things and actually engaging socially. For example, before starting treatment, I had the notion that I would host a dinner and invite my friends from work to have drinks and barbecue. I started soliciting interest, picking a few dates and then found that several weeks had passed and that I had made zero progress with that plan. Now, however, I am following through, texting my friends more, keeping in touch with people and taking more time to listen to them instead of either tuning out or dominating a conversation with my latest fixation, idea or interest. I even took the initiative to set something up yesterday (Saturday) and ended spending several hours with two good friends. I still found myself dominating the conversation at certain points, but I was better able to recognize those moments and make myself shut-up and listen to their points in return.
When I found out I had ADHD, I was rocked emotionally, I was skeptical of the diagnosis and I felt guilty because it felt like a cop-out–like I was pointing to ADHD as something that excused my shortcomings. Having started treatment, researched the issue and learned more about the topic, I no longer feel guilty; instead, I feel like a new chapter of my life has just started. Prior to diagnosis and treatment, I felt like I was sleepwalking through life–half blind and bumping into idea and topic after idea and topic with no tangible accomplishments. In the short period of time since starting treatment and understanding the diagnosis, I feel like I can finally see. I can step over obstacles and can see a tangible difference in my day to day life. I think that you, Busta, have a very interesting road in front of you. I wish you the best of luck as you step out of the darkness, put on your glasses and start down a newly lit path in life.