April 21, 2018 at 4:00 pm #82505
I was diagnosed in the past week with ADHD, inattentive type. When I was first diagnosed, I felt like all the little things that have been holding me back my entire life finally had some tangible basis. It was a paradigm shift for how I view my life. I have hated myself for, and been so disappointed at how I have held myself back by, e.g., making careless typos in my resumes and writing samples in law school, starting papers only two days before they were due in college, failing to study in high school, zoning out in middle school and elementary school and missing important assignments, dates and even field trips as a result, forgetting my books for certain classes and even my entire backpack some days. I have felt so many times like the dumbest person in the room when I have to turn to a neighbor and ask whether they can “loan” me a paper and a pen so I could take notes in class, whether that was in elementary school or at my law firm for an associates meeting. I think I have been so functional for so long since my inattentiveness has manifested itself in what I can only describe as an “importance line.” Everything in my life falls into a spectrum and the importance line delineates what will get my attention. Coming up with interesting ideas–surpasses the importance line–following through when the time it takes to accomplish is more than expected–idea falls below importance line; conversely, working on an interesting case or project–surpasses importance line–stopping the project to make it home in time to meet my girlfriend’s friends–falls below the importance line and I make it late or cancel. Worse even, is I do not always have the ability to choose whether certain things fall above or below the importance line. For that reason, I feel rather lucky professional success has, after many years, finally come out on top.
Now that I am taking the medication, however, I can immediately feel that my importance line has been readjusted far lower. More things are getting attention, and that includes myself and how I feel about certain things. One of my greatest strengths (and weaknesses) has been to compartmentalize things in my life, allowing me to focus intently on certain things while leaving others to atrophy. Now that how I feel about myself is above the importance line, I cannot help but feel guilty; like I am somehow cheating by looking to ADHD for an explanation of the deficits in my life and the use of medication to help me address my deficits. The analytical side of my mind tells me that, if there is an addressable deficit, then it should be addressed to benefit myself and those around me. Being able to remember dates with my girlfriend, completing the chore list instead of just the first three items and actually following through on ideas–even if they take me longer to accomplish that I anticipate (such as writing this note), are (or at least can be) good things. So, why should I feel guilty about addressing them?
I wonder if the guilty feeling arises from the fact that I have otherwise been successful throughout my life and that every time I have struggled with any of the above-mentioned deficits, it has been hammered into me that it is because I do not care, or that I am not trying hard enough, or that I do not value something appropriately. I remember losing some of my favorite items as a kid and being told it was because I did not respect the item or the energy that went into being able to purchase it, or that I did not care about myself or my education or my future when I failed to remember that there was an upcoming quiz in school or certain deadlines for major life events (e.g., choosing a college). I think what adds to the guilty feeling is that there are things I can focus on–intently even–when they are above the importance line in my life. When that became going to a top law school, I would study for hours each day after working a full day as a teacher and several hours each day on the weekends for the LSAT. I was so successful, I landed at a top-10 law school. In law school, that intense focus was wielded at certain interesting subjects and I would study for hours on end to the point where 9 hours of studying in a day was not uncommon. I think it can be hard on friends, family, loved ones and significant others as they get to know me deeply and begin to understand that there is this very real importance line in my mind and very painful when they realize that they, at any point, have fallen below it. For this reason, I want to address my ADHD and address my deficits. I want there to be more that I care about in life than a handful of ideas or subjects. So, I am seeking treatment to help myself, to better my life and those close to me.
So, where is the guilty feeling coming from? I am out of ideas. If anyone has some thoughts, I would be more than interested to read them. If this post at all encourages someone who is on the fence about seeking an assessment for ADHD, I hope this encourages them to take that step.
April 21, 2018 at 5:34 pm #82508
Do you love yourself?
I suspect not, but let me explain. First of all, I could be your brother. Well, more likely father since I am 30 years older. But we share a lot of similar characteristics.
Last week I was at a CHADD meeting and the guy running it had everyone talk about their challenges. It was one of these “wow! you do that too?” kinds of things. Failure as a kid and being told of it, forgetting important stuff, pain, ways to deal with it, hyper focus, you know all about it. Then the facilitator said that we’re all talking about what we do, not who we are. We value ourselves based on what we do, not who we are. My interpretation of that is: maybe I don’t love myself. All of my stress comes from impressing others. My entire career was based on proving the bastards in elementary school wrong. I didn’t go to a top 10 law school but I did get a PhD. It’s weird that everyone says that ADDers only respond to internal motivation and yet here I am trying to win the praise of others. It’s a paradox. My wife would really like it if I cleaned up my crap. I know that. But I’d rather win her praise by cooking a fantastic meal or writing a hilarious story. Cleaning is boring. Creating is fun. And yet I can’t just create for myself. Maybe if I was just ADD without all this baggage I could. But after years of rejection I can’t even see myself anymore. All I can see is what I do. And I fear like hell that someone will say I did a lousy job. Anxiety can be horrible for me when it comes time to perform, and to win approval.
So, if you really look at yourself are you focused on what you do or who you are? Do you see yourself as someone that does things to impress others? Can you just sit still and be happy? Do you believe in yourself?
I don’t know anything about psychiatry so maybe you should ask someone that does about all of this. It apparently takes more than just drugs to make things right. With that said here’s my guess about your guilt. You went through a big shock finding out about your ADD. People that survive big shocks can feel guilty. You’re dealing with it. Search “shock guilt.” Your reality is changing.
April 22, 2018 at 11:24 am #82516
I want to sincerely thank you for your response. Reading your post, I am having one of those “oh, you do that too” moments that you described having at the CHADD meeting. Specifically, what you say about wanting to impress others as being a large external motivator to prove the bastards wrong and how it sometimes causes conflict in your personal relationships where you providing that evidence for approval to your significant other takes the form of a creative activity like cooking or writing, whereas she just wants you to clean up your crap (a line I have heard so many times in my life) really hits home. A summary of my response is set forth in the second to last paragraph for convenience.
I personally love cooking and was an english and philosophy major in college. I specifically went into law to harness those same mechanics and strengths of writing and analysis–albeit at the expense of creativity. I have also struggled, however, with creating for myself as opposed to in response to some external stimulus; e.g., a deadline, a grade, advancement, approval, etc. Perhaps that is another reason I went into law–the structure provided by practice and the form to essentially force performance. When I was being evaluated for ADHD, I remember telling my psychiatrist that I feel like I have so many ideas, which if even a fraction came to fruition, then there would at least be some benefit or purpose to them. Instead my experience has been like being on a train with each idea materializing on the horizon, one after the other, and only there so long as the train hasn’t travelled to far. I told her, there has to be more to life than this. I think my anger, internal conflict and even the guilt I expressed yesterday arise, at least in part, from failing to create for myself. Sitting down to write that post yesterday (and my response here today) marks the first and second times I have added my thoughts to a forum of discussion in any substantial way (i.e., more than just an upvote or paragraph response on reddit). Whatever neurological firing that takes thoughts from the mind to the physical world finally occurred on my own terms.
Finally, the point you make regarding self evaluation through the lens of external conduct not internal actualization may also have been, in part, responsible for the guilt I was feeling yesterday. I feel so many times that there is an internal standard that I should be meeting–the ideas are there, the resources are available–and then there are the tangible outcomes which number far and fewer in-between. This perhaps explains my attraction to legal practice: it takes ideas and makes them reality through the use of language and analysis. The ability to add a concrete effect to a conflict between parties or to effect their desire for a mutual exchange under certain terms and conditions gives me many of the things that you mention in your post: (1) an external stimulus (a deadline, client satisfaction, business development for the firm) that drives the need for bringing to fruition the ideas and intent of the parties to the agreement; (2) an external sense of validation because something is actually completed, as opposed to merely conceptualized; and (3) approval upon the closing–the parties are happy, the deal has been made, and the train continues its march as a new transaction materializes in the horizon.
I suppose my take aways from above could be distilled as follows: (1) I am not alone, and neither are you. A psychiatric diagnoses that was, at least for me, in part, terrifying and, in part, relieving, has led us to a forum for thought and expression where there are so many like us and where we can learn from and benefit one another. This, in and of itself, is good. (2) External validation can be very rewarding, but it is not an end all be all. As persons with ADHD, there will always be more ideas than concrete action. Acceptance of that fact provides some relief to the internal standard of judgment which, at least for me, feels to have been locked into a disapproving state for some time. And (3) identifying these issues internally, recognizing and accepting them, and taking time to process the diagnosis and to reconsider my means of self evaluation can help me, through the dissipation of disapproval, learn to love myself.
From one person to another who is never content just sitting still, thank you for writing something so personal and relatable that it led me to do exactly just that–to sit down and read your post three times over before I could even contemplate a response.
April 21, 2018 at 5:51 pm #82509
I’m a solo practitioner, and was diagnosed just under two years ago. Welcome to the club. It’s a very large club.
If I had to guess as to the source of the guilt, I would say training. You have three decades of training in feeling bad about yourself, and feeling like your failings are moral ones. It takes more than a couple of weeks and some pills to overcome three decades of telling yourself “I’m failing because I’m a bad person.”
Even now, you are saying that whether or not you did something was based on whether it fell above or below your importance line, but also, ‘sometimes’ you couldn’t decide. Seriously consider the possibility that you were never really using importance to decide how to behave. Consider the possibility that it was some combination of interest, novelty, urgency, energy level, and anxiety that was deciding what you would do, and that you were just fortunate enough that those other factors worked out well until now.
You feel guilty because you have been trained to feel guilty. So now, even though it no longer makes sense to you, the feeling is still there. I say “still” because it probably always was. It just wasn’t something that got your attention before.
Don’t worry about that. That’s normal. It’s just an emotion. Feel it. Notice what it’s like. Notice what makes it go away.
April 22, 2018 at 1:54 am #82515
Hi hun. Serena here, 31yr old female, diagnosed late 2016. Unfortunately I don’t have much time to reply right now, but I relate SO frikken much to your story I just had to quickly log in and let you know what I think, because I truly do feel for you.
Sadly, it’s been everyone around you. Your family hammered into you how careless and disrespectful you are – when that’s not the case at all. I am more than sure that your loved ones would never have wanted to do this to you on purpose – but the word is SHAME. They made you feel shame.
Shame is *the* most crippling feeling one can have in my opinion (google shame in relation to adhd – or even to depression & anxiety (if you suffer from those at all) but yeah the word is shame. You are not guilty at all. You’re innocent…you’re innocent to why you were doing things, why things were happening that you apparently did (despite not doing it on purpose or weren’t even aware what was going on), and you were taught to feel guilty about them! (Losing items, forgetting important things etc.
“Normal” people don’t just lose or forget things without SOME sort of knowledge about it – so they just CANNOT understand that it’s even possible to have the same thing happen for someone else, in any other way. This also isn’t exactly their fault. HAD your parents KNOWN about the adhd, they’d’ve been able to arm themselves with information, recognise your creative strengths and practical weaknesss, & nurture the right parts of your personality to help you grow into a proud and self assured young man.
Having felt guilty like you said, about things you’d DONE…it just isn’t true. I feel so sad that you’ve live with this guilt. Your intentions were not malicious, egotistical or purposely hurtful or neglectful to other people or other things.
Just help educate your girlfriend and your family…and yourself! This site is amazing. Print out articles and helpful things for them to help understand you and how they can also get the best out of you. Print articles to help yourself work out strategies for prioritising. Keeping things in their place, and having stuff planned out.
Have you ever heard of a “Dot Journal?” Or “Bullet Journal”? I strongly suggest you Google that too… it could save your life! The creator of the whole “idea” is named Ryder Carroll. He has a website (which I can’t remember the name of exactly, so google it please! ✨)
I’m reading info on it by a girl named Rachel Wilkerson Miller atm as I’m doing mine…and I tell you.. It’s been a hard road getting me into the swing of actually DOING IT – but oh my god. Seriously – lifesaver! And you seem like the creative type too. You make it entirely yourself, the way YOU want it. There’s no rules and it keeps your whole life in less space than anything else (you’ll get what u mean once you see it) maybe go to Ryder’s site. I think there’s a quick video on the main homepage of his site. Otherwise YouTube will show you haha. YouTube knows everything! I find it just as handy as google, cause that way I don’t have to read so many articles, I can listen to it (and watch if necessary), otherwise I can be doing something else while it’s on ☺️ Like writing.
Now look I know this is going to have 739474963 spelling and grammatical errors, but like I said I’m under a time crunch (and am currently 3hrs over GOD i kneeeew i shouldn’t have opened safari 🤦🏼♀️ Mum is on my back about how I haven’t moved from this spot in 5hours (gosh I’m starving to be honest too, but too busy)
…..and I just NEEDED to try to help you 🙏🏻 ☺️💕✨ Wow I hope this had made at least a little bit of sense so that you at least get SOMETHING out of it 🙏🏻 you’re too young, too smart and too on the ball to let yourself get caught up in guilt (that I feel was put on you) …despite however unintentional, ok?
And you can always come back here. This place is like a family- you’re already one of us and we already know you ☺️❤️🙏🏻✨
I hope as time goes on you begin to grow and know yourself more – and we’ll be happy to witness you win at your own life 💪🏻
Ok I’m out!
Take Care, Talk soon.
Let me know how you go ok?
Love Serena 😊 xoxo
• Dot/Bullet Journal (Ryder Carroll/Rachel Wilkerson Miller)
April 22, 2018 at 4:01 pm #82531
I’m a high school teacher (24 yrs) who was diagnosed 16 yrs ago at age 35. I have experienced a lot of the focus/lack of focus frustration you seem to have. I’ve also dealt with the debilitating shame of not living up that dreaded ‘potential’ – both external (family, society, professionally, etc), and my own internal. I really loved your image of the ‘importance line’ – I’ve seen that throughout my life. My ADD has been on ongoing struggle – as a teacher, and most importantly in my marriage (now 25 yrs). Dealing with the years of anxiety and shame that built up was even more important than the diagnosis and medication.
I thought meds (I take 54mg Concerta once daily) was enough to ‘fix this ADD thing’; I thought it was just about my distractibility – even though I too made it through graduate school. I’ve found over the last 2 yrs (and another near-marital catastrophe) that what must also take place is work with a trained clinician. Are you working with someone other than a psychiatrist? They’re great for meds, but a trained therapist can help get at the other pieces of this diagnosis. I’ve got a great therapist now, and it’s made all the difference. I couldn’t tell from your post if that was part of your overall treatment plan – maybe give it a look?
I applaud you for the real success you’ve achieved so far – it speaks to such a wealth of natural ability and perseverance! I hope this helps you a little, and wish you well on your journey. I’ll check back to see how things progress…
April 23, 2018 at 9:48 am #82549
This is very interesting. Most adults diagnosed with ADHD feel guilt for all the mistakes they’ve made, or the relationships that failed, etc… You are feeling guilty for doing well, which I haven’t really seen. Maybe it’s more that you’re feeling some guilt for realizing that you won’t be able to prioritize some things in your life that you know/think you should?
Working through your feelings about all those (unwarranted, given ADHD) negative messages you received growing up would probably help with this struggle.
ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism
April 23, 2018 at 6:52 pm #82645
I can very much relate!! As far as the guilty feelings, here’s kinda where they came from for me personally. My adhd my whole life as made me COME OFF very self-centered (sure every human being is a little). I really did NOT mean to be that way!! For instance, dominating a convo, and not being a good listener (bc my mind so at and with the talking part I literally didn’t even stop to think I wasn’t giving the other Etsy. A chance). Also being SO forgetful with shared items and appointments made it seem that I just “didn’t care” or value the time of others. Again, none of this was intentional, and even after my diagnosis quite awhile back now, a lot of people thought that was an “excuse”. Well, it wasn’t. It solely explained things to me that logic and my mind could not account, and that took the power away from it…like bc it has a “name” I can now work towards a solution. Because again it isn’t an excuse, it’s an explanation. Now that o know this about my self, it’s my responsibility to follow my treatment plan. And at first, I felt guilt too. Afraid I was being self centered by prioritizing my treatment. And afraid loved ones did too. BUT like you, the medication, along with some coping…really helped. Especially now at right dose, I feel “free” and WAY less starred! My relationships are SO much better…so basically actions spoke louder than words. My loved ones see the positive changes…so it must be working. I’m way more attentive to others needs now, when before I was oblivious. Stick with me it!!! It’ll get better 🙂
April 24, 2018 at 9:55 am #82664
I am in a similar position. I’m a final year law student and working in a professional legal environment.
I have been diagnosed with ADHD a few months ago and finally went to see an education psychologist last week. She told me that I need to find a way to center myself in order to re-align with the true me. My response was that I have no idea who that is.
As far as “not working hard enough” I’ve been called lazy so many times in my life that the word has gotten an extremely negative meaning. I got a new manager last year who point blank told me that she doesn’t think there are other issues, that I have a reputation for being lazy and that she thinks that is all that is wrong because the amount of work that I do does not equate to the number of hours that I say I work. I must state that I have also been diagnosed with dyslexia and I read significantly slower than the average person. In the legal field, you will know how problematic that is.
The good thing is that it forced me to get diagnosed but now I am so intent on proving that I am not lazy that I work late instead of exercising and I work most of the time over weekends as well. If I’m not working I’m studying.
I don’t know when the guilt will go away, but I do hope you find a way to deal with it that works for you.
April 24, 2018 at 10:36 am #82671
To Morgae (and whoever else of course):
People thought my problem was simply laziness too. Also careless, irresponsible, immature. Please don’t give up on treatment. I went through a lot…I went off meds while preggo, and the rebound was awful and never got better. Everyone (OB, psychiatrist, and pediatrician) all agree next pregnancy STAY ON MEDS. I could not do my job I loved, bc my hyperactivity was painful—I had to wait tables at a super busy place so I didn’t feel bugs, I couldn’t talk, I fell apart. Of course I got those names again from people…along with “failure”. My old family doc (who now is out of business) wrote me a nasty referral to a psych place..saying I was crazy and my only hope was to be permanent locked up. Went back on my meds after she was born, and pediatrician said the benefits of breastfeeding actually outweighed the risk of the med—-bc the med (ironically) slowed down my resting heart rate …bc I could finally REST and not fight and pace 16 hours a day lol. My kind slowed too. Anyway, I did stop breastfeeding when I went up to 60 mg (needed a second booster dose of Adderall). My daughter is thriving…and so am I!! Not only am I back at my job, I’m excelling. I was told I wasn’t capable of motherhood (she was unplanned baby, but also an unplanned joy)…yet by the grace of God and the right help here I am. There are, however, people that think I “just grew up”. It was though my adhd causing my actions to not meet my pure intentions no one used to see. Now they do. I feel free, and I embrace the upsides to my adhd since the yucky symptoms relieved. You are NOT lazy..heck your in law school…your brilliant!!!! And those people calling you lazy, who cares if they don’t understand. They don’t have to— just you, your doc, and God really. The fruit of your actions will say enough. Keep trudging along!! Hope is key
April 25, 2018 at 2:26 am #82764
Hi Rebel90 🙂
Thank you very much for the encouraging words.
It is awesome that you are doing so great 🙂 and congrats on your daughter 😀
April 25, 2018 at 9:02 am #82791
Good morning Truthsquire2017,
First let me congratulate you on achieving such a huge milestone becoming an Attorney. That is no easy feat to conquer so at the very least you should be very proud of yourself. Typos and other little errors were just that, errors.
When I was a child, my mom would always tell me that I could never follow through on anything, but she never told me how to acquire the skills to stay consistent. She said it so much that it became a part of my psyche. I could never figure out why I did some “weird” things, why I could not stay focused for too long, why I could not comprehend things and be teased about it, etc. I am a 52 year old single mom who suspected she was suffering from ADHD last spring, but wasn’t diagnosed until last October. Once the medicine kicked in and then tweaked, the world stopped spinning so fast. Now my guilt came in with I wish I had known what was really wrong at least 15 years ago because perhaps then I would be in a career instead of obtaining my undergraduate degree in 2014 and am in grad school now. I get angry with myself because I feel I could have done so much more with my life, BUT then I realized that I am where I am supposed to be in this moment. I have gone through some serious trials in the past 11 years all to bring me to this moment where I love myself so much more than I have in the past and accept myself too.
The problem that I have is my direct reports know that I have ADHD and have difficulty staying on task but they don’t care. They are writing me up because of my inability to be sustainable in my role (clerical). The most frustrating part is that I know I’m capable. I know as do they that I am progressing, but it’s not up to their speed.
Your story is great but I agree with MattColo…love yourself. Yes we want to consistently prove people wrong. Prove to them that we are not lazy, crazy or stupid and are quite capable of doing our jobs and living life successfully, but at the end of the day, who’s opinion matters most?
Love and like yourself because there’s only one of you and your unique. You have a story to tell for those aspiring to reach their milestone.
April 26, 2018 at 6:41 am #82856
matty from AustraliaParticipant
I don’t have much advice because I am new here myself – but I just wanted to say what a fantastic achievement to have became an attorney! I am considering studying a public law diploma program myself that actually allows the recipient to practice law without going to an expensive university. I hope you get the answers you seek here and from the looks of this place, I am sure you will.
April 28, 2018 at 1:46 am #83105
truthsquire2017 you are an inspiration to me. I still dont know if I actually want to practice law but you have given me inspiration to finish my degree.
May 6, 2018 at 6:54 am #83667
Hi, first time positing here.
I’m a lawyer in Australia who was diagnosed this week.
I can relate to all of this.
My head has been spinning since the diagnosis. I went to the psych thinking I was depressed and not coping with life. When he gave me the diagnosis I feel like I’m looking back through a window at my life and now understanding why I am the way I am with everything in my life.
In fact, the reason I went to him was that I had a break down recently where I ended up crying to my wife that for just one day I’d love to leave work and not feel like a failure because I just can’t achieve what I want to acheive- like most things in my life- whether its work, weight, or anything life related.
I still have to do some further tests and another discussion with the doctor to work out medication etc.. but I am actually excited as to the opportunity to have a different life.
May 6, 2018 at 3:08 pm #83676
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.
May 6, 2018 at 11:36 pm #83690
Thanks for your reply truth. You’ve made me even more excited.
The more you write on this thread though, the more you mirror my life. I love that you mention the biting finger nails.
I’m a chewer. IF I can’t bite my finger nails, it’s straws, pens, lids, anything I can get my hands on and into my mouth.
Hopefully I have the same results as you. I’m learning a lot about what kind of medication is available for my next appointment. Unfortunately Adderall is banned in Australia.
May 7, 2018 at 9:01 am #83694
“Just diagnosed…” I have really appreciated this online magazine. BUT – I have a huge problem with this “diagnosis” and “disorder” preoccupation. Let me back up.
I described myself for years as a weird dyslexic who could read, write and spell like a fiend… Friends and coworkers who knew, were, or had family who were dyslexic recognized patterns in how I lived life that reminded them of dyslexia… only my scholastic strengths completely vetoed that. It was in grad school when I accidentally “recycled” 1/3 of the tests my undergrad students had written (I had carefully placed them in a newspaper so they wouldn’t get crunched as I put them in my backpack to mark later — and then recycled the newspaper. I only recalled what had happened a week after frantically calling restaurants where I’d done marking and searching and finally confessing to the professor that I’d lost them)… that I was shaken to the core. I went (a PhD student with prestigious scholarships) to the university’s centre for learning disabilities. A battery of tests showed that there’s a strong discrepency between my strengths and weaknesses (I always knew that) and there was a questions of ADHD (which I dismissed because, after all, I could always sit still in school as a kid). But the testing abruptly stopped when they found out I wasn’t on student funding and just working to support myself through grad school (i.e., I couldn’t pay for the testing). Kindly, they didn’t charge me about $1000 which had accumulated so far. But in a marriage later in which I was blamed for everything that wasn’t working between us (for instance, communication – he would get incensed at having to follow my nonlinear sentence and topic patterns), I went back to the university to beg to discuss my test results again, and consulted a dyslexic professor I used to do research with, to figure out “what was wrong with me”. Of course I knew there was a lot wrong with the person I’d married too – but I needed something solid because I knew I certainly wasn’t just a messed up, self-absorbed, f-ing idiot like the person I was living with assumed. But I wanted to grow where I could. Once more suggestions of ADHD came out, I did my own research and… VOILA!! It ALL makes sense. Everything about me since childhood and more – now aligned!
This magazine has helped a lot, but I have a HUGE problem with the basic assumption that ADHD minds are a disorder and need medicating. Research has shown that the ADHD brain exists in a large percentage of the human population in every culture and across the socioeconomic spectrum. We have a particular brain. And it’s exceptionally good at certain things. How frustrating is it when people can’t see beyond the immediately practical, envision all kinds of other possibilities and potentials and weird wacky ideas in order to find a vision that you eventually line up with the possible – and wham! You’re an entrepreneur, a visionary, a leader…! I read that a large percentage of paramedics are ADHD – our thoughts get really focussed in crisis and we KNOW what to do then (take when my mother was driving over a railroad and the arm came down on us. Train coming, my practical, grounded mother panicked and couldn’t figure out if she should reverse or not and with the oncoming train, the usually dreamy daughter was now in command – “NO! Just go – FORWARD!”)_ Whew – and we’re alive. Yes, she was always frustrated at all the things I’d forget all growing up and I went through all the guilt everyone else above describes. But hey, the gift of knowing what to do in a crisis always helps…
I LOVE the way I think – it’s interesting and exciting. People admire my enthusiasm. It is embarrassing that sometimes I get so excited that I can’t complete my sentences before jumping to the next one, and then I can’t complete even a phrase… and then whoa!! I need to just stop, take a deep breath and try again more slowly. And don’t drink too much coffee. Then I REALLY am hopping! Why CAN’T non-ADHD people follow my thoughts? Why CAN’T they complete my sentences in their minds like people who are like me? Sometimes I think they’re deficient… Some of them can only think in a straight line and can’t see the beautiful mosaic of thought with so many amazing twists and turns that could be painted in so MANY different ways and tangents. The CONTEXT is what makes the points interesting (to me!). I remember my very dear and very linear brother stopping me midstream once and asking in order to clear his head, “What is the Point of the story” so he could then understand everything I was telling him. I stopped and looked at him in complete shock: “The STORY is the point!” Yes, he finished his PhD – I didn’t – but I did finish marking another batch of student’s papers on my hospital bed after the C-Section and chose to put all my hyperfocus on actual mothering and teaching my own child rather than writing a dissertation on it (it was a crazy hard decision but I’m really glad I chose that!)
I think it’s all about learning about our own minds, strengths, weaknesses, and how to work with them best. Learning that ADHDers tend to takeover conversations and talk about themselves with an endless stream of anecdotes brings me self-awareness and I can learn to stop, save that anecdote, look at the other person and ask them a question about themself (yes, that’s bad grammar, but I don’t speak like a PhD). It’s not because I’m “self-centered”. I’m a great listener when someone offers to share with me. But it can come across that way and knowing this helps keep me in check. So… I love the “DIAGNOSIS” part – I’ve now put my car keys on a lanyard because the hard part is remembering where I put them when I am carrying loads of stuff from the car to the house to put them on the hook where they belong. This was after a crazy week of dropping my son off in a blanket on the neighbours couch at 6am, trying to drive his dad’s totalled truck to the bus stop, missing it and hitchhiking in to town to teach my middle school students (3 days later I found the keys sitting in the crevice between hood and windshield wiper – I didn’t want to scratch the hood when I set them down to take stuff out of the passenger’s side of the car) and try to maintain the air of a professional. After all, I’m new in this province, it’s an interim teaching position, and I need good references. Good thing they couldn’t see the mayhem before I arrived – early, winded but smug. Okay, so I admit this is my problem, and now the lanyard for getting from car to house, hands free and key around my neck. Despite feeling like a child I tell myself, “You are taking control of your weak area and that is adult-like”. When my students come to class without pencils and books and complain at their inability to remember, I explain, “I, too, am ADHD. I get it. We forget things – over and over. SO – we need to think up a strategy to get around this. How can we….” and I don’t let it be an excuse.
I don’t believe ADHD is a disorder. I believe that sticking kids with boundless energy in between 4 walls for an entire day, 5 days a week, is a disorder. I see those very disordered kids full of responsibility and concentration in their word-working class, handling dangerous machines (they have a great teacher). I think we ALL look disordered in settings that aren’t right for us and modern society requires a lot of executive function which not everyone has. Those highly gifted and orderly administrators would be a mess in some of the worlds we thrive in. (My linear brother was exhausted just listening to me describe a typical day as a humanitarian worker doing various visitations and responding to all kinds of in-the-moment tasks when I was living in Bosnia. I thrived in that setting).
Let’s admit it – all humans look disordered when stuck in the wrong box. But self-awareness is critical. Knowing our patterns and finding solutions when we have to fit into an uncomfortable box is important. But I highly doubt that all of us ADHDers are genetically disordered. Okay, I should be lesson-prepping. That’s really what I got up and hour and a half ago to do.
Have a great day! your highly disordered sometimes highly functional, amazing, ridiculous Effemerald
May 7, 2018 at 9:08 am #83695
PS. Sorry I didn’t edit that. Embarrassing errors for this English teacher. I DO know better…!!
May 9, 2018 at 8:47 pm #83935
Thanks so much for this awesome post! I’m a high school teacher, diagnosed 16 yrs ago at age 35. Your experience is so much like my own professional journey (the newspaper-test story was hilarious! I’ve done it in similar fashion…). My ADD (inattentive) is not an obstacle to my teaching. Yes, it takes me longer to get papers back; but my classroom is a place of energy and challenge (I recently had one of my most talented students in 24 yrs tell me this – what a privilege!).
I’m lucky to be married to an amazing woman (25 yrs in June!). We’ve struggled a lot with my ADD. I thought that meds alone would ‘fix this ADD thing’; but I found several other compounding things that were the real impediments to my relationships. It took her almost walking out to realize that therapy has to go hand in hand with meds. I’ve had a really great therapist for a year now – it’s made a huge difference. We’re on a much better path – I’m so lucky that she’s in my life!
Yes, like most ADD folks I’m disorganized, a bit scattered, and easily frustrated. But I’m also goofy, loving (2 awesome kids), and full of dreams. Thanks so much for sharing the fact that while ADD makes us see things differently, it isn’t always a ‘disorder’. And thanks for distracting me from a pile of tests I really didn’t want to correct! 😉 Best of luck on your journey…
PS – and Truth, thanks again for starting this string! Continued success to you…
May 17, 2018 at 5:40 am #84434
If I may ask how do you deal with the pressures of being an attorney? I’m doing my law degree now and working in a legal field. I was recently offered aticleship (basically apprentice attorney in South Africa) with a private firm. I would take a 60% salary cut but it would be my entry into the legal profession. This is a tremendous opportunity since law firms normally only approach top students.
The problems that I’m having is that my attention to detail is very poor so if I was to miss something important it could cost the firm (and client) a lot of money.
Secondly (thanks to anxiety) I find it difficult to answer questions that I could not prepare for properly first. So my fear is, what happens if I am in court and get questioned by the magistrate or judge and I freeze up. Again it may have huge financial consequences for the client and the firm.
Where I work now, my mistakes don’t have such hectic consequences so I was wondering if you have those issues, how do you deal with them?
Btw I get your “importance line.”. For me it’s urgency. Anything that is urgent is automatically important and therefore above the line. Everything else waits until it becomes urgent.
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