If you don’t believe in ADHD, come follow me around for a day or two. I will make you a believer. I don’t mean to be random, I just am. I spent a lot of my life thinking I was stupid. Wondering why I couldn’t hear a word spoken, busy with a thought far away from whatever was being said around me. Couldn’t sit still. Sitting in the tortured stillness of church or school impossible unless I distracted myself by bumping my knee up and down, relentlessly doodling or standing up intermittently and pacing at the back of the room. Or the forever late problem. Loosing friends because of being late, forgetting what I said I’d bring, or forgetting altogether that I would be meeting them. Getting lost going places I’ve been dozens of times. Loosing things. Paying bills late with plenty of money in the bank. Having no idea it’s picture day for my kids because I didn’t remember they bring a backpack home, let alone remember to read the papers in their backpack. Not remember its chapel day although it’s the same day every week every school year. Not remembering names. Not remembering to make lunches though kids eat lunch five days a week – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called by the school saying my child has no lunch at all. Not remembering to set my alarm. Forgetting to buy groceries although we eat all the time. When I do remember, carefully making a list, placing it in my pocket, having no idea about looking at a list when I get to the store, never thinking once that I might have a pocket – wondering around the store, no rhyme or reason, without a clue as to what is needed at home. Showing up with items we already have a dozen of. I am not kidding. Ask friends who have come to visit. I have at any given time 3 to 5 open mayonnaise, mustard, milk, peanut butter, jelly, butter, salad dressing and applesauce containers in our fridge. See, folks with ADHD overjoyed with life and embracing the moment have lots of kids, and sometimes their kids have the same challenges. Therefore the problem is compounded as many times as the children that live like their random parent.
There is no way to fake this problem. One day at work I walked the nearly ½ mile in distance from our office to the cafeteria, got myself some salad, put it in a takeout container, set my clip board and phone atop the lid and walked the ½ mile down halls, up stairs, along the very long hall, a turn, more never-ending hallways, the code punched in, through the open door to finish the long walk down another long hallway to the office. Once through my office door I set my salad and clip board down, plopped into my chair and started nibbling at my yummy salad while working on a chart on my PC. A few minutes later my thoughts were disturbed by a loud knock on the door. I walked over to open, and there stood three security guards with very pale and frightened faces. “Are you alright?” one stammered? “What?” I asked. They pointed to the floor where there was a trail of deep red blood starting at my door and going down as far as I could see. The guards said it started at the cafeteria. They wondered what in the world had happened. I glanced down. From middle of my shirt to the bottom of my white pants was a wash of red. The guards saw it too, and almost looked panicked. Laughter. Laughter until tears were flowing down my face. Doubled over, howling, gasping for air. No way to talk through the gasps. I walked the guys over to my desk and opened the lid of my salad. Beets. Lots of them. Now this could maybe happen to others that have no ADHD, but I have these situations constantly. No two incidences are the same.
Just two weeks ago I was on a trip with my husband and kids. I went to the local drug store to fill my ADHD meds. The pharmacist said it would be 10 minutes or so. I wondered around with the kids. About 10 minutes later the pharmacist tracked me down in the store, held up some keys, asking me if they were mine. Of course they were. I would have been in such a mess if I’d lost them because they were the only set for our rental car , and of course my phone was dead, couldn’t call my husband, and he had no car to pick me up. I had the car. The pharmacist had a bit of a smirk on his face when he told me that he could see I needed my ADHD meds.
Many people don’t understand that ADHD is not, first of all, a kids disorder, and secondly, a disorder created by ‘the drug companies’. There are so many misconceptions about ADHD. Many think it’s a descriptor of a person who cannot concentrate. WRONG. The brain wiring causes hyper-focus, which prevents focusing on the moment, the task needed attending to at hand. Forever there has been concessions made for men with these characteristics. The Mad Scientist and the Absentminded Professor. People will talk about how men are not able to multitask like women. There have been no allowance in culture for a women with these same characteristics. I am all woman and can not multitask at all. And even for men, comments have been often heard such as “He sure thinks he’s smart… that college education and all, but not a lick of common sense”. Now that there are advanced ways for measuring exactly what is going on in a persons brain that has this make-up, it is known that what is happening in a brain with ADHD is radically different from a person without ADHD. At last there is no denying the disorder is real, unless one has no regard for basic science. Yes, there can be dozens of other causes for the symptoms mentioned, however when those many reasons have been ruled out, meeting all criteria for the diagnosis and can effectively be treated with medication, coaching and understanding, the diagnosis can positively change a persons life and future.
I wasn’t diagnosed until my 40’s when our son was evaluated and diagnosed. This happens often. A parent seeks answers and treatment for a child facing challenges that are limiting their ability to win in life, and ta-da – Mom or Dad have the condition, too. It has a strong genetic component. My scattered state has seriously affected our son who needed badly for Mom to help him order his life so that he could have a little hope with brain wiring that was causing him to not live up to his potential. My chaos has caused pain to our other children, and pain to our marriage. Everyone needs predictability and order. Lack of order does damage.
Most of us with ADHD marry someone as opposite and ridged as God makes em. This, you can imagine, creates a lot of fun, and a lot of pain for both, and generous portions of shame for the always confused one – having a desire to be the most amazing husband or wife ever, and yet forever failing. Don’t misunderstand. A person with ADHD can transform the house into a work of art, cook an amazing meal, and can pay bills, they just have major difficulty sustaining these activities for any length of time. And if they do those three things right three days in a row, they will completely miss other very important things like locking the door at night, feeding the pet, getting a cavity filled, or putting the washed clothes from the washer to the dryer in the same day. If the spouse becomes the one who reminds, they become a sort of parent, and there is no attraction in that… who wants a romantic relationship with your Dad or Mom? YUCK! So the challenge is taking on these impossibilities yourself, maybe with the help of a coach, but not expecting your spouse to pick up the slack for you. Choose to forgive your spouse for anger they feel regarding unmet expectations. Own what is yours, stay vulnerable, yet never allow any kind of emotional abuse from your spouse (put downs, derogatory comments, taking control, minimizing your freedoms, etc..) even though you have provided an easy target for your spouse to justify their negativity regarding you. Grieve for your unmet expectations of being able to live a bit more free and spontaneous. Work at respecting your spouses’ needs without being the one to meet every last one, setting yourself up for failure and he or she up for dependency. Your spouses natural internal stability and rhythm can be a great benefit to you if both of you are respectful and want to see each other win in life.
The best part of being ADHD is that life is never boring. If one never runs out of gas, one never get to explore out of the way towns, meet helpful people, and is never necessarily grateful for the seemly insignificant blessings like the times one hasn’t run out of gas. Really, I only need to watch a few movies in my life, because they are brand new for me every time, even for the 35th time. I know who my real friends are. The fragile sort who can’t take my constant forgetfulness and have me pegged as a thoughtless flake last about a week and are gone. The ones I have long term know they are truly loved by me in ways that may not be conventional, but are signals of love nonetheless. ADHD allows me to think about an idea and go deep with what I’m thinking about. Allows me to look at things through different lenses. My life is a dance, a song, a twirl, a twist. It’s an amazing collection of challenges. I’m lucky I have ADHD. Glad I have plenty to laugh at myself about. What would life be like to do it all perfectly, with one rare mess up, the complete and total undoing of my image. That would be painful.
Life is getting easier. The more grace I receive from others, and grace I give myself, the less impossible creating some pockets of order has become. Routine is the key for me. But very flexible routine. If I find a system for laundry that works, but can’t get it done the day I choose for laundry day, I use the same routine the day I’m able to take the task on. That sounds like daahhhhhh for most people, but for me it has been a brand new and exciting realization. Less works better for me. I provide myself giant margins in my life. We don’t have our kids in sports, music, AWANA, Scouts, anything but school and church. I’m not in choir, singing for a big band, in a women’s Bible Study, or on any boards. We’ve done those before throughout the years, and will return to them once I get past the complications of this breast cancer, but I have to keep sanity, connectedness, stories, listening, and a crazy slow pace at the top to manage life. When we do add in activities again, it’s one at a time for each of us. I use alarms many times a day. I even put my list on my phone alarm. Like set the alarm so that when I think I’m going to be at the grocery store it will go off and remind me to remember I have a pocket with a list in it that I need to look at. Our trunk is continually being filled with bags of give away. The more stuff there is to manage, the more difficult life is. I have friends that give me ideas, that sometimes help me organize, that help me catch up on life. Friends that know me and my mess and love me anyway.
If you struggle with any of these symptoms, go find a doctor who has respect and a broad understanding of Adult ADHD and ask to be evaluated. If you don’t struggle with these challenges, love your friends and family that do. And if you’re not a believer in ADHD, come on over. If you still don’t believe, I’m sorry to inform you that you have a different disorder called PAHTHSLDFAE – People Always Have To Have Some Lame Diagnosis For An Excuse – also refereed to as AAKD (Arrogant All-knowing Dweebs).