I’ve been thinking a lot about a blog that I posted last year on my Myspace, the one where I was talking about my ADHD and how it has been since finding out last April that my “quirkiness” (read: “annoying habits”) had roots in something even I didn’t figure.

It’s been a road full of ups and downs – ups that let you want to embrace your creative side (and finally start to map a plan to finishing your always-in-progress novel), feed your adventurous side (like sitting on a Harley Davidson and formaing a plan to make it a reality) and realize that there are a lot of fun and fabulous things that make you you. The downs though are the disappointments that come from unrealistic expectations, the fact that all the medication in the world will not tell you where you parked your car, and the realization that you have to fight boredom with every fiber of your being, lest it drags you down into a desperate place that makes your ADHD switch into overdrive and clean the whole house in under an hour, just so you can say you achieved something that day. (And yes, I did that!)

Anyway, part of me thinks that what I wrote was quite informative and there may be someting in it that other people might find useful. Part of me also wants to repost it as a reminder of how far I have come, mixed with a little dose of hope that it might spark an understanding for those of you who might happen to know someone who has ADHD.

Whatever the reasons that find you reading this, I hope you like it, enjoy it, or at least take something positive away from it.

And the next time I ask you where I parked my car, though you might laugh and shake your head for the umpteenth time, I hope that a part of you understands I don’t do these things on purpose.

Much love

New Beginings – posted August 3rd, 2007

Have you ever found yourself trying to get what you want to write to go in a particular direction, only to be thwarted by a lack of prose and an inability to get your brain to pay attention? Well this is me now and, I have to say, it is quite distracting to say the least.

My mind keeps going back to the Friends Reunited pages that I was rooting through this morning, as I wondered somewhat reminiscently what interesting things had happened to my classmates since those good old days of school. So much time has passed since we were all sitting our exams and dreaming of tomorrow, all the while wondering where we might end up but not really knowing how to get there. It was interesting to see familiar names and read in their profiles that time, and indeed life, has been kind to the most of them.

I consider myself most fortunate in so many ways to be blessed with the life I have now. There is very little I would change about my today (nothing a few more hours at the gym wouldn’t fix, for starters) but it certainly causes you to pause and think about all the things in your yesterdays you would gladly have changed, and wonder if, should you ever get to relive any of it, would you still do what you did the first time.

I used to be one of those people, wishing with all my heart for that one chance to go back into the past and change great swathes of my life, hoping against hope that it would be better than what it was and that – with the knowledge of today – I could make better decisions so that my tomorrows wouldn’t be quite as hard as they seemed to be.

Of course, if we change anything, if we re-write even one tiny ounce of our yesterday, would we still manage to find our way onto the path that makes our today so awesome? Would hubby and I have ever met if I tweaked the past and changed my choices that life brought before me? Would I still be the personality I am today that makes my friends laugh and lets my heart love them as part of my specially selected, and ever-growing, family? Probably not – and that’s probably why nobody has ever admitted to making a time machine.

An interesting thing happened to me a few months ago and that is part of why today is such a trip down memory lane and a measure of how far away my yesterdays are to where I am today. It was through a series of interesting conversations with my beloved hubby that we started to suspect there might be a little case of ADD in my life. Was this why I have the attention span of a goldfish and the ability to lose random objects within three seconds of having them in my hand? Was this one of the quirky reasons I can start a ton of projects and never finish any of them – yet feel exhausted from darting about all day trying to get them done? Might this explain why I can have a single conversation that changes direction so often, even I lose track of what we were talking about? Could this be why I can’t pay attention to many conversations because I can’t stop my mind wandering or thinking so many things at the same time it’s like having twenty television sets playing in your head, and each one is tuned to a different channel? (I heard that from someone and, sadly I can’t credit them with it because I can’t remember who said it.

It was back in April that I dragged hubby along with me to ask the doctor what they thought of our theory. Part of the reason I took him along was to not come across as some neurotic google bunny who thinks self-diagnosis via the internet is a good and viable pastime. The other part of the reason was because, in the UK if you go to your local doctor, especially if you live in some obscure backwater somewhere, the doctors don’t take too kindly to you coming in with internet printouts and a ton of questions. They work on the principle that they are the doctor and they, not you, were the ones to spend endless years in medical school, and here you are thinking you know something they don’t? Heaven forbid!!! (And yes, that actually has happened to quite a few people I know).

My doctor was quite the darling about it and after a discussion with the two of us, she actually thought our concerns were justified. Some tests later and it was looking more and more likely that ADD was indeed the fundamental cause of all this quirky and frustrating behavior.

It’s been 4 months since that conversation and a lot has changed. There is also a lot that doesn’t seem to have changed but, as I keep getting told, I set my expectation too high. I can finish a task that I start (though sometimes a distraction or too get in the way but, generally, this is a HUGE step forward); I feel calmer a lot more than usual and even have the tidal wave of thoughts hushed to barely a trickle. As a funny story for you, I have to say that there was one time hubby said I sat there looking somewhat concerned, but not really saying that anything was wrong. It transpires that your thoughts can actually shut up and leave you with a head so empty the silence seems to echo and here was me experiencing this startling phenomenon for the first time. And they say this is normal?!

There is a lot more to ADD and having ADD than I ever thought possible. I have done an extensive amount of research on it – and for anyone that knows me, this isn’t a shock – and there has been so much I have learned that I never even thought was connected to it.

Today, for example, I was reading one young man’s account of living with Adult ADHD, and some of what he said cracked me up:

Adults with ADHD are notorious for being absent-minded. We often forget where we park at the supermarket, we often forget things that we’ve set out to accomplish that day, and we may often forget to call our friends and family members when we have told them we would call them. We often forget where we left our wallet, car keys, a pen, anything like that. I once spent an entire day looking for my wallet, tearing every drawer in my dresser apart, taking my bed frame down to look under, behind, beside, in front of and behind my bed, ranting and raving around the house about how I couldn’t find my wallet, cursing everything and anyone in sight because I thought someone in my house had went rifling through my drawer and got my wallet out. Come to find out, my wallet was right in front of my computer screen where I had left it the night before when I cleaned out the pocket of my jeans. Another time I left it on the counter at the supermarket when I paid for my groceries, just walked off and left it.[1].

It amazes me to think of the number of times I have had something in my hands, like my car keys, and then barely a few seconds later I have to start tearing the place apart wondering where in the hell they vanished to when I could swear they were right there a minute ago.

In the article Mr. Bradley goes on to talk about how those with ADD can’t cope with change because we crave structure and depend on it to get us through the day. It makes me laugh to think about it because it is true – just ask hubby – and yet here I am, having moved more than 5000 miles into a new land and a new country, with a new husband who will have been married to lovely old me for two years this month… into a new role (wife, obviously), and a new house, with new shops (compared to the UK) and new experiences, and with a new ability to drive my (mostly) new car… and I don’t like change. Actually I loathe change. I would even go so far as to say it scares me and makes me anxious to the point I can make myself physically ill trying to get my head around a change that is taking place. A new job, a new house, some unexpected situation that needs dealing with and I start to feel myself franticly trying to piece together every eventuality that might present itself to make sure I have everything covered, just in case. I admire my hubby greatly for enduring what he does with me, especially now that it is actually a part of my make up, not just a little fun thing that defines me as quirky. And I remind myself all the time that, without change, I wouldn’t be here in this wonderful today that surrounds me. So perhaps it is safe to concede that, on this occasion, change is good. (Grin).

Ever since April I feel as though I have been on a roller coaster, trying to get my head around the concept of having ADD and what that means for everyone that comes into contact with me. It’s not contagious, that’s not what I mean. More, I worried that I had to explain to everyone that the reason I am as subtle as a slap in the face is because one of the symptoms[2] of ADD is an inability to disconnect your mouth from the thoughts your brain creates

Aside from the fact people with ADD can’t take being teased (as I discovered while compiling the answers for my doctor’s quiz), there is the fact that a person with ADD will listen to every word you say, and yet could deny within a matter of hours that they even had a conversation with you. We were speaking with a neurosurgeon who, in his line of work, as you can imagine, is faced with a multitude of people and circumstances that are too complex for the rest of us to understand. He confessed to us that he has to make a note that he has spoken to a particular person otherwise he will forget entirely that he has done so, going so far as to say he would pass a lie detector test to that effect. So, this just goes to show that forgetfulness can be completely un-ADD related and still require intelligent people to have to write things down.

There is no way to say, “Yes, I do care, I just can’t pay attention”, because to most people, caring and attention are practically synonymous: caring means paying attention: one pays attention because he cares.[3].

I have many quirks to my character, probably more than usual thanks to the ADD aspect. Yet it doesn’t stop me wanting to be the best that I can be, to be an achiever and make those who love me proud to be my friends. That’s not to say I have selfish goals, but rather a heart-felt desire to prove to those I love that their faith in me and their belief in me was justified.

Too long I had felt my life was an apology to those who had to share it with me. I’m quite sure there is many a psychologist eager to strip away that comment and make a lot of money piecing things together and straightening my head out, while hopefully healing my soul in the process. Sadly though, until the last few years came along, I was barely hanging on, like a fallen hiker gripping the edge of the ledge with every fiber of their being, hoping against hope that they don’t fall but really seeing no way to prevent it. Now that we are in today, and I find myself looking back on the path my life took, part of me is desperately sad for the things that developed, and yet part of me is angry too that something as simple as ADD could go undiagnosed while I struggled to pass exams, fought to remember things – I used to joke that I’d lose my head if it wasn’t glued on – and felt like an alien entity standing on the outside of reality, looking in and wondering how to get there. I wonder how different things would have been if people had only taken the time out to stop a moment and ask me, or even hazard a guess, that maybe all these annoying habits and frustrating traits were actually caused by something.

In the midst of my research, before my appointment to the doctor way back in April, I came across an article on the CBS News website that spoke of how women suffer in silence with ADHD. It seems I am not the only one to be surprised that people didn’t notice because, for women and girls, ADD presents itself very differently than it does in boys. It’s explained more closely in this article I found:

Researcher and educational therapist Jane Adelizzi, PhD, theorizes that females with ADHD have been largely neglected by researchers because hyperactivity is usually missing in girls, who typically have attention deficit disorder (ADD), the inattentive type of ADHD. But for advocates, the bottom line is this: Girls with undiagnosed ADHD will most likely carry their problems into adulthood, and left untreated, their lives often fall apart.

“Girls with untreated ADHD are at risk for chronic low self-esteem, underachievement, anxiety, depression, teen pregnancy, early smoking during middle school and high school,”; says Nadeau.[4]

The low self-esteem part is definitely, by far, the hardest element to deal with. It makes everything else seem overwhelming, because the sense of impending failure is almost as debilitating as the failure itself.

I have often wondered why it is that, even with the doctor’s help and my husband’s support, my ADD feels as crippling now as it did before we even knew what it was. There is no magic cure, sadly, and there is no amazing sense of normalness when the medication is just right and the little methods of coping start to take shape. When I went to the gym, for example, I found that if I wrote down all the instructions for the exercises, I could remember them for each time I wanted to go to the gym. Yet instead of that feeling like a sense of achievement, it made me feel as though I were a stupid child who had to make a joke of it so that, if anyone laughed at my yellow book with the stick figures and how-to instructions, then it wouldn’t sting half as hard. Even though I felt like a lame-brain for having to write everything down (with illustrations), I have been told by numerous trainers and gym staff that it is a great idea and a very useful tool. I think they wish more people would do it. (Grin).

Part of it, I realized only today, was that the stigma with ADD is my own, combined with the memories and experiences of my life before moving to the USA and finding out people actually liked me for no other reason than “because”. It’s why it has taken me almost 4 months to put into words the jumbled chaos I have been feeling ever since I realized that all those things I loathed about myself were actually rooted in a cause that could be remedied. Ok so not cured, per se, but a helping remedy that brings the tsunami down into a rippling wave has got to be worth having, right? I flitted between elation that all those annoying character traits were actually something other than just me being me, to utter devastation that the feeling like an alien concept that has framed my existence was actually real – there really was a reason, just nobody wanted to find out what that reason was.

So here I am. I have googled and searched the internet for every scrap of information I can find. I have found advice that tells me coping strategies for living your life with ADHD[5], and formulas for success[6] that are nothing to do with ADD but more to do with building self-esteem and setting goals and mapping plans to get there. Even WebMD[7] has coping strategies and advice that are worth a read – so much so that I printed them out, all of the above ones to be exact, and I have them pinned to my wall where I can see them every day and be encouraged by them.

When I reminisce about life back when I was in school, it’s not with a sense of wanting to be back in those days, far from it. While I loved drama and adored the creative writing and had an undying respect for my Modern Studies teacher who saw the best in all of us, even when we couldn’t, I look back on my school days more as a measure of how far I have come.

It is tempting to want to change the past, to iron out all the things that make your memories be sad instead of happy, or simply to change the decisions you made with better ones that only wisdom and hindsight could give you. But what would that get you? For me, it may well be a life much better than I could have imagined, with less of the traits that annoy even me, but would I be happy? It’s unlikely because, more than anything, there are no guarantees that I would find myself in this particular today. Sure I have ADD and sure I have a bit of a worry that people will look at me with a kind of “aaahhh…” and a face that says “that explains it,” but I love my today. This today, right here and right now would probably not be this one if I changed anything about my yesterdays, no matter how much I want to.

And though I still look at the things in my life with a sense of sadness at how some of them turned out, all I want to do is move onwards and upwards, making those who truly love me very proud and happy to be a part of my life and my journey.

I called this blog “New Beginnings” because I wanted to put into words all this turbulent thinking that has been bogging me down. I wanted to let this be the close of a chapter of low self-esteem and negativity because of the yesterdays, and instead be a declaration of a new chapter and a new outlook that can only be achieved with an honesty that is as raw and as true as I know it to be, and a sense of pride where once stood only shame.

I am proud of the person I have become, quirks and all. Sure there’s a reason for the majority of them that, until recently, even I didn’t know about but, you know what, who cares? It’s my quirkiness that lets my true friends love me and laugh with me, and admittedly laugh at me when the occasion presents itself, but that just keeps me humble (wink). I often wished that, when I moved to the USA , it would be a magical experience whereby I just wake up one day as the person I have longed my whole life to be. Sadly it didn’t happen that way, but I do wake up liking who I am and being excited about who I am becoming.

And for all those classmates of yesteryear who were part of my life back then, and a part of all the turbulent and uncontrollable quirkiness that wasn’t nearly as fun as it is now, I can say only this…

Just look at me now.

[1] Living with Adult ADHD. How it Affects You, Your Friends, Your Family, and Every Aspect of Your Life. By Charlie Bradley , Published Jan 31, 2007
[2] Help4ADHD.org: The disorder named AD/HD – The Symptoms. AD/HD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type: (AD/HD-HI): Talks excessively; Blurts out answers before questions have been completed; Difficulty waiting or taking turns; Interrupts or intrudes upon others.
[3] Living with ADHD Thursday May 6th, 2004 . Journal entry by John Wiegley on what it is like to live with ADHD and the perceptions of others who try (and sometimes fail) to comprehend it
[4] ADHD: A Women’s Issue. The American Psychological Association, monitor on psychology – article by Nicola Crawford, February 2nd, 2003 .
[5] Everyday ADHD Tips and Strategies. From the makers of FocalinXR.
[6] Formula for Success. From Dr Phil, and his section on Life Strategies. It also covers 10 life laws; Internal dialogue; Personal relationship values; Living authentically and Seven steps to acquiring your goals, among others.
[7] WebMD: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: ADHD in Adults – Page 1 lists typical symptoms, page 2 lists ways to live with them.