Saturday, May 12, 2012

Adult #ADHD, or "Look! A Snowflake!"

Alright. This post has been brewing at the back of my mind all day, probably actually for several days.

I have adult ADHD. This should surprise no one, and I probably have even mentioned it here in this blog before tonight. But tonight, I really want to talk about it a little bit.

Like many other people, I think I have known that I had ADHD deep down inside for a very long time, but even so, for many years I have struggled with it on my own. Midway through college I had crafted some coping strategies that have helped me to survive, finish school, and more or less hold myself together, without the help of medication.

For a variety of reasons, all of my coping strategies failed me during the course of a tumultuous 2011. I had finally reached the point where I was forced to admit I might need additional help. Therefore, early this year, I began what I like to think of as a series of pharmacological experiments. I went to my doctor, asked for, and began trials of stimulant medications intended to treat ADHD.

This has not been an easy road, but I can talk more about the various twists and turns later. After about four months of various experiments, my doctor and I have finally settled in on a medication and dosage that works for me. Voila. Magic.

It's hard to describe the effect. Really hard. Maybe a good analogy is this: it's as if I had gone around being a little bit farsighted my whole life, and had always struggled to see detail up close, or to read fine print. Meanwhile, everyone around me had normal vision, so they often teased me when I had trouble, or while I struggled to see clearly. They told me if I would just try a *little* harder, I would be able to see better. So I tried, and when that failed, I learned "coping strategies," like holding books a little farther away, squinting, etc.

Then one day, I heard that there were these things called "reading glasses."

That's kind of what it's like, only totally different, of course. Because this isn't my eyes I am talking about. It's my brain.

There's a book out there for adults with ADHD called, "You mean I'm not lazy, stupid, or crazy?" Right. Guess what? I'm not lazy. I'm certainly not stupid. I might still be crazy.


(Kind of.)

Honestly, until recently, I wasn't actually sure ADHD really existed. I wasn't sure if I had it. Now, I'm sure. Really really sure. I'm even sure that I'm sure.

Recently, I have been seeing someone who also has adult ADHD. We had a quintessential ADHD moment not long after we began dating. We were walking down a sidewalk in San Francisco at night, arm in arm, and were engaged in conversation when suddenly, mid-sentence, I trailed off, losing my train of thought, which brought our discussion to a screeching halt. Why did it happen? Because we had passed under a pole decorated with a sparkly, flashing on-and-off snowflake made of christmas lights, and it caught my attention. When my date realized I had stopped talking, he looked at me, then followed my gaze to the flashing snowflake. He then proceeded to laugh his head off. He understood all too well what had happened: I quite literally had been distracted by a shiny object.

Of course, while the snowflake incident was funny, and I appreciated that it brought me closer with my ADHD-understanding partner, the truth is that it's not much fun at all to lack control over my own focus and attention.

With the help of this new tool, I can take back control of my own attention and energy. Do you have any idea what this means?

Trouble. With bells on.


  1. Jackie,

    I had (and still do) juvenile ADHD, even thought the term "ADHD" was yet to be coined at the time I was a teen. This dates back to my early childhood all the way to high school in the early 70's My irresponsible father neglected all the gross signs and took it as a disciplinary problem, after he had been advised by a professional that I had a medical condition! What an asshole! If I had been subjected to appropriate treatment like I should have been, my life might have turned out entirely different, and I might not have ended up homeless.

    1. Wow, hi Chuck, and thanks for the response. I don't know how I made it without the medication, in all honesty. I empathize with your story. Untreated ADHD is no joke. The stigmas around mental illness that still exist really frighten me. How much worse is it that so many of us are willing to subject ourselves to unnecessary suffering because we're more afraid of the treatments than the original condition?

      I'm sorry you've suffered from neglect in the past. This is no doubt something you also still struggle with. I'm on your team.

  2. Hey, shiny objects are awesome! I found your blog by way of #blogchat – good luck and hang in there. Sounds like you've got something that works for you.

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