Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder isn’t just for kids. About 4% to 5% of U.S. adults have it. But few adults get diagnosed or treated for it. About seven years ago, I was diagnosed with adult ADHD.
That’s a lie.
In first grade, I was diagnosed with all of the symptoms of attention deficit disorder but I’m not sure that’s what the school counselor who conducted the tests called the prognosis in the conference with my parents.
I wasn’t a participant in that conference and don’t know what the counselor said or how my parents reacted. The result of the meeting was one-on-one classes a few times a week.
I’m not sure why I abruptly stopped attending those classes.
My mom explained that I “tested out of them” but this is the same overprotective Italian mother who told me that my pet rabbit ran off to live on a farm upstate (he died) and that the medical term for my private parts was a “peesh.”
After a couple weeks of cohabitation with my then-girlfriend, now ex-wife, she asked if I’d ever been tested for adult ADHD. Her ex-boyfriend was diagnosed with adult ADHD and he and I exhibited many of the same traits.
At least I think that’s what she said. I walked away from our conversation, mid-sentence.
That’s normal behavior.
The tests were conclusive. I was put on meds immediately. Life got slightly easier but it’s still a daily struggle.
Here’s what I, and others with adult ADHD, deal with on a daily basis.
19 Things Only People With Adult ADHD Will Understand
1) Everything is a distraction
Especially flashing lights on computers, phones, monitors and screens. There’s a chat box hopping up and down on my screen as I write this and it’s taking every ounce of restraint not to look at it every time.
2) Adult ADHD has nothing to do with “a lack of organization.”
It’s also got nothing to do with interest. Even things I love only get half my focus. I love writing, especially fiction, but can’t sit down for longer than fifteen minutes and write without getting the shakes. Even if I’m writing the next great American novel. I’m not writing the next great American novel, and thank God, because I’d never finish and die miserable.
3) Everyone thinks they have it
As soon as I tell people I’ve got adult ADHD I get to hear a twenty-minute story about how they also have adult ADHD but it’s not diagnosed and how they do all the same things and how they totally relate. The fact that they think they’ve got adult ADHD actually makes it feel as though what I’ve got is “no big deal” and the rest of the world somehow just deals with it all day. They don’t have. They don’t get it.
4) Reading is impossible in most circumstances.
If there is any other noise going on my mind goes “read, read, read, listen, read, listen, listen, READ DAMN YOU…ugh, nevermind, just listen…”
5) Everything gets started but nothing gets usually gets done.
Not much gets done. Unless it has to. Even then it’s a 50/50 chance of seeing a completion.
6) It might be worse than I realize
I have adult ADHD but I feel like it’s more just adult ADD.
I was much more hyper as a kid. There’s very little hyper going on these days. I’ve mellowed in my age. I think it was the hyper that raised the red flags at school. I don’t feverishly rub my hands together for no good reason or shake them out like jazz hands anymore. Well, not as much.
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7) Technology makes it worse.
In his book I Wear the Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman mentions that a friend of his — also a writer — once commented the problem he has with writing and distractions is that (paraphrasing) “his writing tool is also his porn delivery tool.”
In other words, a computer performs thousands of other functions to distract from the task at hand.
I do one hundred other things on the computer while doing the one thing I’m supposed to be doing on the computer.
8) It’s impossible to plan to do things.
One of the keys to writing — not this type of writing but longform writing — is to set aside a time every day to write. Now, I can say to myself “tomorrow at 2pm I’m going to write” but when tomorrow at 2pm comes I’m either busy doing something else, forgot I made the personal commitment or just don’t want to do it. Even if I’m doing NOTHING ELSE I still won’t sit down and do what I intended to do.
9) I often walk around clueless
I will walk into a room and do everything else but what I walked into the room to do. I’ll walk out of the room forgetting I didn’t do the thing I wanted to do. This all becomes a realization hours later.
I’ll walk into the room again and the same thing happens again. On the plus side, a ton of stuff gets done. Just not the one thing I need done.
10) I’m trying to listen. It’s not working.
I’m looking at you. I hear the words, and see your mouth moving, but can’t make promises that the words are finding a way into my head.
There are too many imaginary animals dancing around inside the cranium to be 100% sure I’m comprehending the conversation.
Don’t take offense if I ask you to repeat yourself a thousand times or forget something you’ve told me. Honestly, I didn’t forget.
I probably never heard it to begin with.
11) I’m going to interrupt you.
I didn’t mean to interrupt you while you were talking. Go on. Sorry. I did it again.
12) Drugs help a little
There are drugs that help, which is good, except those drugs can also be abused by people without ADHD. Those people take Adderall, Ritalin, Strattera and the like to do MORE work and get MORE done. I’m taking them to just get ANYTHING done. I’m taking meds to make it through the day and not get fired.
13) But there are side effects.
The adult ADHD drugs have side effects.
Nothing like piss your pants, bleed for hours, four hour hard-on type side effects but some have been linked to weight gain, thoughts of suicide and open Pandora’s box to trying other addictive drugs. I’ve never wanted to kill myself and never will. Things are bad but they ain’t that bad. I’ve never done a drug stronger than weed.
My weight is one hundred percent linked to my love of ice cream. Research and findings on the long term side effects of these drugs isn’t yet available but I look at it very much like a professional athlete taking performance enhancing drugs — I’ll win the batting title this year and deal with my other bat turning into a swimming noodle some other time.
14) You wonder “what if?” often
I often wonder what my life would look like now if I took the meds back in grade school, high school, college and the first ten years in the working world.
Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten straight Cs, had to take summer courses and gotten laid off from numerous jobs.
15) It makes you see the negative
My personal Facebook page has over 65K Fans. I’ve written four books. I do stand-up in comedy clubs on the same stage, sometimes on the same show, as some of the biggest names in comedy. I’ve interviewed some of the biggest celebs in the world.
I still sometimes feel like a professional failure.
16) I screw up easy stuff
I’ve screwed up the numbering of this list countless times and caught myself. I needed another editor to look it over. Unfortunately, I can’t double check all my work or have someone over my shoulder making sure I don’t screw things up. That’s why spelling errors get made and stove burners are left on.
17) I’m good at faking it
People always comment I’m such a nice guy. I’m glad because underneath the smile and jokes I’m a moody, irritable and often unhappy person.
I don’t know why.
The fact that I feel this way usually makes me moody, irritable…you get it.
18) I’m worried
I’ve got two kids. The thought that this issue might be genetic scares the fuck out of me.
19) It’s manageable but never curable
Besides the meds, I’ve learned to manage my tendencies. I make daily lists, leave reminders and try as hard as possible to organize the chaos. It works about 70% of the time. In related news, I started writing this article in April and I’m finally finishing and publishing it today.
That should tell people all they really need to know.
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