Tag Archives: adult adhd symptoms

The Daily Choice

It took a long time for me to admit that I actually had ADHD. This is pretty common for most whom have been diagnosed as an adult. It’s a thing kids have, right?

abstract-1231870_1920

On one hand, when I learned and understood what the symptoms were a feeling of peace actually came over me. This explained everything! I’m not a nut-job!

I came to understand, but I didn’t really accept. There is a difference, and it is profound.

For a while I used it as an excuse to explain my abnormal behaviors.

“Jim, you forgot to pick up your daughter from school!”

Hand slapping forehead: “Damn that ADD!”

You can probably guess how far that route took me. Every other day some event would happen and I would spiral. It’s no fun for anyone involved.

After a particularly brutal spiral I made a decision to learn everything I could about ADHD. I read books, blogs and dissertations. I talked  to people who had dealt with it for many years, some who’d known about it for a short time, and several who said, “Oh yeah! I have ADD, too!” But weren’t doing anything about it.

I re-read a classic book on the condition and a couple of truths hit me between the eyes, like a horse kicking some sense into me.

First, ADHD is a disorder. It is a bonafide medical condition, neurobiopsychosocial disorder. And it wasn’t going away just because I wished it would do so.

Second, short of divine intervention, my disorder wasn’t going to be cured. Unlike a broken leg, which would mend with proper treatment, my disorder was permanent. Maybe it could improve over time, but it wouldn’t be cured. I was born this way.

Third, because I was born different, there were two very different actions I needed to take that I had not yet done: I needed to mourn the fact that I wasn’t born with normal brain function. There were certain executive functions that I would always find hard to do. I would struggle with organization, focus, distractability, and other behaviors.

In grieving, I would also do the other necessary step: I would accept and embrace my condition. I was born this way. Because this was so, I chose to believe that I was born this way for a reason.

While I would most definitely struggle with certain things, I would also excel in different areas, too. Being very creative, I think quickly about problems and solutions, often seeing downstream much farther than my “normie” friends and colleagues. I am visionary in certain ways. I can easily grasp the big picture. As a creative type, I routinely put hyper-focus to good use, especially when I write.

The other concept I came to accept was more difficult, because it requires discipline and constant awareness.

As one born with a disorder, I must make a daily choice to accept and manage its effects to the best of my ability. Does this mean I’ll be perfect in managing the nuances of this disorder? Hardly. It just means that I will do whatever is necessary to keep it in check as best as I can.

The fact is, as much as I might attempt to be perfect, it’ll never happen. No one – not even the most organized normies, are perfect. At best I can minimize my weaknesses and accentuate my strengths.  That’s all anyone can do – it’s all you can do.

So…accept. Make a choice today to do all you can. When you have moments where things don’t work out, have grace with yourself.

The Calendar is Your Best Friend

 

Josh W. is a fairly successful nonprofit executive with nearly 25 years experience in the industry. His resume includes a number of fairly public accomplishments along with successes that no one but his colleagues would know about.

For most of his career he operated without the knowledge that he had ADHD. So, while he experienced a number of accomplishments, he admits that it was a constant struggle. “Every day seemed like an exercise in survival. I was accomplishing things but still would come up short. It was hard to enjoy a success because I was always running behind on other projects.”

pocket-watch-731301_1920

Every Monday, Josh made a habit of creating a list of things he needed to get done for that week. The list was comprised of many new items, tasks with a deadline, and catch-up actions carried over from the previous week. Sometimes his list would have 15-20 items. “It would get way too long…and it didn’t even include stuff that would come up during the week!”

Recently Josh was confronted by his boss who told him that a key fundraising partner had grown so frustrated with him that he no longer wanted to work with Josh. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Josh, or recognized Josh’s talent, it was that Josh’s responses and follow-through were so inconsistent that he felt his own effectiveness was being compromised.

“I thought that this relationship was just fine,” Josh says. “In fact, I thought it was the best it had ever been, so I was shocked when I heard what was said about me.” At first he didn’t believe the feedback (denial…sound familiar?), but he went back and looked at his email record over the past year and discovered on several occasions where he missed small deadlines, or simply didn’t follow through on some tasks he said he would get done.

“Immediately I felt ashamed,” he said. People with ADHD, even high achievers, have lived a lifetime of suffering from low self-esteem. It is especially poignant when the behavior in question puts a job or relationship in jeopardy. “Obviously my failure to follow-through wasn’t intentional.  It was a result of not managing my ADHD. Because my to-do list, my system for getting things done, was so inefficient, it led to a loss in trust with an important person, and also fed the deep-seated belief that I am, at the core, incompetent.”

Unfortunately, forgetfulness, distraction and inefficiency are all hallmarks of unmanaged ADHD. Heck, even when it is managed these traits are present! So, what is the answer? How can people with ADHD become more efficient, preserve trust, and not feel like they are in a constant state of survival?

A part of the answer is in making the calendar your best friend.

There are a couple of things ADHDers avoid like the plague: planning (too confining) and completing (we get distracted).  It’s not that we don’t like to get things done – we do. And, it’s not that we aren’t amenable to a good strategy. But, without a solid structure we will go sideways.

A calendar – especially an electronic one – provides incredible structure. It becomes even more effective when the calendar is shared with others. This creates a level of accountability that will help strengthen focus. So, here are some rules to consider when creating a rock-solid, ADHD-proof calendar.

Rule #1  Begin with hard deadlines. Whether it is turning in a report, completing a project, or making an important appointment, the hard deadline (something with a specific date and time) gets put on the calendar first.

Rule #2  Insert standing meetings and appointments. Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment or a staff meeting, get your standing meetings on the docket so you don’t double-book.

Rule #3  Increase the time needed to complete a task. Here’s something really important to remember if you have ADHD: it will take you longer to get something done versus the time it takes a normie to get things done – especially tasks that are dull and routine in nature. So, if you think it will take an hour to get a report done, factor in two hours on your calendar. First, this gives you enough time to get things done. Second, if you finish earlier, well, then you have time to chase more shiny objects!

Rule #4  Schedule details. Let’s say you have a project to complete that will require you to make phone calls, write some things, have a conference call, etc. Pencil out every single detail and put them in chronological order, and then put each of those details into your calendar. If you have a phone call to make, even if it needs to take place a week from now, put it in your calendar. Do this and you won’t forget any detail.

Rule # 5  Schedule “down time”, hobby time, and other times you’ll need for re-charging. Don’t short-change yourself on this. Neuroscience has taught us that after times of intense focus (and for us, every moment of focus is work!), we need some down-time to refresh and re-charge. If we’ve been in a period of hyper-focus, the re-charge is essential.

Rule #6  Keep your calendar visible. Keep a sidebar open on your computer, on the desktop of your cell phone or tablet. Also program reminders into your calendar visual and audio reminders.

 

So, for anyone with ADHD the calendar can be your best friend, and the best defense against feeling like you’re incompetent.

 

Sometimes, Having ADHD Really Sucks

There are times when having ADHD really is a blessing. For whatever reason, when we were born our wiring was different. The advantages of this wiring is that we tend to exhibit a higher degree of creativity and dimensional thinking, among other traits.

workshop-984022_1920

I like to think that mankind would never have progressed without people whose wiring was different. ADHDers are risk takers, adventurers, explorers, inventors, creators. We will walk into the unknown places and dive into the world of shadows.

While this insatiable hunger for novelty has led to incredible cultural progress, the dark secret is that we must walk into the line of fire because our brains need the stimuli.

Let’s face it, boredom feels like a kind of slow and torturous death. Routine, structure, linear systems and thinking…these are the bane of existence for an ADHDer. And yet, to make our way in this world, we need to manufacture a way to build structure.

This process is maddening. For most normies keeping a calendar or mowing through a list of priorities, balancing a checkbook, remembering to walk the dog, or keeping a closet orderly are fairly simple and easy tasks. Not for the ADHDer. Activities like these are as difficult as crossing the Pacific Ocean in a row boat.

Undiagnosed and unmanaged ADHD is really messy. And, it really sucks. The longer it goes unrecognized and not addressed, the worse it gets, the crazier we feel, the weirder people think we are.

We screw up relationships, lose jobs, isolate, get depressed, live a life of not so quiet desperation.  Statistically we know that these things are true. If we continue to be round pegs trying to fit into square holes the frustration and dissatisfaction will continue to grow.

So what can we do? How can we put this mad life to an end and begin living a life that we love? I think there are four important things we have to do to set the stage for living a satisfying, soul quenching life.

Don’t fear a diagnosis. Embrace it. The moment you accept that you have a neuro-biological medical disorder called ADHD, the better off you will be. There is a reason why you act impulsively, forget stuff, and have difficulty keeping your desk organized. Embracing the diagnosis brings relief and clarity, opening the door to a new possibility for a satisfying, authentic life.

Take care of your brain. That is, do what you can do to improve brain function. Take your meds, vitamins and supplements. Eat healthy foods and cut the junk.  Exercise. Meditate, Take breaks, especially after a period of intense mental activity. Reduce bad stress. Quit worrying. Seek forgiveness.

Practice spirituality. A spiritual connection is essential. This connection helps us to get out of our heads, focus on a purpose bigger than ourselves, see to the needs of others, fill the emptiness inside of us, provide  sustenance to our souls.  Whatever your spiritual connection might be, practice it daily. The spiritual connection can help bring sanity to what might seem a crazy life, can create grace and mercy where there was once admonishment and self-destructive negativity, cover us in love rather than blame.

Take directed action daily. Have a goal and work toward it. Do at least one thing each day that brings you closer to this goal. Something you may have to do is take a look at what you are doing. Are you in a job that takes best advantage of your skills and natural talents? Are you in a mutually supportive relationship? Take a look at the life you’re currently living – is it authentic? What doesn’t fit? Will you make the changes you need to have the life you love? Directed action every day will take you deeper into what strengths you need to nurture, and what things you need to let fall away.

None of these things are easy, but, you are an amazing creation of God. You have everything you need right now to succeed. Get real and get help. Having ADHD doesn’t have to suck.

Ground Control to Major Tom…Sympathy for the Space Cadet

Imagine you are sitting in a meeting, maybe it’s a conference call, and for the first 15 minutes you’re hearing every word being said by the other participants. But then you look out your window and see a man walking a dog. Your mind wanders.

Suddenly the voices coming through your phone simply become a part of the background, white noise. What matters is that you’re looking out the window, mind blank, the man and the dog are gone, and so is your focus.

Twenty minutes later you hear someone calling your name. It’s a disembodied voice piping through the phone. Your heart leaps a little when you realize you did it again – spaced out when you should have been tuned in.

People with inattentive ADD truly understand this scenario. It’s been a part of our lives for as long as we can remember.  In fact, the bungee bounce we do between daydreaming and hyper-focus defines the better part of our consciousness.

When it comes to ADHD, most folk think of the “H”. Unfortunately, people with inattentive ADD typically don’t manifest the “H” in obvious ways. Oh, it’s there. It’s just harder to see.

Because it’s harder to see, a majority of people with the inattentive variety of ADD aren’t easily diagnosed (or are never diagnosed). One of the reasons more boys are diagnosed than are girls is that females tend to have inattentive ADD. Many women aren’t diagnosed until their children are diagnosed.

So, what characteristics might we look for in someone with inattentive ADD? Here is a list of nine common traits. A person with inattentive ADD will manifest at least seven of these.

Careless mistakes. Oh man, has this one bitten me in the butt! I’ll have written an article in record time, proud of myself for beating a deadline. I think it’s perfect and click send…only to learn that I’ve transposed letters in a person’s name and have two other typos – including one in the headline. Lesson: please, get someone to proof your work.

Short attention span. I’d say this is a dominant characteristic of inattentive ADD. If we’re doing something boring, mundane, routine – it’s a given that we’ll be looking out the window, or even staring at our computer screen for hours…

No follow through. We start really well…and then the attention thing kicks in, we get distracted, forget to write down what the next step is supposed to be, misplace the phone number we’re supposed to call. And then…nothing happens. And the people around us quickly lose faith and trust in our ability to get anything done.

Poor listening skills. It’s a fact, our mind begins to wander…especially during a long conversation. Or, something pops into our head and we interrupt, blurting out the disconnected thought. Either way, we’re not listening. And, when we are listening, it’s not uncommon for us to ask our partner in the conversation to repeat what they said many times.

Forgetfulness. Another key characteristic. Here’s the deal, if you don’t write down the things you need to do, and remember to look at your list frequently, you will forget to do things.

Misplacing things. Have you ever left your car keys in the refrigerator? I have…

Laziness or apathy. Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I was called lazy. But, we’re not lazy, are we? Apathetic, maybe. To be engaged we need to be interested in what we’re doing. If we’re not interested, we don’t care.

Distractability. We specialize in rabbit-trailing. Shiny objects…well, you know. It’s real easy for us to get off track.

Disorganization. Our filing system tends to be a series of stacks. Our car hasn’t fit into our garage for decades.

Whew! Are you tired yet? You see, being inattentive takes a lot of energy. It’s not uncommon for us to be completely tapped out when we get home at night. Our condition creates a lot of stress.

That being said, there is a way to manage this stuff, reduce the drama, and actually create a life that is fulfilling.

In the coming weeks we’ll tackle a few of these tactics with a goal of experiencing a new level of authenticity and joy.

The Responsibility is Mine

Ever have a time in your life when everything – I mean everything – seems to be going in the wrong way? You and your S/O bicker about every little thing. Maybe you’re asked a direct question and you give a vague, non-committal answer, or, your social editor goes on hiatus and you blurt an answer that you wish you could immediately take back?

While that’s happening at home, stuff at work is mounting, too. You fall behind on a project, you forget to do daily, routine tasks. You miss deadlines, show up late to an important meeting, say something inappropriate to your boss or to a customer. Voila! You are the proverbial frog in a vat of water that is slowly coming to a boil. Pretty soon you will be fried.

The bank calls. Your rent check bounced. Your daughter calls. You were supposed to pick her up at the airport an hour ago. You’re standing in the middle of a grocery store, staring dumbly at the different brands of coffee – you’ve forgotten what you needed to pick up.

Things can go to hell pretty quickly when you have ADHD.

We’re lucky. It’s real easy to blame everything on having ADHD! Woo hoo! We have the perfect, built-in excuse! Isn’t that exciting!?

Yep, ADHD is a built-in excuse, an explanation for our sometimes erratic, seemingly irresponsible behavior. In fact, it really is not an excuse at all – stuff does happen (or not happen) because we do have ADHD. This neurological/biological disorder is very real and can create real problems.

That being said, our behavior affects others – and sometimes at the worst possible moment. That inappropriate thing said to our S/O? It could literally cause a hurt heart for years. Forgetting to do mundane tasks at work? Welcome to the unemployment line. Bounce the rent check because you handle money about as well as a teenage girl on a shopping spree with Dad’s credit card…you get the picture.

We never mean to do the odd stuff that we do. Typically our hearts are in the right place but, for whatever reason – impulsivity, bad timing, lack of an internal editor – our social ticker is off a few beats. Nevertheless, spouses, girlfriends, friends, bosses will at some point feel the effects of our unique talents for getting in trouble.

So, what can you do?

First, stop making excuses. Own whatever it was that happened. Take absolute responsibility.

Second, make amends. Make sure that whoever was affected by what you have done understands fully that you are responsible, and that you’ll do whatever is necessary to make things right – and do whatever is possible to not let whatever happened occur again.

Next, become a keen observer of your behavioral patterns. Essentially, step outside of yourself and notice the types of stuff you do that is outside the norm. What leads to doing these things? Is there a trigger? Numerous triggers? What are your feelings? Take note of what is going on that initiates this behavioral pattern.

After that, do your best to be mindful of those feelings, triggers, and situations that precipitate the behavior. Awareness can allow you to disrupt the pattern.

For example, let’s say you have a pattern of interrupting people during intense conversations. The trigger might be a feeling of being threatened or accused or confronted. Your brain gets over-stimulated through a flood of adrenaline and you must defend, respond, interrupt.

When you feel this happening, you’re mindful that you are about to open your mouth at exactly the wrong moment, take a deep breath, close your mouth, and listen. Just listen. Take as many deep breaths as you need to take whenever you feel the words scrambling to the tip of your tongue. Breathe. Just breathe.

It will be difficult at first. But, the more mindful you become, the more often you practice this, the easier it will become. You’ll find that you’re developing a new pattern, a healthier response that is more socially connective.  Guess what? You’re absolutely responsible for this behavior, too.

The more you do this, the more patterns you disrupt, the better life will be. You won’t disrupt everything. You won’t catch every behavior. That’s okay. Roll with it. Take responsibility. Forgive yourself.

The more you do this the more graceful you will be with yourself and with others, and the more grace you will receive.

And it begins with owning it all. No excuses. You are responsible. Joyfully responsible for all that you do.