Let me start this off the right way. I have not been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. There has not been any medical examination to tell me whether or not I have it for sure. However, this has not been without a lack of trying. Without giving away too much information (not that it’s hard to find), I live in a small town in Alaska that is located roughly 100 miles from Anchorage. The medical facilities here leave much to be desired. Almost a year ago I went to my doctor to talk about the fact that I was sure that I have ADD.
[Just a side note: I’m going to refer to ADD/ADHD as ADD especially when refering to myself from here on out. I don’t seem to have the H, but the more I lose weight (I am currently 300+lbs) I feel myself getting more antsy and “hyper”.]
When I went to my doctor and expressed my concerns, he said that he would be glad to help me, but neither he, nor anyone else in the town is properly qualified to diagnose ADD. He contacted the local Mental Health Agency and said they would call within 3 days. I went home and eagerly awaited the call… for five days. I then called the hospital, who referred me to the Mental Health Agency. I called them, and when they couldn’t find me in the system, they took my information and put me on the “list”. Almost a year later and I’m still waiting for that call. And if they do call, my first words to them will be “Well thank goodness I wasn’t suicidally depressed!!!”.
All I wanted out of that doctor visit was to confirm or deny my suspicions. Anybody can tell you they are sick with some condition, but it takes a doctor to make it believable and worthy of action. That’s what I wanted. If I had a doctor confirm to the best of his/her ability that I have ADD, I would like to pursue some help with it.
I have done a lot of “Internet” research on the subject of ADD. Mostly I have been looking through Tips, Tricks, and Hacks to help me with my tendencies. I have come to understand myself a lot better now, and I have found out things about myself that I have never known, but have been witness to the effects and aftermath. After hearing the descriptions and stories from people all over who have been diagnosed, I am 100% positive that I have Attention Deficit Disorder. (However, I would still like a diagnosis.)
So what is it like to have ADD? There is a lot of ignorance on the subject, and we’ve all heard the jokes (Hell, I used the most common one in the title of this post!). I have heard many descriptions from diagnosed individuals, but I feel we can always use one more. Therefore, I would best describe having ADD as being trapped in a mind that is always looking for stimulation. You are always on the lookout for something interesting and entertaining. It’s the simplest explanation I could come up with.
The scientific explanation (so far as we have discovered) says that people with ADD have a lack of Dopamine within their brain. I think this fits with my description of what it’s like to have ADD. Dopamine is the “Feel Good” hormone in our brain. It’s the reward system of our body. Whenever you do something good (eat chocolate, have sex, hug a loved one, etc) dopamine is released in your brain to tell you Hey, you should do that again. Dopamine is also a neurotransmitter which is essential for the function of the brain. Without Neurotransmitters, your neurons can’t transmit and your brain goes dead (this falls into the “Bad Things” category). Now I am not a scientist, (though I have thought about pursuing that field) but I think that if a brain were hurting for dopamine, it would look as long and as hard as possible for stimulation to create dopamine! Therefore, people with ADD tend to drift and have a really hard time doing mundane tasks.
Probably the first real evidence that I have ADD (that I am aware of) happened when I was in middle school. My grades would be great at the beginning of the year and then start to get worse towards the middle of the year. I would come back in to class and my homework would be partially done or not done at all. I would have trouble realizing that an upcoming due date for a project was really happening next week. (terms like the 18th meant nothing to me.) If we had to repeat a lesson because someone didn’t understand, I would get frustrated even though I understood why we had to do it. You might be reading this thinking “well this kid just hated school” or “well you just weren’t being smart” or something etc. etc. Well turns out, that’s what my Parents and Teacher thought as well. However, I would continuously frustrate them because all of my test scores were awesome! That’s basically what it came down to in the end. Bad at homework, great at tests.
This trend continued straight through high school. I would do terrible at finishing my homework, and then ace the tests. Especially Math. Math was the bane of my existence. We would spend all day learning how to do a bunch of math problems, and then they would send me home with 50 more to do. I didn’t like math at all. If I knew how to do the problem I didn’t want to do 50 more of them. I could sometimes choke down the ability to get it done some nights, but it was SO HARD to concentrate on doing math problems when my brain was looking for something, ANYTHING more entertaining to do. And when you are sitting in your bedroom filled with all of your cool stuff and video games… you’re pretty much doomed from the start. I was bored! That’s basically all it came down to. I would love school if the lessons were shorter and we had just moved on when it was learned.
That’s why people who have ADD will talk about how they go off on these little tangents. It’s the Drifting that they talk about, and the source for the “SQUIRREL!” Joke (Besides the movie UP). Basically You can be talking to someone, and they will say a word that will trigger a thought process that you end up following for a while, inside your head until you snap back to reality and realized you have missed almost all of the story of how their workday sucked. The exact same thing goes for reading. You can read a paragraph about something and the word “list” reminds you that you have to go to the grocery store, because part of your ritual for going to the grocery store involves making a list. Then you imagine yourself going there and getting something like a banana, but all of a sudden you are thinking of your friend Joe and his relationship with Brandina because you saw them the last time you were there buying bananas and they looked like they were a bit tense. Then you start thinking about how your last relationship with your girlfriend/boyfriend went and how things could have worked out had you only been listening to her when she was telling you about how bad her workday was. Eventually you will get back to reading and you’ll have to start back at the last sentence you remember, but you have to take those little trips, because your brain needs the stimulation and it’s the one calling the shots.
That’s why life is hard for a person with ADD. They need the stimulation all the time, and if they aren’t getting it, they’ll sure as hell look for it. Chores become more of a chore than they already are. To normal people this might sound like a slight inconvenience, but to a person with ADD, this can become a source of stress that is nigh impossible to overcome. I hate doing daily chores, but I live alone so I have no choice but to do them. The problem is, when I do something around the house, I have a problem finishing it. I will eat food and then leave my plate wherever I am. I will start a project, then leave a mess. I will watch movies and play games, but not put anything away. Therefore, daily chores become this never ending battle for my own house.
And that’s just one aspect of my day!
Here is one of my days in a nutshell, in fact, this is probably exactly how tomorrow will go:
I will wake up. Spend my morning rushing around getting ready for work. Work 8 to Noon. Go home for Lunch. Work 1 to 5. Come home and eat something light. Go pickup my buddy for swimming. Swim at Open Swim from 6:30 to 8. go home and eat dinner. Waste time online until I go to bed at 11ish. The next day will go exactly the same minus the swimming. I have been trying to replace it with some other exercise routine.
I try to fit as much entertainment into those 5-6:30 and 8-11ish time slots that I can in order to keep sane. Chores are the last things on my mind during the week. But you have to do them, so I fit them in wherever I can. Mostly this occurs on the weekends. I have found a few ways of making chores easier. The two most effective ways are listening to Audiobooks or stand up comedians while I work. Then there is also doing the chores in small blocks of time sandwiched by periods of rest. (http://www.unfuckyourhabitat.com/ is a great resource for that).
My point is (I think) How is anyone supposed to live with their brain being wired abnormally? I can think of many other conditions that would be worse having, but how is anyone supposed to live with it? My only answer to myself has been one step at a time, one problem at a time. “Just Keep Swimming” as Dory from Finding Nemo would say.
Do you have ADD/ADHD? Hearing my story, do you think I have ADD/ADHD? What signs did you have? Did you notice it before others did? What knowledge can you pass on to me or anyone else who may be reading? please leave a comment down below!
Thank you for your time!