On Adult ADD: 5 Things I Want Non-ADD People To Know

eastrand-sunrisePeople are always surprised when I tell them I take medication because I’ve been diagnosed with ADD. “But you’re an adult,” they say, “how can you possibly have ADD?”.

Well. ADD is something that you have your whole life. Much like the colour of your eyes or the size of your ears, it’s with you for life. It starts when you’re young, and it’s still there when you’re a grown up.

Mostly the discussion around ADD starts when people ask me how I’ve lost so much weight. The truth is that the medication I take every day to keep my brain on track completely suppresses my appetite and I get so caught up in concentrating on work stuff that I forget to eat, or don’t notice that a meal time has passed and I haven’t eaten yet.Yes, it’s awesome that ADD medication helped me lose weight, but there’s so much more to my ADD that I’d like you to know.

1. I’ve always been ADD. I just hadn’t had the label applied to me until I was in my late 20s, and it was something that came up purely because it was something that we were going through, with our firstborn. Attention Deficit Disorder is the inability to concentrate. It’s distractibility. It’s the inability to filter, to prioritise. It’s not starting what you finish, because you just can’t force yourself, once you’ve lost interest. It’s an inability to multi-task. It’s forgetfulness. It’s absent-mindedness. It’s disorganised. It’s overwhelming. I don’t have the hyperactive component, which means I am not ADHD. Nor is my son.

2. The decision to medicate when you’re an adult is just as life-changing as the decision to medicate a child. Sure, I’ve made it this far in life without medicating, but it’s been tough. I’ve failed in certain areas of my life and not been able to do other things, without knowing the reason why. I’ve thought I was not good enough or I didn’t try hard enough, when in actual fact, there’s something in my brain that isn’t like other people’s. My brain doesn’t work the same. Just like the decision is made to medicate a child because you don’t want him to be at a disadvantage in the classroom, so the decision to medicate as an adult is made, because suddenly you realise that you shouldn’t be at a disadvantage in the workplace, either.

3. The side-effects of the medication are quite severe. But the benefits of the medication must outweigh the side effects, in order to be justifiable. The fact that I have lost a butt-load of weight (literally) is small consolation when it comes to the other side effects. I blogged here about some of the side effects but forgot to mention (because I had forgotten about how hectic it was in the beginning) the fact that I spent weeks clenching my jaw, grinding my teeth and dealing with muscle spasms in my arms, neck and shoulders. My eyeballs dried out, my nose dried out and my skin dried out. I was constantly thirsty, on edge and felt a bit strung out for a while. My heart would start racing for no reason and I would feel anxious beyond belief. Sleeplessness, the inability to stay asleep.  The positive side effects of the medication, on the other hand, are remarkable. Enough to make it worth dealing with all the bad stuff. Which brings me to my next point.

4. There are positive aspects to having ADD. Even as an adult. Especially as an adult:

  • I am creative. Able to to find alternate paths to overcome obstacles.
  • I am adaptive/collaborative, adventurous, courageous and I don’t have the same boundaries as most people.
  • I am always finding alternate routes to locations. (It’s not that I lack a sense of direction, it’s just that I explore.)
  • I am always willing to help others. I am more likely to do things because I want to, than because I should. This means that I’m wholehearted in those things I want to do.
  • I can see the bigger picture, I don’t get caught up in the details and I can see patterns in the chaos because I have a broader focus, I am more observant.
  • I am intuitive and, when I choose to be, I can be empathetic as well.
  • This intuition comes from the ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated events or people, because I can see the bigger picture.
  • I can look at the situation from all angles, think on my feet.
  • I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I think this is in part due to the impulsive nature of ADD people, but people eventually come to appreciate my bluntness, because they learn that it comes from a good, honest place.
  • I am open and non-secretive, mostly because I don’t have the attention span to keep a secret or maintain a lie.
  • I am down to earth, I don’t tolerate boredom and I am willing to take risks that other people aren’t. I am loyal. I  am intense when I am interested in something or someone.
  • I’m forgiving. I don’t hold a grudge for very long (unless it’s serious) and once we’ve concluded an argument or resolved the conflict, I’ve moved on and forgotten about it.
  • I learn new things easily, I am quick to grasp the basics of a situation/skill and you rarely have to show me something more than once.
  • I am good at finding lost things. (when you’re constantly forgetting where you put something down, you get lots of practice finding things).
  • I have a great sense of humour. I can laugh at myself. I’ve had to learn to.
  • I am humble. (It’s not hard when people are constantly pointing out what I’ve done wrong or what’s wrong with me.)
  • I’ve had a varied and interesting career as a result of my ADD. I’ve tried different things, learned lots of new skills – all because I can take chances and put myself out there.

5. I am so much more than my ADD. I’m trying to get to a point in my life where the realisation that I am ADD is a blessing, and not a curse. To get to a point where I can tell people about my condition without feeling like I’m making a confession and it doesn’t carry a tiny bit of shame along with it. It’s a process and it’s on-going. I have good days and I have bad days, but long story short: I want to set a good example for my ADD son. I want to be a good wife to my husband (who has his own head issues to deal with). I am trying to do these things.  I am a great friend and a hard worker. I am still me, I’m just trying to be a better version of me. And there’s nothing shameful in that, is there?

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4 Responses to On Adult ADD: 5 Things I Want Non-ADD People To Know

  1. TC says:

    You are awesome, incredible and a phenomenon x All that and so much more than a bag of chips.

  2. femmegypsy says:

    Thank you for this post! It is so great. And yes, you are you and just on the path to be a better version of you – how awesome 🙂

  3. Nicky says:

    Love your post… I am ADHD and medicated… I got past feeling like there was something wrong with me when I was diagnosed…. until then… I had always felt there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just sit quietly and listen to people like everyone else, sit and keep eye contact etc etc… Now that I have an explanation, I realise there is nothing wrong with me… the distractedness etc are what make me ME. Life is more interesting with us ‘crazy/zany/filterless’ people, we add colour! No one is perfect, and who decided how we ‘should’ be…? I was diagnosed at 40!

  4. Pingback: 3 of my favourite blog posts about adult ADD - Paul Jacobson

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