I didn’t go into the therapist office that day looking for a diagnosis. I went because as a newly married woman beginning to think of starting a family, I was afraid of my own damn mind. I had worked several years to pull back the layers of hurt that paraded itself on the surface as “fine” or even “successful.” The more I addressed the unspoken emotions, the more I seemed to find and that day, I came wanting to be reassured I was emotionally stable enough to consider children.
The therapist looked across the room and said, “so what brings you here.” I tried explaining my past and I contextualized the type of support I had received. “So what are your current challenges.” I began to detail my struggles with organization, time management and a reoccurring stressor I had at work that involved a lot of writing and a dreaded deadline. These honestly were my biggest concerns. They caused me shame and anxiety.
He began to ask me a variety of questions varying from details about my experiences in school as a child to current ability to focus and attend. After many questions he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “you sound like a classic case of adult ADD. Listen, I am going to be honest. The only known treatment, outside all the adjustments it sounds like you are already taking, is medication. It’s up to you if you want to try this and it can take awhile to find the right one but it can be very effective.” He also went on to tell me about how often patients like me come in and are given anxiety medications but that of the true problem is ADD, the anxiety should subside with more focus and attention.
This was the beginning of my journey with ADD. I was a 34 year old professional and as my life continued to grow, the more overwhelmed by the seemingly simple tasks of life I was.
My first reaction to this news was devastation. I had honestly come so far in so many areas of personal struggle in my life that the diagnosis of one more thing let too much to bare. I felt panicked about the idea of taking medication and I in no way wanted anything to do with a label. I called a close friend who was also a therapist and she, having known me since 3rd grade, was not surprised to hear about the diagnosis. She did, however, devised me to stay calm, look at all the coping mechanisms I was already using and look to expand those. She advised waiting on medication especially considering my limitations were not as great as what I might have thought. For example, I found that using a house keeper was an a great solution for my issues around the house. Instead of being ashamed of this, why not embrace it as treat for myself and a way to support another person’s income? She also advised starting with vitamins, looking at my diet, exercising and looking at other forms of natural support like aroma therapy and herbs for my anxiety. This call calmed me and I followed all this advise.
Next came the stage of discovery where I began learning about ADD. This was pivotal because it brought about identification and tremendous hope. I learned I wasn’t alone and that yes, my ADD could be a gift and not a curse.
I started by reading online about ADD and came across ADDitude magazine. The website was very informative and it led me down a path I continue to explore: podcasts. Not only does the magazine have monthly webinars featuring professionals and experts to support people living with ADD, the record them and make them available as podcast episodes. This is where I was introduced to Terry Matlen and Dr. Edward Holloway. These podcasts filled me with identification and helpful information. It also led me to explore other podcasts, experts and books. One of my very favorites, Faster Than Normal with Peter Shankman is all about the concept of ADD as a fast brain way if being in the world that can be a gift and not a curse. This concept and the personal stories shared each episode continue to remind me that I didn’t have to see my diagnosis as something negative. Did you know there are many successful entrepreneurs, therapists, teachers, etc. with ADD? The brains of these types of thinkers are creative and the personalities tend to be passionate and quite able to hyper focus on a topic of high personal interest.
Since my initial diagnosis, I have continued to educate myself. Dr. Edward Holloway’s Driven to Disrtraction and Delivered from Distraction have both been extremely helpful in understanding my brain. I find myself hunger for the information and as I put it in, I see some subtle changes in myself. Mainly, self acceptance. For the first time ever, I am not judging myself. I have words to explain and understand my limitations and I am finding it easier to apply different tools.
Anytime I have needed to make a change in my life, it always begins with awareness. I get to see what needs changing. For me, the diagnosis signaled a need for change. The interesting thing about this awareness is that it literally was around issues I have struggled with my whole life. Right now I am just grateful for information and my budding self acceptance. I continue to learn and try out new tools for myself.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with time management, focus or organization, all I can say is that there is help and there is hope. ADD and ADHD labels are not a death sentence. On the contrary, they can be the beginning of a new more gentle life of accepting oneself. Even without a label, podcasts, articles and books on the topic of ADD and ADHD can be helpful for anyone.
Podcasts about ADD
FTN: Faster Than Normal
ADHD Experts: ADDitude Magazine
Adult ADHD ADD Tips and Support
Books about ADD
Driven to Distraction by Edward Holloway
Delivered from Distraction by Edward Holloway
Queens of Distraction by Terry Matlen