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ADD/ADHD
March 19, 2010 6:06 PM   Subscribe

What does it feel like to have ADD or ADHD? I'm looking for specifics rather than generalities, so personal anecdotes are best (preferred over hearsay or lists of symptoms from the internet).

What is going on in your mind when you have ADD? How would you describe it to someone who does not have ADD?
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Health & Fitness (123 answers total) 377 users marked this as a favorite
 
Short Attention Span Syndrome, baby. Right now I have seventeen tabs loaded in Firefox right now. Admittedly some of that is stuff like e-mail, weather, documents I'll get back to reading, etc., that isn't urgent but I want it on hand, but odds are I will hop back and forth to go read bits from those various web pages on the browser withOUT reading one steadily to the end. When reading Bloglines (yeah, yeah, I know) I'll open a bunch of links in different windows before I bother to read any/all.

I may be reading 3 books at a time as well, one hardback, one paperback, one on the iTouch.

I am always watching television AND doing something, like crafting or surfing the Internet. I don't sit still if I can at all help it. I hate having to sit still in the dark watching a movie with a passion.

I swear, sometimes I feel like something is building up in me, frustration or whatever, and I need to go do something else for five minutes. I can have intense concentration, but for varying lengths of time. Being involved with a major project will probably get more long-term focus from me than reading the Internet will. I feel like I need to switch between things to let that frustration go away. Multitasking, for me, is a sanity saver.

Does that answer your question?
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:18 PM on March 19, 2010 [18 favorites]


I have inattentive type ADD, and for me, it just means that I can't concentrate for very long before I need to be doing something else. For example, I paused an episode of Desperate Housewives to poke around on the Domino's website, decided to check AskMeFi, and that's about the seventh break I've had to take from watching a 43 minute episode.

Although I'll go to a movie if someone asks me to, it's really hard for me to sit through them. I'm probably wondering when it's going to end a half hour through it. I can still concentrate on the story, but every ten minutes I'm going to wonder, "Is this ending yet?"

It's hard to describe... I can concentrate for awhile, but eventually my brain starts to muddle things together and I start thinking about unrelated things. So if I continued doing whatever I was doing I'd probably be thinking about 10 other things at the same time anyway.

Overall, I guess I'd describe it as an itch.

I'm not sure I did a very good job explaining it (if I think of a better way I'll update later)!
posted by biochemist at 6:21 PM on March 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


On preview, I need to second the numerous tabs opened on Firefox/hopping back and forth... I didn't mention that at first because I thought everyone did it!
posted by biochemist at 6:24 PM on March 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have never been diagnosed with or even suspected of having ADD/ADHD and yet I could be jenfullmoon. There's more to it than that.
posted by rtha at 6:26 PM on March 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


yeah, I agree with rtha, I definitely don't have it, but I do the same things as biochemist and jenfullmoon. I guess the difference is "does it disrupt your daily life?" Many people with ADHD cannot finish homework for the same reasons of inattentiveness, and obviously that disrupts their education, and may carry over into adult employment. Inattentiveness can take the form of forgetting where your car keys are, forgetting to put gas in the car, forgetting where you're going, etc. There's also trouble doing mundane work like filling out forms or folding laundry. Everyone does these things on some scale; people with ADHD do them often enough that it has a tangible, disruptive effect on their lives.

My husband describes it as having 20 TV stations on in his mind at the same time, or feeling like his brain is racing 200 miles per hour. I guess you'd count that as hearsay, but I've lived with him for 5 years so I can assure you it's accurate.
posted by desjardins at 6:37 PM on March 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I was recently diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive type).

You know how sometimes you find yourself standing in front of the fridge getting ready to put a dirty dish in there instead of the dishwasher? Or you put milk away in the cupboard instead of the fridge? Or you find yourself standing in the middle of a room and you don't know why you walked in there? Or you start to do X, but realize "oh, hey I need to do Y first. Oops, I really can't do Y until I do Z." And pretty soon you're deep in some totally unnecessary project instead of the simple task you set out to do in the first place. I'm guessing this happens to everyone.

Those things and others like them happen to me dozens of times every day. And even though I know it and can even feel them coming on, or realize in the middle what's happening, I can't control it or stop it.

(trying meds now. it's NOT going well. bleh.)
posted by peep at 7:05 PM on March 19, 2010 [21 favorites]


Oh, and what does it feel like? (I didn't answer the question, did I? Oops.) I guess I would describe it as living totally inside my head. I'm never paying attention to what I'm doing - it sort of feels like I'm NOT thinking, but really I'm just always thinking about something else (other than what I'm doing).
posted by peep at 7:09 PM on March 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't know what it's like to not have ADD, but I can tell you want it's like to have ADD and be on stimulants, which I presume is a lot like not having it. The first thing I noticed is how quiet it is. Pre-medication -- which I just started last year -- there was always a little chattering, my mind pointing out that ooh I should remember to run that errand and do we need more towels and I should call so-and-so and ooh look penguins.

I can concentrate on one thing. I am here to write that e-mail; I am writing the e-mail; I am done. As opposed to Why did I sit down oh right e-mail I really should go through my old sent e-mail box and get rid of things that don't matter and I should place a hold on a book as long as I'm here on the computer and...

I'm more emotional when I take medication. I believe this is because I'm noticing more things to be emotional about, and the emotions aren't being lost in a swarm of thoughts.

There's more, but those are the big ones. The quietness is most significant for me. You people without ADD have no idea how good you have it, in that regard. I hope it's the ADD and not actually that I'm insane.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:10 PM on March 19, 2010 [48 favorites]


it's different for everyond, and for me, it's maddening.

I went through grade school and high school being told I was gifted while nearly failing classes because I couldn't keep track of homework. I read books under my desk during class and aced tests. Each day I hung my head in shame as every other student in the class handed in homework that I didn't do. Long papers? If I did them, I did them in a night. When outlines were required, I wrote the paper first and based the outline on the paper. I couldn't organize my thoughts well enough to make an outline. I had a dialogue with the computer screen. I organized my thoughts while I wrote in a way that I couldn't in an outline format. I feel like I'm writing like that right now.

Teachers shoved daily planner notebooks at me like I'd actually use them. Doctors pushed pills. Neither worked. I squeaked by, probably because the teachers didn't want to fail somebody that clearly knew the material.

The next obvious step was college. I had a high ACT score and decent high school grades thanks to Outcomes Based Education, which pretty much meant I could hand in all of my assignments on the last day of class and still pass. I knew I wasn't ready, but there was no way in hell my parents would have things any other way. It was a serious failure from day one. I couldn't keep track of assignments, as usual, and research papers? Forget about it. I'd be terrified the day they were assigned. I'd hole myself up in a remote corner of the library for hours at a time with a stack of reference books and try to read them. My eyes would focus on the page, and I would read the words, but my mind would be on something else the entire time. I have the ability to read a sentence and not know what it said a second later. I still have to reread entire pages pretty often when I do attempt to read. This would generally lead to panic attacks. I'd give up, fail to hand in the paper, and just stop going to class. But not just that class--every class within a few weeks of that initial failure. School in general felt like living in a pressure cooker. I dropped out eventually, but not before spending a few years numbing the anxiety with alcohol and drugs. I still think dropping out is probably the best thing I've ever done for my own sanity.

After giving up on school, I got a manufacturing job. I'm a machinist. It's skilled work, but it's also repetitive. I know I'm capable of more, but I can't stomach the thought of pursuing a degree that would give me any sort of opportunity beyond this dead-end occupation. I've gotten used to people telling me that repeating the worst years of my life is the best thing I could do for myself right now.

My home life is completely disorganized. I've been in my house for almost two years, and about half of my belongs remain either unpacked or thrown into closets and the guest room. I lose my keys once a day, and never cook because I know I'll forget to do the dishes for at least a week and they'll start to get nasty. Or I'll forget what I'm doing while I'm cooking and let something boil over or burn. I've let my phone service lapse for months at a time in the past, much to the distress of my family and friends. I just never thought about it. Getting an iPhone changed that--more on that in a bit.

I love movies, but it takes me several tries to get through one. I have to hide the laptop while I try to watch them, or I'll end up screwing around on the internet and forgetting about the movie. The internet: It's like crack. Random access to any information I want at any time. My girlfriend is away right now, so my entire evenings are wasted on the internet, skipping from site to site and not really being all that entertained by it. But it's what I do. I can't focus on anything else, and it really gets pretty depressing after a while. Now that I have an iPhone, I have access to that anywhere I go. It helps me pass the time at work.

I've had to get used to people telling me their bullshit opinions about ADD, whether they know I have it or not. Lots of people like to say it's a made-up condition used to sell medicine to stupid and lazy parents. Lots of people think it's an excuse for laziness or stupidity. Whatever. I'm probably not listening all that closely anyway.
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:32 PM on March 19, 2010 [163 favorites]


Pretty much everything feels so overwhelming that it's difficult to do anything but zone out.

Oh, and doesn't everyone read multiple books at the same time and watch TV while they're reading and surfing the internet? The internet is crack for ADD. Have you seen the new Google Reader Play? It's like heaven.
posted by waitingtoderail at 7:41 PM on March 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


Interestingly, I hadn't read TrialByMedia's comment before posting mine.
posted by waitingtoderail at 7:42 PM on March 19, 2010


Here's a lengthy description I wrote for an AskMe question a while ago. Basically, the worst problem for me was sleepiness. I've recently started taking stimulant medication and it's awesome; rather than speeding me up it has a calming, soothing effect that silences the constant chatter of thought in my mind and lets me focus on one thing at a time.

Unlike a lot of people who've commented above I don't have a problem with watching films. On the other hand, I think I win the Firefox tab competition with a grand total of 48 tabs, some of which have been open for months. I'll read them one day.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:41 PM on March 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Starting on the first thing while thinking about the second thing, third thing and fourth thing then moving to touch base with all of those while forgetting about finishing the first thing you were supposed to.

Plus, there seems to be an overwhelming drive to appease everyones' requests of you so you can be sure to fulfill the "real" requests in your life. The only problem is you have three or four people that are asking things of you but you never really took care of the first person's request.

Loop here and do it again except at a different time.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:43 PM on March 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


I wrote this huge thing but decided it can be best summed up like this.

You know how a tornado can pick up all sorts of things, like cows, houses, Dorothy, frying pans, buses, grass, paintings, fire extinguishers? Without meds I feel like i am in the tornado. All this stuff is swirling around me and I can't stop it no matter how hard I try because i am a tornado and it's very nature is to be that way.

Every one feels that way sometimes. I felt like that ALL the time. It was exhausting, everything was always moving.

I guess being on speed makes me move at the same rate as the tornado or something. I don't know.

Imagine not being able to take a large task and break it down without an enormous amount of mental energy, way more than seems like should be required. All the time. For everything. Laundry. Cooking. Email. Making plans for dinner.

When I first started meds, it was like I could see or hear for the first time. I suddenly understood what planning and breaking down a task meant and could actually do it. Without meds, as weird as it sounds, I am as unable to do that much like a dyslexic person will always see the letters backwards. It's not lazy, but a cognitive impairment.

HTH.
posted by sio42 at 8:54 PM on March 19, 2010 [21 favorites]


Getting things done on a day-to-day basis feels like I'm trying to build a pyramid out of bowling balls and paste, and my hands are covered in butter. Every day.

Ditto on the Firefox tabs and on not liking movies very much.
posted by corey flood at 9:00 PM on March 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


I have ADD inattentive type, although my doctors have always been unsure whether it's inattention as a symptom of depression or depression because of ADD. Anyhoo! When I'm unmedicated, it's like reality is covered in fog. I can see things through the fog: stuff to do at work, bills to pay, books to read--but I can't see clearly enough to focus on any one of those things. So I bounce from chores to books to work without really accomplishing anything and my life keeps getting more and more disordered.

You know that frustrated feeling you get when you're looking for some little thing like your keys or your phone, and you know you JUST had it right in your hand? That would happen to me all day long with my keys, phone, wallet, food containers, toothbrush--anything. The frustration turned into anxiety, wondering what I would lose or forget next.

But now I'm medicated and it's so much better. I can make a to-do list and actually remember to look at the list. I put my keys and wallet and silverware and toothbrush in the same place every time, and remember where they are every day. I sit down to my desk and complete actual tasks. I still can't deal with huge crowds of people, or department stores, or sit through a whole movie in a theater, but that's okay; I feel like now I'm actually living my life, instead of being distracted from it.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 9:10 PM on March 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I would describe it as a combination of zero short-term memory and excruciating boredom. When I'm off meds, if there's something I don't want to/don't feel like doing, I get so frustrated with it because my mind will not focus on what I'm trying to get done, and at several points in my life, mostly when I was young and had no coping skills for this, I would cry. Also, I will be in the middle of doing something sometimes, and I will have no idea what I was doing, where I am on it, or what I need to do next. Finally, when I try to tell stories, I just start verbally wandering, and when I'm done, I don't even know what I was talking about. Basically, it's kind of like thinking through a maze for me, where one wrong turn takes hours to backtrack and undo.

My coping mechanism now? Working in retail management, where activity comes in fits and starts, and I get interrupted on stuff constantly.
posted by mornie_alantie at 9:15 PM on March 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Imagine not being able to take a large task and break it down without an enormous amount of mental energy, way more than seems like should be required. All the time. For everything. Laundry. Cooking. Email. Making plans for dinner.

When I first started meds, it was like I could see or hear for the first time. I suddenly understood what planning and breaking down a task meant and could actually do it. Without meds, as weird as it sounds, I am as unable to do that much like a dyslexic person will always see the letters backwards. It's not lazy, but a cognitive impairment.


Yes, this EXACTLY. This is it. I also came back in to say that a lot of times, it feels like laziness, because that's what we've been conditioned to believe, that we are LAZY and BAD. It's really, really hard to move past that kind of thinking, even when you realize what a difference medication makes. Laziness and guilt, on the bad days.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 9:16 PM on March 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Right now I have 10 tabs in my browser open, which is actually not that much for me. I don't close any of them because I *intend* to finish each one of them, but get through a few sentences or paragraphs before I compulsively start opening more thngs. I was supposed to be looking something up, but I've already forgotten what it is. I'm also watching television.

I was diagnosed 10 years ago, i've been on and off medication ever since (currently I'm off). Imagine losing your keys or other important item every single day, forgetting a task when you are in the middle of doing it, constantly leaving things half done without realizing it. If i'm listening to a lecture and I miss something, I get totally derailed and have a huge problem getting back on track.

The first thing I noticed when I was properly medicated was that time passed faster. Suddenly work wasn't excruciatingly endless. I didn't have to check my watch every five minutes. I could sit through an hour and a half lecture and absorb information past the first 30 minutes. There were a lot of things, but the feeling that time was passing faster was the first thing I noticed.
posted by inertia at 9:34 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Try to watch TV, read a book, play WOW, listen to music, AND listen to an audio book, all at the same time. Yes, I have done this. It is nuts. I do not know if ADD is a blessing or a curse. But it makes for a interesting life. As a child it was maddening. It is like being in a fun house with no exit.
posted by fifilaru at 9:38 PM on March 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's always feeling like you're thinking about five different things at once, as though there are five brains in your head.

It's constantly zoning out in class without realizing you're doing it--so that you're there and present while Ms. Smith is demonstrating algebra and then all the sudden you hear Ms. Smith calling to you and only then do you you realize you haven't been paying attention for--OMG--the past five minutes. It's getting really great at being able to look and sound just like someone who can pay attention all the time.

It's trying to read Crime and Punishment for summer reading and getting stuck on one fucking sentence for thirty minutes, and one fucking page for two hours, until you get so frustrated that you throw the book against the wall so hard it breaks into two pieces.

It's your mind working so fast that you often choke on the rush of words trying to get out of your throat.

It's this horrible creeping sleepiness that blankets you when you're trying to force yourself to do something, so that your eyes water with exhaustion and you end up draping yourself over the racks in department stores to stay standing while you wait for your mother to finish shopping.

It's burying yourself so deep in a book you love or a fascinating project you're working on that you don't hear someone right next to you call your name and you don't realize time is passing until you look out the window and it's morning and you've stayed up all night. (People without ADD who take ADD medication famously replicate this, but for me, medication keeps me in a sort of "normal" attention plane, so I no longer unwittingly pull all-nighters.)

It's, yes, the 35 Firefox tabs and five books and 56096 old New Yorker magazines that you swear you want to read but can never seem to.

It's piles of unpaid bills, missed appointments, overdrawn checking accounts, lost recipes, unsent emails, etc.

It's taking ADD medication for the first time and sobbing, because even though your desire for food temporarily disappears and your heart beats a little faster, you somehow feel like you're walking on solid ground for the first time instead of bobbing along drifting in air, and you realize all that speaking out of turn and forgetting your gym clothes and not paying attention in class were not personal moral failings but rather a solvable (or at least amelioratable) problem.
posted by sallybrown at 9:55 PM on March 19, 2010 [86 favorites]


Oh, this is a bit of a derail, but I wanted to thank you all for chiming in here. I've suspected I have something along these lines, and, wow, it was great to read all these stories.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:21 PM on March 19, 2010


A lot of these hit home for me (primarily inattentive). A lot of people describe it as "chatter in the head." For me, the trick I developed at some point--long before I was ever diagnosed with ADD--is that when I need to think coherent, complete thoughts, I imagine that I am talking to someone else, that I am having a conversation about what I'm trying to think about. Otherwise, it's just amorphous fragments. If someone asks me what I'm thinking, and I haven't been doing the conversation-in-my-head thought-focusing strategy, I can't formulate an answer most of the time--because I've been thinking six different inchoate things at once. Add some tinnitus into the mix, and--damn, it's cacophony in there sometimes!

The flip side is the hyperfocus, which I can easily slip into when I'm working. In that state, I am focused on only the one thing, and both external stimuli (my husband walks into the room, for example) and internal stimuli (the remembering of other things that also need to be done) have a hard time penetrating into consciousness. Of course, the times when it would be useful to go into hyperfocus (looming deadline) I tend to be the most distractable, and the times when I need to be able to respond to other stimuli, I tend to get hyperfocused and tune very important messages out.

You would think that all the little punishments that life metes out when you screw up because you were zoned out or forgetful would be enough so that you wouldn't make those same mistakes again. But you can feel really awful about something and still not be able to correct the problem on your own.
posted by drlith at 10:49 PM on March 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


I only see this from the outside, but it's watching someone make a sandwich, and they make a PERFECT sandwich - but, they leave the bread out, put the cheese in the fridge open to dry out, and leave the refrigerator door ajar all night. In the meantime, they're playing their guitar with Pandora playing while watching TV. They are tired and can't sleep and wake you up in the middle of the night to tell you about their latest invention.

I walk behind him and make sure that the oven is off, the food is put away, and that he doesn't drink coffee at 8pm so that he can fall asleep by 3am. I would describe it as perfect focus with zero follow through. Tornado indeed.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:09 PM on March 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


Oh...and I will say something 3 times - the first 2 times he hears exactly the opposite of what I said and the 3rd time he reacts as if he's heard if for the first time. There's a LOT of chatter on the wavelength for sure.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:11 PM on March 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


My therapist said when unmedicated ADHD folks are faced with a nebulous task like "clean the house" they know exactly WHAT needs to be done, it's just that they don't know WHERE to start. It's the starting point that's so overwhelming. Before medication I was able to keep my house clean, just barely, but it was cluttered and disorganized. And the clutter depressed me so much.

The first day I took Adderall I called in sick to work and cleaned/organized my house for 10 hours. It was a miracle. I knew exactly what to do and where to begin and was able to start a task and then FINISH it without wandering off to do something else. I did tasks that I had meant to do for years. Before meds I would be doing Thing A, see Thing B, think "Oh, I need to do Thing B" and then either drop Thing A to do Thing B, or keep going with Thing A (until I'd notice Thing C) and completely forget Thing B needed attention.

I wrote this a year ago before I was medicated. True story.

DIY - ADHD style

1. Go outside to clean off driveway
2. Start to move grill from in front of garage door
3. Realise grill needs sign (FREE, PLEASE TAKE)
4. Go inside to find something to make sign
5. Have cigarette and watch some TV, which is always on even if I am not currently inside
6. Go outside, weed whack
7. Hose down driveway
8. Start to move grill
9. Go inside to find something to make sign
10. Start to clean kitchen
11. Paper bag reminds me of sign
12. Go into garage to find something to make sign
13. In garage, find molding for bathroom sink
14. Measure bathroom sink, trim molding
15. Caulk molding down
16. Go in office to find something to make sign
17. Find string
18. Use string to hang up plant boss got for my birthday
19. Have cigarette, write this post
20. FIND SOMETHING TO MAKE SIGN

I have had that molding for almost a year, but apparently NOW was the time to finally do something with it.


Final anecdote: Two weeks ago, I dropped a gallon of paint on my relatively new carpet. Most of it was in a big puddle, but some of it splattered up the walls, on the leg of my desk, all over a floor lamp, and in little patches on the floor. It was 10pm on a Friday and I usually take drug vacations on Fridays, so I was unmedicated. And I completely lost my shit. I called my mom in hysterics because I couldn't deal with the mess because I had absolutely NO IDEA where to start. I couldn't scoop up the puddle of paint because it was pooling around the desk leg, I couldn't move the desk because it was too heavy, I couldn't unscrew the leg because there was paint in my tool box, I couldn't pick up the drop cloth because the lamp was on it, and I couldn't move the lamp because it was covered in paint and there was nowhere to put it. And then I kept getting paint on my feet and tracking it across the carpet, making things even worse. After about 20 minutes of freaking out, I took a damn Adderall.

My carpet is fine now. Gooooo shop vac!
posted by elsietheeel at 11:31 PM on March 19, 2010 [58 favorites]


Before meds I would be doing Thing A, see Thing B, think "Oh, I need to do Thing B" and then either drop Thing A to do Thing B, or keep going with Thing A (until I'd notice Thing C) and completely forget Thing B needed attention.

Here's the ironic thing. I never finished that thought because I remembered my DIY - ADHD Style post and had to go find where I wrote it and then cut and paste it here.

Anyway.

Now, when I am medicated (I am not right now, it's Friday), I will be doing Thing A, see Thing B, think "Oh, I need to do Thing B", finish Thing A, and then come right back to do Thing B.

I'm still very distractable, but now I'm able to remember what I was doing before I got sidetracked. Medication has made me a far more effective multi-tasker.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:36 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


--If I try to focus on something that I can't focus on it feels like my thoughts are glancing off of it...as though it were slippery and I just can't grasp the thought or task that needs to be done.

--Sometimes there is the opposite, I hyperfocus and can be completely absorbed in something where I don't eat, pee, drink water

--Oh I forget stuff like "drink liquids" because drinking liquids is boring and you have to get up, walk to the kitchen, etc.

--I end things with etc. because writing the whole list is boring

--Lots of things are unbearably boring, plays, movies, audiobooks, conversation with loved ones (ouch...this one really hurts me) doing chores, sleeping, eating, cooking...all horrendously boring

--Self-stimulate to relieve boredom, do crazy things, want to say mean things to get in a fight, try to instigate, say weird stuff just to see a reaction, flirt, do things that are physically strenuous or impossible.

--HATE having moving restricted...1 minute of lying still with someone's arm around me feels like 5 hours, imagine being strapped to a board for a long time...that's what it feels like when I have to sit still

--Say rude things, the wrong things, irritating, repeat myself, repeat jokes, forget names, birthdays, etc.

--Feel panic that I messed something up, constantly worried, ready to make an excuse or escape because always feel like I let someone, somewhere down

--Despondent, seeing a to-do list from a week ago and nothing is checked off

--Have to make a to-do list for normal things people do...one time tried to make a to-do list for getting up in the AM that included stuff like, brush teeth, use the bathroom, put on your socks before you put on your shoes

--Feel lazy, like a failure, can't do things other people can, can't get into things that interest me because of lack of credentials/skills

--Embarrassed at things I said or did impulsively, worried about money spent impulsively, always thinking back like "why did I do that?"

--Sad about a lot of the memories of childhood especially when I was punished or humiliated for doing things I couldn't help

These are all feelings I have at various times...mostly the boredom and frustration are day-to-day experience for me. Doesn't feel like TV channels, just feels like I'm in sensory deprivation tank.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:50 PM on March 19, 2010 [24 favorites]


For me it is a constant wandering of the mind when trying to concentrate on anything that isn't utterly fascinating. I can be listening to someone talk about something and suddenly realize my mind has wandered off to la-la land and I haven't heard the last couple of minutes of what they said. Or I'll be reading something and realize that while my eyes have skimmed an entire page, I haven't actually been reading so much as daydreaming while moving my eyes over lines of text on a page. I spend a lot of time backtracking in my reading and playing catch-up in conversations while trying not to appear bored or unintelligent (which I'm definitely not.) And the above happens when I'm actually fairly interested in the book or conversation.

In classes I'm not thrilled with, I have to sit right up front so I don't get distracted by what other students are doing. I need to take notes so my mind doesn't wander.

I have a hard time studying for any length of unbroken time. After a few minutes I start to get a feeling of stress/tension in my chest that quickly builds to being unbearable and I have to get up and do something else for a few minutes. The harder or less interesting the subject matter, the worse it is. I will study for 5 or 10 minutes, working problems or taking notes as I read to keep me on task; then the tension starts to build so I'll get up and load the dishwasher. Then another 10 minutes of studying, then I'm up to tidy something else up. I can go on like this for several hours if necessary. My husband finds it hilarious.

I get the same unpleasant tense feeling when I have to attend to details. For instance, when going to the grocery store I could get through the major part of the task like actually putting the food in the cart, but keeping a running tally so I didn't go over budget felt annoying and cumbersome. I could pay the cashier with a check, but having to stop and record it in the checkbook register gave me that same tense feeling of being held back from getting on with the next thing I needed to do. (For years I used 'duplicate' checks so I'd have carbons of the checks I'd written instead of having to write them down in the register.)

One ADD symptom I'm very familiar with is that of hyperfocus. When I'm really interested in something (book, TV program, website) and the subject matter is not difficult for me, I can tune out an astonishing amount of noise and chaos while I pay attention to the interesting thing. This also often ties in with difficulty transitioning out of the interesting thing when necessary... I can get really irritated if forcibly interrupted from something I'm mentally "locked in" to. On the other hand, if the material is difficult for me, even the tiniest distraction can feel maddening. (Many years ago when I was studying accounting, I had managed to get my house completely silent so I could work on my homework. A single bird chirping outside the window drove me to utter distraction until I got up and chased it out of the tree with a broom. I felt like a lunatic but I simply could not tune it out.)

I've learned coping mechanisms for most of my symptoms over the years but I still struggle to stay on top of all the details, particularly with housekeeping and finances. The times I've tried to be like organized folks I know who attend to every little task as it pops up, I quickly find myself feeling mentally exhausted. It actually feels less stressful to me to have a bigger job to do later than to continually be swishing and swiping and doing up the two or three dishes sitting in the sink X number of times a day. Unfortunately I often don't notice something needs doing until the mess becomes out of control and huge, and then I have the problem of not being able to concentrate for long on getting through it. I clean house like I do homework... 10 minutes in the kitchen, go throw in a load of laundry, back to the kitchen, go put cleanser in the toilet, take a stack of books from the bathroom to the bookshelf, spend half an hour looking through old magazines I find there, change out the laundry and start another load... I may never even get back to the kitchen that day and it will be half-cleaned. On the other hand, if I get locked-in to cleaning mode, I have been known to spend 8, 12 or 16 hours flitting from task to task and can get through a ton of housework in that time. How many of the actual tasks are done to completion is another matter.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:19 AM on March 20, 2010 [44 favorites]


One specific thing for me, is that if I'm in a place with many noises going on, many conversations, etc, I have a very hard time understanding people, verging on frustrating. In malls, at parties, or even in busy bars, I hear everything at the same level of attention, which means my brain is paying attention (or rather, switched attention) to all the conversations and noises and I simply can't follow what any of them are doing.
posted by fuq at 7:09 AM on March 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


reading the other responses, i thought it would be helpful to add some of my own coping mechanisms. i was diagnosed as a small child, but grandmother (who was raising me) refused to put me on meds because it was still a strange thing (early 80s, small town). i forgot about it and wasn't rediagnosed until last year. for years, i was given other meds for depression and anxiety and sleep disorders that made me crazy. because they weren't was wrong with me.

here are some examples of things i did to cope and things that used to cause me a lot of problems (as someone said upthread, everyone loses their keys, it's when it impacts your life, it's a problem)

- locking my keys in my car, all the time. my parents got me AAA simply for that for years. i had to train myself to physically hold on to my keys and not put them down because i got distracted looking for something while i got out of the car.

- not wanting to brush my teeth first thing in the morning because there like 5 things i just remembered i wanted to do and if i spend two minutes brushing my teeth, i'll forget what they are

- not want to brush my teeth before i go to bed because i am so freakin' tired and i can go to sleep right now and i know that if i brush my teeth my mind will have those two minutes to start up again

- sleeping for years with the bedside light on because the only way i could get to sleep was to read until my eyes were very heavy and i couldn't keep them open. if i put the book away and turned out the light, my mind would start up again. so i had to just shut my eyes and sleep right then and there. if my mind started up again, i just opened my eyes right up and started reading again. repeat until i stayed asleep and woke up with the light on.

- having to spend lots of time alone because the only way i could get my apt clean was to just spend all day saturday and most of saturday night flitting about between watching tv, eating, cleaning, internetting, organizing my closet, reading, etc. for anywhere from 5-30 minutes at stretch.

- drinking to self medicate. it was the only thing that shut the chatter down to a dull roar instead an overwhelming flood. pot was awful for me, made me paranoid as hell.

- always trying to make a better system rather than just doing the job, which came across as laziness or prevarication to others. like, i couldn't just "pick up my room", i had to rearrange it and all my stuff, turning it into some project started at 2pm on a saturday until i finally asleep on the floor in the middle of all my crap in my room at 4 am, with it being much messier than before i started. or not being able to just update the spreadsheet at work, i wanted to make it BETTER. so i would spend days weeks on trying to make it better but never actually updating it. or when i tried to update, it was SO excruciating that i would just feel exhausted mentally and physically and couldn't just DO it. i really wanted to, but it was like my mind just wouldn't let me. (which comes across as an excuse to those who do not understand/believe in ADD/ADHD)

- in the same vein, making lists and lists and lists, and then as the webbyweb came out, trying out all those nifty todo things on the web, and all the GTD stuff, and NONE OF IT EVER WORKING, because as the The Light said, it's perfect focus with zero follow thru. i could spend days and weeks tweaking a system in RTM, or hipster PDA, or some other thing i found on lifehacker. but i never kept with it.

- i actually use evernote now and it helps a lot because it's so visual - it's like post it notes. if i can't see something, i forget about it. filing cabinets were useless to me for years. i actually had to label my dresser drawers because otherwise i would spend every morning opening several drawers to find my underwear and socks and bras. seriously. i just could not remember which drawer had what.

the problem with all of this is that i was fighting myself when i was not medicated. i REALLY wanted to just put my clothes away and do the stuff on the list. but i just somehow COULDN'T.
posted by sio42 at 8:02 AM on March 20, 2010 [28 favorites]


All of the above. Truly.

Also, desk jobs are pure hell for me. I get bored with just about anything after 5 minutes. I can be doing 3 things at once and still be insanely bored. In roundabout ways, this has gotten me laid off from more than one job. I struggle constantly with the fact that the jobs I can do happily, because they involve multi-tasking (waitressing, bike messenger, retail work, etc.) don't pay nearly as well as the things that bore me. I work as a web designer, which I enjoy, but I can be working on a web page, listening to CNN on the radio, and surfing this site, and still be going bat-shit crazy with boredom.

As we speak, I'm answering three different questions on AskMe, IMing my boyfriend, texting him, working on a logo in photoshop, talking to my cat, listening to the radio, thinking about what I'm doing tomorrow, and being bored, bored, bored.

I've never taken prescription meds for it, but I've had success with Sam-e. The ability to focus and actually finish something was bizarre! I design jewelry, and I always have a hundred designs floating around in my head, but frequently when I try to actually make one, I can't quite figure out how to put together what's in my head. It's like I can see it out of the corner of my eye, but I can't look at it directly to see what components I need to use. With the Sam-e, I can look directly at it.

The reason I don't use the Sam-e all the time is because it makes me gain weight. Well, more correctly, since it has some mood elevating properties, it makes me not care if I get fat, so it turns off my inner "don't eat that!" voice.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:12 AM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow. I have long suspected I have at least moderate ADD (first because I absolutely cannot sit through an hour-long class without zoning out somewhere midway, and then for a variety of other reasons), but I never got diagnosed, and a lot of these stories are ringing uncomfortably true for me.

I am very easily distracted; I zone out mid-conversation a lot, and have to forcibly remind myself to pay attention to the other person; I have problems finding a place to start doing something even if I know exactly how it's done; and I really really cannot concentrate all the way through an hour-long class unless the material and lecturer are absolutely fascinating - I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've managed it in my life. There are probably other things - more things upthread resonated with me than this - but I can't remember now. Heh. But yeah, it's a lot like just having your brain constantly firing off on tangents.

Ironically - hyperfocus? I do that all the time and didn't know that was an ADD thing until now. Neither did my parents. A couple years ago my dad mentioned offhandedly that he always thought I had ADD but that couldn't be because I could focus 'when I put my mind to it'... I think I would have benefited a lot from getting some early help, rather than them just yelling at me to stop being lazy and do work. Nothing to be done about it now, though.

(As for how I cope - sheer force of will. Can't get through an hour-long class -> read the material beforehand, read the material after, attend the damn tutorial. Zone out in mid-conversation -> "what was that, sorry?" Can't start -> force myself to stop and pick a place at random.)
posted by Xany at 10:18 AM on March 20, 2010


So, on one side of the coin, I'm pretty sure my ADD related characteristics are what help me be a clever bookstore know-it-all. Retail can be delightful, because no matter what, there's always something new and exciting to look at or do. A customer appears! They're looking for something! A new book comes in! A new book is coming out! And I like books! So I end up being really good at helping people find books. I can connect the dots like nobody's business when people wander up and throw out keywords.

True example: A completely random customer walked up and said "I'm looking for a C.S. Lewis book, but I can't remember the title." I responded, "Is it Till We Have Faces?" And they said "Yes!" And I told them where the book was. When I reversed engineered my answer, I realized that I had somehow calculated which C.S. Lewis book would asked for in such a way, compared to how a person would ask for other C.S. Lewis books. I do this sort of thing frequently. It's a beautiful art form. I'm also amazingly good at Pictionary.

And now we come to the flip side. The most concrete difference between medicated and non-medicated for me is that instead of mentally haranguing myself to do something, I will just do it. I can spend days and days fretting over not e-mailing someone back, or leaving the kitchen messy, or not doing a load of laundry, or forgetting something at home that I was supposed to bring to work, or calling to set up an appointment. And even if I KNOW that I've fallen off the med train, I'll still insist to myself that it would be exactly the same if I were taking things correctly. And then I get my med system back in order, and whaddyaknow!? I actually just DO things. I write like....5 e-mails! And if someone writes me a response to something, I write them back in a reasonable amount of time!

Often, I can kinda realize that the reason I don't respond to e-mails and stuff is because I "know" that it will be really hard to get all the necessary ducks in a row. I mean, I'll have to look at my calendar, and I'll have to open files, and I'll have to use my reading comprehension skills to PAY ATTENTION to whatever the topic is that I'm e-mailing them about. And that just seems like, impossible. Unless I'm properly on my meds/game, at which point it's just a totally natural thing to do. I also tend to lump things together in awful ways, like "I can't do this until I do this, and I can't do that until I find the time to do that, and I can't do that until I remember to pick up the thingy, and I don't have money for the thingy right now because I haven't done that one thing." My prioritizing suffers.

I guess prioritizing can be looked at as the key. I'm good at customer service and games and conversations because my mind immediately leaps into full gear at whatever it's actively presented with. However, when it comes to things that aren't being presented, things that need to be actively sought out and dealt with and worked through, then my brain prefers not to. Bad at project management, but good at brainstorming, and good at working with someone who's also excited about something.

Plus, the internet's always there with something to actively present.
posted by redsparkler at 10:47 AM on March 20, 2010 [25 favorites]


This is so interesting.

I wanted to come back because I think my comment in response to jenfullmoon's comment comes off as being dismissive, and that's really not what I meant to convey. I do all the stuff that jenfullmoon describes, but it doesn't disrupt my life. For instance, in the last hour or so I've been to the grocery store, vacuumed, and started a load of laundry. All that required a certain amount of "first [foo], then [bar]," and I can do that without much risk of getting so sidetracked that I end up going to the hardware store to get paint to paint the bathroom or something.

I wanted to convey more that people who don't have ADD/ADHD may always or occasionally do things that people with ADD/ADHD do, but it's a very different experience. I'm sorry if my comment sounded snarky or dismissive or was hurtful.
posted by rtha at 11:37 AM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering if I may have a slight case of it (or is there no such thing as in "a little bit pregnant") because I truly lack focus on anything that doesn't truly engage me. I used to be able to read a bunch of books at a time and now I find I zone out after three pages, doesn't matter the kind of book, either.

Okay, I did make it through the easily digestible "Twilight" series but try reading something like "The Shock Doctrine" or "The Dark Side" - I zone out in about three seconds and not because I'm uninterested in it. I just lose focus. But if I'm into something, I'm way into it.

Hmm, I 'm not one to jump to meds right away - lots of good info here. It's given me pause for thought.

(And a big smack on the hand to whomever mentioned that Google Play page. I lost an hour right there! heh)
posted by Mysticalchick at 1:32 PM on March 20, 2010


This feels awfully familiar, should I do anything about it?
posted by b33j at 4:22 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of "this sounds like me" here. Don't self-diagnose, especially based on us internet strangers, and remember that ADD/ADHD manifests in very individual ways, and a lot of these symptoms by themselves are fairly "normal." If you are concerned, please speak to a psychiatrist.

Having ADD also means hearing and reading a lot of shit about how you have a fake disorder, how you exaggerate your symptoms to score magic pills, etc. I know I've internalized some of that, to the point where I see people here saying "Maybe I have this?" and I think "SHEESH, yeah right, you just want to say you have ADD" which is a totally bizarre reaction, almost like I'm selfish about my disorder.

Yet another reason why a live psychiatrist is the person to ask.
posted by sallybrown at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I got better at closing Firefox tabs once I realized it was slowing Firefox to a crawl (the most I can remember having open is 180 tabs in one window, but it was frequently over 100—current count is 63).

I'm bad at unpacking things—moving boxes, suitcases, online purchases, groceries—without getting distracted before finishing.

I seem to be really good about having paperwork in order, though.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:42 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having ADD also means hearing and reading a lot of shit about how you have a fake disorder, how you exaggerate your symptoms to score magic pills, etc. I know I've internalized some of that, to the point where I see people here saying "Maybe I have this?" and I think "SHEESH, yeah right, you just want to say you have ADD" which is a totally bizarre reaction, almost like I'm selfish about my disorder.

Absolutely agree with this. We hear lots of, "Oh, I'd do great at school if I was on speed, too!" and "I procrastinate all the time. Didn't need to see a doctor for that." It's like telling somebody with clinical depression to buck up and wear a smile now and then. It's irritating.

On the other hand, there are the successful, driven people who sailed through school, speak a mile a minute about a variety of topics and maybe lose their keys now and then that say, "Oh, I'm so ADD!" I know they don't mean anything by it, but it really ends up minimizing the constant struggle that I deal with every single day.

I'm not even going to get into the mainstream media's perception of the condition. Too infuriating.

This isn't a response to anybody's attitude here, mind you--it's just something that irks me now and then. Nobody has offended me or anything, and I appreciate everyone here who participated in this discussion. It made me feel less alone. Thanks, seriously. Reading your stories here has really made my day.
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:27 PM on March 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


Your best bet if these stories seem familiar is to pick up

Driven to Distraction and/or
Delivered from Distraction

The former is old and the treatment stuff is out of date but I find it more readable, maybe get both?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:29 PM on March 20, 2010


I was diagnosed with ADD in first grade. What I remember before then is being constantly frustrated, often to the point of anger, with the million ways I was constantly interrupted by other people. These interruptions were the things that other kids in the class easily ignored (a tapping pencil or a tapping foot, another child getting out of their seat to sharpen a pencil, etc.), but I couldn't block them out.

I paid the same amount of attention to a tapping pencil as I did to the teacher talking; I didn't know how not to. I was constantly being corrected for telling other kids to be quiet, but I couldn't ignore distractions, and telling everyone else to be quiet was the only way I knew to deal with the problem.

I had no real awareness that everyone else wasn't bothered by the same things I was, either. I thought I was perfectly normal and everyone else was the problem. My mother describes small me as being "very angry" much of the time.
posted by epj at 7:45 PM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


What does it feel like?

1) I never experienced real silence until I took my first ADHD tablet. Being alone in a quiet place wouldn't help without the tablet, because my brain is a noisy place, with lots and lots of thoughts going on all the time.
2) ADHD is not just about thoughts rattling around, or being easily distracted by obviously external stimuli, but also about "bodily distractions". Without the tablets, I itch a lot, I'm totally aware of every booger, aware that I'm starting to get hungry not long after the previous meal, can feel the earwax in my ear, know that my bladder is getting a little full shortly after going, etc. And I need to deal with them all. Before I can settle to do any focused thinking. Which consequently doesn't happen much.
3) The distractions of everything rattling around also prevents me "dwelling" on topics. I have to present a lot on some specialist subjects to others in the field. When I was on the tablets, I started getting very insecure about presenting, because my now quiet brain was able to dwell on thoughts about how others might perceive me, when normally, if I gave it a thought, I didn't give it a second thought. While I didn't get paranoid exactly, I got a pit in my stomach before presenting that I never had while not on medication.

Interestingly, having been on the tablets for about four months, I learned to recognize the sensation of distraction itself, and was able to deal with that sensation by pulling myself back. I have stopped taking the tablets, and have started reacting to the distractions by re-focusing. So although I still get the mental tugs, I can pull myself back much better.

I had to stop the meds for other reasons, and although still firmly ADHD, I can deal with it much better.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 8:30 PM on March 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


rtha: "I do all the stuff that jenfullmoon describes, but it doesn't disrupt my life. For instance, in the last hour or so I've been to the grocery store, vacuumed, and started a load of laundry. All that required a certain amount of "first [foo], then [bar]," and I can do that without much risk of getting so sidetracked that I end up going to the hardware store to get paint to paint the bathroom or something."

Ah, and you put away the groceries, finished vacuuming, and took the clothes out of the washer before they got moldy?
posted by Danila at 9:37 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The first time I took Ritalin after being diagnosed. I was at a friends place, it was in the fall so the patio door was ajar. The tv was blaring, my friend was talking over it, I could hear the traffic on the highway nearby, birds, the rustling of the leaves from the breeze. Keenly aware of everything around me, of me in relation to everything else, but not being able to focus in on any one thing in particular. Trying ever so hard to hear what my friend was saying but only able to pick up a word or two hear or there and, having to play guess the rest of the sentence then, reply based on my best guess.

The pill kicked in and, for the first time ever I heard my friend speak a whole sentence in its entirety.

I talk blazingly fast, tend to hog conversations if given half a chance. My mind races, half finished thoughts before I move onto something else. I obsess. A lot. I have problems falling asleep and, staying asleep. I tend to binge. I get irritated easily, don`t handle frustration well at all. I have mood swings. Reading makes me really effin tired (I read to fall asleep too!) . Sometimes no matter how many times I've read a word or a sentence it might as well be Greek to me, I can't wrap my head around the words. I have a hard time sitting still. I have a bazillion projects on the go and, not a single one is finished. My house is a case in tidy chaos, I tend to memorize where everything is in order to find it again. If its been moved I lose it and, will tear the house apart looking for it. I'm sensitive to things touching me. I don't have all that much energy until ... oh about 3PM but then can work late into the night. Often I feel revved up which makes it even harder to sit still. I've gotten up at least fives times since I started writing this and, shifted in my seat more times than I care to admit and just shifted one more time before hitting post - heh.
posted by squeak at 11:05 PM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I spend a sizable amount of money on groceries that I will not end up consuming all or even most of, because I leave them out overnight.

I've gotten the keys thing under control with a system as of late, but any confounding event will make me lose my keys. An example: it's spring here in St. Louis, which means that the temperature can fluctuate on an hourly basis between t-shirt and jacket weather. This happened one day last week and I lost my keys each time I switched between going outside in a t-shirt and going outside in a jacket.
posted by invitapriore at 10:45 AM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, and you put away the groceries, finished vacuuming, and took the clothes out of the washer before they got moldy?

Yup, pretty much - although there's a load in the washing machine, still, because I need to clear out the load in the dryer first; but I have a cold and have been feeling shitty and tired, so that's my reason for not doing that. Also, a lot of basketball on TV.

If I'd had any doubts about whether my ADD-like behaviors mean I have ADD/ADHD, reading everything in this thread would have dispelled that notion entirely. I multitask like a loon sometimes, but when I need to focus I can focus. I haven't lost my keys in years or my phone ever. Things are left undone not because I get distracted by something else, or bored by the task (well, sometimes that) but because I'm lazy. Different kettle of fish completely.
posted by rtha at 11:13 AM on March 21, 2010


1. I'd forget to do just about everything that was even remotely necessary. This often included things as completely fucking obvious as eating.
2. When I would remember to do something, my immediate reaction was, Well, maybe when I'm done wasting my time on this other stuff. Then, after about five minutes, I'd forget again. Whee!
3. For years (i.e., my whole life, until last year, at age 27) reading was next to impossible. I could read and understand the words just fine, but every single time, I come to a point where I'd suddenly realize that, for a good forty-five minutes or so, I hadn't been paying any attention whatsoever to the words my eyes had been dutifully scanning, or the pages my hands were turning; I'd been daydreaming about something a some random word I'd read had triggered.
4. In school, I had no trouble paying attention to the lessons, even with chattering students and stuff. Note-taking, on the other hand... My notes were scribbly, completely disorganized (to the point that I'd have several subjects mixed together, often on the same page), and covered in doodles. I did really well on tests, because I'd paid attention in class; I didn't study (literally never, ever) because a) I couldn't, for the above reasons, b) I didn't need to, because I'd paid attention.
5. I could always concentrate extremely well when I was doodling in my notebook. Playing Tetris works in the same way. I don't know; it's weird like that. In face-to-face situations, I would often appear aloof and distracted, since actually focusing on the the person talking to me—especially making eye contact—made it impossible to pay attention to the words coming out of that face. This tends to be really, really unhelpful in job interviews.
6. I'd stammer. I'd lose my train of thought. I'd switch sentences--whole topics, even--halfway through.
7. 20 minutes in the shower. There's a lot to do in there!
8. From the age of 9, I was (mis)diagnosed as suffering from what used to be called Monopolar Depression. That was 1990, when Prozac was the miracle drug. Meh. I tried many antidepressants, none of which helped, some of which really super-mega-DID NOT HELP, for the next ten years. Various doctors kept searching for just the right SSRI; none of them once considered that the depression might, god forbid, actually be caused by something that was easily treatable in other ways.
9. Ritalin works. I mean, holy fuck, the difference is astounding. I can have my shit together without so much as thinking about it. What used to be a huge struggle is now automatic.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:27 AM on March 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


TrialByMedia could have written my life story.

I compare the first time on ADD meds to the first time I put on eyeglasses. OMG, I can see/think/hear!
posted by schyler523 at 11:49 AM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey! Was just officially diagnosed with ADD this week!

In addition to the above, please include impulsivity. It's in the same basket that makes me unable to have a conversation while facing a tv or a window. I'm intelligent and I try to be even handed and rational. I meditate. Yet, even as an adult (okay, middle aged adult) I STILL blurt things out, in spite of having consciously decided not to say them. I still yell even as I'm telling myself I won't raise my voice. I've thrown things during an argument at the same time I'm trying keep myself still (when I was younger it would be big stuff like chairs, now it tends to be kleenex - no one else is threatened by it, but I know what it means). I've done a lot of work and am way less angry than I used to be, but every now and then I get my buttons pushed and off I go. It fucking blows.

Forgetting what I'm doing a hundred times a day is a drag, but I've been doing it for over 40 years now. Not being able to control myself at the level I would expect from a 12 year old - not so much.
posted by smartyboots at 12:41 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lest I sound like a miserable rageaholic, I should add that same tendency to just jump into things has meant that I've done an awful lot of fun stuff in my life that I probably wouldn't have if I had stopped to think about it more and almost all of it has turned out really well. The difference is having the impulse and going with it, versus having the impulse, deciding not to do it, and doing it anyway.
posted by smartyboots at 1:04 PM on March 21, 2010


This thread has me convinced to discuss ADHD with my doctor. I've wrestled with depression my whole life, and am thankful for SSRIs, and now the addition of Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), which make my life manageable. The only reason I don't lose my keys, mobile phone, glasses, etc., more often is that I've developed strict habits, including leaving the keys in the car at home. I still go to work w/out the mobile every other week or so.

It's like telling somebody with clinical depression to buck up and wear a smile now and then. This exact behavior has happened to me a lot, and is really unkind. Trust me, if I could just cheer up, I truly would.

I know I've developed coping strategies, and I watched my son do the same, up to a point. On the other hand, my ADHD-diagnosed son is acutely aware of his surroundings, and is a great person to have on a hike or in a boat; he's noticing a slew of minor bits of information and processing on some level. There's an evolutionary reason for ADHD, but our deskbound culture has evolved away from it.
posted by theora55 at 1:31 PM on March 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was diagnosed at the age of 29. School was awful for me -- I dealt with tests really well, but I could never complete long projects, so my grades depended on the grading style of the teacher.

I'm ADD/inattentive, which doesn't have a lot of readily-observable symptoms. I can attend a 2-hour lecture and look like I'm paying very close attention the whole time, but I'll be thinking about something else. I remember in church, growing up, wondering how everyone could stand to pay attention to the 15-minute sermon. I just kind of figured that that's something that adults were capable of.

In day-to-day terms, it feels like there's some kind of plastic bubble over the tasks I need to do. My mind just slides off of them. I can't get any sort of foothold. I spent a lot of college telling myself I would start a paper at 7pm for sure, then at 8 for sure, until it was 2am and I was setting my alarm for 5am so I could write the paper before class. I was pretty much incapable of doing any work on my own unless there was a hard deadline and the penalties were severe. (Despite being on the jr. high school competitive math team, I got awful grades in math because I didn't do the daily homework. It was easy to dismiss each individual assignment, because they were small parts of my overall grade, and I figured I'd really buckle down the next day and make up for it. That never happened.)

The weird thing is, even when I'm not paying attention to the thing I'm paying attention to, I'm not bored. I'm almost never bored, because my mind is doing something. It's not doing the thing it's supposed to, but it's working hard, albeit on ridiculous and unrelated subjects.

I've got medication now, which is totally weird. Because I've spent my life wondering, "How do these guys spend so much time thinking about the same thing?" And, all of a sudden, I can do that. If I need to pay a bill, I can address it, instead of hiding the letter somewhere, so that I won't have to deal with it. All of a sudden, I'm an adult. I really had no idea that this was a normal premise for human interaction.
posted by nicething at 2:21 PM on March 21, 2010 [19 favorites]


I would like to thank everyone for their responses so far. My dad has ADD and was diagnosed relatively late in life, and this thread gives me a lot of insight into what the inside of his head must be like, and why he and my mom had such a hard time living together.

I am actually tearing up a little bit reading this, and I will echo that when you have ADD like my dad, people do tend to treat your limitations as moral failings or laziness rather than manifestations of different neurological wiring. I remember how much time my mom spent being frustrated at my dad for his inability to follow through on simple household tasks, and how he took that frustration to heart and felt guilty. That dynamic built a resentment between them that hung over our family for a really long time until they got divorced.

My dad is on medication now and doing better but many ordinary tasks are still a struggle for him.
posted by mai at 2:50 PM on March 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


What ADHD Feels Like. By Spinifex23.

First of all - for those out there reading this thread and wondering 'Hrm, this sounds a lot like me, wonder if I should check it out?', I'd say 'YES! Check it out!' Because ADHD is a medical condition, and as a medical condition, you're protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (if applicable). Which means, if you need it, you can ask for accommodations. This can be invaluable, esp. if you're considering school and/or you're having problems at work.

Like the others, I'm officially diagnosed by a real actual doctor person, and like the others, I'm medicated. Unlike the others, I didn't experience a massive, magical increase of an attention span. Perhaps it's the really small dose (I only take 5 MG of Adderall XL a day), but it's really subtle. But on it, I can get stuff done with less mental interference and fuss - like assignments at work, chores at home, and the like.

I can also plan ahead, which is invaluable. The best way that I can put it is that with ADHD, I have a constant field of static in my head. All of the short term tasks (like watching TV, reading Internet, eating, doing small tasks at work, etc.) It takes so much energy trying to juggle all the short term tasks that it left me no energy for more long term planning. The medication reduces the static a bit, and literally lets me see further into the future. So now I can do things like sending in my taxes to get done by my EA two months before April 15th, and not at the last minute. Plan ahead for my job ending in late June by taking computer classes and increasing my skillsets, instead of just stumbling into the first other job I find. With school, plan out my classes (I'm studying C# Programming and SQL) so that they follow a logical track, and not just taking classes in some haphazard order. I finally finished straightening out my finances, which were a mess. Even little things, like when going grocery shopping, I can remember what I already have, so I don't inadvertently re-purchase it. One day, I cleaned out my cupboards, and realized that I had 25 chocolate bars - I just kept on buying them!

One of the biggest problems I have with the ADHD, that I've only seen lightly touched on, is information processing. I have problems with it, especially aurally. It's the 'cocktail deafness', or Auditory Processing Disorder. If I am in a quiet room with one other person, I can hear everything just fine. But, the more noise and chatter that surrounds me, the worse it gets, and I find myself constantly unable to hear others, and having to ask what they said. Like, I can hear that they said something, but the brain lost the power to process it, so it just helpfully registers it as 'white noise'. And then when I have to talk, sometimes I just can't find the right word; a cup, for instance, becomes 'that item that you pour wet things into.' Just today, I asked a clerk for 'washing liquid for clothes' instead of detergent. It gets better when I'm on the Adderall, but still vastly annoying at times.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:16 PM on March 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


I read the title of this question, typed in a URL, clicked a link randomly, then realized what I had read and came back here.

Diagnosed ADD.
posted by shii at 4:19 PM on March 21, 2010


spinifex23: "And then when I have to talk, sometimes I just can't find the right word; a cup, for instance, becomes 'that item that you pour wet things into.'"

YES! This happens to me as well. Recalling words is sometimes really difficult. I have come up with all sorts of weird sentences, crazy grammar, because I just can't think of one stupid word. I've had people ask me if I was high/drunk because of this particular issue.

I should also mention that I'm on meds now (10mgs of Adderall) and it's AWESOME. It is such a wonderful change. Just understanding ADHD really did a lot to improve my life, too, so for anyone reading this who is considering getting help, please do. It can get better!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:49 PM on March 21, 2010


I'm not familiar with the meds involved, but seeing as they act on the central nervous system, do you get any benefit from caffeine?

I've been self-medicating with caffeine since forever to make the white noise / fog disappear and the effect seems to be similar to what some of you are describing with your meds. This all sounds familiar enough that I'll ask the doc to prod me for it. How does one get diagnosed with this btw? It's a rather broad spectrum of disorders, no?
posted by monocultured at 6:07 PM on March 21, 2010


Caffeine helps and is a common thing for self-medication. Stimulants are way better.

It's one disorder (or maybe two) with a lot of symptoms that affect a lot of different things. (Whew!)

The general gist of diagnosis seems to be a questionnaire for you and one other person, but I've also had docs with lots of experience ask some questions, ask some more questions, then give me the diagnosis. Your best bet would probably be a psychiatrist or psychologist who has a lot of experience with ADHD, it can be rather slippery, partially because it's hard to see all of the patterns unless you've seen them before, or know that they're part of ADHD. Example, a lot of the things people mention here multiple times are symptoms that I have, but I didn't list them because I forgot about them and/or didn't realize they were related. A good doc will ask about symptoms that you might not even associate with ADHD and therefore might not tell her about.

Again, Driven to Distraction AND/OR Delivered from Distraction are great books that talk about diagnosis, etc, written by psychiatrists who also have ADHD
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:19 PM on March 21, 2010


Mono - I talked to my Psychiatrist. Luckily, I already had one, but if you don't see if you can have your GP recommend one.

I also tried self-medicating with caffeine - but the amount of caffeine I'd need would get outweighed by the side effects. Adderall is like a strong double shot of Espresso, but without the jitters.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:48 PM on March 21, 2010


Personally, I haven't had much luck with caffeine. But, keep in mind, I didn't have much luck with Ritalin in the '90s, and I was diagnosed about 20 years ago, and that was really the only treatment available at the time. It wasn't accompanied by any sort of therapy. I've gone unmedicated for over a decade now, and this thread has me ready to make an appointment with a doctor to see if there are any treatment options I should be pursuing. I've forgotten over the years that most other people don't have to deal with the storm that happens inside of my head, and I'm thankful that I was able to participate in this thread and regain some perspective about my condition and how severe it is.

Anyway, my experience with caffeine is that it tends to make my mind race even more, and it really exacerbates my temper and inability to follow and participate in conversations.
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:02 PM on March 21, 2010


I'm not familiar with the meds involved, but seeing as they act on the central nervous system, do you get any benefit from caffeine?

Caffeine will help but self medicating for anything is a bad idea. I have noticed that I gain some focus but it adds to my edginess. The stuff I take is a controlled release of Ritalin. This is the third try on the same type of drug and it works out well.

The first try to find the right med was plain old Ritalin. This was problematic as I needed to take it every 3 hours. This is almost a bad joke as I can't remember to do many things once a day much less every three hours.

Try two was a six hour release which kept me awake until 4 am. Did that for a couple of weeks and went back to the three hour version and went on and off the medication.

The third try was Concerta. This is a 12 hour version that has a very steady release method. I can sleep pretty well as long as I take it before 10 am or so.

Always consult your doctor on all of this. There is no substitute for Psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD as far as getting on the right track.


As far as how the stimulants work it seems that no one really know that exact mechanism. I tend to believe what I call "the tread mill theory" This is basically the idea that you are giving your very active brain something to do (ie process the stimulant) allowing you to focus. Another one has to do with elevating dopamine levels because the theory is that ADHD brains burn through this neurotransmitter faster than non-ADHD brains.

Caffeine being a stimulant it makes sense that you would have some benefit. My concern is that it also seems to add to edginess. One of the symptoms that I have had to struggle with is impulsiveness and hyper sensitivity. What this looks like it that off meds I will jump to the worst possible conclusion when some says something. It can be as simple as "can you close the door?" With out a chance to even catch myself I will take that simple comment and react to it like criticism. This combined with the edginess drinking the equivalent of 6-8 cups of coffee is a recipe for disaster. Ruined relationships, trouble at work, and road rage are potential risks from this approach.

Bottom line see someone and deal with this the correct way.
posted by empty vessel at 7:19 PM on March 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


elsietheeel's DIY description is DEAD ON for me. With the added joy that you can't see it when you're in it. When you go inside to get the thing to make the other thing, you have forgotten what led you there because something more interesting came up.

It's sort of like being a mental adrenalin junkie. Whatever you are doing, no matter how important it might be, if something more stimulating comes along you forget why you came in and glom onto that.

You know how OSX has that thing at the bottom where when you hover the mouse over it, that icon jumps up and gets bigger? Normal people can control the mouse and choose what to hover over. And they can still see the other things on their personal desktop. For people with ADD, whatever is the most interesting thing in front of them jumps out like that, and worse, everything else disappears.

It is very stream of consiousness. It is quite fun, if you have nothing to do. But good god, if there is something you HAVE to do, the entire universe had better stop being so damned interesting, or it WON'T get done. (That's the threshold for diagnosis- you can't control it. Nobody likes doing boring things, people with ADD *can't* hunker down and get 'er done.)

Re: stimulants: there are two kinds, CNS (brain) stimulants and physiological stimulants. Coffee is mostly physiological- you have physical energy, but your brain is just as unfocused as ever. Amphetamine is the opposite (for me). Almost no jitter, just clarity of thought. It's like taking ephedrine without the racing heart. My impression is that it is about the reward centers being out of whack. When *nothing* is rewarding, you are always looking for something to tweak that spot in your head. Stimulants "turn up the gain" on the reward mechanism and allow the brain to be able to see the reward of, say, finishing one's taxes.
posted by gjc at 8:03 PM on March 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hello, I am on drug vacation. Here is your tl:dr -

I was reading the thread, and skipped to the bottom to tell you what it feels like for me, because if I kept reading the thread i would have to go find a link which shows the brain scans of people with ADD/ADHD, the way their brains are lit up so evenly as opposed to having areas of brightness, because it describes one aspect so well - everything seems to have an equal value. There isn't one thing that stands out and demands my attention; everything is equally fascinating and important. Other people in the thread have mentioned feeling trapped in their heads; I have pretty much crawled completely inside mine, at present.

Inside my head , it's totally monkeys. MonkeysmonkeysmonkeysTerryGilliamandHieronymousBoschandfire. I'm working on five different projects right now - painting a small version of the Temptation of St Anthony (which has always fascinated me, it's turning out really well) finally making animation with those models I made a month ago that have been sitting around (the big flat guy is super feisty! He got up on his hind legs and made jazz hands! I love him, but I can't write him a story) making more models, trying to figure out how to edit .srt files for a particularly sweet April Fool's joke, converting amazing films from the Eastman Archives to digital files (including these Studies in Cinematic Fluography - x-ray films, which are beyond gorgeous, if you're into that sort of thing, and who isn't?) and editing some old animation files together (hyperfocus! HYPER) and I also really want to read Krazy Kat so I can have an entire IM conversation in that patois. Plus making more monsters to sell. That on top of the constant dialogue - it's very visual, but mostly verbal. I keep catching myself whispering things out loud, and hope nobody else does.

Outside my head - if you were to actually try to have a conversation with me right now, I would jump all over you and finish your sentences, and swear a lot and say really inappropriate things. You would wonder why I can't remember really obvious details. You would wonder why I drop words, or stop in the middle of a sentence. Or maybe I wouldn't even be able to talk at all. You might think (at least, I might think that you think) that I'm an idiot. You would wonder why I'm such a slob, why I forgot to do something important at work. Before I started taking my meds, you would get frustrated and angry because I would cry all the time - you would think it was because I wasn't getting my way, but it was always because I was frustrated and ashamed. I miss relaly important social cues, and sometimes have serious boundary issues (which I cope with my withdrawing completely.) I hide myself. I had teachers make fun of me because I was so messy, and I rarely went out for recess becasue I didn't finish my homework. I am the only person in my family who never finished college (my entire immediate family hold at least one advanced degree.) I just reminded myself I'm a failure. SHIT.

I had one person say to me:"I've seen films about people like you. You're worse than the people in the films." (He thought I was schizophrenic. In retrospect, he was actually kind of an asshole. Never mind)

There are certainly good things about it. I am never actually bored in here. I never don't have ideas - I have too many, all the time. I amuse myself tremendously. I often have people tell me they want to see what it's like in my head. "I just want to live in your mind, Emily. I want to know how think. i want to see what you dream about!" I tell them it's a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there. It's a magical kingdom that I can't ever, ever leave.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:08 PM on March 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


I always do my taxes the day I get my W2 in the mail. Money is better than dopamine!

Reading the new comments here (and re-reading the old ones) has really made me appreciate something that's going to sound really contradictory: 1. I'm not alone, and 2. You mean everyone's brain doesn't work like mine does?

Some other things: Auditory processing is totally an issue. I can't concentrate on a conversation if there are other conversations happening, unless I'm totally engaged and hyperfocusing. Date with fascinating person? Total concentration. Boss giving me instructions, especially multi-part ones? Lost. There have been many times that she's rattled off a list of things she wants me to do, my eyes have glazed over and I've had to say "I'm sorry Boss, but I missed all of that. Can you go over it again while I take notes?" Thankfully, my boss knows about my diagnosis and is totally accommodating, especially since she has an ADHD son.

Oh, and lectures are right out. Even if I try to take notes. My brain is off in another world and I'm counting ceiling tiles and fidgeting in my seat and making lists. Or if I'm not fidgeting, I'm falling asleep. I've dropped out of college four times because I can't stay seated in a classroom for longer than 30 minutes. People hate going to to the movies with me because I shift around in my seat so much. Sitting still HURTS. It hurts my brain, it hurts my body. They don't like watching movies at home with me either, because I have to either be doing something else, or I'll keep pausing it for some reason.

The impulsiveness and short fuse has been an issue in the past. I say things that get me in trouble without meaning to, and I've lashed out in situations that could have really gotten me in trouble. Ten years ago I maaaayyy have hit my boss when he tried to stop me from leaving a room when I was in a meltdown state. I'm still shocked I didn't lose my job over that.

I began to suspect ADHD in my early 20s, but I resisted getting diagnosed for years, as I didn't think that I really had it. I thought it was overdiagnosed and that no one would take me seriously, because I wasn't all that bad. And now I kick myself for not doing something about it sooner. Sometimes I think about all the stuff I could have accomplished if I would have pursued medication when I was still in school. I might have graduated from high school instead of dropping out and getting a GED. I might have a degree or two by now instead of dropping out four times. And I'd probably have a better job where I actually use my brain instead of being a body at a desk.

I think that's the most frustrating part of ADHD - those words that most of us probably saw on our report cards every year.

"Not living up to his/her potential."

I spent 32 years not living up to my potential and I can't help but think a lot of that time was wasted.

Anyway, sorry this is all a jumble. I didn't take my meds today.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:07 PM on March 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


elsietheeel: ""Not living up to his/her potential.""

Yeah, ouch...I also got "smart but too immature to advance"

Re: caffeine, it seems like it doesn't help all that much but when off meds I use to obsess over it...maybe every little bit helped, or perhaps it was just a lack of self-control combined with a love of having something in my hands to fiddle with and something to do (find coffee, order coffee, put stuff in coffee, forget coffee, notice husband trying to take coffee away, be irritated, put it in microwave, heat it up, forget about it...)

Now on meds I successfully make coffee every day but drink less than half of the cup. As much coffee as I used to drink plus stimulant meds makes me an irritable anxious mess. So I do not recommend this combo.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:01 PM on March 21, 2010


Since I saw the MeTa on this thread (after my checking of MeFi, which including five tabs, and AskMe, which involved another ten tabs), I have: made breakfast for my wife and myself. Read half a dozen other sites. Checked four or five times if the NCAA basketball game I want to watch has been posted yet (typing now, I'm resisting the urge to check again). Unpacked clothes from the vacation we got back from on Friday (I've been sick, that's it), then left them on top of the suitcase, rather than put them away. I've gone up and down the stairs, past my wife's suitcase probably a dozen times, knowing that she wants me to put it in the attic, and it's been there since Saturday (it's Monday afternoon here in Japan). I went out to weed the yard (it's ugly out there) which lasted for about an hour (lots of weeds) until I decided to wash the windows. After washing the windows, I went out to try to clean up what's left of my herb garden after the winter, and a good amount of neglect in the fall. I ended up getting the dead branches out of the catnip, the lemongrass, and the mint, and made a failed attempt to get some weeds out of the planters. I made lunch. I played Babble. And now I'm posting this, after five attempts at finishing the thread, thinking that just maybe it's time for me to find an English speaking psychiatrist in Tokyo to see if just maybe ADD is what's been fucking up my life as bad as it has. Of course, I have several premade excuses for putting it off: it'll be expensive, it'll be hard to find someone in Tokyo, it'll be a pain in the ass to get to Tokyo regularly and the like. Of course, more frightening would be the idea that I don't have anything wrong with me, and that this is just who I am.

Thanks, seriously, to everyone who posted. I'm going to make an effort to see someone, to get checked out.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:14 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've not been diagnosed with ADD, but the topic motivated me to write my own story.

Sitting down and writing anything of more substance than a one-line email requires a near-Herculean level of effort.
I am mentally composing this paragraph one sentence at a time while pacing across the length of my house. I think of a sentence, and by the time I sit down to write it it is gone and some other tangentially related fragment is in its place. If I am to write something of any depth, I must copy these bits and pieces down and hope I'll be able to translate them back into something semi-intelligible later. At the time of writing this paragraph, I have eight sentence fragments at the bottom of this document. Some will eventually be expanded into coherent sentences, some will not. I obsess over each phrase and word choice. At this particular point in time, I couldn't care less about whether or not I start a sentence with a preposition, but I can't reliably translate any thought of any length into written word or even speech. A million unintelligible things are constantly buzzing around in my head, to the point where nothing's left but a floor of noise and a feeling of annoyance at my inability to concentrate.

I have dozens of unfinished projects, most of which would take no more than a months' spare time to complete, but I just can't bring myself to work on anything after more than a few days. I treat it like I'm lazy, but I don't think that's correct. I am constantly thinking about them when I'm NOT working on them, but it's like I am physically restrained from getting anything done if I'm not excited about it and I have any other choice whatsoever. I am constantly busy, but I never seem to get anything done. In the last 2 months I have written 10 pages for a book I will, in all likelihood, never finish and purchased half a dozen domain names for websites I will never complete.

The slightest distraction - someone walking by me in my peripheral vision, the sound of a door closing or a dog barking in the distance - completely destroys my concentration, and it takes several minutes of undivided attention to get back into it. I can rarely get any work done at home, because someone's always around, and god forbid they might have the nerve to TALK to me in the middle of the day! Coffee shops don't work either - if I overhear someone else's conversation, it's all over.

Under ideal conditions, there is an approximately 20-minute window each evening where I can actually get something done. I am completely alone and there are no (external) distractions - everyone else is asleep, and the house is absolutely quiet save for the hum of my computer fan and the occasional chime of the clock down the hall. Additionally, I am sufficiently tired that my mental filter is lowered enough for me to type whole sentences at once without stopping to obsess over it.

As a student and a person whose work (freelance programmer and occasional copy-writer) often requires my complete focus, everything seems to take me ten times longer than it should. Stuff that requires focus but is purely procedural, like solving straight-up math equations, is no problem, but anything that requires creativity or critical thinking is nearly impossible.

I feel a certain level of anxiety almost constantly - I don't worry about specific things much, I just have a sort of baseline level of anxiety whenever I'm doing anything, particularly in social situations. The muscles in my jaw and mouth are always tense and I usually look like I'm frowning. I have a hard time making small talk because I'm too busy thinking about things when thought is not required, like trying to formulate an in-depth response to "hi, how are you" and I get flustered easily. Even the slightest stressor causes disproportionate anxiety. My hands are shaking a little as I type this.

As a little kid, it would take me hours to go to sleep every night because I was unable to stop thinking about things - making up stories in my head or whatever - but I'm not like that any more. Now I'm just thinking about how little I got done compared to what I wanted to accomplish and how I need to just buckle down and get stuff done tomorrow if I want to get anywhere, and somehow I believe every day is going to be different. Of course, then I wake up and I get distracted by something shiny again.

Everything just seems to take FOREVER. The above text took me over 2 1/2 hours to write.

I don't know if this is ADD, specifically - I used to notice the anxiety much more than the inability to focus - but I see a lot of similarities with what some of you are saying this thread has motivated me to try and get some help. Seriously. For real, this time.

This isn't the first time I've written something like this but I always end up deleting it later and it's the first time I've ever posted it anywhere. Somehow I am able to convince myself it's not so bad and never talk to anyone about it, but I obsess about it every evening when I'm alone. I'm going to print this out and tape it to my monitor so I can't ignore it any more. Thanks, guys. :)
posted by anodyne- at 12:18 AM on March 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


Thanks to all of you who answered here. I've always thought in the back of my mind that this was more of a refrain than a real disease, a la "I'm so ADD" as mentioned above. But the more I read what I felt like was an unauthorized biography written by strangers, the more I suspected that maybe I needed to start pursuing some advice.

Noticing that I had 3 tabs OF THIS THREAD open at once was just the icing on the cake.
posted by nevercalm at 1:29 AM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


elsietheeel: "
"Not living up to his/her potential."
"

Oh, yes. It used to piss me off -- maybe that was my full potential and my teachers should back off. And now I'm pissed off in a different way, realizing that in fact I I did have the potential to be a much better student, but it wasn't something I could do on my own.

I'm happy with my life and how things have turned out so far, but I do sometimes wonder what I could've accomplished if my parents and teachers had known about ADD.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:15 AM on March 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I just wanted to thank everyone upthread. I've spent years wondering if I have ADD. Or thinking that I likely had it. But mostly ignoring the blaring red flashing ADD right in front of my face my whole entire life.

Above I've read a description of my childhood, my school years, dropping out of college, working as a waitress, having endless plans never come to anything, room a mess, spazzing out on the internet for hours, not paying my bills or emailing anyone back...

I spent 32 years not living up to my potential and I can't help but think a lot of that time was wasted.

That right there made me break down, cry and call my doctor. So, thank you.
posted by metasav at 9:31 AM on March 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I basically can't socialize with friends in most bars anymore, because every bar seems to have a hundred flat-screen TVs tuned to a hundred different channels playing a hundred different sporting events. I can't concentrate on a conversation someone is trying to have with me when there's a TV on where I can see it. And I don't even like sports.
posted by decathecting at 10:28 AM on March 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am unmedicated.
I am a creature of habit. I have to be. I'll give you my morning routine... otherwise the branching gets too messy and I would have to look up how to do some proper HTML bulleting, which is something I have been meaning to do for the past 5 years or so and I used to know how to do, but I've forgotten, and... I digress...

1. I get up when my son cries.
2. I bring him into the living room and play with him a little untill he's a little bit more sure of the world. I then turn on the TV to distract him (bad parenting tip 101.) so I can get my mind focussed.
3. I prioritize every task I am going to have to do that day - even though 90% of them are the same tasks that I did yesterday.
4. I get my son into the kitchen and give him a Banana and a sippy cup of milk.
5. If I remembered last night, a pot of coffee is ready for me. If not and I remember now, I start a pot of coffee for myself... otherwise I will go the entire day mostly functional with no coffee... Seriously. It takes me two hours to leave the house and if I don't do it then - no coffee... I also really like my mug my sister gave me. Hopefully that's in the cabinet and not in the dishwasher. Crap, its not in the cabinet.

6. Next, I turn to look at my son. I'm including this as a step because occasionally I forget to do this, and only remember after he starts making unhappy noises.

5.1. Did I mention that I wanted to put some dishes in the sink in the dishwasher? Oh. The dishwasher is full.
5.2 Unload the dishwasher. Wait... the drying rack for the plastic things is full... now do I unload the rack first or the ceramics from the dishwasher and then do the rack.

Step 6 reminds me that I haven't looked at my son by fussing. Crap - Son needs cereal, bagel, or pancakes. I choose cereal because I can see it, and chances are the milk is still on the counter from his sippy cup or my coffee... or I've put it away and I need to get it again. So. ... Bowl, ceral, milk, spoon. Hand to child. Throw away banana peel on table, put away milk.

Back to 5.2. Unload dish rack.
Back to 5.1 Unload washer.
I should number this 5.3 I guess which would now be washing last night's stray dishes.

Realize that I never poured myself my cup of coffee, or if I did, it doesn't have any sugar in it or milk. Or... I realize that today will not be a day where I get coffee...

G. I make my lunch. (Eh, screw numbering.we're swapping to lettering now) Pre-made things and leftovers already in a container are better because otherwise, I will construct the perfect sandwich - and I used to be a cook so I go all out if I have the chance to make a sandwich.
H. Realize 30 minutes since we woke up has gone by and the dogs aren't fed. If my son finishes before the dogs eat he'll want to play in the dog bowls and I'll have to struggle to keep him out of their food.
I. Fill dog bowls with food, quiet barky dog, bring them food. Fill their water bowls. Turn off music in son's room. Get diaper, box of wipes, and change of clothes and set them on the table in the living room.
J. Go back, Help my son finish his cereal and give him a Yogurt.
K. I check the time, realize 40 minutes have passed. I scarf down some breakfast.
L. I hopefully stop my son from playing in his yogurt instead of eating it.
M. I have a sip of coffee if I made it, otherwise I think about not having coffee.
N. I get a fresh washcloth, and wipe the yogurt off my son, remove the tray from his highchair and set it somewhere where he can't get to it if he gets loose and I forget about it.
O. I get him out of the chair and find Curious George on PBS.
P. I go back into the kitchen, clean his chair and the tray. I put away his dishes.
Q. I remove the dog bowls from where my son is (probably what he is playing in) and move to dogs back to the bedrooms.
R. I then, remove my son from the top of the coffee table, where he is having a hilariously good time removing each wipe from the wipe container.
S. Diaper change and clothing change for son.
T. I never finished my breakfast. Go back into the kitchen, find my coffee (if there was any - its cold now) and scarf down my breakfast.
U. Turn off TV and go play with son.
V. Wife walks in. Tells me house is a mess. Is surprised I'm not dressed and the dogs still have to go out.
U. Shave (3 minutes)
V. Shower (5 minutes)
W. Dress (3 minutes)
X. Get baggies, Take dogs out, start car
Y. Pick up dog poop, bring back in dogs
Z. go. to. work.
AA. hope when I get to work that I remembered to bring my lunch, laptop, badge, phone and wallet.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:45 PM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


4. In school, I had no trouble paying attention to the lessons, even with chattering students and stuff. Note-taking, on the other hand... My notes were scribbly, completely disorganized (to the point that I'd have several subjects mixed together, often on the same page), and covered in doodles. I did really well on tests, because I'd paid attention in class; I didn't study (literally never, ever) because a) I couldn't, for the above reasons, b) I didn't need to, because I'd paid attention.
5. I could always concentrate extremely well when I was doodling in my notebook. Playing Tetris works in the same way. I don't know; it's weird like that. In face-to-face situations, I would often appear aloof and distracted, since actually focusing on the the person talking to me—especially making eye contact—made it impossible to pay attention to the words coming out of that face. This tends to be really, really unhelpful in job interviews.
Yes, yes! I couldn't take notes in class because I'd get so distracted by what I was writing that I'd lose what the professor was saying! I couldn't not take notes because I would start fidgeting, rearranging my desk, braiding and unbraiding my hair, and still lose most of the lecture. The best solution I came up with was abstract doodling. All of my notebooks (and even the notes I take now in meetings at work) are filled with elaborate scrollwork. If it was something that I'd need the notes for afterward, I'd take a few minutes after class and dump everything in my head onto a sheet of paper. I had a professor who became very annoyed with me, because I was always doodling. She was constantly stopping midlecture and throwing direct questions at me, trying to catch me daydreaming. It took several months for her to believe me when I explained it was a focusing tool and I really, truly, was listening the best I could.

Things that are disorganized or are mismatched drive me nuts, which prevents me from finishing a lot of things. I keep organizing and reorganizing, hitting the point where fixing the whole thing is too much, and then never get to the actual work. Weirdly, I am the keeper of the calendar at work, because I couldn't keep all the messy details in my head, and made a "pretty" template in one of my fits of efficiency. It stays mine because everyone else does it too messy. (I need things to have proper places, so I can find them again. I've taken to using purses with a million pockets, because then every item has a place and I can train the reflex to put things there.) Direct bill pay has been a lifesaver - I never managed to pay anything on time, and had piles of unanswered mail. I still have piles of unanswered mail, but at least most of them are confirmation notices and not "why haven't you paid us" notices.
posted by Karmakaze at 2:37 PM on March 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm diagnosed ADHD, and have been on various meds. Lots of stuff in this thread rings very true to me.

One thing I'll take exception with: movies. They are the only thing I can sit through, pretty much. But then, I'm a movie lover.

In my experience, at least, things that I really enjoy doing, and require relatively little effort and planning on my part, can entertain me for hours. It's the stuff that I'm not sure exactly how to approach that's harder to concentrate on. Watching a movie does not require making a series of small decisions, while cleaning the kitchen, for example, does, at least if you're not used to doing it regularly.
posted by bingo at 2:39 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


i wasn't diagnosed with adhd til i was almost 40. before then i had defined myself a lazy waste of potential. i got through school with awesome grades by minimal effort; later when i tried college everything completely fell apart. i have tried many different things hoping something would take hold, careerwise, but i've failed at pretty much any effort that does not have an imposed structure and schedule. i have little pieces of experiences and interests that add up to nothing i could bring up in a job interview, compounded now by the fact that, currently medicated--which helps with in-the-moment focus but doesn't do a think for long-range planning or goal-setting--i feel more pressure to make up for wasted years. pretty much any goal i set for myself, i load it down with so much detail and complication that it become too intimidating to approach; given my history, i don't trust the process of breaking a large task into smaller action items. i spend lots of time worried about tiny, insignificant things and miss the big picture. scattered throughout my house are no less than ten thought journals, none with more than the first two pages filled in. i cannot meditate because it is too stressful. with the onset of any non-trivial stress, conflict, or confrontation my mind checks out and i start counting floor tiles. in the past five years or so i have, for varying time periods, wanted to be a programmer, network admin, accountant, actuary, nurse, electrician, banjo player, paralegal, audio engineer, band manager, and expert fellator.

but i have an awesome husband and incredible friends. and somehow i still make an effort to overcome it.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 3:14 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am really impressed that people are able to articulate themselves so well about this.

For me, ADD is like being a twin. When people ask me what it is like to be a twin, I can't really answer because I haven't experienced not being a twin.

- I have to have 10 half-baked projects going on at once.
- I often take on a 2nd or 3rd or 4th job in order to fill my time. Idle time is my enemy.
- Graduate school is a dream because there are always new projects to get involved with.
- Impulsive behavior/talking with others is the biggest problem for me, or perhaps better said -- the obsession afterwards wondering if what I said offended someone is the biggest problem, and the actual impulsive behavior/talking is the 2nd biggest problem.
- In terms of "doing stuff" I have to have both a mental list and a to-do list. I've gone back and forth with a to-do list system over the years, but having something that I can access on a computer and my phone is best for me. (Palm calendar to-do list worked for years... now I do a combo of Joesgoals.com and a Moleskin for day-to-day.)
- I often have to stop myself and tell myself what my next steps are. For example, in the shower I will say to myself "I will shampoo, condition, wash my face, shave my legs. Then I will get out of the shower, dry my hair, do contacts, brush teeth. Then I will get dressed. I am going to wear the blue skirt and red shirt and brown shoes. Where are they? Oh yes, the red shirt is in the 2nd drawer and the blue skirt is in the closet. The brown shoes are downstairs near the door. Then I'll go downstairs, make coffee."
- But I often forget what is highest priority and pick something "fun" to do. For example, right now, my highest priority SHOULD be my dissertation. But it was "fun" to instead work on a side project. To avoid this, I try to really schedule myself. Tuesday morning will be household and life crap and if I have extra time will work on fun stuff. Tuesday afternoon is all dissertation. Within that I need to do little games with myself - "30 minutes of writing = 10 minutes of MeFi."
- Sometimes my writing is sloppy (for academic writing...). I have to enlist proofreaders. Having Microsoft Word read me my writing back to me has been quite helpful.
- I MUST MUST MUST MUST keep my keys, backpack, hairbrush, etc. etc. in the exact same place or else I will go apeshit. When other people move my shit it drives me crazy.
- I have a lot of anxiety issues. CBT has been very helpful for this. For example, I HATE being late. If I am running late, my anxiety goes through the roof. Now with CBT I have the skills to talk myself down from this anxiety.
- I have a lot of RSS feeds and read very quickly. I LOVE new information. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. I probably am a shitty reader though, in terms of comprehension. In graduate school stuff I find that I have trouble thinking critically about academic pieces. I am so busy consuming that I don't digest, I guess.
- This means that I have to manage a lot of information all day. This is tiring.
- Having a kid has been really good for me in terms of time management. I really can't fuck around on the Internet anymore. Any time that kiddo isn't #1, I need to be writing.

In terms of medication I've tried some thing that was banned because of liver issues in the '90s, then Strattera and Adderall. None of them have really helped. I'm currently breastfeeding, so can't experiment now. This thread has been helpful though.
posted by k8t at 3:58 PM on March 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh yeah - the other thing about ADD/ADHD? When I try to read, I fall asleep. So I don't read books often. However, I love The New Yorker and collections of short stories. But just sitting and leisurely losing myself in a book for hours on end? Can't do that - even medicated. It either turns into naptime or I have to go do something else.

This becomes problematic at times. Again, I blame the processing.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2010


I'm so glad I found this thread. I have a late ADD Inattentive diagnosis and am struggling to adapt. Reading the above helps, some, although so much of the resources I've found elsewhere are specifically for Hyperactive rather than Inattentive (so if anyone feels like sharing Inattentive pointers, please, please do.)

I don't want to rewrite what many of the other Inattentives have written, but just thank you. I know if I started typing, I wouldn't stop. It's been that kind of day.
posted by canine epigram at 7:04 PM on March 22, 2010


Another thing for me, at least, is sleep.

As a child I just couldn't sleep. I'd read 20-40 books a night as a 8-10 year old. I'd go to bed at 3am and get up for school at 7am or 6am or whenever kids have to be at school.

Once I was older and got a TV in my room (bad move, mom and dad) I'd watch TV late into the night and fall asleep with it on.

Then once BBSes existed, I'd stay up all night on those.

It was only as an adult that I really started to work out my sleep issues. I get insomnia fairly often though.
posted by k8t at 9:34 PM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


You've trained to run a marathon. You start your run. Eventually, you see the finish line just ahead, coming at you. It's a fait accompli now, there's the finish line, you're moving at a good speed, the outcome is obvious, don't beat a dead horse. Stop now and do something else, where the outcome has not yet been determined.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:19 PM on March 22, 2010 [16 favorites]


One way I describe the difference between being medicated and unmedicated is that either way I generally need to push myself into doing things-- but without medication, even when I really want to accomplish something, it often feels like I'm trying to push a boulder up a huge hill and it keeps sliding down and I feel increasingly frustrated and upset and down on myself, what is wrong with me, why am I so lazy and pathetic, why can't I just do this?. To me it feels like what the medication does is lower that hill, make it smaller and less steep, so that if I want to do something, I still have to apply myself and put in some effort, but generally as long as I'm willing and able to give one reasonably hard push, it just happens! That clear and direct link between wanting/trying to do a thing, and actually getting yourself to do it, feels pretty incredible to me. And realizing that it's not just a failure of will-power and character that was getting in my way (because I'm the same person with the same strength of character on or off meds, but on meds I can accomplish so much more of what I try to do) has been pretty important to rethinking my self-image.

One thing that for a long time I never guessed had anything to do with ADD is that my difficulty controlling my focus and attention extends to having too much focus on things, not just too little. This occurs in a number of different ways: from being so deeply focused on what I'm doing that I often don't notice when people are talking to me (although somehow softly muttered words or small noises often get me pricking my ears up to ask "What?" which drives my boyfriend nuts considering that I can be totally oblivious to him saying my name and trying to talk to me directly), to getting sucked down the rabbit-hole on tangential ideas and looking up to realize three hours have passed, to having a really hard time pulling myself away from something I'm reading or doing even as I get thirstier or hungrier or need to pee more badly or whatever (just one more minute, just one more minute...)

Plus, yeah. The disorganization and the forgetfulness and the being late and the 58 browser tabs I have open right now.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 10:28 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


In day-to-day terms, it feels like there's some kind of plastic bubble over the tasks I need to do. My mind just slides off of them. I can't get any sort of foothold. I spent a lot of college telling myself I would start a paper at 7pm for sure, then at 8 for sure, until it was 2am and I was setting my alarm for 5am so I could write the paper before class. I was pretty much incapable of doing any work on my own unless there was a hard deadline and the penalties were severe.

Yes! That is exactly it. I try to do something, I want to do it, and yet my mind just keeps "sliding off it" somehow. That's a wonderfully apt way of describing it. (And yeah, that was pretty much how college went for me too.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 10:53 PM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


My younger brother had ADD (I don't know enough to know whether one really can grow out of it or not, but he's not on meds and is now studying for his MCATs, so we don't really think of him as "having" it any more).

I remember it was most visibly manifested as a child in that he would not stay in bed at night.

We grew up in a pretty legalistic, rules-based household, not quite military-style but most of the way there (yes-sir's, yes ma'am's, corporal punishment practiced regularly but with a prudence that mostly avoided any hint of physical abuse). So, when you would repeatedly disobey instruction, it was pretty clear in even the simplest of our mines (which is probably mine, frankly), that significant if temporary pain was soon to be exacted on your ass. Literally.

For me that usually meant when I set something on fire, or stole something from the store or a neighbors' garage, or got in a fight with a younger sibling, or shot a hole in a window with my BB gun. But for my brother, it meant something much more common than such occurrences - for him it was the nightly occurrence that was bed-time.

He would be put to bed, and then be found out of it a few minutes later. Not just in his room, either. Wandering into the family room to plop down and watch TV. Sneaking into my room to find a toy, or the library room to get a book. Rooting through a bathroom cupboard for who-knows-what. One time he was outside on his bike. No joke (yet*).

Well, of course the first time this resulted in the rather reasonable question: why aren't you in bed? To which there was always a random answer, but never really a right one. He'd be put back to bed, often with a stern warning, but then out again 5 minutes later distracted by something else. This was well before ADD and such things were well-understood by the medical community and greater society at large, so I suppose it was completely understandable that my parents were baffled and made the conclusion that their son was lying right through his teeth when he wouldn't admit to remembering that he was supposed to stay in bed - even after the 3rd or 4th occurrence in the same evening. Even after multiple spankings. Once the ass stopped stinging, I guess the brain returned to its abnormal activity and next thing you know the only thing he could really, actually remember, was that he didn't finish trying to count whether or not there were more marshmallows or chocolate chips in the baking cupboard earlier that afternoon.

It would baffle the rest of us too - I mean, we knew if you couldn't sleep that you at *least* stayed in the room, tried to keep quiet, hurry back into bed if you heard big footsteps coming. But he was baffled in a different way - baffled by why would he stay in bed when there were frogs chirping outside the window - they bear immediate inspection. There was no memory of what happened 10 minutes ago, there were only the frogs, and they were chirping.

Almost 20 years later, though - he's the one studying for grad school, and I'm the one with 18 firefox tabs open right now, though...so who knows.

*This all reminds me of a favorite joke around the house - now that ADD is more understood and my poor parents have lived with their remorse for not understanding a child's mental hitch and responding properly...

How many kids with ADD does it take to screw in a light-bulb? Let's go ride bikes!

posted by allkindsoftime at 3:46 AM on March 23, 2010


Wow, just found this thread, and can't wait to read the whole thing.

I, too, have ADHD, and was diagnosed last summer at age 25. There are so many things I could describe. Here are just a few:
posted by ocherdraco at 11:48 AM on March 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh, geez, voicemail, I know! After the initial rush of seeing that someone called, it's somehow so painful to realize that you need to stop and listen to their message, figure out what it's about and what they want to do and when they want to do it, and then figure out whether or not you can do it (which involves figuring out your own schedule), and then figuring out whether you should call them back now or later, and then if you do call them back, making sure to write down what you talk about so you won't forget it, and then keeping track of the paper it's on, and then integrating all of it into your personal life.

On the subject of creativity, although I definitely don't do as much creative writing as I used to, being on medication really helped me assemble my illustration projects into something I can actually use. I try to harness the power of my just-about-to-go-to-sleep meds-wearing-off-at-the-end-of-the-day creative thought process in order to brainstorm the really creative stuff, and then I can put those ideas into action the next day. I can't imagine taking a planned "med vacation" like some folks talk about, although I do sometimes take a lower dose or reschedule the time I take the dose in order to fit my personal life.
posted by redsparkler at 12:23 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm reading You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy? and it's worth a look.
posted by canine epigram at 8:45 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a ton of great responses here. I don't have the attention whatever to read every one, but I'll add in my version and hope it doesn't overlap too much.

First, there's the sensory overload. My mind doesn't filter distractions quite like normal minds do. A simple walk down the street is a festival of stimuli, both visual and auditory, that desperately call my attention for half a second before fading into the background. I'm almost never looking straight ahead, instead bouncing from a sign to a sound to a face to a pigeon etc. Back in high school, I had a minor reputation for walking into things. It's still problematic, but not quite as much.

If there isn't anything to distract me, I'm rarely living in the present. I'm not focused on the task at hand. I'm not writing this comment, I'm making faces at my roommate's cat. I'm seeing how far I can slouch down in my chair. The answer is very far. I'm not particularly hyperactive, but I'm extremely inattentive. I can't think of what more to say about it. Anything frustrating makes my mind shut down and move on.

Sometimes I'll be in a conversation and stop mid-sentence because of a distraction. Sometimes it isn't even something I've seen, just my mind going in one direction while my mouth goes in another. I'll just pause for a few seconds, often with my mouth open as though I'm just about to complete what I was saying. My mind will have completely exited the present and will not return until whatever new thought popped into it has run its course. This results in many puzzled stares.

If I'm reading something that bores me, my eyes will just slip off the page. I'll be halfway through a sentence and suddenly slide to the bottom of them page. "No, I have to read this. It's important," I'll tell myself. I go back up. I make through a sentence or two. Slide to the bottom of the page. "Dammit, stay focused." Meanwhile, because I'm reading it so sloppily, very little will actually be retained. This is an especially bad problem with instructions. Any time I cook something new, I'll reach a point halfway through where I realize I have no idea what I'm doing because I wasn't focused while I read the recipe.

Getting food is hard, because I'm overwhelmed by the choices. Even though I'm pretty restricted in where I go for everyday meals (because when I decide to try someplace new, the number of options crushes my spirit), I'll often sit around thinking of the many places I could eat and where would be best. Then I'll get overwhelmed and distract myself. Then I'll return to the task. Then I'll get overwhelmed and distract myself. Meanwhile, I'll start off hungry and, as the hours pass (and it can be hours), progress to absolutely ravenous. Sometimes I'll skip meals just because I can't get it together enough to decide where to go.

Chores are dealt with (or rather, not dealt with) similarly. I'll have a number of things to do, none of which will get done because I can't pick one to start on. As soon as I've prioritized one to do first, I think, "But I also need to sweep my floor. I should do that. But I also need to clean the dishes. I should do that..."

Overall, I can't pin my mind down on any one thing. I just slip along, unable to decide what's most important. Then I get frustrated and seek some sort of outside distraction. Usually the internet. Like many people here, I have tons of tabs open in Firefox right now. I can't bring myself to count them, but it's probably around 30. Many have been sitting there for weeks. Many don't need to be there. Most don't, really. There's lots of interesting articles I want to read, but how can I read one when there are so many others? And one article takes so much time.

I've forgotten where I'm going with this, assuming it is going anywhere. ADD can be very frustrating. It's great for oddball insights and noticing little things that other people gloss over. I can pack lots of tangents into a conversation. But I can't handle anything big so well - without medication, at least. When I am medicated (gradual-release Adderall for me), it's the equivalent of a teacher walking into a rowdy classroom. Things quite down. There's no cacophony of conflicting voices. (I don't mean voices literally. It's just a metaphor for the many different unrelated thoughts that go through my head.) Everything becomes "Ok, class, take out your books and turn to page 53." I stop moving constantly and making weird noises and faces. (One of my friends teaches special ed in the Bronx. It drives her crazy to see how, just like some of her students, I'm never not fiddling with something. Right now I'm tapping my foot and I have a strange compulsion to pick up my speaker and press it against my cheek.)

As you can probably guess from this rather disordered comment, I'm not medicated at the moment. I mean, it is 1am. Normally, most of the time I spend writing is consumed by me going back and editing my ramblings into something halfway coherent. I'll also endlessly rewrite because I decide I want to say something completely different. I won't bother editing this comment (though it pains me to do so), since it's representative of what my mind is like while trying to focus on something. I could probably cut it down a good deal, tighten up the language, eliminate the pointless digressions, something or another, reduce redundancy, etc. It'd make for a better read (I doubt anyone will get this far), but it'd be less honest or telling or something. It can also be a chore to find the right words...

One of the worst things is the feeling I get when nothing is happening. It's hard for me to be calm and relaxed and in the moment. I should probably specify that when I say "when nothing is happening" I simply mean "when I am not being subjected to novel stimuli". An outwardly boring situation can still maintain my interest as long as there's lots of random things to look at. Waiting in line at the post office isn't as boring when they have a cool clock and look at those PO boxes and I wonder what's in that person's package and now I'm playing with the retractable rope that delineates the line I'm in. But when I'm in my room and I don't know what to do and I'm staring at the wall trying to think straight, I get this knot in my chest. It screams, "Do something! Just do something! Anything! I can't take the tedium for another second!" This usually happens when I'm TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO and prevents me from doing so effectively. The end result is often that I'll go online for some temporary amusement or fire up a video game.

There's a lot more to it, like forgetting things and not planning and not organizing, but I'm kinda tired of writing this comment and want to do something else.
posted by learn to read at 10:33 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


As an addendum (as though I haven't said enough already), AdBlock is absolutely necessary for me while browsing. If there is anything moving on my computer screen, I cannot stay focused on anything else.
posted by learn to read at 10:46 PM on March 28, 2010


Holy crap, I just wanted to chime in that all of this is correct. I have never before felt that so many people were reading my mind before, but yeah, all of this plus you have to pick between the evils of being medicated and having some side effects (emotionality, insomnia, thirst, getting dehydrated even though you drink plenty of water, hyperfocus, etc.) or trying to manage the ADD or ADHD without drugs - because you're afraid of being labeled a drug-seeker or getting addicted to something easily abused depending on what's prescribed to you.

I MUCH prefer the feeling of, say, Vyvanse to Adderall. Adderall gave me anxiety and made my sweat different, almost like my armpits were burning. Also it made my ears ring, which decreased the mental acuity I felt when I took it because some meds can trigger that in you... throwing tinnitus in the mix REALLY sucks. :(

Vyvanse is time-released so I don't have highs and lows, but I have to take breaks on it. I feel focused and calm and somewhat motivated all day, but can get tired, etc. physically. My mind still chatters a bit at night, and if I'm not around another person, I can't shut my mind up without having something else like the TV or the radio or whatever on because basically I'm "coming down" and the ADD/distractability/need to move around kicks in.

I don't take my ADD meds at ALL when I'm sick because I try to sleep as much as possible and give my liver/kidneys a break, and man, my brain feels like sludge. I have burned food, forgotten to flush the toilet, stopped mid-sentence because I literally forgot what I was saying or gotten up to do something and realized three hours later I've been walking in a figure-eight pattern around the house, picking up and doing random things, none of course finished.

In many ways it's like having multiple personalities, all of which are identical versions of you asking questions, planning things, worrying, trying to remember stuff like a word or a phone number or what you agreed to do Friday, etc. until you literally are pacing and your heart is racing because the mental equivalent of Wall Street at opening trading bell is happening in your head.

It's VERY hard for me to be a good listener unmedicated. I interrupt a lot and stutter because my mouth is in slow-motion compared to my brain. Because of this I had to do speech therapy as a kid.

I move constantly, sometimes even in my sleep, and only recently broke myself of chewing gum virtually 24 hours a day (I would fall asleep with it in my mouth). My brain feels the same way; I am jealous of you guys who can meditate or do yoga because frankly I can't relax enough or focus enough to do it. I need strenuous physical activity to exhaustion to help shut my brain up sometimes. If I don't physically AND mentally manage it, I have extreme anxiety from the endless internal conversations.

Dammit, I type too much, too. The comment upthread about getting so overwhelmed you cry because you can't begin directions or whatever, all you can think about is the destination and try to reverse engineer it, or the ones mentioning getting frustrated with yourself and being impulsive... all of that. ADD has ways of affecting you physically that you cannot realize, rationalize, control or understand until you have found the magic way that works to stop it from recurring in your individual case.

For example, I'm very clumsy, hurt myself a lot, and tend to blurt things out. It feels like being an excited puppy that hasn't been properly trained and is always jumping up, peeing the floor and barking at every single noise. STRESSFUL, but you can't help it.

When I was younger I embarrassed myself a lot. Finally getting on meds and regularly working out have helped me become a lot more... appropriate, I guess, and considerate of others without feeling like I had to be the center of attention all the time. You go from being a spaz to a team player because you're freed from herding the team in your head.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:29 PM on April 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


I was diagnosed at age 28 - just turned 29 today (ADHD-Combined), after years and years of horrible depression (onset at age 16). The first time I took meds (Ritalin SR), it was like I had been living in an impressionist painting, without realizing it. My husband and I used to go out for walks, and he'd see something interesting, and say "Look at that billboard! (person/store/item/etc.) and I'd have to look *all* around to try to figure out what he was seeing - everything just kind of drifted by me. I'd come home from work, and I'd hurt him because rather than sitting down and talking about my day, I'd immediately get onto newspaper/online magazine sites and start reading about things that enraged me, and comments that enraged me, because I think I needed that level of stimulation to achieve anything like a normal level of focus.

I haven't been successful in post-secondary education until this year - I think this is a combination of actually knowing I have ADHD/medication/mindfullness counselling/reduced course load/coursework in an area that I am *really* good at - OTA/PTA. I currently work in a children's rehab centre in adapted aquatics. It's the perfect job for me right now, because the classes change every half hour, sessions change every 3 months, I have to be *really* creative - getting a non-verbal 3-year-old with autism comfortable with being in the pool for the first time can take a lot of ingenuity - and my bosses like and respect me/allow me to initiate and run new programs/put up with my ADHD-induced paperwork awfulness.

If I wasn't married, I would probably be bankrupt and/or homeless by now.

As a child/teen, I think my ADHD wasn't picked up on because I was the "Hermione Granger" type in class. I was identified as "gifted", and was the nerdy girl with the hand shooting up in the air. People would be shocked at the state of my backpack/desk/locker/bedroom/locker (total chaos) - "But you do so well in school! You seem so organized!" The doctors/counsellors that I'm working with now tell me it's not uncommon for "bright" girls (in particular) to go undiagnosed until late teenagehood/adulthood - basically when they hit the wall, and can't compensate for their ADHD symptoms with smarts anymore - for me, that happened in Grade 11, but everyone assumed that I just wasn't able to cope because of the onset of depression (rather than the depression being a symptom of the ADHD).

For example, I'm very clumsy, hurt myself a lot, and tend to blurt things out. It feels like being an excited puppy that hasn't been properly trained and is always jumping up, peeing the floor and barking at every single noise. STRESSFUL, but you can't help it. Yup. I injure myself and my husband *all the time*.

I'm bad at keeping friendships going (and this is actually making me a little bit sad today - birthday day), and that's something I want to work on.

Anyway, this is going on really long, so I'll stop now. It has been very helpful to read all the way through this thread, and to realize that things I thought were just "crazy" me (i.e. needing to fall asleep with the lights on because I just couldn't sleep until I'd worked myself to the point of *total* exhaustion) are things experienced by other people.
posted by purlgurly at 9:44 AM on April 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


Not that the amount of Firefox tabs open is any benchmark for ADD/ADHD, but even on drugs, I still cannot hardly keep my Firefox tabs to below 100! So jenfullmoon's 17? That's nothing... I'm on par with one more dead town's last parade with 65 open in this profile and another unknown amount in another open profile. Then there are several other profiles I avoid because they all have swarms of tabs, all waiting to be read or followed up on, on of these fine days in the distant future.

In any case, I've always jokingly said that I have ADD/ADHD. I was leary of drugs though, and it took me a good couple of year to decide to try them out. Two years ago, I was running a side business while working full time somewhere else, and I just wasn't being productive enough for either. (Now I run that side business full time, and another startup part time).

I'm an entreprenuer and an idea guy. I'm also finicky about my workflow, and have wasted full days fixing flaws or creating workarounds that I feel will perfect my flow and save time (but at the cost of time that should be prioritized for more important things). I'm starting to wonder if that's a sign of OCD.

Anyway, for me, the ADD/ADHD experience prior to medication was like this: a million ideas, thoughts, todo's and so forth were swarming my mind like a flock of ravenous seagulls all vying for a smidgen of bread in a parking lot (my brain being that speck of bread, of course). I could rarely keep focused on one thing at a time, always forgot things (short term memory loss). After medication, I feel my mind has a lot more room to breathe. The distractions are still there, but I have better control of them (not total control, but better control) and I feel like I can keep them at bay longer than before.

Just beware of the trap of starting your day off on the wrong task. I've spent whole days researching one thing when I had other work to finish, all because I failed to start higher priority tasks at the beginning of the day.

Also, prior to medication, I often felt the urge to do things on impulse (eat junk all day, despite my thin figure, make decisions without further thought, buy things impulsively, online and in the store). I used to say that my most expensive impulse purchase was a $2k laptop I purchased from Best Buy in 2001, after they gave me a $2000 line of credit. But now it's a $15,000 "investment" in gold I had purchased in 2008, without consulting with my wife first, after being convinced/suckered that it was a good investment. The price of gold dropped the next day, and didn't come back up to the price I had paid for several months. Fortunately I was able to sell it at a slightly higher price than I paid, but I had to wait long enough to where the resale pretty much broke me even on the whole deal.

Even when on these "productivity" drugs (Adderall/Vyvanse), I still have to make smart decisions and plan my days in advance, and remain commited to whatever I schedule for each day. Today, I've admittedly been distracted by MeFi, since I'm new here and my week-long hold on asking questions was lifted. (I still get distracted by questions to which I want answers, then from there a good goal is to refrain from being derailed, or talking too much, which is probably the case here... anyway, I've already gotten my $5 worth, so that's great!)

Regarding distracting thoughts/ideas, I've found it's always best to write down things you want to research further on the Web, and look into them later. But some days, like today, I'm more engaged in telling my story, as ADD/ADHD is always an easy topic of distraction to people who have it... I'm almost sure of it!
posted by purefusion at 11:19 AM on April 2, 2010


By the way, for the record, I've had well over 450 tabs open on several occasions. I honestly don't know how I was able to managing bringing this Firefox profile down to 65! :D
posted by purefusion at 11:21 AM on April 2, 2010


Oh, I forgot to mention... the biggest notable change I experienced after going on drugs was that I had become more AWARE of situations where I wouldn't normally do something mindlessly (like put something down in a convenient place and forget I put it there). Same goes for distractions. I'm more aware of them now, and while I still have the choice to allow myself to become distracted or not, it's now a constant decision, whereas before it was rarely a decision I felt aware of enough to have any effect.

(...and yes, just like elsietheeel, I'm having a drug-free Friday today, so pardon my triple-post... there's no edit button!)
posted by purefusion at 11:29 AM on April 2, 2010


Happy birthday, purlgurly!
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:26 PM on April 2, 2010


Glad to see I'm not the only multiple-commentor-in-a-row. I think half of my comments start with "Oh, and" or "By the way!" Gotten much better about it since the meds.

I usually say goodbye on IM or in person, and THEN come up with an important question that needs to be answered or point that needs to be addressed. So I say goodbye an average of two times per conversation. I'd like to think it's charming, but I have one conversational partner who insists on signing out of IM the second I say goodbye...amazingly frustrating!

In contrast, I am so bored by phone conversations that I often say goodbye and hang up without letting the other person say goodbye. Just okay-great-bye-hangup. It is really surprising and abrupt compared to my usual "Bye, oh wait..."! and I have had two people text me sheepishly asking if they made me mad. Oops!

Great thread, everyone.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:05 PM on April 2, 2010


Thanks, The corpse in the library. :)

Reflecting on this question, and the responses, I have a strong suspicion that ADD/ADHD-ers are maybe one of the largest subgroups of AskMefites.
posted by purlgurly at 4:49 PM on April 2, 2010


I feel so much better about my tabs now. I didn't even KNOW you could have 100 tabs, much less 400+! Good to know...

(today's tabs: 19)
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:04 PM on April 2, 2010


Reflecting on this question, and the responses, I have a strong suspicion that ADD/ADHD-ers are maybe one of the largest subgroups of AskMefites.

I believe that's true throughout the site. I was here long before I was diagnosed, but here I am still.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:19 PM on April 2, 2010


(today's tabs: 19)

Right now: 21
posted by krinklyfig at 6:21 PM on April 2, 2010


Is there some kind of cure for this "ridiculous abundance of tabs" issue that seems to be... everywhere (including my web browser). Maybe I will AskMe about this issue.
I want like a "bucket" to be able to just grab a tab, and drop it in the bucket, and visually see, and remember for later. -Also Visual Bookmarks!! Like "google reader-Play", mentioned in this thread, or "cool Iris" I need that for bookmarks (all 6 000 of them, which via "re-bookmarking" many things several times at one point grew to 26 000)


When I learned about this thread, I thought, hey, I have something I could add to that!
My first experiences with ADD/ADHD and Aspergers or ASD was teaching swimming lessons when I was younger, often I would get requested by people (usually distribution of students was random), often by the parents of the children who other teachers would go "ooo, yeah, that ones going to be trouble -watch out" (I don't think this was so much a "because those kids are annoying", so much as it was "you need to pay extra attention to them, and this is difficult to do in a group setting". This was well and good, I got along extremely well with people who had special needs. And yes, someone who is 10, and can be set off for a 10 minute crying bout because they cannot bring their airplane book into the pool with them, because it will be ruined, and then they bring it by the pool, and it got wet bout DOES have special needs; this should not stop us from trying to help this person, in fact that 10 year old knew SO MUCH ABOUT JETS, and PLANES... it was very amazing, and I got to be taught about flight, and airplanes, by this 10 year old.
(but his parents would tell me about how the same student would be 'disciplined' (not "punished", just 'discouraged' and 'singled out', "at school" for always wanting [needing] to "hold" his books about planes, or to talk about planes, even during math, or science, or other classes.)

I never knew quite why until later, but I didn't find it stressful at all to work with people and their parents, it was amazing to be able to see someone leave a shell behind even a tiny bit, to see someone accept encouragement, and to join a group activity, where a few months earlier, this would have been impossible! But I would often see my own troubles is school as being similar to their troubles getting lessons in big groups... I didn't know why I worked well with people facing disabilities, but I am thinking now it was because I felt akin, and understood subconsciously how frustrating "normal" (for some people) situations and expectations can be.

It wasn't until much later that I had any kind of 'diagnosis' of anything for understanding myself, and my own situation, but seeing the issue from both sides, as a 'teacher' (yes, I know, teaching swimming isn't like teaching math or English or civics, but I bet it's less possible for any of THEIR students to drown in the middle of a lesson... the only thing that happens if they don't succeed as teachers is that people 'will"have Bad {skills with all these sentence structure skill's:) as well as student (and a student who had trouble all the way through my years of school also). It was a valuable lesson for me, to teach, and learn the value of encouragement, and accommodation.

So, well, zero drowning=success. Mission accomplished.

But it cost money for me to get diagnosed, and it was tough, time consuming, distracting from my school things (yes, even little things can throw off a rhythm, and distract a whole semester or year... having things like projects and marks being so connected, a semester is a long time to need to "not mess up", or "not forget anything"... like if I completely mess up and fail with one element of a course... the entire thing would be sunk... no matter how well I knew the subject, no matter how well I did on some "part", or the entire rest of the course... but diagnosis helped me to learn that MANY other people felt that they were just "stupid" or "horrible students" or "dumb" or "wasting potential"... or so many other things that are said to so many people, and considered "answers"... when really all that was needed was some encouragement, some positivity, some understanding, some leeway... something.

(Almost five years later, and I have not yet gotten around to finding out about medication, I was told that because of a history of fainting several times, and completely blacking out, I would need to get a "heart scan"/ekg? of some kind before I could start the kind of medicine they suggested, and that scared me, so I have not done that. And meanwhile relied on "coping with ADD" advice in books and the net [I very often feel that this is very useful to me to help me make strategies for success, but not useful enough, and the REST of the universe is still WAY more interesting than whatever it is I am trying to accomplish at each moment] One day I will take the plunge, and get that heart scan, and get onto some kind of something.)

But the constant 55's and 60's and fails, and such... yeah, that hurt growing up. A lot. (especially in conjunction with the "needs to try", and the constant "wasted potential"s).

To someone who doesn't know why they fail (for the various reasons described in this thread), these sort of platitudes can feel like the "just get up and at em- get yourself outside and you will be ALLL BETTER" thing that people try to say to others facing clinical depression. -painful. A searing reminder that despite caring "intensely" about a course, that one (I) had failed it.

It made me feel very strongly, and understand that no, these children weren't "acting up", or "behaving badly", or "causing trouble"... they were only acting naturally, and not TRYING to do anything (and if my personal experience is anything, they were "blaming themselves" and getting on their own case for causing trouble, I knew when I had been disruptive, just not how to 'not be disruptive'.


but as always, other people already said everything I could say.
So, my links are to where I thought out loud here about it before (but should have saved it for here, or the book version).


lol, I wrote the "end" there first... thinking I would just put a link to those other comments I had made and leave it at that... because the people above had already described so many things so well... so I guess instead here's a couple pages of barely connected, and not fully explained thoughts, and some links. Sorry.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:59 PM on April 20, 2010


I'm going to try to be succinct: parentheses. My brain feels like it is full of nested parentheses, and I will get caught in one set and forget to close the surrounding ones, or have a string of parentheticals in a row.

And in non-simile life, too: my writing uses a ton of parentheticals, whether ", ," "- -" or "( )" in nature.
posted by subbes at 1:28 PM on April 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


I was sent a link to this discussion by a sweet person who still loves me, even though my ADD pretty much keeps me from having what others consider true, meaningful relationships. Trying to keep a friend with ADD is almost impossible - either I'm too distracted to answer the telephone, or I just forget about people/holidays/birthdays until my loved ones and social circle are simply fed-up with me! I don't really blame them. Some newcomers to my life leave message after message, but eventually they just go away. It's not that we with ADD/ADHD don't feel deeply, it's just that we feel "differently". In bursts of really intense feelings, rather than having normal, spread-out feelings.

I'm up at 4am working because sometimes I get my nights and days mixed-up. Just happens. My mom and sister do the same thing. Sometimes I hear other people talking and think that I live on a different planet than most folks. My reality is just not the same. Oh, and a 9 to 5 job is just not an option. I'm brilliant when I'm working, but it has to be on my own schedule.

My ex-husband remembers getting into my car for the first time. He had to move a mold-covered glass of (what was) orange juice and a handful of dirty q-tips before he could sit down. What prompted him to continue dating me is still a mystery.

I always described being ADD as having a hamster on a wheel in the back of my brain. The damned thing just wouldn't stop running and running. Sometimes there are more than one.

I self-medicated for years with various substances, but found that physician-prescribed stimulant medication works WONDERS. I may never feel "normal", but I feel so much better! (I'm actually writing this in one sitting, rather than jumping from window to window on my computer). Of course reading someone else's post is painful if it's too long, and I totally relate to the folks who can't watch movies. My ex thought I was nuts when I said I couldn't go to theater. I still usually have a glass or two of wine before I go, just to prepare myself.

As a kid I couldn't sit still in class. Because I was "gifted" and female, ADHD wasn't even considered. (What? A GIRL with ADHD?) I was shuffled from quack psychologist to counselor, being told that I needed to "trust"more, or that I had a fear of being abandoned. What??? It has taken years of proper medication to get even a shred of self-esteem back. Obviously, I'm still a little angry.
posted by AVGirl at 12:44 AM on April 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Thank you for this. I've got an appointment coming up for an official diagnosis and my biggest fear is that I'll get a headpat & assurance that 'everyone's like that sometimes, dear!' Does anybody have any advice on how to make sure my concerns are listened to and taken seriously?
posted by Space Kitty at 2:21 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


My advice if you're nervous, is to go ahead and schedule a second opinion now! If you think it's pointless after your first appointment, you can always cancel later.

You can't guarantee they'll listen to you. Sorry. Although all the shrinks I've had have definitely listened to me and helped me. They just do this thing where they make a decision and then tell you it like that's all there is. You can disagree with them, though, it's not final. Say "actually, it's really affecting me. If it's safe, I want to try medication." (Just an example).

That said, if you invest a lot emotionally and mentally into this one perfect diagnosis from this one doctor, then it can mess you up on the off chance that the doctor sucks.

So try not to do that if you can, remind yourself there are a million doctors out there, and that this one isn't perfect, and that you will try again if she doesn't listen to you or you are not 100% confident that you are being treated correctly.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:39 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


If it helps, Space Kitty, that's a very common fear. My physician gave me my diagnosis, and when I started going to therapy, I was deathly afraid that somehow my diagnosis would be taken away from me. When I got there, I was upfront about that fear, and my therapist reassured me that no one would try to re-diagnose me. Be open about that with them.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:47 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


also, I know this wasn't the question, but the book "you mean I'm not lazy, crazy or stupid: A Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder" -which gives ideas and suggestions for moving forward to adults who might not have been diagnosed younger, or perhaps only got around to noticing various struggles later in life. It is a nice resource for people who didn't have their whole life to learn tips, tricks, and ways to make life a little more streamlined and managable.
posted by infinite intimation at 1:50 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


This (or something similar) may well have been said up-thread already, but here's my perspective in the form of an internal dialogue:

"Cool. A thread about ADD/ADHD. I'm ADD but I'm curious what other people have to say about it.

[reading]

Hmm... lot going on here. Maybe I'll just skim.

[skimming]

This reminds me of that joke about ADD and riding bikes. I should post that. Wait, someone already did. Dammit.

[skimming faster]

I should get back to work. It's almost lunch-time and I haven't gotten much done today. Lunch... hmmm. Burritos? Chinese?

[vacant loss of probably a minute or so while my brain wanders]

I should watch the Star Wars trilogy again this weekend. And take the kids to the park. And mow the yard... gotta do that. I'd like to trim the trees, too, but the chain on the polesaw needs to be replaced, so I'll have to run by the hardware store. At least I can pick up the hardware I need to finish the kids' tree house while I'm there.

[vacant lapse, part deux]

Man... I should type this up. It'd make a good reply to the thread."

And so on and so forth, ad nauseam.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 8:37 AM on May 21, 2010


Re: Self-Medicating
Pre diagnosis, I was drinking between 12 and 18 cups of coffee on a good day.
"Heavy" days I was hitting 36-48 cups - and I STILL couldn't get everything done, or focus enough to study like I should.
To put that into perspective, a life-threatening dose of caffeine (LD50) for me is aprox. 13 grams. I was getting 5-8.

Ever walk into a room, or go out to your car and forget what you went there for? Try doing that two or three times a day. Have you ever been driving and thought to yourself "Oh, yeah I need to call X and do Y?" I would have forgotten within five minutes.

Once, my girlfriend was plucking my eyebrows. I wasn't still enough because I kept looking at the tweezers and rings she was wearing. Finally she pauses, and tilts my head down saying "Look at my boobs." This lasted all of 30 seconds before I was looking at her rings again.
posted by handle_unknown at 10:41 AM on May 21, 2010


I have assumed that I have ADHD for a couple of years now---and still do---but two visits to psychiatrists have not yielded anything; they attributed it to stress. It is worth mentioning that self-diagnosis and -medication is not the thing to do; if you perused a book of mental disorders with the same approach, you would probably be in a room with padded walls by now.

ADHD is, to some degree, turning into an excuse for everything in life and a fad, and while many if not all the people here who nod in agreement with the stories do have ADHD, remember that you can also experience the same problems without suffering(?) from it. Absent-mindedness and other characteristics might be suggestive evidence, but not irrefutable proof; take personal stories and potential placebo cases with a grain of salt, too. That is not to say that ADHD is not a recognized illness and one that is on its way into the the medical definitions. The stigma and detriment to the life of the people suffering from it is not to be taken lightly either; being incapable of accepting, i.e. understanding, other people's shortcomings is one of the most horrendous transgression for a person to be guilty of.

I still want to get an opinion from a psychiatrist, because the two I consulted seemed dismissive and unprofessional, but the problem is partly that the waiting list in my country is two years for a consultation due to the shortage of psychiatrists, and partly that if you set your mind to suffering from an illness, you are bound to run into a psychiatrist who will diagnose you with your "desired" illness---but when a handful of psychiatrists say no and one says yes, what are we to believe?

Being diagnosed with ADHD is to be excused for many of the hardships in your life, and, from one perspective, everything boils down to biology, molecules, atoms, and quarks, so if you want to find an excuse for all you have been incapable of or had a hard time doing, don't try to find one bogeyman responsible for everything. There is a multitude of reasons for why you are where you are to day---few or none of which can be attributed to your own actions and person---and if you blame everything on an illness, you set yourself up for an unfathomable shake-up if the doctor finds you to be perfectly healthy---or if you do get diagnosed, you might forget to learn anything from your hardships in life. Getting Ritalin or Adderal will not remove a lot of the things that wear you down in life, but it may help you cope with them better.

If your seek absolution for all the problems your symptoms have brought you in life, don't look for a diagnosis for that; you are all amazing, loveable people created (be it a- or theistically) equally but in born into an unfair and unforgiving world with misguided, complacent people who will not recognize you for who you are. Count yourselves unlucky, but not any lesser---nor any better---than other people who have it easier than you. Finding a remedy for an ailment to ease your life is perfectly fine, but it will not be an equalizer to set the world and your life straight. One of the most important things in your life is to come to terms with the fact that people don't have it the same and find the good things that you have been giving and the things in the world that you are capable of enjoying and appreciating. To paraphrase what someone once said, Earth is Heaven and Hell. When our minds are filled with despair and dismay, we tend to overlook things in the great and beautiful things in life that we are fortunate enough to perceive where others may not.

I will still try to find a way to dismiss any doubts in my mind my some scientific means of proof rather than chatting it up with someone whose credential and qualifications I have no way of measuring, because my symptoms that you describe are more than a nuisance in my life and have without a doubt altered the trajectory of my life more than I would have wished. I am, however, prepared for the emptiness any answer will bring, be it the new beginning and responsibility I will be faced with after any working medication or the dismay of having to accept my own demons without knowing who they are and how to put up with them.
posted by blook at 12:17 PM on May 22, 2010


I have assumed that I have ADHD for a couple of years now---and still do---but two visits to psychiatrists have not yielded anything; they attributed it to stress.

An important part of the diagnosis is that symptoms need to have been ever-present since early childhood. "Gosh, I've been kind of scatterbrained recently," doesn't quite cut it.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:25 PM on May 23, 2010


An important part of the diagnosis is that symptoms need to have been ever-present since early childhood. "Gosh, I've been kind of scatterbrained recently," doesn't quite cut it.

Just to make sure we don't miscommunicate: My suspicion arose years ago---my symptoms seem to have been going on for as long as I can remember.
posted by blook at 3:42 AM on May 26, 2010


It is worth mentioning that self-diagnosis and -medication is not the thing to do

I'm not sure I agree. I think we give just a touch too much weight to power of the physician to see all we often fail to learn how to be our own best advocates because of it, sometimes to our detriment. It's exceedingly common for women to get diagnosed as adults after realizing they have some of the same traits as family members who've been diagnosed with the condition. Research has predominately focused on boys until recently and, they and them have been wrong on two fronts: women are just as likely to have this condition and, many children continue to have symptoms in adulthood. There's no harm, no foul by going to your GP and saying, "I noticed xyz in myself, I think it might be ADD can we investigate further?" It was how I was diagnosed after the other half brought home a number of tests used to assess whether you had the condition as a child from the doctors office for himself. I read them out of curiosity never expecting to see so much of myself in those questions.
posted by squeak at 7:49 AM on June 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Alright, I just spent the past hour and a half reading (bits and pieces, skimming some, reading others, going back AGAIN, skimming, reading, repeat) this thread and finally decided to pay the $5 to comment.

I was diagnosed with ADHD in 5th grade, I can't thank that teacher enough for speaking with my parents about it. She really saved me a lifetime of frustration and trouble. As it is I get frustrated anyhow, despite being fully aware of it.

My experience with ADHD has been a varied one. Shortly after being diagnosed I was put on Ritalin and could focus. HOLY COW, school wasn't a mess. (Homework was another issue, but I won't get into that.) I could concentrate in school finally. The biggest downside was my complete lack of appetite during the day followed by insatiable appetite shortly after getting home. It made me binge on terrible junk food. I wasn't particularly happy about it, but impulsivity is impulsivity and I couldn't help myself.

Also, when on medication I wasn't myself. I was a bland, uninteresting me shaped doppleganger. I hated it. School was great but there was a complete loss of identity socially. It was very difficult for all but the closest friends to reconcile the school me vs the out-of-school me. In the end I couldn't accept the Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde and ultimately decided against continuing medication based treatment. (Having read a lot of these posts, I feel like I'm the only one who didn't like the person they were while medicated. Did I miss that somewhere?)

When I got to college I decided I wouldn't do medication. I couldn't. It was too much of a night and day change on drugs versus off drugs. That was a rough time. Classes were either engrossing or 50 minutes of hell. I had professors who I adored but couldn't perform because I just couldn't. Thankfully I was able to make it through the first year or two based on my ability to just know stuff, because without the coping mechanisms I started figuring out, I would've flunked out. I did graduate and honed coping mechanisms. (I don't think I'd be as functional as I am today if it weren't for the iPhone. It's enough of a distraction to keep me able to stay on task, mostly.)

I'm 28 now and for the past few years it's gotten better. Mrs. Rosewater still says I have "ADHD" days, and she's right. I know I do. They're getting better. I still have moments, but I accept them and deal with it.

(Twitter helps. BOY DOES TWITTER HELP. Quick distractions throughout the day? YES PLEASE!)
posted by Flotsam Rosewater at 4:22 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having read a lot of these posts, I feel like I'm the only one who didn't like the person they were while medicated. Did I miss that somewhere? (Flotsam Rosewater)

There have been pretty big changes in ADHD medication since you were in middle school or high school (I don't know when you stopped). New meds, extended release meds, different dosing standards, etc. I was diagnosed a year ago and take two extended release pills (one at breakfast; one in the mid-afternoon) which cover me for most of my waking hours. I don't have a crash like you did with Ritalin.

FWIW, I have an ADD friend who went off meds for three years after college, and when she came back to them a year ago, she said the difference in the way doctors prescribed ADHD meds just in those three years had changed so much that the effect on her was completely different (smoother, less dissonance, etc.).
posted by ocherdraco at 8:21 PM on July 22, 2010


So, I wrote previously about my second hand experience of ADHD. Since then, my live-in boyfriend dumped me because I told him he wasn't managing his ADHD well enough (major amounts of hyper-focus and paranoia). C'est la vie.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:51 AM on July 23, 2010


Wow, The Light Fantastic. Was he being medicated? This is not your responsibility, to be sure, but for my curiosity that sounds like the side effects of too much/the wrong stimulant medication.

Either way, I'm sorry to hear that.

Speaking of medication: Finding a doctor, getting meds, filling prescriptions, losing prescriptions, dealing with med side effects, all are part of ADHD for a lot of us.

My personal experience with medications is really loving them. My personality is different. I'm not as playful or as "who cares!" when I'm on meds. But the playfulness and the "who cares" are partly me, and partly something I use to cover up for mistakes.

If I act like I don't WANT to do something, no one will think that I CAN'T do something.

So that is a medication personality difference. I am more emotional on my meds, too. It's like I can focus on the emotions and really feel them. Sometimes I get sad about things I never really took the time to get sad about before.

Flotsam Rosewater I do sometimes get sad about the medication because it really does affect my pre-medication relationships. A big part of that is people who are used to taking an almost parental role with me. Now it doesn't really work. The other part is dealing with people who I love when I'm off my meds, and maybe don't get the signals that they're not that nice or that they're not that into me as friends. Then I see them again in the light of day and eesh--not so much.

Some people can't deal with me when I'm off my meds. They find me embarrassing or awkward. Which I often am, so that's a fair criticism. It hurts a little bit. My mother-in-law particularly was cranky at me the last time I saw her (forgot meds for a whole week). By the end of it she was ready to shove me out of the car because I wouldn't shut up or stop changing the CDs. Oy.

I'm glad you brought it up.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:14 AM on July 23, 2010


Wow, The Light Fantastic. Was he being medicated? This is not your responsibility, to be sure, but for my curiosity that sounds like the side effects of too much/the wrong stimulant medication.

He was taking Dexadrine. He liked it better than the other medications that he had taken before - Adderal was one, because it wasn't as intense. He did also take a lot of caffeine and energy drinks because he felt like he didn't have any energy. I'm thinking that there was something else going on, though - maybe depression. He had a lot of anxiety and would flip out from time to time into screaming fits when he was overwhelmed. The worst was that he would get upset about something and stay obsessively upset for at least a week. He wasn't seeing a therapist, just taking medication, and I think it wasn't working well for him at all.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:47 PM on July 23, 2010


Thank you all so much for sharing your stories. I've been trying to get through this thread since it was posted and have only just now finished thanks to finally seeing someone about getting my ADHD treated. I wouldn't have done it without reading all the stories and thoughts posted here, so thank you all so very very much.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:17 PM on November 6, 2010


The symptoms The Light Fantastic describes (anxiety, agitation, aggression, obsessiveness; fatigue and depression when it wears off) are clear indicators of "dose is too high" and "crash is too hard."

Everyone being prescribed stimulants for ADHD needs to keep an eye out for that sort of thing and inform their doctor immediately if it occurs. Of course, that's easier said than done if the medication is messing with your head, but still. Being keenly aware of my mood and behavior is just a part of everyday life now. (In fact, come to think of it, I wouldn't be surprised if that heightened self-awareness had a hand in the effectiveness of the treatment, or vice-versa, or something.)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:20 AM on November 7, 2010


Hi. Late to the party, but I just got diagnosed with ADD (primarily inattentive) recently after a long time of trying to figure out what we thought was depression.

All of the classic signs for me were in place early on in life - I got horrible grades in school because I wouldn't do work, but I tested extremely well. No organization. Other things, but also, I had more than a few people in my life advise my parents that they may want to consider ADD diagnostics.

My parents were dead set against it, and I grew up with that same mentality (thanks) - I didn't even believe it was a real condition, I thought it was a luxury problem for college students and executives.

Over the past few years, it's caught up with me. Apparently I've done a great job masking some of the symptoms. It wasn't until I was married with homeownership responsibilities that it became apparent that something was really amiss... Additionally, I had become conscious of the fact that SOMETHING was wrecking havoc on my marriage.

I had been in and out of therapy and seen a few psychiatrists in my life, but everyone was stuck on depression. It wasn't until my most recent psychiatrist that ADD was considered in my adult life, and I was really adverse to it at first.

And I started thinking about it, and it just made SENSE. I've been having memory issues, I leave a trail like a tornado when I work on the house when I bounce from project to project, and I leave things open, and generally do things that I had chalked up to forgetfulness. Additionally, there's been a lot of media on how ADD can affect marriages and relationships lately - and I realized that I was meeting those patterns.

The kicker for me was when I showered in the second bathroom in our house, and I was so thrown off because not everything I needed wasn't in the same place and everything else that came with a break of routine, and I got so ANGRY because everything was so CONFUSING - and I emerged 30 minutes later, still having forgotten to wash my hair. And I realized that routines were the only way I could cope with a lot of things.

I decided to give it an honest consideration, as at worst, I'd just have some fun on stimulants... I mean as far as drugs go, that sounds fun, right? And if not, well, it's a few hours and maybe a day at most of being uncomfortable or "tweaked out." This is what I thought, at least.

Ritalin has changed everything. From what I had read on it, I thought it would be an obvious high or something... like when I've had entirely too much coffee, except different.. or like the rush of new love (dopamine) or something like that. After taking it... oh, not at all - Not even remotely.

I've gone from having to have a set routine for things (wash hair then wash face then shave then wash self) in which I would always know the step I was on, and the one that follows it, but get thrown off if anything distracted me (Hey, my wife bought new shampoo... shit... did I wash my hair? hmm.... better start over) to being able to remember what I've done (Oh, I've washed my hair and face, and I've shaved) and know what I need to do (I still need to wash the rest of me) and still noticing things, but not having it interrupt the flow of thought.

It's other things than showering, for sure, I just mention that to demonstrate just how pervasive it was, and how extremely basic things could be affected. But it touched everything - I've had the luxury of having a job in which there is always something new and interesting, and if it wasn't for that, I probably wouldn't be employed, and certainly not doing as well for myself as I am now.

I've cut my shower time in a third now. Not because I'm sped up, but because I can actually organize and keep enough in my memory, and my short term memory is actually effective now. I've seen similar effects in the rest of my life, and I no longer feel panicked about having to get everything done in my day.

One fear I've had is that I would lose some ability to think about things a certain way, but so far, it has been nothing but gains. I feel... functional. This feeling of being defective that I have had for the majority of my life... it's gone. I don't feel as if I've lost myself, or that anything artificial is going on, or that I'm always happy, bouncy, or anything else that you would think stimulants would do.

I just feel normal, and it's AMAZING.
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:02 AM on December 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


That's great, MysticMCJ. I know just what you mean about the showers. And here's some good news: I've found that I'm learning better habits that make it easier on days when I don't take medication. It's easier for me to stop myself and think "Wait, I haven't finished putting the laundry away, I should do that before I go do the next thing."
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:33 PM on December 9, 2010


(That was "good news" as in "this might happen to you, too," not as in "hey feel happy for me.")
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:33 PM on December 9, 2010


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