Sunday, January 3, 2010

The ellusive ADD

A new friend of mine, Matteo, was asking me about the ADD hashtag (#ADD) on my twitters.  I knew it was going to take more than the pre-requisite 140 characters, so I ended up a rather longish email.  He requested I post it, so here 'tis. 

I have a long history w/ADD. I was officially diagnosed in my late 20's because I was tired of not understanding why I wasn't like everyone else/couldn't easily handle tasks everyone else could handle/was having the same problems at every job I'd had, etc. By everyone else, I mean co-workers, relatives & friends.

One of my best friends suggested I check with an ADD specialist. She and her brother had ADD & she saw a lot of similarities between us regarding tasks, getting stalled on things, etc. I saw a local doc who performed a series of tests on me. The result was ADD, but not ADHD. Physically I'm not hyperactive (though my brain has its moments).

One of the issues for me with ADD is I have never been able to find a consistency for getting things done. "Work the Plan" type of consistency. My house is never clean, I never have enough hours in the day to get things done, I get distracted, I get bored, etc etc. Looking back (and discussing my history with the ADD doc and several therapists) I've had this issue since childhood. I can remember my mom getting so angry with me that I couldn't stay on task/complete a simple chore. There were "never enough hours in the day" for me, etc.

John and I have discussed it a lot over the past year (what with a new baby and all) and while I'm very good at taking care of Rowan, I'm incredibly inconsistent with housework. It's hard on him because he never knows if it's going to be a productive or unproductive day. I'm on meds, which helps me a lot. Most of the anxiety I had with the ADD is gone when I'm on the meds. I can focus and stay focused more easily. The noise in my head is much quieter when I'm on my meds. The caveat is that I HATE being on meds. (That's another story, though.) I made a decision when I was pregnant that I would be regular with my meds. Fucking up my head (taking meds inconsistently) is one thing, but with having a child I needed to have my head on as often as possible.

In the past 9 months (Rowan is just 9 months) I've had maybe 3 lapses where I didn't take my meds for a few days. Before then I would go weeks without taking them. It was very frustrating for John because he wouldn't know how to talk to me about it. At that point I would be productive for a few days and then PFT, nothing. Now I am productive for a few months (consistently) and then a few days or a week of nothing.

The #ADD tag is mostly to remind myself when I look back at journal posts or reflect at the end of the day on why things don't get done. "Ah, it was one of THOSE days."

I get sucked into TV very easily, which is one reason I'm glad we don't have cable. (Mainly we don't have cable because it's wicked expensive and our budget can't handle it.) I add the rationalization about the ADD because it makes me feel less like a freak about no TV. (I grew up with several tv's in the house, all my friends watched tv, etc etc. I know it's far more the norm in the Ithaca area not to have tv, but I still feel freakish that we don't have it.) One manifestation of ADD is being ashamed. My house is far from perfect and I get very anxious when people stop by because of that. I'm ashamed of how the house looks, but I can't ever get it clean enough. I'm ashamed of the fact that our finances are such shit that we can't afford cable. These are huge triggers for me if I think about them too much.

TV was my escape when I was younger, and when my Mom started limiting my access to tv, books became my outlet for escape. I can get lost in books and tv (via netflix or hulu) at the drop of a hat. I will be late for appointments or cancel appointments so I can finish watching/reading. No matter how many alarms I set, if I'm engrossed in a show or a book it's very difficult for me to get out of it.

Lately I've been watching Dexter (wow, great show!) and it's screwing with my daytime/eve schedule. I'm trying to watch it all at once so I can move on. Really I should just ration it to 1 or 2 eps a day, but that's not what I'm doing.  Yesterday I had to teach in Tburg and I left 30 min after I wanted to because I was watching Dexter and playing farmville. Distraction city... Happily I wasn't late (I try to build extra time into my day now), but I could have been.

Overall the diagnosis has been quite helpful, as have the meds. I try not to use it as a crutch (Oh, I didn't do the dishes... ADD strikes again!), and I get less angry with myself for not getting as much done as I want/planned to get done. It's not always a day-to-day struggle anymore. I am more productive more consistently. I am less ashamed of things. I am less anxious. I am less angry. I am more balanced. I can sometimes use the ADD hyperfocus to my advantage (though sometimes I get so focused I lose track of time). My day isn't as much of a crapshoot as it used to be.

Forgive the rambling. I woke up early and didn't really get enough sleep. I also haven't written much about ADD and how it effects me. We can chat about it more if you want.

Happy New Year's Eve!


  1. Thanks for posting this. I don't have ADD, but I strongly resemble some of what you describe. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels shame at not consistently keeping the house ready for company. I also feel shame about my mail pile; it gets this kind of guilty force field around it that makes it hard for me to go and deal with it.

  2. i have a lot of comments, so in a perfectly #ADD way, i'll post them in small bites.

    you've mentioned "ADD hyperfocus" a lot, and i wonder if we experience the same thing.

    basically, when i have the *desire* to work on a project that i am enthusiastic about, i can get so into it, that i am willing to forsake all else until i come to a good stopping point. sometimes this can take a few days, wherein i'll let everything else pretty much go to hell. this is a very difficult urge to overcome.

    your thoughts?

  3. thank you for sharing this - my partner and i have both been diagnosed with ADHD. she takes meds, i don't (i think the shrink who did my test was a quack - and she agrees that he did NOT do a proper work-up). she tends to the disorganized and scattered, or overly focused on her book or show - i tend toward hyper-focus on projects instead.

    oh, and even people without attention/processing issues find Dexter incredibly addictive and difficult to stop after a single episode!!

  4. Rebecca - you're welcome. ADD is not always easy for me to talk about, but it's out there, and shouldn't be a hush-hush topic.

  5. Karen - the shame thing has haunted me for a long time. I grew up in a house that was like a museum. Everything was spic-n-span clean, everything had a place, and since I moved away I've never been able to replicate that.

    While I don't want to live in that specific environment, I wish my home was tidier/less cluttered and cleaner. The best example I can give was when we were living in M'burg and friends showed up early on D&D night. I almost had them LEAVE because the house wasn't clean and I was so ashamed.

    I've come a long way since then, and while I'm not happy with the state of my home, I won't turn anyone away.

    Lately I've been using as a way to combat the house issues. Have you checked her site out?

  6. Mouselink - Welcome to ADD hyperfocus! It's a real bitch for me because it means I'm really getting some things done, but at the same time everything else slides by the wayside. I struggle with this a lot.

    Lists sometimes help.
    Timers sometimes help.
    Having my parter remind me to move on to the next task does not always help.

    It's a work in progress.

  7. CoyoteF16 - thanks for your comments! Have you thought about getting re-tested?

    That's good to know about Dexter! :grin: The show is amazingly well done. I'm really glad I got through the first 2 seasons, but now I have to wait for season 3 and 4!!



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