When you have ADHD, your mind can’t sit still.
I would describe my brain as a jumbled mess. A whirlpool of thoughts and ideas. They’re good thoughts, good ideas. But I can never seem to grab onto one without another crashing into it and knocking it away.
It’s frustrating. You know you are smart, and you know you have so many good thoughts and ideas swirling around in your head. If only you could grab onto one, and hold on to it. Own it, make it yours. But you always drop it, as you reach for another one. It gets knocked out of your hand by another idea. This cycle continues.
If you’re like me, this is a cycle that has continued your entire life, from childhood to the present. It affects every aspect of your life. School, work, maintaining a household, finances and personal relationships.
For many of us, every time it seems we are on an upswing in life, when we finally feel like we have harnessed one of those ideas swirling around in our head? We end up dropping it, sometimes in devastating fashions.
How devastating? According to the National Institute of Health, adults with ADHD have higher rates of:
- Academic failures and transfers
- Lower household income
- Higher rates of job loss and turnover
- High rates of car accidents
- Increased rates of divorce
- A higher prevalence of anxiety and depression
- Higher rates of substance abuse (alcohol and/or drugs)
- Higher rates of antisocial behaviors
Serious stuff, no? I won’t get into details, but I fall in the “higher rates of” category for many items in that list.
On the flip side, adults with ADHD are three times more likely to start their own business. Indeed, if you have ADHD, you have some compelling company, including the founders of such companies as Virgin, Cisco Systems, IKEA, Jet Blue, Kinkos and Charles Schwab.
Adult ADHD: Is Medication the Answer?
Of course, you can’t do great things if you can’t get a handle on your ADHD. Maybe you became aware that you have a problem, but the prospect of medication frightens you. Or you think, if I have ADHD, wouldn’t they have discovered this when I was a child? Well, no.
Parents aren’t perfect. Mine did the best they could with what they had, but I was the oldest child. No one is 100% prepared to raise their first child. The second, and later children? Hey, now the parents have real-world experience! But often, the oldest has issues that slip through the cracks.
The school system isn’t perfect either. Who gets all the attention in elementary school? The worst-behaved children and the most talented children. Plenty of us have learning and behavioral issues, but maybe they aren’t quite as bad as the others. We slide through, struggling with mediocre or average grades. But we never raised enough red flags.
Over the years, I’ve tried so many things to harness my behavior. Prayer, meditation, yoga; therapy; self-help books; checklists, calendars.
But what good is prayer or meditation if you have trouble calming the swirl in your brain?
What good is therapy if you have trouble listening to people speak?
What good are self-help books if you can’t even get through a few chapters before tossing them aside?
What good are checklists and calendars if you can’t follow up with them?
On November 10th, 2017, at the age of 36, I finally went to my doctor and shared my story. Deep inside, I felt embarrassed going to the doctor at my age talking about this. Would he think I’m just pill-seeking? But, to my surprise, he listened. He asked questions about my past, my present. Sometimes painful questions. He went through a checklist of behavioral traits. We spoke about everything I’ve tried. He empathized with me and treated it as a medical condition.
He told me: “there’s a reason you feel so scatterbrained. You meet almost every symptom of ADHD, and always have.”
I am now taking a daily medication to attempt to harness my ADHD. So far, it seems to be working, but it is still too soon to tell for sure. But the fact that I have a medical diagnosis, and can now approach it from that context? It sure feels good, like a weight lifted off my shoulders.
I plan to follow up on this later into my treatment. But, I would just like to say if you think your ADHD is holding your back, go through this checklist. If you meet the threshold based on your answers, go speak to your doctor about it. At least, it may improve everyday aspects of your life. And it may save your life.
This article is also published on Medium.com