ADHD and Me

25 April 2013 · 55 comments

I have a good life, but in some ways the past couple of years have been a struggle. I’ve gone from being very productive almost every day to being hardly ever productive on any day. I can’t focus. I start one project but quickly lose interest and am distracted by something else that needs to be done. As a result, nothing ever gets finished. I’ve been mired in creative quicksand.

A Problem

Meanwhile, I’ve noticed some other disturbing character quirks. I’ve always had some memory issues. Kris used to call me Mr. Short-Term Memory (after this Saturday Night Live skit with Tom Hanks) because I’d often forget things she had told me. (To my credit, I often remembered things she didn’t.) In the year that we’ve been dating, Kim too has expressed frustration with my memory. Even when I intentionally focus on what she’s telling me, I’ll sometimes forget what she says.

And over the past year, I’ve developed a strange habit: I leave doors and drawers open. This first became apparent when I began spending time at Kim’s house. “Why did you leave the microwave open?” she’d ask. Or, “Did you mean to leave your toothbrush out?” I was mortified when these things happened because I was trying to make a good impression. Then the same thing began to happen at home, in my apartment. I’d come into the kitchen and two cabinet doors would be open. Since I was the only one in the house, I was obviously the one who’d forgotten to close them, and it baffled me.

Plus, of course, there are the constant messes. I’ve always been messy, but the piles seem to have grown out of control over the past couple of years. My desk is constantly cluttered. Right now, I have an entire room in my condo devoted to crap that I need to sort.

Oh, and did I mention I procrastinate constantly? I do.

Lately, things have come to a head. I’m working on some big project, projects in which I’m part of a team. I have a long list of things that need to get done, both for these projects and for my own work. I have a tough time prioritizing. I’m overwhelmed by it all. I pick things from my to-do list at random and get them done, but often the things I choose are chores like “Buy bird feeder” instead of “Reply to WDS speakers”. As a result, the people I’m working with have been very frustrated, and I don’t blame them.

Note: One of my greatest frustrations over the past few years is the fact that I can no longer read. I used to love to sit down with a good book and lose myself in its pages. But for maybe five years now, I haven’t been able to do that. I don’t have the attention span. I try to read, but after a few pages, my mind has wandered, and I’m thinking of something else to do. I miss reading for pleasure, and I miss reading for work.

An Answer

In November, I started seeing a therapist. After only three sessions, she suggested that perhaps I have a mild case of ADHD. A month later, she suggested that I talk to my doctor about ADHD/ADD meds. And three months after that, she changed that from a suggestion to a command.

She spent an entire session giving me tips on how to cope with ADHD, how to be less messy, how to prioritize tasks, how to pay attention. She also told me to go see my primary care physician and request one of three drugs.

I met with my doctor on Tuesday, and he listened to me talk about my therapy sessions. I showed him the notes I’ve taken. (If I didn’t take notes, I’d forget what we talked about…because I’m ADHD.) He listened to me carefully, and then agreed to prescribe a low dose of Vyvanse. “But I don’t like doing this,” he said. “This stuff can be addictive. It’s not as bad as Adderall, but it can still cause problems. There are a lot of side effects. For instance, you’re not going to want to eat. Also, you may not sleep well. Try it as your therapist recommends, but I want you to come see me in a month so we can talk about how it’s affecting you.”

ADHD Tips and Tricks

I filled the prescription, but then had second thoughts. I did some research on the internet about how to cope with ADHD without using drugs. The Vyvanse website itself has a list of 10 tips for adults with ADHD. I also liked this list of tips for managing symptoms and getting focused and, especially, this list of 50 tips on the management of adult attention deficit disorder.

Reading through these articles, I found a number of gems, such as:

  • Organize at home with a “launch pad” where I can collect keys, glasses, wallets, etc. This is something I’ve had to teach myself to do. When I don’t put my stuff in the “launch pad”, they’re as good as lost.
  • Practice the 10-minute pickup. Every evening, spend ten minutes quickly tidying the house. I don’t do this, but I should. I want to make it a routine before bed.
  • Kill clutter. Clutter is the enemy of the ADHD mind. When my desk is cluttered, I feel overwhelmed. Each piece of paper represents an incomplete action, something that I need to get done. If I can keep the clutter and disorganization to a minimum (by using a physical inbox, for instance), I can feel less overwhelmed and stay on task better.
  • Exercise, eat right, and get plenty of sleep. When I posted about my ADHD on Facebook, I received 41 response from folks sharing their tips for dealing with ADHD. The top recommendation was to adhere to smart physical fitness. For the most part, I do this already, but I could be better.
  • Impose external structure on my life. One of the best ways for ADHD people to get control of their lives is to create some sort of formal structure. Make schedules. Make lists. Develop rituals. Keep file folders. Etcetera.
  • Carry a notebook. People with ADHD have too many things in their head, so they’re not able to focus on one thing at a time. They get distracted by new thoughts and ideas. By carrying a notebook at all times, I have the chance to do a braindump whenever something new occurs to me. This is a habit I’ve had intermittently for many years, but I need to make it something I do always.
  • Make lists. In the past, I’ve noticed that I’m much more productive when I have a to-do list. Again, I’ve made these lists intermittently in the past, but I need to make them a part of my regular routine.
  • Meditate. So many people, from my therapist to my girlfriend to my blog readers, have recommended that I learn to meditate. I’ve tried in the past, but only half-heartedly. I don’t have the patience because — surprise! — meditation is tough for the ADHD mind. Still, it’s an important skill, and I want to learn to do it.
  • Listen actively and patiently. Repeat information. Perhaps the part of ADHD I hate most is the memory problem. I feel terrible when I forget things Kim tells me. (I used to feel bad when I forgot things Kris told me too.) I want to be a good partner for her, and when she has to repeat requests or retell stories, I feel like a fool. Being a better listener should help with this. (Though, as I’ve said, I already try hard to listen well.)
  • Create reward systems. This sounds so juvenile, but the experts seem certain that one great way to stay on task is to set up a system of rewards for getting work done. So, for example, I might allow myself to watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory whenever I finish a writing assignment. Or I can give myself permission to walk to lunch at Jade Teahouse if I finish a big project.
  • Own your behavior. One final important tip: Don’t use ADHD as an excuse for being a flake. When you forget something, own it. When you don’t get work finished, admit it, and do better next time. Don’t use the ADHD as a cop-out. Acknowledge that it’s there, but also realize you’ve got to be a productive member of society and a good partner.

I liked these tips (and more besides), but after reading them, I was still feeling overwhelmed. There’s so much I need to do in order to start being productive again. Where do I begin?

I emailed my therapist. Meanwhile, both Kim and another friend cautioned me against overthinking things. (Another symptom of ADHD!) Miguel and Kim were right: I was overthinking things, as I often do. So, when my therapist told me to take start taking the meds, I complied.

Wow. I’m glad I did.

A Future

I was worried that the Vyvanse would make me edgey and irritable, that I’d feel anxious and nervous. When I take pseudophedrine for allergies, I often…well, I often freak out. It’s like having way too much caffeine, and I feel overwhelmed. Since Vyvanse (and other ADHD meds) are similar, I was afraid I’d suffer from the side effects.

I didn’t.

Instead, I gradually felt calmer. I felt more confident in myself and more in control of my surroundings.

For instance, I took my Vyvanse this morning at 7am and then climbed into the bathtub to read this month’s book group book (The French Lieutenant’s Woman). At first, I was distracted. I couldn’t focus on the page in front of me. I kept reaching for my iPhone to look at email and Facebook. I picked up an issue of Men’s Health. But after about half an hour, my mind had settled. I felt calm, both physically and mentally.

I didn’t want to read, so I got out of the bathtub, shaved, dressed, and got to work. I pulled out a dry erase board and created an “ADHD Command Central” on which I listed all of the things I need to do, broken into three categories based on priority level. Top on the list? “Write for More Than Money”!

Perhaps more to the point, I then sat down and wrote this post from start to finish without a break. I didn’t once flit away to check Facebook or email. I didn’t get up to pour another cup of coffee. I didn’t suddenly remember that I needed to do laundry. I didn’t get distracted by the stack of stuff in my physical inbox. I just wrote. And here I am, more than two thousand words later, almost finished with this article. And it only took me an hour to write.

This is the old J.D. This is the productive J.D. This is the J.D. who gets shit done. I like it.

I’m not excited about the idea of remaining medicated long term, but after a day and a half of using Vyvanse, I’m willing to stick with it for at least a little while. If it helps me be productive, then I’m all for it. And if it helps with my personal relationships, that’s even better.

1 Alan April 25, 2013 at 10:08

Glad this is working for you and that’s a great list of coping techniques. I got diagnosed about 4 years ago and began dextroamphetamine, which was very helpful for a long time, but now I’m having some problems with it. I still need meds, but I’m not sure what I’ll take. I totally get the cabinets and microwave doors. It’s so frustrating when I do those things: everyday.

2 jdroth April 25, 2013 at 10:20

Alan, the “doors and drawers” thing has been exasperating. It’s inexplicable, even to me. And when you’re trying to impress the woman you’re dating? It’s mortifying! I had to find ways to cope with it at Kim’s place. (For instance, I no longer use a drawer in her bathroom; instead, I have a toiletries bag that sits on top of the drawers.) Here at home, though, it’s been tough to find solutions.

3 Andrea April 25, 2013 at 10:11

Good for you! I’m so glad you decided to try it out.

People always seem to be concerned that they’ll have to take medicine forever and ever, but as I said on Facebook, you may be able to develop some coping skills while taking the Vyvanse that you can use to taper off of it later. Unmedicated, you’re not going to be able to focus enough to even try any of those things.

I really hope this ends up being a good move for you and I look forward to updates on how it’s going.

4 Lindsay April 25, 2013 at 10:20

Consider seeing a neurologist too. The things you mention can also be signs of other neurological problems. Drugs like Vyvanse can mask symptoms, but you don’t want to let something go untreated just because you didn’t ask the right doctor. It can DEFINITELY be scary, but it’s worth it.

5 Taryn April 25, 2013 at 18:52

I completely agree with Lindsay – I kept thinking this as I read your post. I can see how your symptoms fit ADHD and how your medication helps – but your symptoms also sound neurological.

6 Barbara April 26, 2013 at 17:47

You read my mind too. I am an RN and I know there are other possible problems that J.D. might be having. He should consider a neuro consult.

7 Eileen April 25, 2013 at 11:02

Great post JD. I wonder what the ‘difference’ is now that would allow your focus/productivity to wane as compared to other times in your adult life? I wonder if it’s part of the starting over in parts of your life as compared to whatever ‘system’ had evolved (naturally or on purpose) when you were married.

I have a son about to go off to College and I do worry about him having these issues. He’s displayed signs of it throughout school but due to his ability to retain info and test well, his grades haven’t been an issue (his performance on projects and assignments? different story). Given the abuse of these types of drugs in the college setting (and it’s rampant) we have decided not to pursue any diagnosis or medication at this time.

As a footnote, I think today’s “immediate everything” has made this kind of thing a challenge for all of us. I can’t even imagine people with ADD.

8 Pamela April 25, 2013 at 11:16

JD, I’m glad you tried the meds. It’s something I’m going to try as well–I was diagnosed officially (finally, though it’s something that’s always been suspected). ADHD is caused by a region of our brains working more slowly than usual, so ironically, stimulants tend to make us *calmer* and more focused. There is no shame in using meds.

9 Dan Harding April 25, 2013 at 11:25

Thanks for being willing to share such personal frustrations.

I do not suffer from ADHD, but my personality is similarly scattered – I need to put things in their right place, I need to have papers cleared to start tasks, etc.

Have you considered looking into the Getting Things Done system? I don’t think this will help with the some of the things you’re talking about, but it may help with task areas, and that may lead to goals to destroy procrastination.

I wish you the best in your battle!

10 Kevin April 25, 2013 at 12:08

Getting Things Done might be worth a read for you as far as productivity and procrastination go. It really opened up my eyes on how crappy my to-do lists were – hint: it shouldn’t be a list of projects.

11 Mrs Random April 25, 2013 at 12:12

Just a thought – you might try unplugging more often, too. The prevalence of smartphones, social networking, etc., just the noise of our wired world can degrade the ability to concentrate and focus. Here is article I read about that today: http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2013/04/what-happens-when-you-really-d.html.

12 Heat April 25, 2013 at 12:30

Food dyes are a huge problem, both causing and exacerbating ADHD-like symptoms. They are in tons of food, even things that aren’t colorful. I don’t know what your diet is like, but if you can eliminate these, it might help.

Also, you mentioned that this has just recently gotten worse. Does your therapist or doctor or anyone have any thought as to why? Problems like these don’t typically come out of nowhere.

13 Meghan April 25, 2013 at 16:18

Yeah, exactly. I was diagnosed as a kid and yeah I have issues (and a supervisor recently asked if I was taking Adderal, which I took as a hint – no I’m not) but I can still get things done without the medicine. Yes, I do get on bloglovin, CNN, NYT, Facebook, Gmail, etc etc during the work day, but my co-workers aren’t pissed at me for dropping the ball. If I were you, I’d really look at the processed foods and food coloring. You could have something else going on too. An issue that severe coming on in adulthood is a bit strange.

14 Mrs. Money Mustache April 25, 2013 at 13:00

Wow – what a story. I’m glad you figured it out and now know what you’re dealing with. That’s the hardest part of all. I’m glad to hear you’re getting shit done again.

Have you heard of the link between gluten sensitivity and ADHD? It’s apparently a pretty big link and might be worth looking into. I know you’re into crossfit, so maybe you’ve tried a gluten-free diet before?

I have a similar story to yours, so I can understand a bit of what you are going through… after having our son, I started feeling low, tired, and just down overall. I got frustrated and mad more easily. My mood was up and down a lot. I thought it was just part of motherhood or maybe mild post partum depression that would go away, but 4 years later, it was still going on. It affected my whole life, especially my relationship with those closest to me.

I was tested for thyroid issues and had my blood work done, but everything seemed normal. I was at the end of my rope by that time because I didn’t feel like myself at all and I didn’t understand why. I just wasn’t the same person I used to be and I wasn’t the mother I wanted to be.

One day, I was talking to my brother on the phone who had been recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease. His son had been diagnosed with pretty severe autism and they learned about celiac and gluten free diets that way. It took 35 years for my brother to figure out what was wrong with him! Crazy. They both follow a strict gluten free diet (and free of many other things too). Anyway, he mentioned to me that the issue could be gluten. At the time, I didn’t know much about it, but I was so desperate that I decided to give it a try (testing for gluten sensitivity isn’t that accurate, so I figured this was the best way). I committed to being completely gluten free for at least 2 months, which was hard as bread was one of my staples — looking back, I was actually addicted to the stuff, which is apparently sometimes a sign of having a sensitivity. Anyway, I stopped eating gluten and 2-3 weeks later, I realized that I was feeling much better. Not only that, other things went away too. My usual morning headache was gone, my energy levels were way up, my mood was much more even, I cried less, I just felt much much better. I tested myself by eating gluten sometimes and then recording my mood in a notebook over the next 48 hours. I noticed that eating gluten often triggered some kind of event with my mood within the next 24 hours.

Needless to say, it made such a big difference for me that I am now completely gluten free. I have been for 3 years now (coincidentally, I started crossfit at the same time, so I have a great supportive community of friends and I even go to a gluten free book club!).

Anyway, I wanted to mention this to you just in case… you never know how the food you eat is really affecting your body and your mind.

15 Charlotte April 25, 2013 at 15:43

“You are what you eat” is so true. JD may have a food sensitivity, could be gluten, sugar, dairy etc. Certainly worth trying the elimination diet. I am mostly gluten-free / dairy free now but having a hard time going 100%.

I know that when I eat gluten or dairy, my head gets foggy and I feel sluggish.

Taking a good quality Omega 3 helps a lot too. I use Pro-Omega by Nordic Naturals.

JD – have you thought about seeing a Naturopathic Doctor?

16 Meghan April 25, 2013 at 16:34

MMM, thanks for posting this! I posted above too but I’ve been on ADD meds, and I am on thyroid meds (my TSH is quite low but I feel symptoms). I just went back to the doctor because I ran out of thyroid medicine and one of the new doctors at the clinic is a naturopathic doctor. He is having me do a saliva test for adrenal stress and says that one of the body’s defensive mechanisms when under adrenal stress is to slow the thyoid. He also said that inflammation on the body causes the adrenal stress that slows the thyroid. I’ve also had stomach issues and after tests several years ago, the doctor said it must be IBS (which means they have no idea). Fast forward to this week, and this doctor suggests that he’s going to have me get a stool sample (sorry to be graphic but that’s what he said) and that I’d very likely have to go gluten and processed food free. Fortunately, that’s trendy, but I’ve tried to be gluten free and it’s very hard. He didn’t refill the Adderal though because he’s that sure that my issue is treatable through a change in diet and stressors. It sounds a little hokey but I have every symptom on his chart and have gone to several specialists over the years who have never made a connection. I’m willing to give anything a try at this point! This has been going on for 6 years. I think my personality is so intense and I want to have so much control over things that I over-stress my body. My mind can handle anything but my body can’t. JD, if you read this, you might want to consider going this route!

17 Erika April 25, 2013 at 13:26

Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m so curious that you seem to have developed this (or did it just get worse?) as an adult. I know adults have ADD/ADHD, and of course, kids do to, but I always thought it was a lifelong thing.

What was the progression that you noticed?

18 jdroth April 25, 2013 at 13:30

This is a great question, Erika. I think I’ve always had elements of ADHD, no question. Even when I was a boy, I was cluttered and scattered. But I also developed systems for managing most of it. Plus, I was smart and got good grades, which let a lot of my “sins” be forgiven. As an adult, there were always other things to deal with — excess weight, excess spending, etc. — so that I didn’t notice the ADHD. But as I’ve taken control of so much of my life, the ADHD has become much more noticeable. Or maybe it’s grown too with age. Who knows? In any event, the symptoms have been much more noticeable over the past few years. (And, honestly, my therapist thinks that some of my desire for “new! new! shiny!” may stem from ADHD too.)

19 m April 26, 2013 at 00:23

JD, as far as I know adults never develop ADD/ADHD in adulthood so I agree that you probably always had it but maybe something is worsening it or making it more noticeable now. Possibly lack of structure in your life? If before you had more of the same daily routine each day with working on Get Rich Slowly etc and now you don’t that could be a big factor. For me having to plan my own days every day and having different things to do each day instead of similar things each day can make a big difference in how my ADHD manifests.

Your response to Vyvance has made me consider it. I’ve only tried Adderall and Ritalin before and didn’t like them so I deal with my ADHD with lifestyle management, etc., but maybe I’ll see about Vyvanse too.

My tips that work for me: prioritizing my 3 most important tasks of the day and doing those early in the day; journalling each morning to get focused first thing in the day; having a set routine for morning and night; using a daily list to make sure I get my routine done; writing things down and having a place to keep info where I can easily retrieve it; having a place for everything and cleaning up regularly; making sure I wait a day or two when I get an urge for something whether it’s to send off an email, buy something, etc.; regularly reminding myself of the main goal so I don’t get lost in the little details. There’s a lot more.

There’s plenty of good books on the topic and strategies you can integrate over time. It does take time and there is a tendency to get overwhelmed with too much info with ADHD so a little at a time seems best. Good luck. ADHD can be frustrating and I thin it has its positive points too.

but it’s all I know, I’ve always been this way so it’s part of me.

20 Tracee April 25, 2013 at 14:24

An elimination diet worked wonders for my son. Especially getting rid of all food dyes.

21 Dylan April 25, 2013 at 15:13

I’m so glad you wrote this! I have ADHD and took meds in the past. For a while, I couldn’t even read anything more than a few sentences without Ritalin. I’ve been resistant to trying Vyvanse, but I may look at it again. Every now and then I forget a doozy with big consequences, and I can sympathize with the letting down of a loved one. I hope you keep us posted on your progress.

And I was going to reply to you on FB. I left the browser window open to go back to it, but it got lost in the dozens of other open windows and tabs that I plan to follow up on. :)

22 m April 26, 2013 at 00:26

I have that too, so many tabs open at once.

23 Alex April 25, 2013 at 18:18

Huh, I always thought that sort of behavior was normal. It definitely is my normal, maybe I should get that looked at. Like a lot of the other commenters I also have thyroid issues, and like JD I was also a smart kid and got away with a lot. Thanks for sharing anyway, this has definitely given me food for thought!

24 Morgan April 25, 2013 at 21:54

It’s very brave of you to seek help. Good job following through.

It took a few weekend meditation workshops for me to slowly learn to meditate, and I’ve found that moving meditation is most effective for me. It might be something really amazing for you and Kim to experience together-a workshop, or trying a weekly meditation meetup (I’m sure there are loads in Portland). There are nothing but benefits to a meditation practice.

25 Lucille April 26, 2013 at 06:18

Hate to thrown a spanner in the works but this is not ADHD (in my view) but just plain old age. I have son with autism since birth, who has ADHD and dyspraxia and you have to have had these tendencies from an early age; you can’t develop them in your middle years. The worst thing is taking medication and I’ve always sought alternative therapies…..one of them being to just to accept. Making lists etc will prove frustrating and you need to relax your mind not fill it with endless “to-do’s”! We have to accept our fragile mortality and at least being financially secure is a great hammock to swing in!

26 jdroth April 26, 2013 at 07:23

While I appreciate the feedback from folks who think this isn’t ADHD or that I’m just suffering from poor nutrition, I’m going to respectfully suggest you’re wrong. Your “this isn’t ADHD” judgments are based on reading a few thousand words.

But after more than a dozen hours of intimate conversation, my therapist (who hasn’t actually made a diagnosis of ADHD, let’s note) strongly believes this is an issue. Other people who are close to me agree. My own research indicates it’s likely too. Plus, I’ve responded well to the meds.

I’m not saying this is ADHD for certain, but it increasingly looks to be the case.

27 Andrew Snyder April 26, 2013 at 07:12

Just a thought (certainly not a diagnosis.)

Have you considered that you might have some level of depression? It takes many forms and, paradoxically, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be actively unhappy.

Procrastination and an inability to concentrate are classic symptoms.

28 jdroth April 26, 2013 at 07:19

Kim and I generally don’t see each other during the week. We’re apart from Monday morning until Thursday evening. As a result, when we get together on Thursday night, we have a lot to talk about. This week, especially.

As we walked to dinner last night, I told her about my response to the ADHD meds. In doing so, I found a metaphor that does a good job of describing what it’s been like for me lately.

It’s as if there’s a swarm of bees in my head, each bee constantly in motion. Each bee represents a thought or something I ought to do. Some bees are more important than others, but it’s tough for me to tell which is which when they’re buzzing about all the time. So, I grab bees at random.

With the Vyvanse, it’s as if all of the bees settle on a branch in a giant clump. Everything becomes much calmer. There’s still a swarm of bees in my head, but because they’re not buzzing around, I’m able to find the bee I need.

Kim thought the analogy was interesting. She too always has thoughts buzzing in her head. The difference, she said, is that she doesn’t have a bunch of bees flying around at the same time. Instead, there’s one bee and then another and then another. Often she’d rather there were no bees at all, but there’s almost always one bee flitting around her brain. She never gets any rest.

This metaphor is imperfect, and I know it, but it helped her understand me a bit better, and it helped me understand her too.

29 AnnW April 26, 2013 at 07:43

I understand that bee feeling. It feels like a cross between electricity and fog. I don’t take ADHD meds anymore because I didn’t like the side effects. But, I don’t work and the kids are grown, so I don’t have much to do. I’ve found that appointments to exercise with a trainer make a big difference. Taking Vitamin D3, several thousand units seems to be good, but I haven’t taken any for a while. Magnesium is good. It helps muscle soreness and memory and inflammation. It sounds like you have executive function problems. Since you have sold your website, I think a part time assistant would be in order. Or a housekeeper. A few hours of help, even three, a week makes a huge difference. I’ve tried it. It works. I take Provigil now. It has made a huge difference in my life. It is hard to get because it is expensive. The insurance company makes you jump through hoops. It helps depression, but the first use is sleep apnea.It has been used for pilots and special forces that have to work through the night. My 89 year old Alzheimer’s mother wouldn’t get out of bed. I got her on Provigil, and she got up the same day and started doing things. It changed the last year and a half of her life.
Stay with what you are doing. Keep moving. Consider leaving the house to write articles. Go to Starbucks or the library. Look into the Pomodoro technique for time management. It’s working in 25 minute segments. I’ll see you in Equador and we can compare notes. AnnW

30 Robert April 26, 2013 at 08:00

IMO docs are way too quick to hand out drugs, especially ones that pass the blood brain barrier and cause many potential side effects. You have effectively and successfully gotten to where you are now without the drugs. I have many of the same issues you are experiencing and I know it is from having lots of t hings going on at once. Also, the more you learn, the more your brain changes and you have to cope with the information swirling about all at once. I’d say work at simplifying things and skip the drugs!

31 jdroth April 26, 2013 at 08:04

Thumbs up to this. My goal is to use the drugs short-term to find enough focus to simplify my life and to set up systems that can keep me on task. I’ve already begun to make good progress. Once these systems are in place, I’m hopeful they’ll take the place of the meds.

32 Andi B. April 26, 2013 at 08:24

I’m very happy that you’ve made a choice that helps you feel settled. I found that I get the bee feeling when I’m dealing with anxiety and I’ve had to make adjustments for that. One of the best things I did was impose a facebook/reddit/blog sabbatical for two days. For the first half of day 1 I was a little nutty, trying to check everything by reflex, but by the end of the two days, I could’ve done without social media entirely. It helped me realize the relationships that are important to me, and the work that’s important and productive, vs. what simply takes up time. I also changed my schedule so that I focus on one project on Day A, and one project on Day B. I allow myself adjustments for deadlines, but knowing when I start the day that I’m focusing on something specific helps me to feel less overwhelmed.

33 Jenni April 26, 2013 at 21:02

Some of J.D.’s issues also feel like my own anxiety, and the bees analogy as well. When I feel more anxious I sort of flit from thought to thought, activity to activity, etc.
J.D., I am working on a project for my gifted Ed. classes and it’s fairly common for high-functioning kids to eventually have trouble with executive skills (time management, procrastination, etc.). In short, up until a certain point the student’s intellectual abilities masked these problems, and once they can’t compensate enough, the executive skills deficits are revealed. This is how you have kids who never had to study flunking out of college. Quite simply, they didn’t learn how to study bc they didn’t need to. I’ve been reading Smart But Scattered Teens by Guare and learning a lot about myself and my children as well.

I’ve been thinking about the online pf ‘community’ and anxiety lately and honestly it seems like ere may be a fairly high percentage of pf bloggers with some anxiety issues IMO.

34 Kate April 26, 2013 at 09:05

I was diagnosed as an adult. Wow! Wished I’d been diagnosed as a kid. Life would have been a lot easier.

I found FLYlady.net to be a great resource. Originally visited as a declutter site, but found that the routines work great for those of us with ADHD.

35 JB April 26, 2013 at 09:07

JD – Long time lurker, first time commenter (I think). As I sat down to start my work this morning, I opened up four other browser windows (this one included), started the NY Times crossword puzzle, got up to go to Starbucks to get caffeine, came back, started to clean my desk, finished the crossword puzzle, glanced at the work I NEED to finish today, went on Facebook, stared out the window for a while, opened iTunes and started to listen to music on shuffle, put my laundry in the laundry bag, looked at the work I NEED to finish today, made my bed, prayed for the ability to focus today, sat back down at my desk, picked up a random book and started to read it, went into the kitchen and noticed I’d left the light on, did some dishes, came back to my desk and actually DID about three minutes of work, started to read your blog, repeated pretty much everything I’ve already listed, finally read your post in its entirety, and started to compose a response. And EVERY DAY is like this. I was diagnosed with Adult ADD recently. NO KIDDING! I have not begun taking medication, because my health insurance doesn’t cover it, and also because I’m very, very wary (I’m ten years sober and concerned about the addictive qualities of amphetamines). I recommend reading the book ‘Delivered from Distraction’ by Dr. Edward Hallowell if you get the opportunity. I have so much more I want to comment on this but as usual my brain has scattered to the four winds, so I’ll leave it at that. Best of luck, seriously.

36 jdroth April 26, 2013 at 09:17

Just got an email this morning that my hold on “Delivered from Distraction” was delivered to the local library. I’ll pick it up when I head out to run errands in an hour…

37 JB April 26, 2013 at 15:25

I also want to say, after re-reading (and relating to) your first paragraph, that I think that living a less-than-structured life contributes to this condition, possibly exacerbates it. I know when I was in graduate school, this was not an issue. Now that I’m a freelancer, it is. My external structural system is gone, and it’s ‘up to me’ to get things done. I have a feeling that when you were dealing with the daily grind of putting out GRS, and working at the box factory, things were different. I, too, chose the life I live because it allows me a freedom to explore and learn that I couldn’t get in a 9-5 job, but it also means that I’m the one who has to set my own boundaries. Sometimes I don’t want boundaries. Sometimes I need them. This friction exacerbates the ADD and in turn is exacerbated by it. Daily structure is crucial to being productive, but it doesn’t matter if you build the structure only to be unable to focus within it. That’s my problem.

38 Vilana April 26, 2013 at 12:11

Similar to you, I suffer from a severe inability to focus. It is the reason I dropped out of university. Recently I have returned to pursue a degree and it has been horribly difficult to complete readings and assignments.

In my country, diagnosis of ADD are not common. My husband, family and others believe my symptoms are the results of my Aries horoscope (born 25/3/72). Aries people are notorious for high initiative but erratic follow-through – Dilettantes. I have observed other Aries people and think there is much truth in this assessment. Probably too superstitious!

The problem, whatever its source, is real and irritating. I feel as if I am in a constant fight with myself, with the attendant angry, argumentative dialogue. Like
‘how could you waste two whole DAYS when you knew the deadline is today?”
or
“you miserable wretch, have you NO shame that you ask for a third extension?”.

I would like to take medication for relief but I am scared. I am prone to addiction – can’t drink a drop of alcohol, even. So I battle it through with makeshift solutions. Lately, vowing has helped me a bit. When a critical project is due I draw up strict behavioral rules and commit to each element by written vow. I rarely break my word, once I have made a (short-term) vow. However, vows cannot be overused and are usually only effective when set for short periods of time e.g. 5 days.

39 Brenton April 26, 2013 at 13:27

I definitely not someone who suffers from ADD/ADHD, Im the complete opposite brain type. I can concentrate on something to the exclusion of all else. However, my wife does have many ADD symptoms and is someone who needs structure and routine in her life in order to be productive. She is someone who deals poorly with lots of freetime(she is a teacher, so every summer she has months of free time). I can imagine that no longer having a day job or a daily routine has amplified the symptoms that already existed. I also imagine that suddenly living on your own has something to do with it as well. There is no one else there to keep you on track, and no one to pick up the slack.

Good luck to you, and good luck to Kim, because I know what its like to live with someone whose mind can wander off the path at any moment.

40 Andrew April 26, 2013 at 14:18

J.D., I had a very similar experience with my attention span impacting my performance at work. I met with a doctor and started taking Vyvanse. The first few nights, I had trouble falling asleep, but I was INSANELY productive the first day that I took it.

Since then, I’ve felt its impact less. It works best when I do some form of exercise, get a good amount of sleep, and don’t eat junk. My wife has noticed my irritability more than previously, too.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

41 Lina April 26, 2013 at 14:23

Hello J.D.:
I wanted to chime in with a recommendation for acupuncture. Just try it once. A good acupuncturist will also recommend a chinese herbal formula that will help your body to function better overall. It has really helped me (and people for a few thousand years). Go for it!

42 Mister E April 27, 2013 at 06:51

I’ve had the same experience with reading. For my entire childhood and into adulthood I was an absolutely voracious reader, but for about 5 years now I can’t seem to concentrate enough to get through more than a few pages at a time.

43 saro April 28, 2013 at 05:36

I am struggling with the decision to start taking medicine again. My main reason is that I am struggling with infertility. I’m having a really hard time focusing and I keep falling off the GTD wagon.

The one thing that does help me is the app called ‘Chaperone’, which forces me stay on the program (so if I’m writing on Word, it will warn me when I hop online). I highly recommend it. Now if I could only remember to use it… :)

44 JB April 28, 2013 at 11:52

To further muddy the waters:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/opinion/sunday/diagnosing-the-wrong-deficit.html

The truth is, my condition is probably a combination of a lot of different things, all of which has been mentioned above; it’s not any ONE thing that causes this. I’ve been diagnosed with a mild form of Adult ADD, which means I had it as a child (undiagnosed, in the 70s – all my report cards cited ‘daydreaming’ and ‘doesn’t use time wisely’); I don’t sleep well (apnea, insomnia, stress); I eat more crap than I ought to, including sugar, caffeine and gluten (but I don’t have celiac disease); I don’t have a routine, external structure with daily accountability to other people (like a boss); I have a lot of fear around work and criticism; and I can be a little lazy. Throw those all together and it’s a toxic mess. But I can’t say that changing one or all of them will give me what I need most: THE ABILITY TO STAY FOCUSED ON ONE TASK AT A TIME UNTIL COMPLETION.

I hope the Vyvase works, JD. I’m anxious to read about your journey so I can decide if it’s something I should look into, too.

45 jdroth April 28, 2013 at 12:02

Hey, JB. Jolie Guillebeau just sent me this article too. Thanks for suggesting it. I’ve printed it out and will read it before bed tonight (me designated reading time).

46 Carol April 28, 2013 at 12:04

Your story rings so true, and is similar to mine. I was (finally) diagnosed with ADHD the week of my 49th birthday. It clearly had been around for years, and I must have coped with other techniques or practices to help compensate. For example, years ago I bought a vintage fire extinguisher — for my keys. I put it in the front hall, near the door, and that was THE SPOT for my keys. I could hear the metals clank against each other, and know my keys were exactly where they needed to be. If they aren’t there, it’s chaos trying to find them. I’ve used the 20-minute timer exercise for years as well. It gives me permission to stop or continue, depending on how I’m feeling. Very useful.

My issues came to a head when my therapist was having difficulty tracking our conversations — to her they were veering all over the map, and to me they seemed like a logical progression. She had me take the MMPI, which can also help with assessment. I also went to a psychologist who specialized in ADHD, and had additional tests done.

Though I didn’t have bees buzzing all around, I told people it felt like I was in a racquetball court, and the balls were coming at me from all directions. Being diagnosed didn’t surprise me, in fact I was relieved. So many other things in life made better sense. Not as an excuse, but just as an understanding. My problem is with executive function, so focus, organizing, prioritizing and not procrastinating are my challenges. My psychiatrist decided to put me on Strattera, which is not a stimulant. I’d say it works pretty well for me, with little to no side effects.

My difficulties manifested primarily in the work arena, which is a rather big area. I was almost always a square peg in a round hole in my career choices, mistake after mistake, failure after failure, and I just couldn’t figure out the problem. Now, eight years later I’m back in school in a public relations certificate program, writing a ton, reading, creating presentations, speeches, etc. I’m in a program that fits my natural gifts and talents, and pretty much getting all A’s. I don’t even remember how I studied when I got my BS years ago. I wasn’t that great of a student then, even when I was interested. It’s incredibly different now. I’m fully engaged, love it, and can’t wait to see what comes next. I wish I had known earlier in life, and could have channeled the energy and excitement elsewhere, but that’s life, and I’m moving forward and on to new chapters.

47 Valerie April 28, 2013 at 13:10

I’m definitely one of those blog readers who has suggested meditation! I actually am really *NOT* a meditation type (not into alternative medicine, not into new age stuff, really hate the idea of sitting still/quietly to meditate).

But… I am a PhD / health policy researcher, so when I read some studies about the effectiveness of a certain kind of meditation for a host of good things, I decided to give it a try. The certain kind is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness-based_stress_reduction), and in academic studies the eight week program has actually been shown to change people’s brains — the hippocampus (attention, focus, memory) grows, and the amygdala (emotional reaction / fight or flight center of the brain) shrinks.

Positives – it’s an eight week class. You get instruction and guidance, and it’s only 8 weeks. People with a variety of medical conditions have been shown to improve through the class, and ADHD is a big one.

There’s my plug for a non-medication possibility, and meditation that is doable for the less meditation-inclined folks among us (like me).

48 bethh April 29, 2013 at 14:59

I’m glad someone passed along the NY Times article – I saw it this weekend and immediately thought of this blog post! It’s entirely possible you’ve had forms of ADHD your entire life, but that article was especially interesting since that was not the case for the author. At any rate, he mentions a medication toward the end that seems to hit both nails on the head – ADHD and sleep issues – so perhaps it will help others who read the article.

I’ve read a lot about food additives causing major problems with people’s health. So far I lean on the side of taking supplements rather than trying to remove things from my diet, but one of these months I will likely try gluten-free, just to determine for myself if it will help me with my issues.

Thanks for sharing your story – obviously it strikes a chord with many!

49 k May 1, 2013 at 12:52

Hi JD,

Longtime reader/lurker here. This post struck a chord with me for two reasons. One, my husband has ADHD. Took Ritalin as a kid but no meds currently. What helps him is constant structure and reminders. I know that if he was out living on his own as you are now, with such a big change to a set routine, his life would be much more scattered (without me to help). It’s taken me years to understand that his disorganization, etc is not intentional laziness – his brain just truly works in a vastly different way from mine. On the positive side he is one of the most engaging and creative people I know. I think ADHD can be a gift as well if you can manage to co-exist in a world that doesn’t always fit with the way you naturally are.

The second reason I wanted to comment is I am currently seeing a therapist for post-partum depression. Your post a few months ago actually was part of what prompted me to finally make that call (so thank you). I was taking PPD meds for a while but I’ve been able to taper off them and have been off now for about 2 months. I dreaded the idea of being on something “forever” with long-term side effects but at the time it was very necessary. The meds enabled me to get through a very tough spot and now I don’t need them anymore. The pills help the biology but talk therapy helps the psychology, as they say. And, coming full circle, a constant topic of conversation in my sessions is how to deal with my husband’s ADHD… it’s true that it’s not just the ADHD person that is affected. Kudos to you for taking charge and best of luck.

50 Janette May 6, 2013 at 11:59

Glad the meds help.
I find it interesting right after you write about coffee, that you disclose ADHD. Caffine should help alliveate your symptoms.
Last, I would like to remind you that very creative people tend to be ADHD. I think using management techniques is the key. Let the drugs help with routine and then move forward.
I, personally, think drugs for this are out of control and the easy fix our society desires the most. What brain wouldn’t rather read a computer (constant source of light) and games( movement, sound and color) then pay attention to a human voice?

51 Russell Matthews May 7, 2013 at 09:32

Great post, JD. I love the honesty and first hand experience to give the reader a read understanding of your situation. I like the comment about exercising and eating healthy. Although not diagnosed, I am nearly positive I have a mild case of ADHD and I love my hour/day at the gym. It forces me to focus strictly on what I am doing to accomplish a task. Great post and excellent reader feedback.

52 Heather West May 12, 2013 at 10:58

JD, I am sooo glad you are taking care of yourself. Taking medication is hard to swallow, haha. I work with kids with ADHD, ADD, autism, and many other issues. Parents have a hard time making the choice to medicate their kids. I am not a pill pusher. Meds are just one part of the equation. Routine and structure are a huge part of making daily life manageable. And I offer only one point to those who would never consider medication therapy: If you were diabetic, would you at least try insulin? Wishing you continued success on your journey.

53 Coupon Lawn October 12, 2013 at 18:11

ADHD is tough. I’ve had friends who had it and it had really impacted their life especially when it came to their academics and job performance. Best of luck to you my friend!

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