October is ADHD-Awareness Month. I thought I’d speak to my experience.
I was diagnosed with ADHD in my 40s. Looking back, I see the early symptoms in my childhood – lots of daydreaming, easily distracted, unable to have single-focus. I was raised in the kind of home where manners were important and was taught to pay attention, entertain myself in quiet situations (like in a restaurant), and respect my elders and others. This meant I always had a book with me so I had something to occupy my mind, did not interrupt, waited my turn, and adhered to all of the social niceties. Interrupting, getting out of your seat, and being loud or messy are symptoms of ADHD in children, especially boys, that I did not display because I was taught that they were unacceptable behaviors. But when I think back to being in school, I remember looking out of the window for long periods of time, doodling in the margins of my notes, writing poems during class lectures, and other distractible behaviors that were unnoticed by others. In college, I applied the behaviors I learned growing up; I had good study skills and was always a straight-A student. College was not difficult for me, but did require a lot of reading and studying outside of class.
As an young adult, I had learned to make my brain work for me. I multi-tasked constantly and always had 15 tabs open in my brain’s computer, including one always playing music of some sort. Working in an office was fine for me, but keeping to a clock always bothered me. I’m super-efficient, and get a job organized in just a few months and am bored thereafter. I hate punching a clock and find that I have usually finished my 8 hours of work in a few hours, so why be chained to the desk before I’m allowed to leave? This caused me to feel resentment and I thought there was something wrong with how I thought about work, as people I talked to did not feel this way, and simply slacked off more during the day; I would rather slack off at home, where my video games were. I always worked and attended school, as well as raised my kid, was in a relationship, and managed both my home and my kid’s extra-curricular activity. I was so busy outside of work, that having down time at work felt unacceptable.
In my later adulthood and career, I own and run multiple businesses, write books, play and run D&D games, am always planning business ideas, and all the normal things like see my friends and do hobbies. This works much better for me. I set my own schedule, can work a few hours here and there, jump from project to project, and utilize lists to get multiple things done. I use the calendar to set up my tasks and be sure they are done; I live and die by my calendar. I have used the Sticky Notes app on my computer, with a different note for each “category” (each business, home things, writing) to stay organized.
In my 40s, I went to the psychiatrist and asked about being assessed for ADHD. He asked me for a list of my current projects and I told him to clear out his calendar for the rest of the day. I listed them (take a deep breath): 3 projects for my board-game business in various stages of readiness, building my counseling business (including counseling, seeing interns, doing the social media, marketing, bookkeeping, etc.), planning auditing as a service, writing a curriculum for treatment centers, planning online courses to sell, and writing a fiction novel. He did some testing and prescribed me a medication. I’ve been on it since, including a dose increase. It took about a month before I noticed the change I was looking for: decreased distractibility. I want to finish more projects, spend more time on a project once I’ve begun it, and be more satisfied with the work that I am doing. Medication has helped me with this focus.
Here are a few of my favorite videos on how ADHD symptoms present in adults, and they’re in bite-sized format, perfect for the mind that has trouble concentrating.
Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida and Georgia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.