My struggle with ADHD

I have medically diagnosed “Adult ADHD.” But I can tell you pretty definitively it’s really just plain ADHD, and I’ve had it all my life. As a quick note, medically speaking, there is no more ADD – just ADHD (I have no idea why they did away with the differentiation) – even though I’m hardly hyperactive. Let’s say that the “H,” in some way that makes no sense, stands for “Shiny Object.” I have Attention Deficit and Shiny Object Disorder.

This is my story.

Lemme try to explain this to you…

I spend most of my day in my head. It is an odd place indeed. It’s filled to the brim with tens of thousands of often unrelated thoughts ranging from the truth of consciousness to why it is that I’m attracted to coffee mugs as if they were grand works of architecture. I also think about architecture.

These thoughts speed through my head at an outrageous rate. They’re more often fleeting than not, but they can at the same time be crippling, debilitating, and completely freeze me in my tracks. The thoughts worth further consideration often don’t get the time they deserve, and are pushed out by new, incongruous, or tangental ideas.

It’s a noisy place to say the least. Worse still is that my brain often gives equal weight to the seeming randomness of the voices in my head to the real-world outside stimulus that should probably carry more weight. As quickly as “that building looks top-heavy with the odd window arrangement on the top floor” passes out of my head, so too can the letter sitting next to me on my desk that needs to be mailed. Placed there mere moments before by my wife for me to mail, the next time I think of it will be when I happen upon it tomorrow. There’s no “on no!” moment in between, there’s no nagging thought of something I’ve forgotten. The place the letter occupied in my short-term memory has been requisitioned for other needs – like wow I need new jeans.

I’ll take you on a quick tour of how my brain works. Let’s go with the coffee mug example. What is it that my wife is washing so intently, I just washed the dishes? I don’t like the yellow color on this brochure. Wait, I’m writing a blog post.

Sorry, coffee mugs. This is approximately how the coffee mug thought played out when I first typed it up above.

I oddly like coffee mugs. I like the shape of the mug that Life Is Good makes. It looks best in white. It’s heavy, feels good in the hand. I wonder if that makes it keep coffee warmer? My coffee or tea always cools off too much when I’m drinking it. I need a hot plate. Double-walled glasses help. I have a double-walled coffee mug. It was cheap. Parker wanted the link. It was on Amazon. I just bought a heater from Amazon. It’s amazing how little their design has changed over time. I wonder what Bezos spends his money on? Books? Space heaters? He always looks nerdy. I was a total nerd. Wait still am. My knuckles need cracking. The sink just turned on. That’s right, Jen’s here. She’s making a roast. I need water. Wait, did she just call me? Now she’s mad I didn’t respond. Damn that was too long of a time to respond. How did I forget she called me? I wonder if her voice travels better than mine? I hear I have a low timber. I should listen to a recording of my voice. I have a program that does that on my Mac. Wait, I’m typing an article. I should mention coffee cups. Wait, I forgot something. Answer Jen.

That my friends, took about 3 seconds of my time. It’s like that almost my entire waking life.

There are three absolutely broken parts of my brain engine that I can declaratively state contribute to the odd hobbling forward of my daily life.

  1. My thought queue is massively volatile, prone to catastrophic failure. A single sound, a passing wind, a glint of light, a new stimulus – any of these things can completely and totally wipe both the queue of thoughts ahead of me, and the short-term memory bucket of previously processed thoughts now behind me. It’s a killing field, only it’s less like napalm, leaving the charred remains of the decimated masses behind it, and more like the epicenter of a nuclear explosion, where instant vaporization is almost guaranteed. I will say there are, many times, the shadows of those thoughts, temporarily ghosted in to my brain like a plasma TV placed on pause for too long, but they’re often too faded to make heads or tails of.
  2. I can only process a single thought at once. Oh how I envy the multi-taskers. Able to watch a TV show, cook, and check Facebook all at the same time. I can’t come close. If you were talking to me – right to my face – and someone dropped a spoon on the ground from somewhere out of sight, I would struggle massively to remember what you were talking about while trying to process what you were still saying. It’s worse when I’m talking. Sentences take way too long to escape my pie-hole, and mid-way through a sentence, I’m 3 thoughts further down the road – probably admiring someone’s new coffee mug. I’ll eventually realize I’ve stopped talking mid-sentence, and yet – what was it I was talking about? I literally can’t remember. I feel embarrassment at what is obviously an awkward silence that I try to fill with a meaningful “um…” as if searching for a word. It’s like being Spider Man trying to stop the speeding train. Making it stop is hard enough, then reversing it to back-track to what I am in the middle of saying – it’s damn near impossible. I can eventually get my thought back, but doing so is actually physically strenuous, and has an unfortunate side effect. See #A.
  3. I have a massively underwhelming prioritization engine. This letter – the one I was asked to mail – should be much more important than the fact that I have two of the same identical Apple keyboards, and yet this one seems to almost have more traction on the keys than my other one. Although this one feels smoother than before. I wonder if I wear the keys down – or maybe my hands are sweaty or greasy. My head certainly gets greasy by the end of the day. I don’t mind “greasy Italian” jokes, they make me laugh…
    <br/ >But it’s not.

The struggle

There’s one other thing I forgot to mention. There are times that a thought will get stuck, and so completely block the single processor my brain possesses that even someone kicking me in the shin will have little chance of breaking me of its crippling grasp. This is often manifested outwardly as depression, distraction, detachment, and even rudeness. It’s as though I’ve entered a dream within a dream. Thoughts continue to stream in, but they are solely focused on this singular topic. My brain and body have been hijacked by this one topic. This can last anywhere from a few seconds to hours and hours.

I do struggle with the situations my brain often gets me in. Every day I ponder how it is that my head operates this way. Sometimes, especially after forgetting something as simple as mailing that letter, or what it was my friend just said to me, that the pondering becomes one of these blocking thoughts described in the paragraph above. I feel intense remorse, embarrassment, and disappointment in myself.

I struggle with it throughout the day. I have responsibilities – to my family, to my clients, even to myself. I have to force myself constantly to remember, to stay focused, to complete even the simplest of tasks. I have to make a concerted effort to remember that I just put a pot of water on the stove, and I cannot, cannot put on my headphones. If I did, I wouldn’t hear the whistle of the pot, and there is absolutely no chance of me remembering I put the pot on the stove – it’ll be gone in seconds. Only if by chance my brain were to pass the thought “It’s cold in here, I should make some tea” that I could be jolted back to the reality that 15 minutes have passed by, and my dear God I left the kettle on the stove. Digging in my heals is the only thing that allows me to look at the headphones and remember no – I’m not allowed to put them on. Ah, the pot on the stove. Right.

I struggle the most with my beautiful wife, Jen. She suffers me, especially in the most frustrating of times when my mind seems to be elsewhere, leaving her behind, as if I didn’t care enough to give her my full attention. She is more understanding about it than I care to think about. She forgives me this shortcoming, constantly. She doesn’t have to tell me, I can see her. I’m incredibly lucky.

Living with it

In many ways, though, I should note that I deal with my head, and have come to peace with it. It’s a lot easier for me to laugh off my brain’s odd methodology than it was 10 years ago. It also helps that I’ve taken a few steps to help mitigate my own issues.

  • Calendars. Like, crazy calendars. I have several calendars with different basic purposes, and subscribe to other calendars (like my office’s calendar). I centralize them all in my Google account, which has a push-synchronization set up with my iPhone, and is synced to my computer’s iCal calendar. Every single thing I put on the calendar is put on there with at least one (if not multiple) reminders. If something is going to happen at a specific date or time, I get an alert on my computer, an SMS, and an email about it.
  • GTD with Things. I use the “Things” software on my iPhone and Mac and am struggling to get in line with the GTD methodology of appropriating tasks and things to do. The main point I like is that you’re meant to be able to have a thought, record it, and FORGET ABOUT IT. The forgetting part is inevitable. The more I use GTD, the more I get done, so I hope to make it a more permanent part of my life over the next weeks and months. It does require discipline, but man it makes my life easier.

There’s one more thing.

I can drown out the voices.

I discovered something I still don’t entirely understand. I can drown out the voices in my head, keeping my brain clear of all but a single task. It’s what I assume normal brain processing is like – quiet, focused. How do I do it?

Music.

Music has always held an almost mystical like power over me, but if I put on headphones, removing distraction, and play music through them, I am placed in to an almost meditative state. It’s how I get things done. It’s often the only way I get things done. I wish I knew why it worked. Maybe I could be more meditative more often.

It turns out I can also drown out my thoughts with most media – TV, movies, art, etc., – but they don’t let me get work done at the same time.

Still here? A conclusion then.

I doubt many will read this. But writing this was more for me, really. I have friends who look at me bizarrely if I have a “brain fart,” those that suffer my odd way of processing thoughts kindly, even if I can tell they’re annoyed. Maybe this is for them a little too – a small look inside my head.

My charge continues. Every day I struggle, it helps me set up ways of dealing with it. The more comfortable I get with myself, the more safeguards I put in place, the more I can alleviate myself of negativity I feel towards this condition and embrace the brain that God, nature, evolution, chaos, order, or any combination therein have given me, the more at peace I am.

The teapot is whistling. I gotta get that.

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  • Reed Gustow

    Holy. Freaking. Cow.

  • http://arpitonline.com/blog arpit

    Great post! I struggle with the same issues myself. Although I have never had myself checked for ADHD, I am pretty sure I have it. I have often wondered if this is something those of us who live more on the internet have a harder time with given the crazy amount of random information flying our way.

    I have looked for the answer in tools, trying pretty much every much out there, but after a couple of weeks those become distractions themselves, since they always lack a couple of features that I think would make them so much better and I start thinking about what it would take to build another app that does that.

    These days I have just given up on tools and have started using paper to jot down things I need to do for the day and thats been helping to some extent. I have also turned off notifications on most apps that I can and diabled Growl.

    A friend of mine suggested looking into this book since she seemed to get a lot out of it. Maybe you can give it a shot as well:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0684801280

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    I got checked out on a whim – told the doc I was forgetful, he checked
    my insurance, and the next thing I know I’m in for a full psych
    workup. I was pretty sure I had it before then (family clues) but now
    it’s on paper. Not sure that counts for much.

    I’ll check out that book – thanks for the recommendation!

  • Tom

    Dave, I hear you. I have similar experiences with my wiring. Sometimes I think it is a blessing (rarely!) but mostly it is a struggle. I see my two sons struggling with it so I definitely think there is a hereditary component.

    I rely heavily on alarms to help me remember things like getting my daughter at the bus stop, I obsessively put down the whistle on the kettle when I finish pouring the water because I am worried that I will forget to put it down the next time I will use it. Alarms on my phone are my friend, but I also know I have to shut off email alerts and such.

    There is a great XKCD cartoon about how the author will look something up on wikipedia and 3 hours later he has learned a bunch interesting things…. but it is 3 hours later.

    I think there is a creativity that is created by these sort of random and distracting thoughts that pop into one’s head. I think it can really help my coding and humor. My coping techniques also make me more thorough in a lot of things, although at a cost of speed at times.

    I guess I wouldn’t trade it in at the expense of losing the positives.

    Thanks for posting.
    Cheers,
    Tom

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Dave. This was a big help to me. I don’t think I suffer as severely as you do. My thoughts jump around but not as fast. At least, I don’ t think so. I frequently get paralyzed by problems with more than 2 steps, though. I get stuck. I can’t figure out a place to start enough though I KNOW if I just get started I’ll figure it out. I’m trying mightily to use my calendar more which is working out better.

    Mostly I just want my short-term memory back. I can’t remember anything anymore. Like. Anything. If someone tells me a phone number or gives me a list it’s gone in seconds. I used to be able to remember things like that.

    The only thing that helps me think clearly is occupying the busy part of my brain. I do my best thinking while walking, driving, or in the shower. It gives my brain something to do while I want to think. Otherwise I’m humped. Music helps but not music with lyrics. Words throw me off. Forget about podcasts.

    The more I don’t get done the sadder I get :-(

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Yeah, the memory thing is what bothers me the most too. And I’m with you on the shower thing – I don’t know what it is, but I find that I have the most inspiring ideas in the shower – answers to questions, how to solve problems… who knows why :)

    I love listening to Spanish classical guitar music. Good stuff there.

    But yeah, “getting things done” in the non GTD sense is a huge frustration. I am often stuck not knowing where to start, and that means things never get done.

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Good points Tom. I guess if you asked me seriously, I wouldn’t give it up. The frustrations aside, it would be like taking a piece of you away…

  • Scott

    Hi Dave.. just found your site after searching for how to get things done.. lol A year ago my brother died and I started seeing a pysch doc at the advice of my family doc. After a few visits he brought up the idea that I may be ADHD. I told him he was nuts and almost walked out. After some persuading, I took the test and it opened my eyes wide open and everything started to make sense. All the uncompleted projects, the inability to stay on task or read a book and not remember a thing I just read.

    But, with the diagnosis, now its been a struggle to figure out how to fix it. At 41, I’ve wasted a lot of time job jumping, starting businesses etc… I’ve tried the medication route and went through the Adderalls, Ritalins, etc.. They all made me too anxious and made my heart race. So, now I am trying a diet program with exercises to strengthen the other side of the brain. I read a interesting book that said the two sides of the brain are out of wack. One is stronger than the other, so the solution is to strengthen the other side to make them more equal. Not sure I am buying it, but I am determined to give it a try.

    Anyway, thanks for the post. Its nice to know that I am not alone in this daily struggle. And I will definitely look into GTD. Thanks!

    Scott

  • http://twitter.com/oraclebill bill jones

    Wow. Dude, I have a lot of admiration for you for writing this. I was diagnosed a while back myself, and have a lot of the same struggles, but we’ve talked about that. I just want to commend you for writing this.

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Thanks Bill! Some of the stuff came from our conversations, for sure.

  • ketanketan

    Great post.

  • John J. Roger

    Thank you for writing this, I know full well I could not have been able to explain it as you have. I have the same issues and they have caused me to fail out of college and not be able to experience healthy relationships very often. I wonder, would it be alright if I were to print this out to help people understand me? Also, the music, the only thing in the world that can keep me going in one direction.

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    You should feel free to print it, repost it, do whatever makes you feel good. This was a brain-dump for me, a way of coming to terms with some things for myself. I never expected so many people to read it.

    If it helps in any way, I’m humbled. Please feel free to use the content as you see fit. – Dave

  • http://www.facebook.com/BlogKing Michael Klusek

     Wow. Had no idea about how ADHD affects people. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/AQSGFSJKRPHIGEOAO2CXGQJURU Hal

    Wow thank you so much for writing this! i am 16 and i am struggling so much in high school even with a high GPA. I always felt so alone and this made me realize there are other intelligent people struggling to be normal! You are an inspiration!

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Thanks Hal :) 

    Remember that everyone learns in their own way, so don’t sweat it if you don’t learn in the fashion dictated to you. Learn what study habits work for you, and use those to your advantage. And yeah – know there are a lot of people out there going through the same thing you are!

  • Cara

    I echo the sentiments of many here — thanks for expressing what I think about myself.  What others do not understand about my brain.  I’m not diagnosed, but think, sometimes, that it would be good to have the diagnosis — or it might just cripple me further.  I, unlike you, would trade this part of me away in a heartbeat.  I hate it.  I found your blog this a.m. searching (though what it could accomplish I do not know) for the phrase “effort to remember” — as I had something that I thought I wanted/needed/could/should do that popped into my head this morning and, as usual, I forgot it about 10 minutes later.  I have spent the (almost) 3 hours since forgetting it trying to recreate the situation in which I thought of it, in an EFFORT TO REMEMBER it.  This is how *my* brain cripples me.  I become completely unproductive, and stressed.  I have an 800+ item “to do” list, and never get anything done.  I would have my brain erased in a flash, if the service were available.  I wish there *were* a medication, but I’m sure there’s not.  I try to learn to meditate, but it’s just another THING I have to remember to do.  I am (like you) NOT hyperactive — I think I have “attention deficit procrastination disorder.”  I am rambling, but it’s making me feel better … for a moment.  Though it feels a little better to know I’m not alone, it doesn’t really help, does it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1464562369 Maria Saleem

    this is a wonderful article. this totally describes me. i’ve always had short term memory, and random thoughts popping in my mind. it’s pretty much chaos. and because it was always like that, i thought it was normal, so i did not think much on it.

    taking tests at school was so stressing. i would sit, ansr two or three questions, and put my head down. it was like the simple act of thinking was a struggle. this would go on for the entire test. answer two questions, put head down, answer two more, and so on.

    i never realized this was a problem until my school required me to see a counseler after knowing i was abusing myself, and said i could not come back until i have gone there. first i was diagnosed with depression, and later, with ADD. my parents of course didnt believe them and stopped my visits saying it was too expensive. so i started the meds, which was a bad idea. they made me feel like i was a floating balloon, and i was so slow it took me very long to understand what anyone says.

    music is so relaxing. it just sort of quiets the chatter in my mind, just a bit. i stil have a problem getting things done. im trying to self study, but i have no motivation for it :/

    thankyou for this article. this really voices what i feel

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    It sure does, Cara. As for trading in that part of my brain, I do go back and forth on it. I see people who can concentrate on a task for hours without blinking, have an almost photographic memory, etc., and am sometimes jealous of those attributes. 

    Simplification – that was the key for me. Look at the 800 item todo list, reduce it to like 20, and go from there. It’s kind of like old email or junk in the attic. If you can’t remember what’s in storage, do you really need it hanging around? (It’s hard to get your head around, I’m still working on it.)

    Anyway, best of luck to you!

  • Swimdegirl

    Hey, Thank You for writing this artical. This explain almost perfectly what I go through on a daily basis! Somehow you have been able to capture ADHD very well. 

    Living with ADHD in a school setting is a nightmare. I can go through a lecture and have the first couple of sentences written down in my notebook, but by the end of class I have ended up thinking about the ocean and lava. So thanks again for getting this into words so hopefully others understand. 

    And you are so right about Music most days that the only way I can get anything done. 

  • Ben

    That was remarkable to read. It sounds like an exact replica of how my mind works. I think you have a writing talent worth exploring. I am an architect diagnosed at 42. Struggling with recalibrating my Modus operandi after meds – which help enormously but are taking a huge adjusting to.

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Hi Ben! Thanks for the kind words! I think creative individuals often find themselves in the same shoes… I hope your adjustment goes well and you’re happy!

  • Holly P

    As the wife of someone with ADHD, I would love to hear from your wife’s perspective! Wonderful post, it was very insightful and enlightening.

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Hi Holly!

    Thanks for the kind words. I doubt I can get her to write an article about it, but it seems to be a lot of acceptance and patience with me. Mostly massive amounts of patience :)

  • a dreamer

    Thanks for the article, at first i thought it was abut me : ) ,,, Its good to know you are not the only one dealing with such an issue. I was glad to read the last part where you mention you feel more and more comfortable with it everyday. I feel the same, I even feel like it gives me an access to a creative field of dreaming that normal brains “the ones that don’t fart” can’t get to : )

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Ha! That’s an interesting way of putting it :)

    Glad you liked the article. It’s still frustrating from time to time, and that won’t ever go away, but I’m pretty comfortable with it now.

    Cheers!

  • dan

    I thought I was the only one. I’m ready to double barrel it. I suppose I could try doctor first. I cAnt live like this any more though

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Hey Dan,

    I’m hoping you’re kidding, but in case you’re not, you should absolutely talk to a doctor. This is hardly something you need let control your life. It’s a struggle for many, and I doubt I have the worst of it, but there are many ways of dealing with it. I haven’t used drugs yet, but in severe cases, they can provide a great deal of relief. Short of that, some coaching on learning to work around these sorts of issues worked best for me.

    Here’s hoping you find some relief…

  • Imran Sajwani

    Hi Dave,

    This was a great read! I’ve already printed the entire article and taped it on the wall by my computer, so every time I see it I can remind myself to break out of the persistent random thoughts that distract me.

    My greatest struggle with ADHD is that I’m VERY productive, and get a lot of things done — but only IN MY HEAD.

    For example, I haven’t really printed your article and put it on the wall by my computer. I want to, but will I remember to later today when I get out of bed?

    Does this make sense? I’ve never been to a doctor to get diagnosed, but I’m 99.9% sure I have ADHD, specially considering my failures in academic and professional life due to the inability to GETTING THINGS DONE due to LACK OF MOTIVATION and FORGETFULNESS.

    Your thoughts?

    Could you recommend any books/resources that help with distraction? Most stuff I’ve read is vague and very generalized, and probably written by someone who has never had ADHD themselves. For example, “Break big tasks up into smaller ones.” YES, I KNOW, but I CAN’T because I get too distracted and forgetful. The billion random thoughts in my head are in constant competition to get my attention.

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Hi Imran!

    At the end of the day, you do have to produce, right? So small tasks are good because they take less concentration. But organization is – to me – the most important thing. Using a system like GTD (there’s a book: http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Things-Done-Stress-Free-Productivity/dp/0142000280) or other similar system for organizing your thoughts is very important.

    But I’m not a doctor, so, I can’t provide much advice or thoughts on your particular condition. I would make a doctor’s appointment and talk to someone about diagnosing your issues, and the best treatment/options moving forward.

    Cheers,

    Dave

  • TQ

    This really does describe it so well! Yeah what is it with the music thing? Through my childhood and teens music literally became a coping mechanism I’d turn to when my head got too busy! For studying, sleeping.
    Unfortunately GTD didn’t work for me, I got so over engrossed in the filing systems I actually never got much done just seemed to be reorganising my tasks! I use a post it technique (1 task to a post it & only take 1 post it to do at a time)
    My biggest struggle is social situations, this has got worse for me as an adult as the behaviours I display, that I don’t realise I do and also have no control over are less and less acceptable or put up with as you get into adulthood.
    I wonder how adult with adhd control these behaviours? I’m actually waiting on therapy for social behaviours because this is the thing that affects me most. (I’ve just immigrated and found making friends extremely hard!)
    I wonder if anyone with adhd ever reaches that point where they don’t feel like they are struggling or just getting by, and actually feel fully in control?

  • Edith taylor

    This post made me bawl my eyes out. I’m 30 years old & feel so often like the busy kid in class Who’s jumping out if their skin. My poor husband, he is so patient. I’m currently nursing so I can’t take any medication & it’s like a daily war. So often I get do frustrated with others as they casually say oh i had an add moment or I’m so add. I look at them as if they said the R word at the special Olympics. Rarely does anyone understand. Today on a Friday where I so dropped the ball at work & ended on a day where the rain was heavy this post was a little bright spot in my day. To remind me that in created in a special way & that I’m not alone. That is the biggest thing. I’m not alone in this battle. ThNk you.

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Hi Edith!

    Thanks for posting this. As you can see from the other replies here, you’re hardly alone. I think this affects more people than you know, but most people don’t go about discussing it every day.

    I’m glad you were able to find some happiness in my rambling writing!

  • Farai

    Thanks Dave. For so long I thought everyone was like me and I was just failing to get it together. I thought my irritability and rather extreme forgetfulness were just my brand of quirkiness. Everything seems to make sense now. I thought I knew myself well… obviously I was missing something important. I am starting on concerta tomorrow. I hope it can help to get my life on track.

  • Laurie

    This absolutely means so much to me. Thank you so very, very fucking much for sharing. You have given me hope.

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Wow. Thanks. I mean you’re welcome. Whatever, glad you liked it :)

  • Laurie

    I just didn’t think that anyone else was like this, and I’ve been at a rock bottom point in my life for a few weeks now, but things are looking up, I think. Job interview in the morning (cross your fingers), which it’s a serving position, but minimum wage definitely will not pay the rent, but I get so overwhelmed waiting tables (multitasking).
    I wish there were support groups around here for adults with ADHD. I wish more people were even aware. Before reading this I’ve never felt more lonely in my life, but this really has given me hope. Sorry I keep going on about it, but yeah thank you.
    Another thing a struggle with is the complete lack of motivation/drive. If you have any suggestions, anything would help.

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    Hey Laurie – that’s awesome that this helps you feel not alone – honestly I think more people deal with some level of ADHD than we generally think. In terms of motivation, I also lack a bit… mostly, I know that when something is accomplished I feel great, so I try to push through. I also focus on the end result, not the current work at hand, which let’s me see bigger picture. But procrastination is a constant battle.

  • Joshua Jones

    Hey Dave! Thanks so much for taking the time to write this. I have known for years that I have ADHD ( I was clinically diagnosed in the 3rd grade upon the recommendation of my teacher). The biggest thing that I can relate with you on is the calendars and reminders you set. Haha, I thought I was the only one. I literally write **Everything** down on my apple calendar and set two alarms with every reminder. On top of a “main” to-do list, I have a weekly to-do list which lets me know everything that is on the radar for the entire week. On busy days, I will also have a list with times to keep me on track. I was forced to do this after I was beginning to earn myself the label of irresponsible. For clinicals (I’m in college), I would frequently forget to bring something (it would always be small things). Sometimes, I would show up for school and forget that we had something due that day. It was **always** something. I don’t actually think its a memory problem (because I don’t actually forget about it). Rather than my mind keeping a “running” list of things that would be readily accessible in my working memory, it stores these “to-do’s” as facts in another part of my memory. Therefore, unless something triggers my memory, I won’t spontaneously remember it. But, I guess that’s what to-do lists are for?!

    The other thing I struggle with is time management and motivation (I struggle with these as one “unit”; they are intrinsically related). I am a **PRO** procrastinator. Like, I have mad skills. Except for I’m not really proud of this haha. The skills have developed out of necessity. I am notorious for waiting until the night before something is due to complete it. For me, I know that my chronic procrastination has something to do with my neural wiring related to dopamine, which is associated with motivation and rewards. When I wait to start something at the last minute (usually it’s never on purpose; it just kinda happens), I go into fight-or-flight mode and I acquire the motivation needed to accomplish the task at hand. However, 3 or 4 days before a deadline, I won’t lift so much as a finger to do something (UNLESS the task absolutely requires several days work to complete it). From my years of experience with ADHD, I know that my brain (independent of me, haha) assigns a “time to complete” to all tasks, and will “give me” enough dopamine for the task based on the “time rating” it assigns to it. I know this sounds completely insane, but it’s totally true. In many ways, this is a beautifully efficient feature to have–but sometimes, it backfires and gets me in trouble (every rose has its thorns).

    I would say that for me ADHD is not about having concentration issues. It is purely a motivation issue. If something captures my interest, you can bet that I will be entirely devoted to it to the extent that I tune out *everything* else that is going on (such as time, haha. Which also explains why I have such poor time management–because I temporarily go off into my own little world). Again, this can be a huge blessing (when I need to be entirely devoted to doing something), but it can also manifest as a curse when I actually need to be simultaneously thinking about other things (which by the way, it is impossible for me to multitask; It is all or nothing for me. I can’t appropriate portions of my memory to many different things at once). In fact, I am “all or nothing” with everything in life. I am either driven to the point of obsession or totally and completely uninterested. And there is no in between.

    Concerning motivation and rewards, I always feel really great after accomplishing something, but almost always lack the motivation or interest before starting the task. For some people, this might sound like laziness, but I can assure you that it’s not. When I say that I lack motivation, it takes tremendous will-power to get through some tasks some times. But (and this is a big *but), only when my mind deems the task at hand as unimportant or mundane. Here again, my mind assigns levels of importance to tasks, and if my mind deems something as worthless, than it gives me zero motivation (dopamine) that I need to power through something. It’s so weird how this works. Again, this can be a huge blessing (I can’t understate this!), because that means I won’t waste my times indulging in trivialities. For me, personally, I am not “motivated” to watch tv because it confers no benefit upon me (haha, I know this sounds nuts). But, on the flip side of the coin, I am also not motivated to do necessary tasks that are seemingly pointless. (for instance, in school we had to write journal entries **every** time we went to clinicals. This drove me crazy, as I saw it pointless because there wasn’t always something novel to write about every time I went). So many people that I know can down a cup of coffee and have an instant source of motivation to get through anything. Me? I can’t have coffee at all because it makes me miserable. Coffee amplifies all negative effects of ADD for me, which I attribute to the unique way neurotransmitters are used in the “ADD brain”–(there is so much research available about the difference in brain structures between people with ADD and people without it; mainly in respective to how neurotransmitters are used). Though I cannot use coffee, I can drink green tea. Specifically, match green tea. And what a blessing it is! It helps me tremendously, not to mention that it is full of antioxidants and polyphenols.

    I would like to say that I do not acknowledge that I have a disorder. I think it is a beautiful gift that you must learn to wield in your favor. That being said, I have struggled so hard for many years with this same gift. It has never been easy. But, now that I am where I am, I have learned how to appreciate how I am made. Diet (what I eat; not calorie restriction) has helped me tremendously (**it is impossible to stress how much emphasis I would place on this**). I am a complete health nut, but it is oh so worth it.

    Lastly, since there’s no shortage of negative aspects of ADD, I would like to share some positive aspects that I have noticed through the years: I have more energy than almost anyone I know. I never get tired, even at night (which, obviously, can double up as a negative). Remember I told you that I struggle with motivation? Well, that only applies to mundane, everyday tasks. When I am working towards something major (like studying for the MCAT to get into medical school), I am super motivated. In fact, during this past Christmas break, I spent the entire month everyday all day studying for it. Never got tired and it was super enjoyable. But, give me some mundane and seemingly useless task to do, and I literally have to FIGHT my way through it. And, considering that life can sometimes be full of mundane, yet necessary, tasks this will always be something I have to struggle through. Even though there are definitely some drawbacks to being this way, there are some amazing advantages and you just have to learn how to use what people call a “disorder” to your benefit!

    Okay, the end, haha. Sorry for rambling on for so long! Hopefully some of this makes sense to you. Thanks again for taking time to share your struggles with ADD. Blessings and best of luck to you!

  • Royal Writers

    i have the symptoms above, exactly, and even more. i often get embarrassed about my memory problems and complete failure of anticipation. I have not been diagnosed, and i do not know the right person to contact.

  • http://davemartorana.com Dave Martorana

    First, just contact your regular doctor. He/she can get you going down the correct path. Good luck!

  • Shanna Sambola

    Exactly. All of it. I have a theory about the music because it works for me too. But when I was going to school for massage therapy I found that gum or hard candy helped me focus on my instructor. I think you have to distract one of your senses. Give them a diversion. They want to take in all the things and that can be overwhelming.

  • waltdizney2

    I have adult add I wish I didn’t have . Getting passed over for promotions poor performance evaluations . Contacted HR because I felt like I was getting discriminated foe my disability.
    And now demoted trying to increase my speed and produce good qality product after contacting HR. There is a young girl who has add is taking meds she took my place . She is also the favorite . When I see here doing my job or an enexoranced person I cry. I can’t control my emotions and cry in front of my boss. I’m depressed. It seems like these people will never leave . because I contacted HR this is the consiquence . I did not think about if I only knew. I’ve been very successful in that job. But one thing know it’s hard to see but I will get though this the demotion will make me stronger
    With ought adult ADHD there would be no Disney World