July 2, 2011


I read four books at the same time, have to listen to music when I am doing practically anything, write while I am watching television and don't normally sleep more than five hours a night. My friends have grown accustomed to me constantly changing the topic mid-conversation as if it is the most normal thing in the world. (I'm not usually aware I've even done it.) Though I try to be present in each moment, pay attention, and “be here now” … I sometimes experience life as "blur". I zoom in and out on things, people, and thoughts like the lens of my NIKON, constantly shifting focus in an effort to zoom in on foreground and block out the background 'noise' around me. It's my attempt to make sense of what is happening around me. Sometimes it seems the more I focus the less I see. It has always been hard for me to pay attention to only one thing at a time. Throughout my life I've tried unsuccessfully in fits and starts to do one thing at a time and pay attention to the thing that is in front of me with relatively little success. Why?, because I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The story of how I came to be diagnosed with ADHD at the ripe old age of 35 is a long one but suffice it to say it was one of the best days of my life and I am forever grateful to my neurologist for figuring it out. We are certain I’ve been ADHD my entire life.

People have lots of ideas and beliefs about what ADHD is and is not - it is a hot topic among parents with school-aged children, to be sure. At the end of the day, what I have found to be true (in my experience) is this: people either believe that some of us have brains that are wired differently and this different wiring sometimes requires medication to help us function in a more meaningful and productive way or they don’t. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground here.

People tend to either fall into awkward silence when I tell them that I have ADHD and take medication for it or they are terribly curious about it and want to know what my life is like. I can deal with either reaction, frankly because it is what it is.

Being an adult with ADHD is much the same as being a child with ADHD except I'm a grown up with bigger consequences if I don't properly manage it. Children with ADHD lose track of things all the time - so do adults with ADHD. The minute I get home I put my keys on a hook on the back of the front door because I've spent an entire DAY looking for my car keys when I put them someplace else. Trust me, this is not a fun call to make: "Sorry, I can't come in today, I can't find my car keys." ADHD kids are notorious for having bedrooms that look like a hurricane literally blew threw them (more than just the average kid) - it is amplified for an adult with an entire household to maintain. I am still fighting this battle in my home and losing more than I win, to be truthful. Many times, I won't let anyone come over because I'm so ashamed that I can't keep a tidy home like a "normal person".

You may be wondering how misplacing things and not keeping a neat house makes me different than anybody else, why is that ADHD?, why isn't everybody ADHD?, plenty of people have trouble with these things. These are only a few examples of how ADHD shows up in my life, there are many more. All normal individuals exhbit some of the symptoms of ADHD occasionally - the diagnosis is given when the symptoms are present from childhood and persistently interfere in functioning in multiple spheres of an individual's life.

Being ADHD for me is an interesting contradiction that requires me to embrace the counterintuitive parts of myself in order to actually make my life work. For example, I need noise to concentrate when other people need silence. I sleep five hours when other people sleep eight - I feel just as rested at they do. If I have a big deadline or project due - it helps me to do something that is physically taxing before starting the work so I am less distracted later. Photography calms me because it requires my complete attention and is the thing I do to stop my mind from racing. The first rule of managing ADHD is to know yourself.

Loving yourself for who you are means understanding where you are strong and where you have challenges and embracing all of it. I get distracted, I make a mess, I'm not always on time (okay, I'm late most of the time) - but I'm also very creative, funny, and interested in changing the world through a kindness revolution. .... if I can just remember where I left my notes. *sigh*

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