A.D.D. and me

I’ve been reading a lot about A.D.D. lately. I’ve known what it is, or at least thought I did, for a long time. I’ve had friends that had it, and were on prescriptions to manage it. But to be honest, I didn’t really “get it”. I knew what A.D.D. stands for- “Attention Deficit Disorder”… and from there I really just created my own mental understanding given the name. I didn’t realize I had done this, until…

Someone shared a golden article on Facebook, and I happened to click the link and start reading. Before this moment of clarity, I had kind of casually laughed and said to myself “Oh yea, A.D.D., I’ve got that! I get distracted all the time!”. I’m ignorant and stupid, what can I say. BUT- deep down, I didn’t think I REALLY had it, because among my life of distracted half-finished tasks, I’m also able to super-concentrate to the point of obsession.  And I thought, maybe I have the opposite of A.D.D., since I have these times where I have an abundance of attention.

Like I said, I read this article, and boom- my conflicted self was explained in a way only someone just like me could understand.  Here is http://www.tickld.com/x/if-your-friends-ever-say-they-have-adhd-just-show-them-this  This article introduced me to a new term: HYPER-FOCUS.  If you know me, you will read this article and think that maybe I wrote it myself.  Hyper-Focus is my middle name… among a sea of distracted, half-engaged moments all day every day.

This seems like a good time to say that I am undiagnosed A.D.D.- which is to mean I haven’t been tested or had someone in a long white coat tell me I’ve got it.  I’m self-diagnosing here; risky business I know!  But this isn’t like reading the symptoms of some disease and saying oh my god I think I have that.  There is no think.  The more I read up about it… I have it, period.

Some other aspects of my life have really come into focus as I’ve researched A.D.D. further.  A very abbreviated explanation of A.D.D. is that, when you see, taste, smell, or do something you find enjoyable, your brain releases some chemicals (aka drugs).  It’s like a reward from your brain for giving it stimulation it likes.  Well A.D.D. brains either release less of this chemical, or are less sensitive to it- so it takes more stimulation to get the same chemistry as a non-A.D.D. person.  I’m not a doctor, and certainly no scientist, so take my simplified explanation with that disclaimer in mind.

One thing I’ve struggled with all my life is being “normal”.  And by normal I’m going to say being a cliche’d member of society.  I have also felt entirely unable (not unwilling; UNABLE) to work in an office environment for too long.  I can’t ride a desk (CAN’T, not won’t- I’ve tried).  I’ve never been able to describe it- the hopeless feeling I get when I do that kind of thing for too long.  It’s like claustrophobia, anxiety, and depression all at the same time.  It feels like my brain is dying… and my body follows suit.

I’ve countered this by living a pretty “free” lifestyle.  I do a lot of freelance-type work.  I work outside whenever possible.  I surround and engulf myself in adventure sports and activities.  And when I can’t do any of that… I compensate.  Again, if you know me, you know about my addiction to soda.  I don’t do anything in moderation, especially soda.  Pepsi at breakfast.  Then one at 11.  And another around 3.  And at least one at dinner (restaurants with free refills hate me, as do the servers I’m sure).  As I get older, I’ve struggled with staying fit vs gaining weight.  I know my soda addiction is a huge factor.  Soda in itself is sugary and high in calories… but those sugars also spike appetite and lead to over-eating and never really getting that “full”, satisfied feeling after a meal.

As I read and learn about A.D.D… and the accompanying medications… they’re stimulants, and trigger that good stuff in your brain.  Guess what else is a stimulant- caffeine.  I tried an experiment about a week ago, and started drinking coffee in the mornings.  I’ve never had much of a taste for it, but I wanted to see if I could *FINALLY* go soda-free if I replaced the caffeine with another delivery method (spoken like a true addict).  It’s been a week now, and I haven’t missed- or craved- a coke even once.  MIND. BLOWN.

There are also smaller things about me… like my digital appendage most people call a phone.  Quality time with my family, out to dinner with friends, at a party (even my own b-day party), it’s not unusual in the least to find me fiddling with my appliance.  It has irked a lot of people, caused friction with employers and loved ones, and some have taken it as a total lack of interest or even disrespect.  I’ve tried to tell people it’s nothing… and I’ve tried to put the phone down, pull myself away, and “be present”.  Yea, that doesn’t last long.  And if I force myself too long, my happiness or pleasantness to be around leaves the room, leaving a distracted miserable cranky shell-of-a-Ryan behind.  Sitting at the table having conversation feels like being thirsty in the desert.  And I know there’s a water bottle in my pocket!  But I’ve been asked not to drink the water, or hold the bottle.  So I sit, starving of thirst.  The phone- the constant forum reading, Google searching, video watching… meaningless “fiddling” in general… it’s brain stimulation.  It helps me function.

None of my new “understanding” of A.D.D. or myself really excuses such behavior… but it helps me approach workable solutions better.  I contemplate meds… but I’ve found constructive uses for my “hyper-focus”, and don’t want to lose that… it’s tough choice…

I write this because it might help other’s understand themselves, and be happier, more functional members of society.  And if not, thanks for reading my ramblings, and understanding me a little better!  I’ve always struggled with impulsiveness- feeling the need to do selfish things that make me happy… and not being able to do a single thing until I get that out of my system.  I never knew why.  I’ve always hated it; I feel guilty about it.  But aren’t I in charge of my own actions?!  WHY do I keep acting this way?!  Am I really this selfish?!  I’m realizing I was doing what I had to do to get by… and, like my soda addiction, I can’t stop doing these selfish acts without first replacing the brain-chemical-triggering action with something equally satisfying to my mind.  Makes perfect sense to me now!  (although coming up with actual solutions is not so simple).

And lastly, I’d like to apologize to those friends that have A.D.D. for my lack of understanding or respect for how they function or what they need to be happy.  Like I tell so many new hang glider pilots, don’t stop learning about stuff because “you don’t know what you don’t know”!