What I want you to know about living with adult ADD

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Amy M. Miller.

About three years ago, in my early 40s, my husband looked at me while we sat on the sofa and said, "You know, you may have ADD." Since he had been diagnosed with ADD ten years ago and is a licensed psychologist, I thought, "Huh, maybe I do," and set out to get tested. In the years since my diagnosis, I have discovered that I cannot tolerate stimulant medication for ADD and so I struggle to cope with the symptoms while raising two school-aged children and completing graduate school. In writing about Adult ADD I have made countless connections with other moms (and some dads, too) who have felt isolated with their frustrations of living with ADD, or who thought maybe they had ADD, but weren't sure until they read some of my blog posts. One of my biggest ADD symptoms with which I struggle is anxiety, especially when faced with a big decision. Friends who have known me a long time have had to put up with my chronic indecision. There was a time in my twenties when I thought there was something terribly wrong with me: I couldn't make big decisions and anguished over them for days with an on-going, obsessive pros-vs-con internal dialogue. I had never met anyone else who did this and so I felt like an anomaly at best and a basket case at worse. I don't want to rehash the past for my friends, but briefly I considered moving to at least 10 different cities within the first year after college graduation. Okay, many people mull over life choices, especially after college, but my friends were en route, in their cars, renting apartments, packing boxes while I hemmed and hawed over whether or not to join them. I did the same thing with job opportunities, big purchases like cars, and dating. In short, I was a mess. I think I started experiencing chronic indecision in my teens, probably brought on by the stress of high school - I was determined to get as close to a 4.0 as possible so that I could get college scholarships so I could flee from home. Not all of the stress was academic, however. I was stressed by social situations. All of my friends were dating; I wasn't. Why? Not because I was shy and not because no one was interested in me. I didn't date because a.) I was a perfectionist and only wanted to date a handful of people, most of whom were unavailable and b.) because I couldn't decide what to do. I actually went back and forth, will I/ won't I fashion with two different guys - one in 8th grade and one my junior year of high school - until they both said screw it, and pursued someone else. I even did this to some degree with my husband while we dated, but thankfully he's a persistent bastard! Here's what it feels like in my brain when the indecision hits: crushing. It feels like crushing. Like I'm trying to breathe under a boulder. As I've gotten older, the decisions have gotten bigger and have had financial repercussions, and most of the time my response to decision making is the same: go to bed and eat a bag of Hershey Kisses. This, my friends, does not help (just in case you were wondering). Another not-so-great coping mechanism: thinking of alternative realities and putting all hopes in that fantasy basket. But, as I've grown older I have also been able to let go of panic more easily. Maybe this comes with age and experience. Maybe having two children has made me less neurotic, because I don't have the luxury of dwelling on my problem. And maybe I've just gotten better at this whole decision thing. Lately, I have found myself in another big decision situation - nothing earth-shattering, but something that involves spending money I may or may not have - and it is throwing me back under the boulder. I found my copy of You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!, by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo to help guide me through the crushing. Some of the advice in the section "First Aid for Decision Making" depends upon hiring an ADD coach. That's great if you can find one and can afford to, what do you call it?, pay said coach. But a few pieces of wisdom rung true for me, advice I've read and even followed once or twice. Allow me to summarize: -To avoid being overwhelmed by too many choices, keep your options minimal unlike the open tabs on your desktop. Prioritize let's say three tasks. Check them off when completed and choose the next three. The point is to MOVE, not stay stuck in bed with a bag of Hershey Kisses.
-You don't have to make the perfect decision, you just have to make a decision. If you're paralyzed then find your favorite hat, write down your choices on scrap paper, throw them in the hat and do whatever you draw out first.  
-Stick with your decision. No backsies. I'm not a big fan of Nike, but I must say their slogan, in all it's simplicity, nails it: Just do it! I say this as I rationalize why I'm still not making positive changes like getting back to yoga. It's a process, people. I'll be gentle with myself if you promise to do the same.



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