Q: How many kids with ADHD does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Wanna go ride bikes?
Hi. My name is Stubbs and I have ADHD. For most people that know me, that is not a shock to discover. Discovery and acceptance were a little bit harder for me.
First, I have to admit that when I was younger, I didn’t really believe ADHD was a “legitimate” diagnosis. It was the diagnosis du jour when I was growing up, and it seemed like every other kid was getting diagnosed with ADHD (well, technically it was just called ADD back then), and being prescribed medication (the reality is about 3-5% of children in the U.S. have ADHD, and it was just starting to get a lot of attention back then… guess it was making up for the deficit of attention it received before the 80s. Hehehe).
I remember thinking (and probably saying) something like, “um, yeah, it’s not ADD, it’s called being a kid.” Because in my vast world experience at that wise stage in life, that’s what childhood was like, and I certainly didn’t have a diagnosis of ADD, and I was turning out just fine (or so I believed). Other children’s parents must just have been totally unrealistic in their expectations for their children’s behavior, and should probably just let them be kids. Yeah, I was pretty opinionated, even then. It’s funny now, because I have a diagnosis… so I was right, that was called “childhood” for me, and it was “normal” for me… because it just so happens that I was running around with undiagnosed ADD.
ADHD is not an adult-onset disorder. Symptoms don’t appear later in life. In fact, in about a third of diagnosed children, symptoms disappear as they mature and go through puberty; they are frequently gone by young adulthood. Meaning, if you have it as an adult, you’ve had it since childhood. Diagnosis for adults, however, is more complicated than it is for children. It must have existed since childhood, which frequently means collecting historical data to support the diagnosis. Lots of life events happen to adults that can generate periods of inattentiveness, impulsivity, restlessness, and lack of concentration. ADHD is something that has always been there. Like a best friend (only probably more like the kind of “friend” who undermines your every attempt to accomplish anything… you know, like Pakistan is to Afghanistan). And let’s face it, if you survive childhood ADHD through to adulthood as a contributing member to society without a diagnosis, you’ve probably developed some coping mechanisms that have helped you succeed. Those functioning adults with ADHD who never had a diagnosis as a child, would probably never think to have it checked out. Adult ADHD is only recently starting to be noticed and diagnosed. In fact, I sort of accidentally stumbled onto my own diagnosis earlier this year; I certainly wasn’t looking for one.
It’s not actually surprising that I didn’t have a diagnosis as a child. Females are the most under-diagnosed segment of the population. There are a few reasons for this. Boys are three to five times more likely than girls to develop ADHD. We gals tend toward the “inattentive” sub-type of the disorder rather than the more noticeable “hyperactive” sub-type. Which isn’t to say we sit still. I didn’t. I still don’t. I fidget. A lot. But it’s generally not something most people notice, unless I start doing something that irritates them, like drumming my fingers incessantly. It tends toward the more subtle. For example, when I put pen to paper, I never go directly there. I hover the pen over the paper first and draw tiny little circles in the air before I actually put ink to parchment. I’m not sure why (oh, wait, yes I am… I have ADHD and it’s hard for me to move directly through anything). It’s a little compulsive and idiosyncratic, but it’s what I’ve always done. Incidentally, I didn’t notice it myself until someone else did (years and years ago).
While looking through a stack of my elementary school report cards, one might be impressed that I always managed to get pretty good grades. But looking over at my citizenship assessment, you would see me marked down on things like “Makes good use of time.” In fact, I pretty regularly got U’s in citizenship, for “unsatisfactory.” But, grades were what mattered most, I was liked by most of my peers, and the rest of it was attributed to the fact that I was one of the youngest children in a large family, and probably just acting out for attention.
At any rate, I’ve been extremely fortunate in my life. I have been put in positions and places where I have been able to enjoy moderate to tremendous and frequently accidental success. I love to learn new things… and usually that’s enough to hold my rapidly waning attention long enough to grasp a concept. Thus, good grades and successful work endeavors. It hasn’t been easy for me, although I’ve frequently had people comment that I make it look easy. I’ve been at war with myself for as long as I can remember. It’s always been extremely difficult to transfer motivated thoughts into directed action. Sometimes just starting a project is hard. More often than not, finishing it is nearly impossible.
I have always been very hard on myself. In fact, I have chalked nearly every symptom of ADHD to a willpower issue (or lack thereof). I saw my shortfalls as character flaws, not as the symptoms they are.
There is no cure for ADHD. If it lasted through childhood; it probably isn’t going away. Even treatment doesn’t make the symptoms go away… it just makes them more manageable. So, that’s what I’m working on now. Managing my ADHD. It is fun to discover things I’m capable of doing that I wasn’t able to do before. Every day I surprise myself with the new discoveries and things I accomplish. Who knew life didn’t have to be so hard?!
It’s impossible now not to look back and wonder about things that happened in my life, how they might have been altered if I’d been aware of my ADHD and maybe getting treatment for it. I try not to dwell too long on those questions, though, because the reality is here and now, and what’s important is where I’m going not where I’ve been.
This is the first in what will likely become a multiple part series chronicling my ADDventures. You can expect more ADHD-related posts in the future… unless of course… Squirrel!
PS- I tried something new in my green smoothies… I added half a lime (skin and all… must blend thoroughly with base liquid of choice before adding other ingredients). It makes it a bit tart, so I recommend also adding a couple of dates or an apple to help sweeten it. It is like a green limeade smoothie. So limey, so delicious.