Adult ADHD, or How My Brain Works


I was counting the railroad tiles out the window when my facilitator read, “Is often prone to daydreaming…” Yes, I thought, my daughter does that! I take a note to remember that frequent daydreaming is a sign of ADHD.

I fidget and look at the clock. How LONG is this meeting? It’s been 45 minutes already. My foot bounces at the end of my leg, a habit that irritates nearly every office mate I’ve ever had. I swirl my foot in circles and take more notes. “Fidgeting, constant moving, even in adults…” Impulsivity, forgetfulness, distractibility. If I hadn’t been diagnosed a year and a half ago, this might come as a shock. Today, though, I sit, fidgeting, for nearly TWO HOURS (mygod two hours!) in my first Adult ADHD Women’s Support Group with many others who are only learning this isn’t “normal.”

In my world, I am normal. In my world, I’ve always been this way. I’ve always had to work out daily or I can’t sit still. I don’t like going to the movies because they’re too long. I thrive as being a “big idea person” and the one who “drives projects”, the one who “loves change”, the person who will show up in Amsterdam having not thought about what I was supposed to do once the plane landed. In my world there was NOW and NOT NOW. I write notes to remind myself of important events and forget where I put the note. I make plans and forget I already made plans. People who love me cherish this about me and those who don’t? They don’t stick around for long.

Nearly two years ago my world crashed down on me for those “cherished” attributes. After 35 years of coping mechanisms, the tiny rock-chip of balance broke in to a full crack, splitting my life in two. Projects, Marriage, Children, Friends, Family… everything fell to the ground from their balance on the high wire, the very high wire I carefully walked my entire life.


It’s nearly a cliche now to hear people say how “ADD” they are. I remember hearing someone say that in front of my good friend Lotus, to which she replied, “You know, there are people that struggle to have a good life because of that.” At the time I didn’t know I was one of them. Today, I appreciate that response more than I can express.

After the urging of several key people in my life, after my daughter’s teacher suggested getting her tested, after my world exploded, I decided to finally take an assessment for adult ADHD. **

I, along with 4% of the U.S. adult population, or 8 million adults, have Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I was lucky enough as a child to learn coping mechanisms which helped me succeed in school. I have a graduate degree in technology. I’ve enjoyed, for the large part, a “successful career” and life. I don’t look like the disaster that ADHD can create in a person (unless you know me very well). But here’s the secret: many “successful” people have, and struggle, with ADHD.

After my original diagnoses, I’ve followed up with a year of books, groups, therapy, podcasts, medications.

From Ari Tuckman’s Podcast: “What Causes ADHD And What Doesn’t” (recommended listening) he states the following:

- Research found ADHD is primarily passed via genetics.
- If someone has ADHD, there’s a very good chance that at lease one other person in the family has it as well.
- 6 or more genes are involved and impact ADHD in its own way
- Some environmental influence can exacerbate the genetic component to ADHD but does not CAUSE ADHD.

- Diet and food additives. *Note - Diet can exacerbate an existing ADHD imbalance or can create similar symptoms (and thus mis-diagnosed cases) but does NOT cause ADHD as a chemical imbalance in the brain. (Before doing a research for false information, please try these peer-reviewed articles.) **please listen to the podcast for the reasons behind this correlation. “ADHD causes the eating of junkfood, not that junkfood causes ADHD”
- Poor parenting. *Usually at least one parent will also have ADHD so research shows that parents perform better when kids are under control, not reversed.
- Modern Society (Twitter, Facebook, etc). *Even with the overload in available distractions, it does not cause ADHD. Yes, twitter can distract even the most focused mind, but it does not cause ADHD. If this were true, societies with less technology or slower pace of life would have fewer cases but they don’t. At most we can say ADHD symptoms are more debilitating and obvious in our face-pased and distracting world, like saying a white shirt is more obvious against a black background than it is a white one but we would never say the white background caused the white shirt.

The reason I share this with you now is twofold. 1. I survived, almost thrived, for 35 years with a brain chemistry deficit that could easily have derailed my life much earlier than it did but I had the structure and coping skills to handle this (until those failed from environmental factors). And 2. I am thriving again now that I have that knowledge.

ADHD can be a gift or it can cause pain and frustration. I enjoy the company of others just like me and I appreciate the company of the countless friends of mine who aren’t. My closest friends can sit still, stay in routine, plan a trip and they gracefully (at least to my face) understand when I need reminding or a push to follow up. I am in a roll at work now where my “gifts” are appreciated and used to push products forward, lead, and see things from a higher-view and help those stuck in the mire of detail to keep an eye on the final outcome. People closest to me understand that my need to travel it is not a desire but a NEED. My children benefit from a mother who understands them and can offer solutions to their disorganization. We, as a house, have structured our lives for success and keep dates, events, and deadlines on a white board for everyone to see. Managing ADHD can be complex and take a lot of work but in the end, if it is preventing life from being as amazing as it can be, it’s worth it. For me, I am learning to balance both: Allowing the impulsivity and spontaneous me to work within an 8 hour day of projects and deadlines and bills. Now I finish projects on time, pay bills on time, remember and arrive early to meetings.

Learning the hard truth about why I am the way I am has helped improve, not diminish, my life. ADHD is not an excuse to be distracted, it’s a reason to get help.

Some resources:
- The fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is being released in May, 2013 which will contain and updated diagnosis criteria for ADHD in both adults and children based on recent research.

- ADDitude Mag which offers a handout for debunking 7 myths of ADHD.

- Attention Talk Radio.


- Adult ADHD.Net.

Books I’ve read (and recommend)

More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD

The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD: An 8-Step Program for Strengthening Attention, Managing Emotions, and Achieving Your Goals

Driven to Distraction (Revised): Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder

The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents

Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder

More Adult ADHD Book Resources


** Notes about assessments: If you are considering taking an assessment for ADHD, you will need to have a clinician who specializes in Adult ADHD help. There are several “inconclusive” tests that can lead to a false positive (Such as the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-V1.1 from WHO Composite INternational Diagnostic Interview which is only 6 questions long). The longer the test, the more inclusive and more accurate. All good clinicians will want to talk to a spouse or family member to confirm the replies as most ADHD people can be unrealistic with their personal perceptions.

Two good assessments (I’ve taken both):

Brown Attention-Deficit Disorder Scales for Adolescents and Adults: Definition.

Adult ADHD-RS-IV with Adult Prompts. Definition and Explanation. Assessment.

Posted: 4/4/2013