Editor’s note: ADD/ADHD is a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty sustaining attention, lack of self-control, impaired working memory, and a range of other symptoms. It’s now more often classified in medical literature as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but lots of people (including some doctors) still refer to it as ADD. For more information regarding ADHD, click here or find resources here.
Pop culture is filled with funny stereotypes about Attention Deficit Disorder. Somewhere between the images of kids jumping off the walls and the concerns about stimulant medications, there are real people who are just trying to get through life.
ADD isn’t just a learning disability, it has serious effects our entire lives – this is what I wish people knew.
1. It doesn’t disappear when you turn 18.
I was diagnosed when I was 9, and thanks to having great support at school and at home, as well as having the right medication, I was able to get through middle and high school with limited problems. When I left for college, though, all of that stopped.
Left unchecked, my impulsivity, disorganization, and difficulty regulating my emotions resulted in crippling anxiety and panic.
2. ADD looks different in women than in men.
I was lucky that when I was first diagnosed, my teachers and school counselor knew what to look for. They recognized ADD in my penchant for long winding stories, difficulty understanding how to act around my friends and generally spacey behavior in classes I didn’t like.
The thing is, my ADD brain can be a scattered mess of ideas, emotions, and information and it’s hard to function when that’s not in control. I’m not hyperactive, I don’t spend hours staring out the window. I just jump around from thought to thought and I speak long before I have thought through what I’m going to say.
I interrupt people all the time.
I get overwhelmed when I have to make a decision, no matter how inconsequential.
Women with ADD can struggle with emotional regulation. Everyday things can send me into a flood of tears or extreme joy…which often also leaves me in tears.
It’s a little exhausting.
3. Living with ADD isn’t easy.
After nearly two decades of struggling with friendships, school, and work, I have a hard time believing in myself.
I have always felt lazy and incompetent and because I struggle to regulate my emotional reactions, I get really upset when I mess things up.
When I’m not being treated, I can easily become buried under a pile of tasks I have put off or completely forgotten.
[bctt tweet=”In a second, I can take up a project and race to the finish line. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
I have no idea how I can forget things from one moment to the next but it makes working a harrowing experience because I never know if I have remembered everything I need to.
It might be hard for me to focus on things I find boring. When I tell people about this, they think this is just a normal reaction. It’s not though, you can’t imagine how hard it is for me to focus while doing menial tasks unless I’m taking my medication.
4. Being friends with me isn’t always easy, either.
To start with, I have a habit of starting multiple stories halfway through because every time I have a thought mid-sentence, I want to explore it. It makes sense to me, but it’s hard to keep up unless I’m reigning it in.
I say things before thinking, and as a result, I can say hurtful things I don’t mean before I even realize it.
5. But hell, there are positives to having adult ADD.
You should see me when I get excited about something. I have the ability to super focus my energy and intellect on my passion projects with voracity. In a split second, I can take up a project and race to the finish line because it’s something I love.
It’s not the most stable way to work, but it’s lead to some of my greatest achievements.
6. People still don’t believe in the existence of ADD or ADHD at all.
That can make getting the right treatment extremely hard. Even if I am able to have access to a psychiatrist that understands my needs, I can’t always get the right medication. In the country I live in now, the meds that work aren’t covered by insurance even though insurance here is really generous. Instead of having affordable access to my healthcare, I pay a huge amount for appointments and medication.
7. Working is a constant challenge.
This is twofold.
One: it’s hard to be open about your learning disorder when a large number of people don’t take it seriously. Instead, I try to keep my head above water and when I fail, my coworkers and bosses can just assume I’m incompetent.
[bctt tweet=”At the end of the day, this is the hand I’ve been dealt.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Two: paired with anxiety, it’s a constant struggle between keeping my work together and then not falling apart when my system fails and I forget something other people think is obvious. I spend a lot of time ashamedly fessing up to forgetting or losing things.
At the end of the day, this is the hand I’ve been dealt. I’ve accepted that some things will always be harder for me but I’ve developed organizational skills and I rely on my intellect when my limitations get in the way.