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Jeff's Story. Getting Started (with ADD)


One person's inspiring story of how he's dealing with ADD. Jeff tells us how he is dealing with his ADD and in doing so, gives us some great practical ideas for us to use in dealing with our own ADD. This is a long story but well worth the read.

This is from the Adventures Yahoo group, Jeff is a co moderator of the group. Note, this is a different Jeff than the one that did the time management presentation at our Vancouver Adult ADD Support Group.

Used with permission.

I have been a member of the group for a couple of years and co-moderator for
about a year. I was diagnosed with ADHD (subtype Inattentive, with high-risk
behavior and dissociative states) and Anxiety Disorder three or four years
ago, but didn't begin treatment until a year had passed and I was failing
out of school. In the time since, I have read a great deal and learned a
lot. (I'm still learning, actually.) I have re-entered school (one class
only right now) and am hoping to transfer to a four-year campus next
semester, but there have been no takers so far.

I'll list everything, trying to group things together as best I can.

1. Once I began treatment, I decided that my life was starting over. I
wanted to make sure that I was giving myself the opportunity to improve so I
cut loose the things that held me back. I had to stop feeling guilty
everytime I made a mistake or screwed up. I had to forgive myself for
whatever I had done in the past that still bothered me. I am human and not
perfect. I had to learn to gradually turn off that "voice" in my head that
listed all of my faults, that constantly told me that I was a failure and
that downplayed my successes by reminding me that I would screw everything
up in the end.

2. I read as much as I could about ADHD. I realized that I have about as
much control over having ADHD as I do about the color of my eyes or the size
of my ears. I had to learn to live with it and not let it run my life for

3. There are a number of good aspects to ADHD:

            a. ADDers tend to be smarter than the general population.

            b. ADDers tend to be more creative than the general population.

            c. ADDers see things differently than most people, so we are
more likely to find new ways to do things.

            d. ADDers are more curious than most people. We are the
explorers, the innovators, the artists, the writers, etc.

4. There are a number of bad aspects to ADHD:

            a. Difficulty focusing.

            b. Hyperfocusing. These two sound like contradictions, but they
are both an inability to control focus.

            c. Impulsiveness.

            d. Paralysis of will. ADDers have trouble starting things. We're not
lazy or unmotivated. Our brains just won't make that step needed to get
started regardless of how much we want to do something.

            e. We get bored easily.

            f. Because our minds are so scattered, we have trouble getting
along with other people. We miss subtext and physical clues during
conversations. We assume that what a person says is what the person means,
even if they are just saying it to be polite or because it is expected of
them in "normal" conversations.

            g. We are often very lonely.

            h. Many ADDers are very sensitive. I can't watch the news
because I internalize the trauma and drama and feel with the victims, not
just for them. (This also makes us more compassionate.)

5. I talked to my family and friends about ADHD and its impact on my life.
Those that refused to work with me or to understand what was going on, I
gave some space. They either would or wouldn't make an effort to understand
and I couldn't control that. I decided to draw strength from those who were
willing to help without letting the others drag me back into the emotional
and psychological turmoil I was trying to escape. I lost some good friends,
but my life is better than it was four years ago.

6. I made my world smaller by simplifying my life as much as possible. I
stay home more, but I'm under less stress to fit in or belong to a group
that did nothing more for me that keep me busy. I'm even less lonely because
I'm not trying to belong to other groups. They can accept me or not. I can't
control that. I also can't let their opinion of me define who I am or who I
want to be. During this time, I have learned that I do have some value to
some people and that they do want me around. This has bolstered my
self-esteem and made it easier to interact with them because I'm under no
pressure. I can just be me.

7. I created a safe place in my house to retreat to when I am overwhelmed or
depressed or anxious. It has familiar things, things that comfort me. I
don't share this space with people very often because it's my safe place, my
comfort zone. They would only upset the balance with their energy (my safe
place is calm), their expectations and their chaos. Because it is so
comforting, I have to make sure I don't withdraw into it and disappear.

8. I make time to see friends and family. My psychiatrist and I consider
this part of my therapy, so I won't schedule anything else during these
times. (Work hates it, but I told them I would quit before I gave up the few
hours I need every week.) If I don't make this time and follow through with
it, I completely withdraw and won't be heard from for months on end. I have
no feel for the passing of time, so to me it will seem like only a few days
since I last saw them.

9. I have set out to reduce distractions when I am working on an important
task. I only have those things around me that I absolutely need at that
moment. Anything else nearby would pose a distraction risk, even if it is
for a later part of the same project.

10. I keep a notebook and pen with me at all times to write down those ideas
racing around in my head. I don't try to organize the notebook. I just write
down the new idea right after the last one I wrote down, separating them
with a line. This way I don't have to completely stop what I am doing to
deal with each new thought. I make a note and go back to it at a more
appropriate time.

11. I use reminders keyed to timers to keep me on task. Outlook is great for
this. I carry a PDA with me when I leave the house. It's my pocket brain and
links with Outlook to keep everything up to date. I schedule breaks and use
a timer to remind me to return to work once the break is over. I also set
timers to go off during my task, but between breaks. This way when my mind
starts to wander, the timer will refocus me.

12. I set up routines that tie one activity with another. For example, I
have the same morning routine everyday. This is the only way I can be sure
I'll be fully clean and dressed. It's also the only way I can be sure I'll
leave on time for work or school. I also make sure to leave some open time
each day for more spontaneous activities. Too rigid a schedule will defeat
the purpose and be ignored more often than it is followed. My schedule is
only good for six days a week. I pick one day each week, usually Sunday, to
break the routine. This is my lazy day, the day I sit around and read, watch
movies, watch TV, stare off into space without getting into trouble. It's
the day I goof off. It's my sanity day.

13. I am more alert and focused between 10 am and 2 pm, so I schedule the
most important tasks for that time. Less important things come before or

14. I made an ADHD survival pack. It is a portable safe place and includes
everything I'll need when I'm not at home. It has all of the meds I'll need
to take when not at home. It has an MP3 player with radio for those times
when I need to control the sound around me. There is also a book of essays
or one with short chapters to read when I have time to kill in lines,
waiting rooms, etc. I also carry a book of crosswords for those days I'm not
in the mood to read. (I never carry the newspaper or a magazine because
those are easy to find laying in waiting rooms.)

I always have water andhealthy munchies with me for quick snacks. This way I'm not going to fast food places or buying junk food when I get hungry. My notebook goes into it just before I leave the house as does my PDA. I carry extra batteries, pens, pencils, erasers, etc.

I have a pocket with change for payphones, the bus, etc. Everything has a certain place it goes into, that way I never lose anything and can find it in a hurry. It also makes me look more organized than I really am. Everyone teases me about carrying a backpack with me everywhere I go, but when a panic attack hits or I am having severe ADHD moments, it is a sanity saver.

15. I try to eat healthy foods. While no study has shown that foods have any
measurable effect on ADHD, eating well will limit the other health problems
that come from eating too much sugar, not enough protein, getting too few
vitamins and minerals, etc. Having said that, I try to eat protein in the
morning because it has been shown to benefit concentration for everyone
whether they have ADHD or not. I also try to eat smaller, more frequent
meals. I feel better and don't crave junk food as much. I also only eat
until I'm not hungry, not until I'm full (there is a difference). (Obesity,
high blood pressure and heart conditions run in my family, so diet is a big
concern for me.)

16. Lastly, I try to get 20 minutes of exercise every morning (except my
lazy day). Exercise has been shown to aid in focus as well as over-all good
health. I have a stationary bike in front of my bedroom TV. If I want to
watch TV in peace and quiet, I either have to move the bike or sit on it. If
I sit on the bike, my fidgeting does the rest.

There is a lot here. Hopefully there is something you can use. I am always
looking for new ideas, as well, and have started keeping a list (in my
notebook) when I find something new. I didn't include a number of things
either, like how I go about studying or sitting through a lecture at school.
There are some books that I do recommend, though. They have been invaluable
in creating more positive habits and routines. The first book listed I
bought at Barnes and Noble, the rest from

1. "Driven to Distraction" by Hallowell and Ratey. This is the book I hand
people who want to know what ADHD is really is and what it's like having it.
(I'm not a big fan of some of the books Hallowell has written since, nor do
I agree with some of the endorsements he has recently made, but this book is
genious. I ended up writing all over my copy.)

2. "What Does Everybody Else Know That I Don't?" by Michele Novotni. This is
an ADDer's guide to social skills. I made a one page (both sides) list of
reminders that I carry in my Survival Bag. I look at it a lot when I get
confused during conversations or I don't understand why someone has done or
said something. I don't like to be touched except by a very select few
people, so I have no real concept of why people touch me or why they have
such small personal spaces (mine's about the size of a football field). This
book helps me get through social situations and basic conversations daily.
I'd still be lost without it.

3. "Survival Guide for College Students With ADD or LD" by Kathleen Nadeau.
This is a short, no frills book that walks you through the entire process
from application and scholl selection to graduation. It is thin enough to
carry with you and filled with pointers that cover most university issues.

4. "Learning Outside the Lines" by Mooney and Cole. Both of these guys went
to an Ivy League school even though one has severe ADHD (Cole) and the other
is Dyslexic (Mooney). It is both funny and filled with more info than you
can possible use. It is set up with the ADDer in mind and assumes you will
skip around. Each chapter has a short summary and the authors assume you
will do what they did - pick and chose which methods work best for you. I
reference this book a lot. My favorite section title is "Less Reading, More
A's" They give suggestions on how to cram for exams effectively and how to
navigate the academic setting without stressing yourself more than is
absolutely needed.

5. "ADD-Friendly Ways To Organize Your Life" by Kolberg and Nadeau. This is
filled with more useful hints and ideas than I needed. Each chapter is
broken down into sections based upon how difficult the task is for you to
do. It shows you how to set up a support network and how to use ADHD to your
advantage. I don't use folders for anything anymore. I can now find
everything and I fill paperwork as soon as I get it. This book should be
required reading for any ADDer. It, too, is set up for the ADDer, assuming
you will jump around and has good, short chapter summaries.

I'll stop now. I'm sure I've said enough for one posting.




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