ADHD The Good, The Bad, And How To Manage It

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One person’s inspiring story of how he’s putting ADHD management into practice in his life. 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 was from the Adventures Yahoo group, Jeff was a co moderator of the group. RIP 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 me.


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 after.


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 school 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 possibly 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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