I’ve always been this way, so I never bothered to consider something might be wrong.
It’s not that I procrastinate ALL the time. Often, it’s just because I forget. Sometimes I mark the calendar and write reminder notes and set alerts on my phone. And I still forget.
Sometimes I forget to pay a bill.
Sometimes I forget birthdays.
Sometimes I forget to return a phone call.
Sometimes I schedule two things on the same day at the same time.
Sometimes I don’t remember to do the same thing for several days in a row.
Sometimes I put things off and forget about them and then something bad happens, like my natural gas gets shut off or my auto insurance lapses.
If you didn’t know better, you’d think I was intentionally trying to self-sabotage. As if I prefer when my life is a stressful emergency.
I always thought it was something I’d outgrow. I believed natural maturation would work out many of these little incidents that sometimes cause much bigger problems.
Think Know I Have ADHD
A clinical psychologist several states away was reading some of the stories I write here when it became clear to her that I most likely have ADHD, and like many adults, have gone through life undiagnosed.
You see, when the only thing you know is what goes on inside your own head, it’s impossible to understand how others think and feel and experience life. But this doctor has spent her entire professional career talking to, and working with, people like me. So she knew right away.
She just wanted me to come to the same conclusion on my own. She sent me a few things to read.
This ADHD test for adults was one of the first things to get my attention. Answering “yes” to 15 of them is a big ADHD red flag. I said yes to all but one. And even that’s a maybe.
- I have difficulty getting organized.
- When given a task, I usually procrastinate rather than doing it right away.
- I work on a lot of projects, but can’t seem to complete most of them.
- I tend to make decisions and act on them impulsively — like spending money, getting sexually involved with someone, diving into new activities, and changing plans.
- I get bored easily.
- No matter how much I do or how hard I try, I just can’t seem to reach my goals.
- I often get distracted when people are talking; I just tune out or drift off.
- I get so wrapped up in some things I do that I can hardly stop to take a break or switch to doing something else.
- I tend to overdo things even when they’re not good for me — like compulsive shopping, drinking too much, overworking, and overeating.
- I get frustrated easily and I get impatient when things are going too slowly.
- My self-esteem is not as high as that of others I know.
- I need a lot of stimulation from things like action movies and video games, new purchases, being among lively friends, driving fast or engaging in extreme sports.
- I tend to say or do things without thinking, and sometimes that gets me into trouble.
- I’d rather do things my own way than follow the rules and procedures of others.
- I often find myself tapping a pencil, swinging my leg, or doing something else to work off nervous energy.
- I can feel suddenly depressed when I’m separated from people, projects or things that I like to be involved with.
- I see myself differently than others see me, and when someone gets angry with me for doing something that upset them I’m often very surprised.
- Even though I worry a lot about dangerous things that are unlikely to happen to me, I tend to be careless and accident prone.
- Even though I have a lot of fears, people would describe me as a risk taker.
- I make a lot of careless mistakes.
- I have blood relatives who suffer from ADD, depression, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse.
Another Eureka Moment
I was reading a book about male-female relationships when I had my first major Ah-ha! moment. I was reading stories about common fights and communication breakdowns between spouses, and I realized it wasn’t just my wife and I that have these problems. It was EVERYBODY. It makes you feel better when you realize you’re not the only one. Moreover, this book was explaining to me the evolutionary reasons why men are as they are and women are as they are, and how the two styles (when both parties are unaware of them) cause friction in relationships and often lead to divorce.
It fundamentally changed me on the inside. I finally knew something important and believed I could be the spouse she needed. But it was so broken. I couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
This ADHD thing? It’s EXACTLY like that all over again.
Everything I read screams at me: THIS IS THE REASON.
It’s been hard to stomach as I consider the ramifications.
What if I’d known at a much younger age?
What if I’d begun to manage it years ago?
How much better might my marriage have been?
How much further might my career have advanced?
How many more friends might I have kept?
People with ADHD have trouble managing friendships and staying in touch with people.
When my wife first left, I latched on to all my friends because I felt like dying and I just wanted to be around people I cared about and who cared about me in return. As time went on and I went through several stages of healing post-divorce, I lost touch with many friends. When you’re in your mid-thirties, everyone is busy and many have kids. You have to plan several days, often weeks, in advance if you want to see certain people.
I have never planned anything weeks in advance in my entire life. I used to think I preferred spontaneity. But really it’s a stress trigger. I can barely handle everything that needs done today. How can I possibly think about four weeks from now? Four weeks from now is a figment of my imagination.
People with ADHD have trouble with marriage.
Being pleasant and kind-hearted isn’t enough when your spouse thinks you don’t love or respect her because you forget everything, or mindlessly do things that suggest her feelings don’t matter. People with ADHD have trouble with time management, with organization, with financial planning and management, and cleaning the home.
I was reading this article in ADDitude Magazine, and this quote from a frustrated wife totally hit home, because she could have said it about me and my ex-wife.
“We would be late for an appointment, and he would be leisurely doing things when we should have been rushing out the door,” recalls Patricia, who lives with Chris and their three-year-old, Gabriella, in West Chicago, Illinois. “He could walk right by a pair of dirty socks on the floor and not notice them, even if the laundry basket was just a foot away. If the house was a mess, he’d say, ‘Write me a list, and I’ll do everything.’ But I resisted. Why should I have to write a list? He should know what needs to be done.”
My wife thought I was childish and immature. (And I AM childish and immature!) But there was always more going on. Over and over again I’d try to explain myself.
I would NEVER do this to you on purpose! Why would I want you angry with me? Why do you think I want to disappoint you? Why do you believe I want to fight with you?
There were so many things to do when our son was born. I was totally lost, and I wanted to be helpful. I wanted someone to tell me what to do, and then I would do it well and I’d be useful. She always felt like I was too hands-off. Like I wasn’t assertive enough to figure out on my own what needed done and just do it.
Maybe I was supposed to do that. Maybe I’m just making excuses. Maybe this is all bullshit.
But then I read this:
“The Whites, it turns out, are typical of couples in which at least one partner has ADHD. In a survey of such couples, conducted recently by Wayne State University in Detroit, respondents indicated that their spouses ‘don’t remember being told things,’ ‘zone out in conversations,’ ‘have trouble getting started on a task,’ ‘underestimate the time needed to complete a task,’ ‘don’t finish projects,’ and ‘leave a mess.’”
Is this me desperately searching for answers in an attempt to apply meaning to things that have happened to me?
I don’t think so.
If my ex-wife read all these ADHD stories I’ve been digesting the past week, I suspect she’d draw the same conclusion.
I have all these things I want to do with my life.
Career and relationship goals. Financial and physical goals. Social and spiritual goals.
What if this teeny little part of my brain working just a little bit different than most other people is the primary reason I have some of these issues?
What if it’s the reason my marriage ended?
What if it’s the answer to the ever-nagging question: WHY?
Treatment begins Thursday.
And maybe after things will never be the same.
Just maybe, I’ll be unstoppable.