Tag Archives: Personal finance

ADHD is Real and I Have It



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.

Why I 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.

  1. I have difficulty getting organized.
  2. When given a task, I usually procrastinate rather than doing it right away.
  3. I work on a lot of projects, but can’t seem to complete most of them.
  4. 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.
  5. I get bored easily.
  6. No matter how much I do or how hard I try, I just can’t seem to reach my goals.
  7. I often get distracted when people are talking; I just tune out or drift off.
  8. 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.
  9. I tend to overdo things even when they’re not good for me — like compulsive shopping, drinking too much, overworking, and overeating.
  10. I get frustrated easily and I get impatient when things are going too slowly.
  11. My self-esteem is not as high as that of others I know.
  12. 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.
  13. I tend to say or do things without thinking, and sometimes that gets me into trouble.
  14. I’d rather do things my own way than follow the rules and procedures of others.
  15. I often find myself tapping a pencil, swinging my leg, or doing something else to work off nervous energy.
  16. I can feel suddenly depressed when I’m separated from people, projects or things that I like to be involved with.
  17. 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.
  18. Even though I worry a lot about dangerous things that are unlikely to happen to me, I tend to be careless and accident prone.
  19. Even though I have a lot of fears, people would describe me as a risk taker.
  20. I make a lot of careless mistakes.
  21. 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.

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Guest Post: I Got Your Back

Artwork by Letholdus at Deviant Art.

Artwork by Letholdus at Deviant Art.

NOTE: This is the third in a series of guest posts scheduled to run while I’m off doing something else. Today’s post has been previously published. The author is Gretchen Kelly who blogs at Drifting Through My Open Mind. I asked Gretchen if I could share this post, specifically, because it really struck me as important the first time I read it. I think it’s a great human story. And I think it’s another reminder to always choose gratitude. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you, Gretchen!

“Yesterday, lost in a crowd, yesterday lost in a crowd, I was lost… now I’m found.

Yesterday I was lost, and you kicked me some food. Boy it was nice, to be here with you.”

Rusted Root, Lost In A Crowd

My childhood was one long, awkward period. Most people have a few awkward years, I had about a decade.

I was a total tomboy who didn’t care about clothes or looks. By the time I entered middle school in 7th grade, I started to notice boys and decided I should get with the program. This also happened to be when I found out I had severe scoliosis and would have to wear a not-so-cute back brace. This lovely accessory consisted of a hard plastic shell that wrapped around my torso, covering everything from my shoulder blades to my hip bones. It was not subtle or discreet. Big shirts and sweaters did little to camouflage what could best be described as a large plastic turtle shell.

I was a good patient, I wore the brace for the prescribed amount of time, 23 hours a day. I could only take it off to shower and do my back exercises. I tried to make the best of it.

Luckily, the kids at school were pretty cool about it. For some reason they spared me of any kind of harassment. This was surprising since I went to a rough school where girls got beat up in the bathrooms and the bus driver sold drugs to students. Many kids took to knocking on the back of my brace to get my attention. This was done as a friendly gesture and even though it was acknowledging my freak status, I knew it could have been much worse.

Still, I had a decent amount of self pity. I rarely voiced it, but I definitely thought it and felt it.

I was pissed I had to wear this thing.

I hated that it cut into the top of my thighs every time I sat in a chair, causing my legs to go numb.

I hated that it made me look like a hunchback.

I hated that I had sweat trickling down my back even in the dead of winter.

I hated that when lying down I could barely get up without someone’s help.

I hated the two giant Velcro strips that held it in place across my stomach.

In all, I really just hated everything about it.

Every few months we had the pleasure of meeting with the doctors to hear how everything we were doing was not working. The S-shaped curve of my spine was getting worse. They started discussing the option of surgery.

“We’ll give it a little while longer, but I think it’s time we start facing the fact that the brace isn’t working.”

Not exactly motivation to keep wearing the brace, but pleaser that I am, I complied with their orders to wear it for a little while longer.

I wouldn’t say I sulked when we went to these appointments, but I was not my usual chatty self. I basically buried my nose in a book and tried to ignore my surroundings.

One day I looked up from my book long enough to notice a little girl bouncing around the waiting room, talking animatedly to anyone who would listen. She was about five years old and all the nurses loved her. She seemed to know everyone in the office. A nurse confided in us that the little girl’s spine was so severely curved that it was in danger of crushing her lungs and heart if it wasn’t corrected. A case like hers at such a young age was extremely rare. Surgery basically stunts the growth of the torso, and the doctor’s weren’t sure how to proceed.

It wasn’t long after we learned about this little girl that the doctors informed us that I would have to have the surgery. Even though it wasn’t unexpected, this was not what we wanted to hear. The doctors started detailing the ins and outs of surgery, risk of paralysis, two weeks in the hospital, a cast for six months. At some point I stopped listening. All I could think was that I wore that *$#@-ing brace for over a year for nothing… Mom and I had a tearful moment in the car after that appointment.

After we hugged each other and cried,  I remember thinking about the little five-year-old in the waiting room. The adorable little girl who walked around like she owned the place and knew all the nurses and staff by name. She was this little spunky ray of light in a dreary institutional office. She was also going to have the surgery. Except her growth was going to be stunted at the age of five. They didn’t know what would happen after that. Even though I was scared and knew my mom was scared, I also knew I would be okay. That little girl had a much rougher road ahead of her and no one could tell those parents their daughter would be okay.

The surgery took eight hours. They placed a steel rod from the top of my spine to my tail bone, tightened it with screws at each end to instantly lengthen and uncurl the S-shaped curve of my spine. Everything went well. But the pain was beyond description. Every nerve in your body is attached to your spine. My entire spine had been tampered with in a somewhat brutal way. There was no part of my body that wasn’t screaming in pain.

Probably the worst part of the whole experience was when the nurses would come in to my room to turn me. I had to be turned over every two hours to prevent bed sores. The bed I was in was a special bed designed specifically for these kinds of surgeries. It was a narrow bed, and when it was time to be turned over, the nurses would lay an identical bed on top of me, clamp a large wheel down and lock the two beds together, with me in the middle, unable to breath. They would then spin the wheel until I was rotated to the opposite position. Not only was this ridiculously painful, but it had to happen 12 times a day. Once I became lucid enough to know what was going to happen, I would start to panic whenever I saw two nurses enter the room. Two nurses meant I was being turned.

One time in particular I decided I’d had enough. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I would not be turned again, bed sores be damned. I kind of freaked out. I had no control over what they did, but I freaked out as much as someone who can only move their mouth and eyeballs can.

One of the nurses calmly knelt down next to my bed so that I could look her in the eyes. In a gentle, yet firm voice she told me about another patient who was down the hall who’d just had the same surgery as me. He had been in a horrible car accident and experienced a devastating impact on his spine. He was lying down the hall experiencing everything I was experiencing. Except he was deaf and blind. He was in the same situation as me. Except he couldn’t hear or see. I was stunned. This shut me up pretty fast. What she was telling me sounded like hell.

To be in this kind of pain. To be in the dark, in every way, while lying immobile in a hospital. To be in this, the most vulnerable of positions, and to not know what was going on at all times, to have to rely on someone else being there with you to communicate everything going on… the thought of this man and his experience haunted me the entire time I was in the hospital.

As bad as this all was for me, I still could see who entered my room. I knew when the mean night nurse was on duty. I knew when the two nurses were coming to turn me. I could see the big smile of the sweet lady who brought me my meals. I could communicate with each person that entered my room. I could refuse medications that I knew would make me sick when a new nurse came on duty. I still had some control. This man they told me about was vulnerable in every sense of the word. This man’s story didn’t make my pain or my fear go away, but it sure put it in perspective.

As a parting gift before I could leave the hospital, I was transported to a special room where I was lifted up to lay and balance on a narrow metal bar. While nurses held on to me so I didn’t fall, a technician wrapped warm damp plaster around my torso.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. I guess I assumed it would be similar to the back brace. But this was way worse. It also was a hard shell, this time of woven plaster. But this shell didn’t stop at my shoulder blades, it came up over my shoulders, covering every part of my torso. And this was permanent, for six months, at least. This one wasn’t coming off until it was sawed off. As much as I hated those loud, obnoxious Velcro strips on my brace, I really missed them now that I had to live in this contraption. I cried for a while back in my hospital room after they put it on. No one really had explained what it would look like. And it was so bad. And I would have to wear it for six months.

I had to be on bed rest for a few weeks after returning home from the hospital. Friends came to visit me. They brought me cassette tapes to listen to with my Walkman, they brought me dog-eared books of theirs to read. They sat on the end of my bed to catch me up on all the crucial middle school goings on. These were some of my closest friends, but I was embarrassed for them to see me. I could tell they were trying not to stare at my cast. I could tell they wanted to tell me it didn’t look that bad, but they also didn’t want to lie to me.

Finally the day came when I was declared liberated and could leave the house. I should have been excited, but I was dreading going out in the real world. I had always been on the go, spending all my time outside. I got stir crazy really quick, so it wasn’t like me to want to prolong my confinement. But I was terrified of people laughing at me, of looking ridiculous. I knew that my cast was going to attract a lot of stares. I tried to give myself a pep talk. I knew my parents were excited for us all to go out to eat. I’m sure they felt liberated themselves. I tried to will myself to not care what people thought. The old me, the tomboy who didn’t care about looks, she would have come in handy at that time.

When it was time to leave I broke down. I confessed my vanity to my parents. I was so ashamed to feel the way I was feeling, but I couldn’t help it. Of course they understood. But they also knew I couldn’t become a shut-in for six months. My mom tried. She told me I was strong and after everything I’d been through, I couldn’t let what other people think stop me from enjoying my life. Everything she said made sense, but it didn’t cut through the stubbornness that had taken a hold of me.

A few minutes after she left my room, my stepdad came in to my room. I was braced for him to order me to get up and get in the car. Instead he sat down on my sister’s bed and put his hands on his knees like he was getting ready to talk and it wouldn’t be easy for him. This was unusual. Emotional matters were always handled by my mom. He started explaining that he knew exactly how I felt, that he had actually felt the same way many times. I had no idea what he was talking about. He held up a hand and kind of waved it, trying to clue me in as to what he was referring to.

Ohhhh. That.

He had been born without fingers on his right hand. Of course I always knew this, but I never really thought about it. I never thought of it as something that would bother him. It was just part of him, it seemed normal to us.

He explained the looks he gets from some people when they see his hand. The reactions he gets when someone reaches out to shake his hand and pulls their hand back, startled. He had been teased when he was younger. And his hand was there forever. It’s not something he just had to deal with for six months. He pointed out that it never stopped him from doing anything. And it didn’t. He played football in high school. He built a deck on the back of our house. He could fix just about anything. I guess that’s why I never thought too much about it, he never let it stop him. He told me he had to learn at a young age to shrug off people’s reactions.

As he’s telling me this, I feel like he’s sharing something really important with me. He is a quiet man. He doesn’t share his feelings or emotions easily. But he was talking to me about something I’m sure he didn’t really like to discuss. I felt honored. He approached me with understanding and love and patience and he shared a piece of him that I had never understood or even really thought about. And he got through my insecurity, my nerves, my anxiety. If he could go out in the world and deal with people’s reactions and not let it affect him, then I could too.

I got through surgery. I got through the ordeal of wearing a cast for six months. I survived the humiliation. I was incredibly lucky that once again all the kids at school were totally cool about it. My friends weren’t embarrassed to hang out with me. I was so lucky that I came out unscathed. And I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the brave little girl in the waiting room. I am grateful the nurse told me about the patient who couldn’t see or hear.

But what I’m most grateful for, the part that has stuck with me all of these years later, is that my stepdad shared his experience with me. I have since paid a little more attention and am amazed at all the things he’s accomplished. So many of them are things especially difficult to do with a disabled hand. I kind of wonder if he subconsciously chooses hobbies like golf, rebuilding car engines, or making specialty bullets for his collectible guns, precisely because they are difficult for him to do. It’s like he is continuously showing himself and the rest of us that nothing’s going to stop him.

In addition to helping me leave the house that night, he also gave me an even better gift. He showed me that he loved me, that I was his daughter, that I was worthy of sharing a very private part of himself with. At the end of it all, this scoliosis…  this surgery…  it showed me just how lucky I really am.

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The Roommate Dilemma

Okay. So, probably not like 15 years ago.

Okay. So, probably not like 15 years ago.

I live unsustainably.

I’ve known it for a while, but it really became evident when I was kicking around how I might pay for expensive plumbing repair had any of my water pipes burst during a recent deep freeze and ice build up at my house which caused my water to stop running for two days.

A couple thousand dollars will really hurt given my current budget situation.

I know how pathetic that sounds.

But it’s true. I would need a credit card to pay for it. And I don’t possess any credit cards because I don’t want any more debt than I already have, and because I generally try hard to protect myself from myself.

Despite many, many cuts (and admittedly the undisciplined addition of a new car payment to offset some of the gains) since my ex-wife moved out nearly nine months ago, there appears to be more money going out than coming in. There aren’t many more nonessentials to cut.

First, there was a mortgage refinancing.

Then, a reduction in my mobile bill.

Then cuts to cable TV.

Then reduced internet speeds.

Day care costs less while my son’s in school, but that’s going to double over the summer, and that will be the end if I can’t figure something out between now and then.

The Options

I have some realistic things I can do to try and mitigate this problem.

1. I can earn more money. I’m likely to get a raise at work soon. I can work harder at my freelance-copywriting business (a huge challenge as a single parent 50 percent of the time). And I can try to find a higher-paying job altogether, though I am not eager to leave my current, stable position where I am treated well, and am already relatively well paid.

2. I can sell my house and move somewhere less expensive.

a. I don’t want to.

b. This is the only home my son has ever known.

c. I won’t make any money because I bought it at the top of the market and refinanced a couple times.

d. A very inexpensive place will be unsafe for my son.

e. A decent place will not cost THAT much less than what I pay now. How many months will I have to live in this new place JUST to offset the cost of moving? Maybe two years.

3. I can get a roommate. 

The Dilemma

After weighing all of my options for several months, this is the one that seems like the simplest, quickest fix.

I get a roommate. Someone to pay 40-45 percent of living expenses per month. That would provide the relief necessary to be comfortable.

Second to my mental, emotional, spiritual health, money—or a lack thereof—is certainly my biggest problem.

I want to solve it. Need to solve it.

But this is a problem, this idea. For many reasons. Here are some:

  1. First and foremost, I have a child half the time. A five-year-old son in kindergarten. His safety and security is my top priority. What stranger can I trust to live under the same roof as my child? The correct answer is: No one.
  2. I know exactly two people who I WOULD trust with my son and who I’ve flirted with asking. They are both recently divorced men like me. Ironically, both read this blog and will likely know who they are the second they read this sentence. One has a young daughter and lives a minimalist lifestyle. The other has two dogs and doesn’t need any financial help. They’re my two first choices. And still I haven’t asked either because there are still too many unanswered questions and too many doubts about whether they’d even entertain it.
  3. Not having any money to live life with OR having to sell the house is going to be bad for my son, too. I still kick around the roommate idea every day. What kind of a man would I let live in my home of eight years? Would we hang out? Be friends? Is that weird? Would I, or could I, ever trust him with my son? Do I want him having sex in my guest bedroom (which would become his room)? Do I want to consider him while planning my social calendar or time with my son? What kind of a woman would I let live in my home? What kind of a message does that send my son? The neighbors? My friends? Would I want to have sex with her? Would that be weird?

Yes. Yes, yes, and yes. It’s weird. A whole bunch of weird. And I’m always trying to do whatever the best thing is. In this instance, the answers don’t seem as obvious to me as they do with most choices I face.

I consulted my most trusted source for this sort of thing:


What’s Next?

I don’t know. I can do nothing and continue my slow descent into financial trouble.

I could potentially find another solution to the problem, but so far, I’m not coming up with any less-painful ones.

Should I start interviewing potential roommates? Do I really want to invite strangers into my home, advertising my possessions and the fact that I live alone with a small child?

Should I drop the entire thing?

I must make some financial changes.

A roommate (a good, trusted one) represents, near as I can tell, the simplest way to achieve my short-term goals.

I’d really like to hear from you guys on this one.

From parents.

From people who might have been in similar situations.

From people who have had good experiences with roommates.

From people who have had roommate nightmares.

If you have an opinion, I’d really like to hear it.

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Buyer’s Remorse

Whenever I find a girlfriend, she's going to like riding in this infinitely better than she would have in my Pontiac.

Whenever I find a girlfriend, she’s going to like riding in this infinitely better than she would have in my Pontiac Grand Prix.

And just like that <insert dramatic hand motion here>, she was gone.

I don’t have the Girlfriend Litmus Test anymore. I am now in total jeopardy of attracting a woman who only wants me for my money—and by my money, I mean the $500 or so I have left in my checking account now. Settle down, ladies!

Because my brain doesn’t work like regular human beings, I used a bad wheel bearing in my inexpensive 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix with only 46,000 miles on it as an excuse to go buy a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee yesterday. Like a total dick.

If Dave Ramsey finds out I read his excellent personal finance book AND still did what I did yesterday, I could be murdered by nightfall by a Financial Peace University minion. If this ends up being my last post, just assume that’s what happened.

Since acquiring the new Jeep, I’ve put 15 miles on it. During those 15 miles, I never felt any better about my life than I did in my crappy car over the past few months.

My family didn’t reappear at home.

I still got stuck at red lights on my morning commute.

When my soon-to-be ex asked me today whether I bought a new car, I didn’t even feel better after telling her that I now have a nicer Jeep than she does.

Who sits around worrying about personal finances, then goes out and buys a brand new semi-expensive vehicle?

This guy.

Stephanie, the girl who invited me to The Bruno Mars Wedding, is encouraging me to think of it as part of my new beginning. To simply embrace and enjoy this new part of my life and take pleasure in all the good aspects of having a new vehicle while leaving behind the sadness of the old one.

And hell, maybe she’s right.

Maybe I should enjoy, for the first time in my life, having one of the nicer cars on the road. After all, the thing is pretty sweet. The nicest thing I’ve ever had, certainly.

I guess when I think back on the past three or four years of my life—dealing with a job loss, marital turmoil, and now my pending divorce—what’s a little buyer’s remorse compared to that stress?

Piece of freaking cake, that’s what.

Screw it. Steph’s right. I’m just going to try and enjoy it.

After all, now that I’m not driving that Pontiac anymore, I’m going to get more female attention than I know what to do with.



It’s foolproof.

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