I have to do things differently now that I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. I was having trouble doing any work.
I ended up quitting my job. It was causing too much anxiety.
I started working at a few content mills doing ghostwriting and copyediting from home at my pace, but I was still having trouble motivating myself to begin or finish the projects I committed to. I thought it was my depression, or maybe anxiety about success, but it turns out I have a serious brain disorder that is underdiagnosed and undertreated in adults.
How did you find out?
I had discussed my lack of motivation for a while with my psychiatrist who was treating me for depression and anxiety. After a few months of these symptoms not improving while others had she suggested I might have ADHD and felt I should bring it up with my primary care physician as well.
They both agreed with the diagnosis after more questioning about my childhood and started me on medication immediately.
I still didn’t believe them.
I mean, my brain was normal. Everyone thinks this way, right?
Trying the medication was like putting on glasses for the first time in my life. Everything was clear and it was painfully obvious to me that I haven’t been operating the same as everybody else.
Thoughts like this are why only 20% of adults with ADHD seek treatment. That’s more shocking when you realize ADHD is the most studied brain disorder in the world with treatments that are 90% effective. Suck it, depression and anxiety treatments!
What are your symptoms?
The largest was incredible lack of motivation.
ADHD affects the executive functions in the front of the brain, which includes the ability to start and stop tasks and rank those tasks. Since my brain doesn’t have that, I have to rely on the back of my brain to pick up the slack. It only kicks in when things are urgent, novel, fun, dangerous, etc.
Things that would motivate your cat.
I also had time blindness, bad working memory, no emotional regulation, interrupting, easily distracted by tangents and hyper-focus.
Hyper-focus is a blessing and a curse for those with ADHD. On the one hand, if something interested me enough, I could sit down in the morning and study it until I was too tired to continue. I’ve done this with all sorts of things, from penciling and inking in the style of 1940’s cartoonists to Cisco Networking certifications.
I could also sit down to play Planetside for just a couple of minutes before I start writing and be mentally incapable of stopping until my body demanded it for biological functions or something external stopped me.
Have you had this your whole life?
ADHD is a developmental disorder I would have gotten from one of my parents at birth. These symptoms aren’t new. I would have acted the same way as a kid.
Statistics show that in a 30-kid classroom, 1 to 3 of the kids probably have ADHD. Some kids grow out of it as their brain develops, but 30-60% of children with ADHD will have symptoms in adulthood.
Why did I or my parents not notice?
Since ADHD is biological, it’s likely one or both of my parents had it as well and not known. Which means a grandparent had it and didn’t know. That means all my aunts and uncles might have it and never knew.
In retrospect, it was a big family of undiagnosed ADHD brains thinking anyone who could sit through an hour-long lecture and remember anything is a super-hero abnormality and we were the normal ones.
Has this affected your life negatively?
Extremely. Turns out only 9% of adults with undiagnosed ADHD are ever able to complete college. I was a dropout. I was pretty sure I was lazy or dumb. Those are tough self-criticisms to hold for years. Had I known about the diagnosis earlier, a doctor would have prescribed medication.
Medication is effective in 90% of all cases.
In addition to that:
- I might have done better in late high-school when I started having long-term projects.
- My relationships, whether they be romantic or professional, might have been more successful and less frustrating.
- My English degree would be on the wall above my desk.
- I could have maintained interest in several jobs longer.
It’s also affected my life positively.
- I wouldn’t have met my wife had I not been failing college.
- Lower student loan debt! It’s completely paid off!
- Hyper-focus drawing practice. It’s like time-travel.
- I impulse bought a [Cordoba Tenor Acoustic-Electric Ukulele]() and learned to play!.
- Cartooning and marketing for a non-profit.
What are you doing now?
Right now I’m still learning a lot about the most effective tools and techniques for my brain. I feel like I have to re-learn how to do everything.
I’m using a bullet journal process recommended by How to ADHD. I didn’t think it was effective at first, thinking it was a diary, but it turns out being able to externalize my thoughts means I don’t have to rely on my faulty short-term memory.
I also use it to track whether I’ve done things throughout the day, such as medication, writing or cartooning practice.
As far as writing goes, I used to sit down and just start. A blank page and go. How long did I write? Until I got bored with it or distracted and moved on.
But I lost interest in that method and stopped writing for a long while.
Later, I inadvertently created a process that helps an ADHD brain, the writing tracker I’ve written about before. It made writing into a game with an immediate reward that pleased my cat-like brain. Now I’m using a Pomodoro timer method. I may switch back after I lose interest in the pomodoros. That’s okay. I know that now.
There is still a lot I don’t know.
Can it be cured?
No. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is permanent. You can treat it, which helps immensely but doesn’t remove all the symptoms. However, treatment does allow ADHD brains to operate in a neurotypical world. Work neurotypical jobs. Study like a neurotypical person. You name it.
Will you always have it?
Until the day I die.
That might be sooner than I imagined.
People with ADHD are 3-times more likely to die by the age of 45 than a neurotypical brain. I probably shouldn’t google ADHD statistics to cheer myself up.
What does this mean for the site?
I need to focus more on my freelance writing and streaming. I’m going to use the site to do that by publishing more articles on both topics here.
In the short-term:
I plan on having a series of articles on how to get started with streaming and how to succeed.
I need to learn how to work as a writer with ADHD and I’m going to do that by writing for my site. I’m going to use the site as a training ground for my brain. Whenever I find it useful, I’ll post updates about new tools or techniques I find.
That should mean more content, more often and more regularly for the site. Maybe in a few months, this site will show my writing and work as a better portfolio of my work.
I’ve had trouble putting together a portfolio since my work has largely been unattributed ghostwriting. It’d be nice if this writing turns into more traffic, ad revenue and Amazon sales, but I’m not keeping my hopes up. The site is only costing me about $7 a month at this point anyway.
That’s cheaper than Netflix.
As far as freelancing goes, I’d like to move into spec work. That means writing what I want, when I want and pitching it to the publications I want. The pay will be better, but I’m not guaranteed a sale for everything I write like I am doing work in the content mills.
Wrapping things up
Anyone reading wanting more information on ADHD should check out the talk from Russell Barkley.
I plan on writing about him at some point. Maybe in a month or two I’ll be able to review his book, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD.
But, I’m not the best with planning ahead. Apparently.
Have you been diagnosed with ADHD, or something else, as an adult? How did it affect you? I’d love to hear your comments.