Read Personal Stories of ADD

Individuals with ADD/ADHD share their personal stories

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The ADHD experience is unique for each individual. The stories below reflect individual personal experiences and opinions. While some of these symptoms and behaviors can often be part of the ADD/ADHD picture, they are not inevitably so and can also be present independent of the diagnosis.

Living Life to the Fullest

One of our regular readers, Elna, shares about her adventures and thrills of life with ADHD:

“While I could have done without being called ‘stupid’ at school and being made an example in front of many classes when I made mistakes or didn't hear what was being said because my mind was not in the classroom but was busy watching a bird outside the window or watching a plane high in the sky (I always sat by the window in class -- I felt less ‘confined’ and closer to being outside where my mind often went), I would never trade my ADHD for the chance to be a non-ADDer.

I may never have experienced the thrill of taking on challenges that many average people had no desire to do. Bungee jumping, parachuting, climbing steep cliffs just because they were there and I wanted to climb them. I may have never learned how to fly a plane, get my pilot's license and learn to do ‘stunt flying’ by trial and error. Crash landing my first plane in the Long Island Sound because I forgot to check my fuel gauge was another ADHD ‘oops,' but I plane didn't!

If I did not have ADHD, would I have the impulsivity and lack of fear when someone was in need of help that made me fight my way past firefighters who tried to stop me from going into a burning building to save a woman? I got her out and she is still alive today. It has been said that many people who choose challenging jobs like firefighters, police work, E.R.

nursing and many other challenging jobs most likely have some ADHD in them. I believe it as my friends are those in these challenging professions and we speak the same language, the language of ADDults and only ADDults can understand what I mean.

Would my mind be as creative as it is if I didn't have ADHD? Would I be interested in learning something new all the time? Would I be aware of everything going on around me and still comfort a family member whose loved one was dying at the same time if I were ‘average’? That ability is crucial to me and I can react to any emergency quickly. I can hear a cry for help over any noisy conditions and I respond. Would I have the ‘sixth sense’ that could predict when a ‘Code Blue’ was coming into the E.R. and set up for it before the radio transmission came through, if I were average? Would I ‘feel’ when a friend or family member was ill or just ‘down’ and in need of help? I don't know.”

If I Didn’t Have ADD/ADHD, What Would Be Different In My Life?

Another reader, Judi, responds to the question.

She says:

I would…

  • ...have finished college the first time.
  • ...have stayed at the same job for more than 3 to 4 years.
  • ...actually get places on time.
  • ...remember to pay bills on time and be financially secure.
  • ...have a sense of accomplishment in life.

    And, from another view point:

  • ...If I did NOT have ADHD I would not be as creative as I am,
  • ...I would not be able to identify with my son who DOES have ADHD,
  • ...and I would not be the stronger person that I am today.”

Feeling Self Conscious

Jennifer shares:

“I am a 38-year-old mom, wife, and college student that was diagnosed with Adult ADHD 3 years ago. I also have a son with the diagnosis. If I did not have ADHD, I would assume that I would be able to give well-thought out, professional responses to questions in my criminal justice class rather that the ‘Dick and Jane’ answers I currently give because my brain moves quicker than my mouth. I always sound so dumb. If only they could see that I really have good answers.... I DO have some good qualities...but I would still REALLY like to come up with answers that totally floor my professor!”

Kim's Insights:

Kim is 49 years old and was diagnosed with ADD approximately 2 1/2 years ago at age 46. Her 23-year-old son was diagnosed several months later. She says, “I have taken courses to help me deal with the mourning of 46 undiagnosed years, especially as a single ADD mom raising an ADD kid, and work on improving my management skills constantly.” Though her years before diagnosis and treatment were extremely difficult, Kim’s outlook on life is now much more positive and she expresses appreciation for her wonderful gifts.

Kim shares her thoughts on life with ADD and how it has improved with treatment.

1. My life often felt like I was trying to connect together pieces from a million jigsaw puzzles all mixed together.

2. I no longer feel as if everyone I ever met was better qualified to raise my son. Now I see that with a lot of the frustration and confusing inability to focus out of the way, I know him better than anyone and love him more and more every day.

3. While not always entirely consistent, I can now provide stability and structure from which my son can:

  • Feel safe being a bit of a late bloomer.
  • Work on overcoming the anxiety, depression etc. that are inevitable with ADD.
  • Pursue the artistic nature of his beautiful soul, loving, giving heart and wildly creative dreams, rather than being stressed all the time, and blamed and made to feel like a ‘bad’ kid.

The incredible sadness I feel for his early years I will hold tightly for the rest of my life as a reminder to continue forward, but on the one hand, while I can now see clearly the damage he sustained in his roller-coaster childhood, on the other I also am now strong and wise and able to assist him in finding his own strength and the amazing path to his extraordinary future!

I am now visible at work as an important cog in day-to-day functions, maintaining a fairly organized workflow and making considered and considerable contributions, rather than as formerly, watching in despair while my workload piled higher and higher and got more and more behind, becoming more vulnerable to both real and psychosomatic illnesses, missing days, racking up increasingly more frequent tardies as the daily norm, while still hoping I was avoiding detection just a little longer.

I have nearly conquered the elusive functional ‘to do’ list which for me in the past was either nonexistent (To do: Remember to make/use to do list), or would in itself become an evolving, ever more intricate work-in-progress project of finding the perfect list-making and planning essentials only to end up with yet another pile of unused stuff. I have not transitioned to electronic technology yet, but I have it down to a small, manageable pocket planner and a family dry-erase calendar and list board with four categories.

What Would Be Different If I Didn’t Have ADHD?

Eleanor, who has ADHD, shares her thoughts:

"I would be able to organize the physical objects in my life as well as I can organize my thinking and writing. Clearing up piles of assorted stuff seems totally impossible.

I've been working at life for 77 years, and as long as I can remember I was developing personal ‘strategies’ to help me get through whatever I had to do. I was a good student, and words and writing were always a strong interest.

My son was diagnosed with ADHD after a failed marriage, and as a private tutor, I began to read more and more about the ‘traits,’ as Dr. Ned Hallowell refers to the condition. I knew it was what I had always had, but had had no name for. I decided to get it officially diagnosed about three years ago."

Mayin, who is from the Philippines, is the mother of an 18-year-old son with ADHD. She shares:

“The teachers are complaining that he is ‘daydreaming’ and ‘not focused’ in class.” To keep up academically, he is tutored in each major subject.

“Here in the Philippines, ADHD will rarely survive academically and behaviorally in a regular big school with 47 students in class. Academically, students have to catch up on their own following a course outline. Conduct is graded by following the school rules and there are so many rules! In class, we have a ‘Best in Conduct’ award.” Though Mayin notes that her son is not in line for that award, he excels in other areas. “My son wins the heart of the teachers if asked to do projects which are not structured or those which demand creativity.” Mayin also shares that her son is an extremely fun personality.

Mayin adds additional thoughts:

“What it’s like for those without ADHD: In School, you will have a few minutes in grasping lectures, reviewing, fewer repetitions in memorization. You will not be mistaken as a slow learner in class since you cannot grasp the instruction in one explanation.

For those with ADHD: Socially -- You give zest in a group, like a Mr. Bean in creativity with jokes, super creative. What is life like without ADHD? Maybe’s good we have ADHD around us.”

May, who also has ADHD shares, “I think the one advantage to not having ADHD would be the ability to turn the mind off voluntarily.”

One of Our Readers, Sarah, Shares Her Thoughts:

First, I have been told I hop from topic to topic like jumping from stone to stone in a creek. I am told that other people only think about one thing at a time, and they think of them in a linear manner, a to b to c to d. I think like a web. It would be a lot easier to write a paper if I thought in the way a paper demands in the first place.

Second, if I didn't have ADD, I could look at my room and not be overwhelmed. I would know what to do to keep it organized and tidy. That would be a great blessing.

Third, if I didn't have ADD, I think I could keep track of time better.

Fourth, I wonder if I would be as patient with other people's forgetfulness if I never forgot anything myself. I think ADD helps me be a little more understanding when other people goof. I tend to give them a break more than my more-organized friends do, simply because they can't imagine having difficulty, so the person must just be lazy or something.

Another Reader, Marcia Shares:

I am very thankful for my ADD, especially now that I'm medicated. Before medication, I was a train wreck but didn't know it. I'm pretty creative and because of my ADD, my brain is constantly thinking of new ways to decorate my living room/bathroom/bedroom/yard. Some projects I even follow through on.

Because of my ADD, I'm very good at what I do, (work as a paraprofessional with kids who have ADHD/learning disabilities), plus create the school yearbook with the help of a staff of 7th-grade students.

Without my ADD, I imagine I would come home each day drained and tired because these kids I didn't understand were wearing me out. I'd probably cook the same five meals each week and watch the same TV shows each night due to a lack of curiosity about the 200 other channels on my network. I'm very thankful for my ADD, now that I'm medicated.

Angela Shares:

As an adult professional, I was diagnosed with ADD about 6 years ago. I think what would be different is I would be organized and focused. I could actually pay attention and remember what someone told me days before. I could actually SHUT MY MOUTH long enough to LISTEN ATTENTIVELY TO SOMEONE ELSE. I could actually start and FINISH something. I wouldn’t have to take a notepad around to write down details of things so I won't forget them.

If I didn’t have ADD, I wouldn't procrastinate so much. I wouldn't go around in circles accomplishing nothing when I feel like I have been productive. I would not forget where I laid my keys. I would have papers organized and not laying around everywhere. People wouldn't have to repeat stuff to me because I didn’t pay attention the first time. I wouldn't have to take medicine. I wouldn't be so fidgety and talkative, with some anxiety. I know there is more, I just know it is harder and more exhausting for a person with ADD to do regular things and live life doing basic things more than someone that doesn’t have ADD.

On the positive side, Angela lists tremendous strengths.

  • I’ve never met a stranger.
  • I now have the courage to continue to educate myself and learn the latest coping skills of dealing with ADD.
  • I am working on my master’s in education.

Cyndy, ADD, Wife of Husband with ADHD, and Mom to Three College-Age Kids with ADHD and ADD:

Not a day goes by that I do not wonder what it would be like not to have attention problems and short-term memory issues of my own and those of my families. I can only guess that my life may be less stressful, filled with more self-confidence, less worry and maybe much less of a hectic pace. What would it feel like to experience the feeling of inner peace?

Victoria Shares:

What would be different if I didn't have ADD? My self-esteem wouldn't be so crushed because I wouldn't make nearly so many mistakes. I wouldn't be in the same job for 25 years. I would have more friends."

Many people express frustration that they aren't able to hold down a job or that they move aimlessly from job to job. Victoria has been in the same job for 25 years! That is commendable. I emailed Victoria to ask what makes her unique and wonderful. What are her joys? She responded with the following:

One of my biggest joys recently came after discovering I had ADD. I'm not lazy crazy or stupid!! like the book says - and after I cried very deeply, and I mean deeply, I experienced an enormous amount of compassion for myself. I had been mentally berating myself on a regular basis for most of my life and been at my wits' end so many times...

This discovery also resulted in a lot of pressure coming off and I find I make fewer mistakes now.

I meditate regularly, I am a spiritual person. This brings me most of the joy and purpose in my life. My email this AM does not really express that I am much more grateful for my life than I can say most days, the ADD is not that big a deal in the greater scheme of things right?

I am a talented artist with strong drawing skills. And last year I received a tremendous renewal in my health from changing my diet to raw vegan.

Take Home Message:

Thank you to all the readers for sharing such personal experiences. ADHD presents itself differently in each individual. Some common themes can be found. Finding support and self-acceptance, self-care, nurturing strengths, developing strategies to help minimize weaknesses, and surrounding yourself with positive people who appreciate your gifts and understand how ADHD impacts your daily life –- all these strategies are helpful for living life to the fullest and finding joy in the ADHD experience.

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