I am a grown woman with ADD. I hear people all the time, blame their mistakes or lack of multi-tasking skills on ADD. They say things like, “Oh, that’s my ADD.” Then they laugh.
I smile. They have no clue what ADD is like.
As a little girl, my lack of ability to focus led my teachers to believe I was dumb. While I spent countless days staring out the window or endlessly doodling, folding, and unfolding the corners of my paper, they thought I wasn’t listening. And partially, I wasn’t. Here are a few seconds in my head as a child.
Teacher: Bonnie has 1 apple, and Fred gives her 3…
My head: Bonnie has red hair and wears blue ribbons tied at the end of two long pigtails. She has freckles. My friend Claire has freckles. What is a freckle? Why is it called a freckle? I want to read that book Freckle Juice. I want to reread Willie Wonka. That movie was good. I want to go to the Wonka factory and try all the chocolate. Why can’t we get a dog?
Teacher: Sally, what is the answer?
Me: Blank stare.
Teacher: Shakes her head and frowns.
I was labeled dumb and stupid.
A teacher once told my mom, in front of me, that I was holding back the entire class. I can’t imagine this happening today. Note — girls tend to be quiet and day-dreamy, and a little fidgety. This is why we unnoticed.
While writing this, I must control my thoughts. I force myself to stay focused. And when I am done, I’ll be exhausted. When I have to do anything in public like speaking, networking…anything, I am always tired and need downtime when I’m done. Why? Because I had to push myself so hard to focus and stay on task. It’s like I pretend to be another person for a few hours. No one can see this; they only see the outside me, which never changes.
The preparation and internal diligence it takes me to be present — would wear the average person who claims to have ADD out.
Symptoms of ADD in adults.
· Makes careless mistakes/lacks attention to detail
· Lacks sustained attention in tasks or play activities
· Poor listener, even in the absence of obvious distraction
· Fails to follow through on tasks and instructions
· Difficulty with organization, time management, and deadlines
· Avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort
· Loses things necessary for tasks or activities
· Easily distracted (including unrelated thoughts)
· Forgetful in daily activities
Over the years of being labeled different things, eye-rolls from partners, and sometimes callous remarks from others, I have made many methods and procedures, so I don’t mess up.
For example, I always put things in the same place. My keys are ALWAYS in the little bowl on my counter. My phone is always on my nightstand. I can’t do long mental tasks - I break things down into chunks. I make careless mistakes; I haven’t found a way around this one yet. Instructions, things to do, addresses, and names are the worst. I keep them written down on my phone app or pad of paper. I must keep looking at them.
Thank goodness now, I am surrounded by people who say I am intelligent and smart. If they only knew all the measures I take just to get through the day. They don’t see the constant distraction in my head or the forgetfulness.
So what’s the one thing I do daily that has made the difference?
I focus for 10 minutes. I lay on the floor with a Tibetan gong sound (phone on my iPhone app) and empty the thoughts in my head. It’s hard. Every time I start to have the onslaught of meandering thoughts, I start over. It takes about ten minutes for everything to stop, so I usually do this for 15–20 minutes. It is hard. Really hard. But I find that it’s helping me to focus. It’s relieving my anxiety and worry.
The 10-minute focus isn’t just for adults with ADD. It works for anyone. Try it. Empty your head of all the thoughts and worries about what you did and didn’t do. Open yourself up. You might find some interesting things.
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