1. “Sitting around with nothing to do with my mind actually causes me to get anxious. I crave the next object of my attention.”
“I have had ADD all my life and it has caused me to constantly crave new sources of entertainment…or, later in life, academic material. The learning part was a big revelation for me at Berkeley. I don’t need to be watching TV or talking to friends all the time. But my brain needs to be stimulated most of the time, even if I want to relax. I found that one of the most calming things I can do is actually to listen to academic podcasts in my downtime from studying. Not only do I find them interesting, but listening actually relaxes me, whereas, if I did nothing for 15 minutes after studying for 45 minutes I would actually be less rested to begin my next study sprint. Sitting around with nothing to do with my mind actually causes me to get anxious. I crave the next object of my attention.
I still think that my ADD has limited my productivity, however, I did manage to get pretty good grades at one of the most competitive undergraduate programs in the country. I have learned that by creating a study plan and switching up subjects as well as the objects of my attention I can actually sometimes use my ADD productively.
On the other hand I can barely get through an episode of TV on Netflix before wanting to start a new show. Oh well.” —Alec Strachan
2. “I use about 27 different reminders and alarm systems to keep me functioning at a level that won’t ruin my life.”
“It’s the super focus and inability to properly assess how long things will take that get me the worst. I can get completely lost in a project for days on end to the exclusion of eating and caring for myself — a lot of people don’t realize that intense super focus is a side effect of attentional disorders. I’m also constantly late and panicking about it — either because I’ve completely lost track of time because I’m so immersed in what I’m doing, or because I’ve just plain underestimated how long it will take me to get somewhere, no matter how many times I’ve been through it before. I use about 27 different reminders and alarm systems to keep me functioning at a level that won’t ruin my life.
On the flip side, I can multitask like a mo-fo and my attention issues have helped me to launch three successful small businesses (the key is a grounded partner).” —Anonymous
3. “Overall, I still have trouble in conversations going from A to E with people and having to backtrack and say what my thought process was.”
“I’ve never been diagnosed with it — I’m too shy about going to a doctor — but my mom has and I know I have a lot of the same symptoms. School and projects were always hard because I always want to do a million things at once and then it’s overwhelming when I have a bunch of half-done things. Once I started understanding it as an ‘over-awareness’ of my surroundings, I started to just convince myself I only had this one thing to do (whatever it may be), I have an easier time finishing it. Basically, understanding it this way makes me less harsh with myself about it and know exactly what strengths and weaknesses come from it.
Overall, I still have trouble in conversations going from A to E with people and having to backtrack and say what my thought process was. A lot of the time, when someone is getting to know me, they assume I’m changing the subject when there is actually a linear progression in my mind so it IS related even if it’s not apparent. I think it’s the most difficult with people who think very linearly (like my current BF), but I find if I take the time to explain what’s going on in my head, people are more onboard. Overall, I try to embrace it as an asset because it allows me to think differently than other people which is ideal for someone in a creative field.” —Anonymous
4. “Things are better now; I found that controlling my anxiety is the key to controlling my attention deficit problems.”
“I was diagnosed with both generalized anxiety disorder and ADHD (inattentive, not hyperactive) when I was in my mid-twenties. I felt very relieved to know that there was a reason that focusing on things was hard for me, that I wasn’t just avoiding doing certain things because I was lazy or didn’t want to do them (I avoided them because of the stress and anxiety that I knew struggling to focus would cause me). I also felt kind of amazing because the woman who diagnosed me noted that I was ‘highly intelligent,’ which was why I had managed to get good grades and still manage to be somewhat productive in school — when you live with ADHD without knowing it, you find ways to cope and push your way through difficult situations.
But work was a different issue. Job performance was always hard for me, especially if I wasn’t really interested in the job (and I never was). I’d forget to do big things, and little things would take me forever to finish. When I could finish something, there were usually tons of mistakes because I’d put so much pressure on myself to be perfect that I’d freak out so much it became even harder to focus. When I finally found the guts to tell one boss what was going on with me, he promptly forgot and tried to make a spectacle of me in front of some of my co-workers. Things are better now; I found that controlling my anxiety is the key to controlling my attention deficit problems. I still struggle with it, but it feels good to know that I’ve been able to accomplish so much in spite of it.” —Tracy Clayton
5. “Sometimes I think of ADD as a weird blessing creatively because I’m always working on something — I’m never just stuck on one project and I end up accomplishing more that way.”
“As a kid, I always struggled with paying attention in class or even keeping my desk in order. Teachers were always calling my parents into conferences about my ‘behavior’ and would try to move me to lower-level classes because they thought I was slow or lazy or both. Once I got to high school, I realized that my zoning out and way of talking (jumping from one seemingly related story to another at the speed of light) made it harder to make friends or connect with people, so I would stress out about focusing all the time. Reading was the hardest of all, because I would read a sentence and then drift off and then realize I read 20 pages without actually processing anything because I was in my own thoughts.
I was never formally diagnosed, but my mom read my exact symptoms in a book and it made me feel better about my brain and helped me learn that I wasn’t some loser who didn’t want to focus or work hard. It was just more difficult for me.
With age, it’s gotten so much easier, and sometimes I think of ADD as a weird blessing creatively because I’m always working on something — I’m never just stuck on one project and I end up accomplishing more that way. So many artistic people have ADD and have simply learned to channel it into something very positive.” —Julia Pugachevsky
6. “For the most part, I see it as just a part of who I am — my wandering mind and fascination with the world’s random details have made me into the writer and thinker that I am.”
“For pretty much my whole life, people have — without my asking — self-diagnosed me with ADD. I go off on tangents when telling stories, and tasks like packing or folding laundry that require a kind of singular focus can be unusually challenging and draining. I’ve been distracted at least five times since starting to write this paragraph. For the most part, I see it as just a part of who I am — my wandering mind and fascination with the world’s random details have made me into the writer and thinker that I am. But when people say, ‘Get to the point! You’re so ADD,’ or ‘Can you hurry up? You’re so unfocused,’ it can be stressful and even a little hurtful. I eventually saw a doctor to work on some solutions, and have been prescribed medications a few times. I’ve found they really do help with things like studying and staying organized, but the crash at the end of the day can be rough. If the comedown from the meds happens to coincide with a low point in the day where I’m doubting myself, my emotions can spiral out of control. I’m still trying to find the right balance.” —Anonymous