Countless times in my life, I’ve heard people jokingly blame their “ADD” for something that they forgot to do or details that they overlooked. I’m probably guilty of it myself, but the reality for me is that it’s not really a joke. It’s my life.
Back in the Spring, I was at my doctor’s office for my yearly checkup. We go through all of the usual things, blood pressure, weight, etc. He asks me if there was anything problems I was having problems with or anything else that I wanted to discuss.
“Yes!”. I’m forgetful, scatterbrained, and easily distracted. I start things and don’t finish them. I get bored and distracted easily, especially in situations where the task I’m performing is boring or menial. I can’t seem to get my thoughts out clearly, and sometimes I interrupt people when they’re talking. If I don’t get out what’s on my mind when I’m thinking about it, I worry that the thought will leave me forever and I won’t get it back. Then I realize I’ve said the wrong thing, or even worse I don’t realize I have and someone tells me later about it. Is it just the way I am?
My grandmother had dementia later in life and there were times she didn’t recognize me or thought I was someone else. Did it start out for her like this? She died a few years ago, so I can’t ask her.
I gave my doctor an example of a time recently when my husband asked me to make him some tea. I grabbed the teapot, filled it with water, and put it on the stove. Half an hour passes, and he says “Where’s my tea?”. I walk in the kitchen and realize I had forgotten to turn the stove on. Embarassed, I gloss over it and tell him that it will be done in a few minutes. Another 15 or so minutes pass, and he asks me again “What’s taking so long on that tea?”. I walk to the stove and realize that I had turned the burner on simmer.
Sometimes, I’ll walk upstairs to get…something. I can’t remember what it is by the time I get there.
My doctor had me take a questionnaire with about 25 questions and I had to answer how frequently these situations happened to me.
How often do you have problems remembering appointments or obligations?
Very often. Check.
Very often. Check.
Very often. Check.
I hand it back to him with every question checked with “very often”.
“You know how I know you have have ADD? You didn’t put your name and date in the fields at the top”.
All of a sudden, I’m having this moment where I think…shit. This is eye opening. This is upsetting! I’m looking back on my life and realizing maybe there’s a reason why I didn’t finish college, why I have a hard time listening, why I am constantly forgetting things, and why I’m so easily distracted. Sometimes, people talk to me and I have to stop them, and ask them to repeat it because I got either none of it or only bits and pieces.
My doctor tells me that he’s the resident expert in his practice for ADD. Lucky me? Stimulant medications can be really helpful in treating some of the symptoms of ADD, he tells me. He sends me home with a prescription for dexedrine. The generic name is dextroamphetamine.
It’s called what? Why does it sound like a diet pill? I’m seeing a TrimSpa commercial in my head (it worked for Anna Nicole Smith…kind of). It sounds scary, but I’m willing to try anything at this point. I can’t keep letting down my family and friends. I can’t keep failing at my job. I can’t keep going like this.
I tried the dexedrine for two weeks…and it made me want to rip someone’s head off. I realized it was the wrong medication for me when I ripped my stepdaughter a new one for forgetting her house key. She’s 12.
Since then, I started a different medication, I’ve had countless doctor visits, adjustments to the dosage, and…not much has changed. I also started seeing a counselor, but I don’t know that I’m getting anything out of it. I’m not sure if I’m communicating what I need from him.
I still forget things. I constantly leave dresser drawers open and cabinet doors ajar. I left the bedroom door open yesterday, and the dog tracked mud on the quilt and chewed up a tube of chapstick.
My husband is fed up with me. He tells me that he feels like he’s raising another child and he’s tired of telling me to do the same things over and over. If I cared, I would fix it. If I can’t do something as simple as shutting a dresser drawer, how can he rely on me for big things? Parenting decisions? Financial ones?
It sounds simple, right? Shut the dresser drawer. I can remember that, right? I’ll even tell myself “shut this when you’re done putting these clothes away”. Then I’ll walk away and it will be left open. I made an appointment with my counselor on Wednesday…forgot about it. A month ago, I told my husband I’d help him with a project for a class he was teaching while he was rehearsing for a show he was involved with. Nothing too complicated, just find some photos online for the people on this list and save them to a folder on his laptop. Sure, I can do that. I didn’t do it. It never entered my mind again. Not even once. He gets home and… Shit. I’ll do it now! I’m so sorry!
No. Forget it. I’ll do it myself. Thanks a lot.
I can’t count on you for anything.wiredonjavaParticipant
Hello there Baj, sorry to hear about your crummy experience. Personally I think you need a second (third, fourth, etc.) chance with a few ‘heads ups’ beforehand. I try to give gentle reminders to people often as I appreciate getting them myself! As for my self esteem coming from my loved ones? Uh, no, it ain’t happening. I figured this out awhile ago and have since taken courses that interest me and found jobs that I pour myself into and give me satisfaction. Don’t get me wrong Baj, I’m not saying you ought to do this too, but to be quite honest, for me it was a lifesaver. As for meds, yes I tried them too for a few days and became an intense version of myself. I was like a pit bull that couldn’t let go of something, and I couldn’t handle me like this. lol. Talk later?amy86Participant
Hi there Baj8881,
I hear your frustration and know first hand how self deprecating it can be. It is miserable at times. No matter how much you want to be there, well within your capable and beautiful mind… it just doesn’t. It can drive the sanest person mad. Talk about the ’emotional roller coaster’ and that alone, requires a lot of resilience to come off of, and who knows when and if the ride will ever stop.
Have you tried coaching, or connecting with professionals in this arena to try and find ways to help? That may be a good place to start. It is difficult to go it alone, especially at first I would imagine (I am new to all of this too, so I am in the same boat with you). Maybe that would help, along with trying to find the right medication. Keep trying, whatever you do – remember you are so worth the effort.
Hi Baj – I felt like crying when I read your story…even before I was diagnosed I knew that I liked having reminders (my dad had always been very calm when he would ask me “Did you forget [insert whatever it was I forgot]?” I would say “Oh yea! I’ll get right on it,” and do it right then.
I always felt I was different. I’d get A’s in some subjects, and a C- in one, so next time I’d focus on the other class… Got a D in algebra in high school, took it again in summer school and got an A. My parents would say “You are so so smart — why aren’t you applying yourself? I’d daydream so much in school. If a teacher was insensitive, or believed in the tough love, demand work, I would just give up. Did my best for teachers I liked who were empathetic, patient, and encouraging. My grandma was very supportive and always reminded me we each are unique, and we each need to find what works or ourselves.
For years I’d had problems with my marriage, spouse getting so upset because I didn’t do something, or remember to tell him something. I’ve explained that it really helps me out if he can give me a gentle reminder (like you said, wiredonjava) just before whatever it is that needs to be done. When our son was young, spouse would come home, fuss about “what have you been doing all day?” (I would frequently get side-tracked and forget to start dinner).and I would freeze, and totally forget what I had done. Hey, he had a happy kid! He was having tough times at work, so I guess he didn’t notice that so much. I started leaving vacuum out so when he got home, I could say “Oh yes, I vacuumed today! when he asked why the vacuum was out. I’d leave some clue out for whatever I’d done so I’d have a visual cue if he asked. Then it became — “why are all your jobs half done?” or “…not finished? What is wrong with you?” and “You must not really care about me, you don’t…” Not to mention that some things just take me a REALLY long time… like writing — I read, re-read, re-write parts, re-read, edit some more. And I want it to be PERFECT, which is really silly – and I am better at letting that perfect stuff go now. At least with a computer, the re-writes are a little faster and don’t waste so much paper! 😉
Asking for reminders just got me “I shouldn’t have to remind you to do your stuff — it’s not my job.” Well yeah – I know that. But it’s what would really help for me. You’ve got your issues, and you aren’t perfect either.
Son is grown, spouse and I are separated. It is excruciatingly tough to find what works, and what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. My phone has multiple alarms set to go off during the day to remind me of things I need to do (whoa, wouldn’t THAT have been nice to have when my son was in school?) He is also not neurotypical. It is interesting to see that since his dad(my spouse) now has a friend with ADHD, he is demonstrating a bit more understanding for our son.
For me, I’ve found I need a low dose anti-depressant, and low dose Adderall, some meditation, and an acceptance that some things I need to get help doing or they won’t get done. Thankfully I have friends I can say “will you come over, maybe have some tea, chat with me while I work, and remind me to get back on task if I start to side-track?” for organizing jobs around the house.
Now that I’ve filled a page, I feel better (guess I needed to vent a bit, and it is nice being able to write out what is working for me).blackdogMember
I am not taking time to read the other responses here, so forgive me if I am repeating what has already been said.
I would say that not filling out your name and the date at the top of the test doesn’t prove anything. It’s not like you were expecting to do it, or you were told you had to, and it wasn’t necessary to do it so why would you? I get what the doctor is saying, and it is a “typical” ADD thing, but I just don’t think any assumptions should be made because of it.
The best way to tell if it is ADD is to think back to your childhood. Have you always been like this? Or did your symptoms begin later in life? It certainly sounds like ADD, but lots of other things can cause the same symptoms. Has your doctor ruled all of these out? (ie; depression, anxiety, stress, brain injury…)
Early onset dementia is a possibility, but I would say that you probably don’t need to worry about it. If that is the case, then the symptoms would have started very recently, and you have indicated that it goes back at least to when you were in college.
If you are a middle aged woman, and particularly if you are approaching menopause, your hormone levels are probably out of whack, and that can have a big impact on memory and mood and pretty much everything. If you also have ADD, it can seem like you are going out of your mind, as any of the women here of that age will tell you.
Finding the right medication and the right dosage takes time, sometimes months or years. You need to make sure that you stay on the medication long enough to tell if it is working or not (typically about 4 weeks). It is also important to start at the lowest possible dose and very slowly increase it. (Some doctors will try to increase very quickly. Don’t let them.)
Medications that will work for some people will not work for others. Some people develop anger issues when they take amphetamine based meds, which might be what happened to you. And some people are extremely sensitive to stimulants and just can’t take them at all. Have you tried any non-stimulant meds? If not, that might be something to look into. There is also a small percentage of people with ADD who just do not respond to meds at all (I think about 30% but don’t quote me).
It is difficult to find a counsellor/therapist who understands ADHD. If you feel like you are not communicating well with the one you have, consider finding a new one. If you can afford it, try looking for an ADHD coach. You could also look for support groups in your area, though they are are to find.
Have you considered divorce?
Okay, I’m not seriously suggesting that. But this makes me feel like suggesting it:
“My husband is fed up with me. He tells me that he feels like he’s raising another child and he’s tired of telling me to do the same things over and over. If I cared, I would fix it. If I can’t do something as simple as shutting a dresser drawer, how can he rely on me for big things? Parenting decisions? Financial ones?”
He could not possibly be more wrong.
First, how does forgetting to close a dresser drawer make someone incapable of making decisions about parenting or finances? How are the two things even related?
Secondly, that is just not how ADD works. There are plenty of people out there who have ADD, who also forget to close their dresser drawers, and who also happen to be doctors, paramedics, firefighters, teachers and caregivers… even accountants and lawyers.
Forgetting little things like closing your dresser drawer does not make you incapable of doing “big things”.
Finally, and most importantly, it is not your fault. You have a disability. Saying that if you cared you would fix it is like telling a woman who is confined to a wheelchair that if she cared, she would get up and start walking.
As for feeling like he is raising another child, I would probably respond something like this…. 😛
Which is the one who is really acting like a child? The one who is trying her best to be responsible and take care of things, and feeling guilty for not being able to do it all, or the one who is complaining about how he has to be all grown up and responsible?blackdogMember
And one last thing:
So what if you leave the dresser drawer open? Is it really that important? This is a question that you seriously need to ask yourself, because worrying over a little thing like that is taking up precious mental energy that those of us with ADHD can not afford to lose. In order to be able to make all those big, important decisions about parenting and finances and other grown up stuff, sometimes you have to let the little things slide. Stressing over every tiny little thing you do will only exhaust you and make your ADD symptoms that much worse.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. And don’t let anyone else be that hard on you either.
FYI, I had to write down your user name before I started typing so that I would still remember it after I scrolled to the bottom of the page. And then, after posting, I checked it again because I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t lighting up and turning blue like it’s supposed to, to let you know someone “mentioned” you. It wasn’t until about the third or forth edit that I looked at it, smacked my forehead and said “DUH! I forgot the “@” in front of it”.
I also completely and totally forgot about all the things I was planning to do and needed to do this morning after reading your post and spent the whole time sitting here typing and editing these comments. Now my husband is in the kitchen washing the dishes that I was planning to do 4 hours ago (I wasted a couple of hours on other stuff before I got here) and I haven’t even showered and washed my clothes and got ready to go out this afternoon, which I have to do in less than two hours.
So believe me when I say this: you are not alone. Hang in there, and don’t forget to smile today. 🙂Rick Green – Founder of TotallyADDParticipant
I cannot read everything here, but wow some great sharing and ideas. I keep being reminded what a great community we have.
Medication is soooooo tricky. We’re working on a huge video about it. Probably close to 4 hours altogether, covering everything. We interviewed almost 20 adults with ADHD about their experiences on medication. And that’s on top of the 30 to 40 experts in the video. And there is such a range.
But not only is finding the right medication tricky, but then finding the right dose.
As for the issue of remembering and reminding, I’m currently using my cell phone to prompt me all the time. And though it took a while for it to become a habit, one of the strategies we talk about in our video ADD & Mastering It?! is to ‘leave every room like a good Catholic.’ In other words, like you’re crossing yourself, you touch your pockets, glasses, etc.. to make sure you have everything.
After we interviewed one doctor and we had finished packing up the cameras I did that as I approached the doorway–taping my pockets, combined with a 360 degree spin to glance over where I’d been sitting, where we had put things, and scan all the flat surfaces. And the doctor’s face lit up, “Oh that’s such a great strategy.”
I get how painful it is when people feel like they can’t count on you, and worse, when you start to believe you can’t count on yourself. Especially as a parent. So disheartening on some level.
The only way I’ve managed to get around that is to write it out. Write it on my hand. Wrap elastics around my finger to remind me. Post it notes put in a place where I can’t miss it. Right at eye level. And different places each time, otherwise I get used to seeing it.
And since I can’t trust myself to even remember to brush my teeth at night, I make everything into a checklist. One that sits in the middle of the table I walk by to get anywhere it the house. (Which is also our office.)
I did up a checklist for when we go out of town to make sure everything gets done, from packing passports, to watering plants, to letting the neighbours know, to cancelling the paper. My wife thought it was kind of dumb. Now she loves it. Check, check, check…
Advice to EVERYONE with ADHD: Don’t trust your memory. Write it down. Or if there’s something you have to do, write it on a post it and stick it on your computer keyboard so you can’t log on without seeing it. And stick it to your forehead until you’ve logged on and done it. This sounds ridiculous, but it works. It’s called “Externalizing.” Even stuff as simple as putting everything you need to take with you tomorrow morning in front of your door so you literally can’t miss it.
And hey, doing all these things… I still miss a whole bunch of stuff. Which I used to hate. But now, I just kind of acknowledge adaftdallaMember
Oh, my goodness, this sounds SO FAMILIAR! I don’t know if I should be thrilled that someone out there is just as forgetful and “quirky” as I am, or if I should be sad that … well, the same thing. I feel your pain. I have it, too.
“If you cared enough…. ” How many times have I heard that phrase just in the past few months?! Why can’t the significant others understand that it isn’t a question of how much we care? I don’t like looking like a fool when I say the wrong thing at the wrong time, or when I see his lips moving but don’t “get” what he’s said. I don’t like looking like a selfish ***ch by forgetting to do whatever he’s asked of me. It’s not my fault that I can’t just switch tasks at a moment’s notice, and I would if I could.
I’m sorry that ADHD has caused you so much misery. I’m right there in the same boat with you, so at least neither of us are alone! I hope your husband can find a way to be more understanding. Beating ADHD at its own game is just so freaking HARD.ramblinonMember
I have been absent from the forum for many months. Reading this reminds me of me. I can chuckle about most of my ADHD stuff. My doctor and I haven’t found the correct medication for the ADHD but have been working on the anxiety meds first. Go Effexor.
Then I find out I’m dyslexic. Oh crap, eh!?sukeyMember
I will admit that I couldn’t sustain attention for reading all the comments, but a lot of what was said resonated with me. I really relate to the challenge of a spouse who has difficulty being a good ally, because they don’t have any difficulty remembering what they need to do, and can do things 4 times faster than I can. I’m a grown-up, and should be responsible for myself! Very frustrating.
The alarms on my phone are somewhat helpful, but I’m really good at hitting snooze until I am then running very late! I worked with a coach who helped me learn to estimate time that tasks take me, but I still set my alarms so I don’t really give myself enough time. (mostly because I want more time to sleep after staying up too late!)
I love Rick’s idea of leaving each room “like a Catholic”, even though I’m Jewish! A “launching basket” by the front door for keys and another for my purse/backpack, etc, are really helpful. And neon post-it notes with special reminders placed strategically really do help me.
There are a couple of books that have been helpful to me, though I still have great difficulty following their advice: The Add-Friendly Way to Organize Your Life, by Kathleen Nadeau & Lisa Renee Pitts, and Ten Simple Solutions to Adult ADD by Stephanie Moulton Sarkis.
And despite all the things that are helping, I still feel like I go through life by the skin of my teeth!
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