“Do I have ADHD? What are the symptoms? Who can diagnosis me?”
These may be the most common questions I hear. They were questions I desperately wanted to be answered when my son was diagnosed in 2001 and we went to see someone trained to spot ADHD.
Having said that, I must confess that apparently you can get a tentative diagnosis from someone who knows you well. I did initially.
In fact, the first person who suggested I have ADHD did so on national television. Many years before I was officially diagnosed. He is not a doctor. In fact, he is a fictional character.
I’m talking about Red Green, the leader of Possum Lodge on The Red Green Show.
If you don’t know the program, imagine The Marx Brothers in a man-cave of a lodge in the woods.
(If you don’t know who the Marx Brothers are, I can’t help you. And no, Red Green’s last name has nothing to do with me. Steve created the character years earlier, one of the regular characters he played on the Smith & Smith show.)
Impulsive and Awkward = A Winning Combo
So, Steve Smith played Red Green. Patrick McKenna played his toothsome nephew Harold. I played the bumbling outdoorsman, Bill.
Each episode featured a silent comedy skit called Adventures With Bill. Pure physical comedy featuring impulsivity at its best.
I’ll get into the history of the show another time, but it was meant to be a one-season, fun, simple project to do while we figured out what we were REALLY GOING TO DO NEXT.
To everyone’s surprise it struck a nerve. A folksy, family-friendly satire about the danger when men are left to their own devices. Or are left to build their own devices using rummage sale items, junkyard finds, and lots of duct tape.
About 8 or 9 years later I was officially diagnosed with ADHD.
And 8 years after that my wife and I created ADD & Loving It?!. The comedic documentary cut through the stigma, fear, and misinformation around Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The star of program was Patrick McKenna and his wonderful wife Janis, sharing their story as Patrick went through the process of getting a proper, full diagnosis.
To be honest, we saw this as a stand-alone project, after which we’d figure out what we were GOING TO DO NEXT. See the theme here?
The explosion of interest was incredible. The controversy (at first) as profound. And thousands of people came to learn more at the companion website we’d built – this one, TotallyADD. More and more people every day, from all over the world.
Our modest, one-off project spawned a sequel, scores of short videos, hundreds of blogs, and… basically a ton of stuff.
I even updated my Bill character to a suburban setting, with a wife, and lots of ADHD. They became Bill’s ADDventures, each one highlighting a symptom of Adult ADHD.
First Signs of ADHD
Several years after TotallyADD went live, a friend, Patte, forwarded a link to me. One of the old Adventures With Bill from Red Green that someone had posted on YouTube.
It’s one of the very first Adventures that we filmed: “Bill tries out archery.” In less than 3 minutes my character Bill accidentally fires arrows that puncture the tires on Red’s van, skewer my own foot., and hit everything except the target.
Now those Adventure With Bill films are not strictly silent comedy. They have more sound effects than a cartoon. And Red narrates with his patented droll delivery.
Unlike the rest of the show, Red’s narration was improvised.
The show’s editor, my wife Ava, would assemble the shots into a coherent scene. Steve would watch the finished cut through once, and then, as it was played for the studio audience, add his narration. Completely off the cuff. (The man has such a gift.)
About halfway through the archery adventure, Red deadpans, “Well, it looks like Bill is having one of his ADD moments.”
Did he just say I have ADHD?
This was filmed almost a decade before I was diagnosed!
True, Steve had known me for many years. We’d worked together on a couple of his earlier series. As well, before he became an entertainer, he was a school-teacher. So he was familiar with me, and with ADHD.
When I was diagnosed, a few people were quite surprised, many were skeptical and dismissive, which offended me so much it inspired my wife and I to make ADD & Loving It?!, but more than a few people were not surprised. “Yeah, that makes sense.”
Or even “Well, d’uh! You had to see a doctor to figure that out?”
Yes, I did.
In fact, had my son not been diagnosed I probably would have continued to stumble along through life, working so hard, sometimes pulling it off, and sometimes crashing and burning, wondering what the heck happened.
My son would have endured many of the unexplained setbacks and failures that I had endured. For both of us, the diagnosis was transformational. I’ve written about the universal regret that people with ADHD have after being diagnosed
Getting A Diagnosis – IF ONLY I’D KNOWN SOONER!
I wonder if I would have known sooner had Steve said something to me? Or if someone else had? I’ll never know.
Today, when people mention, casually, “Yeah, I might have a bit of that,” I suggest they take a look at our Unofficial Quiz. I want to shout, “Then for heaven’s sake, get tested!” But that just scares folks.
This video on ADHD in adults shows how the symptoms evolve.
And as this video explains that for a full and proper diagnosis you need a specialist. Most likely a psychologist who specializes in ADHD.
Let me ask you a question. Okay two:
First: Who first suspected that you might qualify as having ADHD? Did you read or hear something and start to wonder, or did someone else suggest the possibility?
Second: How long did it take you from that first, “I wonder…” or that first, “You know, I think you might have…” until you got the actual diagnosis?
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