Thanks for sharing your story. I see parallel in our stories. My experience has almost been identical. Well except I’m male, so my experience may not coincide with the awareness you bring about ADD manifesting itself differently in women, but the context of adult-onset ADD resonated on a very real level. I was an over-achiever in high school but things were very different by the time I was in grad school. I found myself struggling just like you describe… but certain words you use to describe yourself hit home… saying you are very future-oriented… describing how the thoughts come faster than the words… I’ve spoken to others who share the same story and we all describe ourselves the same, which makes me ponder something i’ll describe below. For me, my symptoms weren’t as strong as they would later become… but I was 24–26 if age is playing a role, so I survived through graduation and entered the workforce. I work in education, so my summers were intentionally dedicated as a chance to rest my brain and if I picked up a summer job, it was usually one that didn’t involve much mental energy. But then all of the symptoms I had been able to manage at small levels seemed to come crashing down on me all at once to the point that I became so frustrated by my short-comings that i couldn’t do anything. I finally saw a psychiatrist and was rotated through almost every anti-depressant out at the time. I changed doctors and finally found one that made my diagnosis of adult-onset ADD. I like how you said that a big part of your treatment is learning to manage the symptoms and triggers which you wouldn’t have done had you not figured out this was the problem. That’s been my strategy as well. I was put on medication in the beginning and my life was completely transformed. It gave me the clarity I needed to be able to see my problem from a big picture point of view and devise a plan of action to manage it. As long as my hacks are in place, I’m fine. I laughed out loud when you mentioned your friends giving you your own timezone. I never told my friends I was diagnosed, but one really good friend heard me when I tried offering ways that my friends could at least not worsen things for me, but my really good friend got it and he came up with my own time system. Instead of being an hour late and having people wait, he had me arriving 15 minutes early. he’d mix it up every time, so I couldn’t ever try to beat the system. but others didn’t get it and weren’t buying it. For example, when it would be time to leave to go somewhere, one friend would start yelling out a bullet list of things… “do you have your ID… do you have tickets… are you bringing extra shoes, etc.”… each bullet might as well have been an actual bullet because each one was killing my focus. .. I had to stop going places with him :(
Over the years, i’ve met a few others that have had identical experiences as well. I don’t deny Adult-onset ADD shows up differently in men and women, but for years now I’ve been questioning why the delay to adulthood. Being a teacher, I’ve picked up on patterns of students who have ADD as teens, and watch for aspects of how their ADD manifests itself compared to mine as an adult, and the differences in their traits as a student with ADD from mine as a student without ADD when I was their age. I’ve read about the differences in hormones, etc, as you describe, but for me, I’ve always felt something was off in my brain chemistry and how my neurotransmitters were responding. I questioned the diagnosis for a while because there were certain things I could do that I would find myself getting really focused for hours with no medication. But tedious tasks like folding laundry would kill me. But then i found a Ted Talk on ADD that explains the misconception in the use of attention “deficit”… you’d probably enjoy the talk, i’ll see if i can search for it again. But I did have 2 questions if you happen to read this…. 1)…. are there any tasks you’re able to focus on for hours? You mentioned laundry, so I’m curious if the experience is the same for you in that area. You also mentioned a few characteristics of your prior self (the future oriented, ambitious, etc) that aligns with patterns I’ve picked up from the other adults I mentioned above who have had the same experience.. so my other question has to do with learning styles/cognitive function… this is where i lose some people because I think they try to read more into the question….In education, we learn about learning styles of our students that show definite correlation patterns with cognitive functions that Carl Jung studied. The pattern I’ve noticed is that others I’ve spoken to who were diagnosed with adult-onset ADD used different cognitive functions more predominantly in college than the ones they used in high school. My explanation would be that when our brains shifted preferences for different functions from what we were using in high school to the ones we use dominantly as adults, which seems to have taken place around grad school time, the neuro pathways weren’t lined up yet and that might have triggered the mental chaos. .
the similar descriptive words you used of yourself as a student sound like you use the same dominant cognitive function as me. I dont know how else to figure out what cognitive functions a person uses other than by asking if you happen to know your myers-briggs type (used for personality typolgy systems). There are two letters in the 4-letter code that link to your personality that are also linked to learning styles, and since there are a billion online tests to get your myers-briggs 4-letter code, asking if you know your type seems the easy route (but this isn’t one of those “are you a libra?” comments, lol). I am genuinely curious if theirs a link to our brain functions. If you’re familiar with myers-briggs and have taken an online test, what were your 4 letters, or specifically, the 2 in the middle?