Recently, somebody close to me went through screening for ADHD. I read a bunch about it, and it all seemed very familiar to me.
- I am very good at losing things. When I was in 7th grade, I thought my mother would kill me because I lost at least 10 jackets or sweaters. I have left musical instruments at the gig and not realized it for days (fortunately, I got them all back). I have showed up to concerts without the right horns, or without the music. If I don't use my phone reminder system, I will forget things that I promised I have to do. Sometimes a few minutes later.
- I missed meetings, appointments, and other things all of the time when I was a kid. My mother gave me I don't know how many pocket calendars. And I would fill them out immediately. And then either leave them on my desk at home, in the bottom of my backpack, or just lose them. Every time.
- I talk too much. I miss social clues that I am doing so. I dominate conversations, and at work, I have been criticized for "dominating meetings".
- I also interrupt a lot and don't give other people a chance to talk.
- When I was in school, I had a lot of trouble getting started on work I did not want to do. Despite the fact that I scored well on aptitude tests, and that pre-college work seemed super easy, I had trouble completing homework, and put off big projects until the last minute. In 8th grade, I actually blew off a really big project, and accused my teacher of losing it. (She appropriately gave me a 'D'). This really blew up in college, as the work was much harder than I was used to. Until a girlfriend taught me a methodology for studying, homework, and being a good student, I was on my way to failing out.
- When I was a software manager, I was really good at pointing out what was going wrong, but I was criticized for being too negative. Or for not offering good solutions to problems. Or deflecting blame. I feel like part of that was just not reading social cues from my peers and my own managers.
- When I was a young man, I was accused of staring at people too much, especially women. I know now that I creeped some out.
- When I play community theater pit orchestras, when I first start rehearsals, I sight read the books better than most. However, as the show progresses, I start hearing everything else that is going on around me, like the flute is out of tune, or we are not agreeing on articulation, or that viola player just played an amazing solo. Meanwhile, I start making careless mistakes in my own part. Once I bear down and really learn my own part, I start listening to everything else again, but in a three week run, my 2nd week is usually not great.
- When I was younger and I was playing music, if I felt I "knew" the music, I was obnoxious. I was commenting on my own playing all of the time. I was giving people "suggestions" and "corrections". I was complaining to other players when things weren't being played well. One time, during a production of West Side Story, my best friend, who was playing another book, took me aside and told me that I was being a complete asshole, and I needed to just shut up and play.
- My first serious professional music gig in Austin, I played well, and I don't think I alienated anybody. What I did notice that what separated me from the full-time guys was the fact that their concentration was amazing. At the time, I figured it was because they did it all of the time...
- There are some things I enjoy doing that most people would find mind-numbingly dull, like filling in daily baseball score results into spreadsheets. Or arranging music a few measures a month until I have a full concert band arrangement of the first part of the Rite of Spring.
- In college, especially the first couple of years, I would attend class, watch my professor do a difficult math problem, and think that it made perfect sense! Easy! And then when I would try to do the homework, I had no idea how to do the problem.
- I sometimes do have hyper-focus, particularly when programming computers.
- My house is filled with bags of raw materials of projects that I had intended to do. I would start it, go to the hardware store, and get parts. Then I would get home, and we would have to have dinner, or go to bed or someone would call me or... and then I would find those parts years later after I had purchased another set and finished the project. I have a lot of screwdrivers.
- When I was a young man, if I did not respect my immediate manager or my teacher or some other authority figure, I pissed them off. Every single time. I got demoted. I got corrective interviews. Performance improvement plans. I always thought I was smarter than they were. It took a demotion from manager back to grunt in food service at an amusement park to teach me that it did not matter whether or not I was smarter than they were, and that I had to behave like I respected them even if I did not.
- I fidget entirely too much. I shake my leg. I drum my fingers. I doodle. I read my phone and stop paying attention to what is around me. Like conversation. Or presentations. I drive people around me crazy sometimes.
- At work as a programmer, I can drive me teammates crazy because I have tendencies to bug them when I am stuck on something rather than Google it and figure it out.
- When I know that there are other people around, I unconsciously start a running play-by-play of what I am doing. This must be SUPER ANNOYING, and when I catch myself doing it, I am horribly embarrassed.
So I had myself evaluated. I got the results back this week, and I have ADHD with inattentive tendencies.
OK. That makes sense. It explains all kinds of problems I have had most of my life, particularly before the age of 35.
So. I'm 57 years old with ADHD. Now what?
First of all, I have developed a lot of coping mechanisms. Most of them are common sense, and non-ADHD people do them to a certain extent.
- I always have my phone, keys, inhaler, pocket knife and air pods with me. I always put them in the same pockets, and when I go to bed, I always set the phone and air pods in their chargers, and put the other stuff on my nightstand in the same place.
- I use an app called "Due.app". With this I can set up reminders, and then I can postpone them, indefinitely if I need to. The best thing is, until I mark a task "Done", it will notify/annoy me. I have to make a conscious decision to not do it, procrastinate (and get notified again later), or complete it.
- I use an electronic calendar, and I actively manage the alert settings, particularly with meetings or appointments early in the morning. I set reminders for the night before, and when I plan to get up, so I don't miss it.
- When I play music, I try to reach a meditative state, where I just focus on the notes on the page, and worry about my own playing problems, or what everybody else is doing, later.
- I bought Air Tags and put them in all of my instrument cases.
- I am still working on letting other people talk when I am in a group of people.
- I don't stare anymore after deciding to change that behavior about 20 years ago.
- My wife and family help take up some of the slack for my absent-mindedness.
But for the future, I was recommended a life coach to contact, and was told to contact my physician. There are medications available to help. While I am reluctant to take them (I think I am doing fine), a lot of patients with mental illness think that they don't need meds. I will try what my life coach and doctor say.
But this diagnosis is such a relief. It's such an amazing explanation of my troubles throughout my life. I will do the best I can so that I can live a better life, and make it better for those around me.
Thanks for your attention and understanding.