I was in my mid-twenties when I first sought help for my little attention problem. Hell, I was in my mid-twenties before I even realized I had a problem. What I had always assumed was my own laziness—not working up to fullest potential made repeat appearance on all of my report cards—actually turned out to be a brain thing rather than a personality flaw.
Hunh, who knew?
It wasn’t until I left a management position at the local Food Lion and went to work at a contract research organization (CRO) that my habit of skimming over details was one I had couldn’t break despite best efforts to the contrary. I started making enough mistakes to be worried about losing my job.
One of our smartest, calmest SAS programmers shared that he was also ADHD, and had self-medicated it for years with competitive running. After getting injured, he had to stop running. When increased coffee consumption couldn’t cut it, he medicated. He likened his non-medicated brain to being a hamster on a wheel; the wheel was constantly turning, but the hamster never got anywhere. It was after our talks that I started doing research and found myself a doctor.
Starting medication was like a mental field trip to the land of normal brains. I take adderall—or its genetic equivalent, amphetamine salts— with immediate and obvious cognitive differences. Without meds I am scattered and impulsive; with them I am focused and deliberate.
Don’t mistake medication as a cure-all. A different brain with focus doesn’t always lead to a great end result. And while it may slow impulsive behavior, a lifetime of hasty decision-making isn’t going to be stopped with a few milligrams of drugs. I call it Getting Lost in the Hyperfocus. Just one of many examples— I once took apart a computer and decided that the problem with the hard drive must be related to the twists in the floppy drive’s motherboard cable. I decided to fix the problem by removing the cable, cutting off the twisted portion, and re-threading the connector pins.
I scared my IT department (no work computers were ever harmed!). One friend commented that he was truly impressed with both my stupidity and my detailed pin re-threading. High praise indeed.
Now I’m a mom, and I don’t take apart computers anymore. Okay, that’s a lie. But at least now I find reputable directions on the internet first. I have tons of mom-related coping strategies. I have accepted that I will sometimes be flaky. I will shut down and not answer the phone or turn on the computer when I start to get overwhelmed. I love sand boxes.
There’s a nice component to having a short attention span when you have small children; everyone loses interest around the same time.