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ADHD Journal: Adult ADHD Life
From Flibbertigibbet to No-Nonsense
I am a woman in my mid-30s. I was diagnosed with the inattentive type about a year ago. My doctor wasn’t surprised to hear my story, she said that many smart girls go undiagnosed. With enough effort and intelligence one can actually bluff your way through school. If you have the inattentive type, the impulsive behaviors allow you to go unnoticed and under the radar.
What I learned early on is that being quiet can actually make teachers think that you are smarter than you actually are. The old adage, “still waters run deep,” still has a lot of influence on our psyches. The fact of the matter was I was either completely disengaged and off in some daydream or painfully aware of my surroundings.
Hyper-sensitivity can go hand-in-hand with AD/HD. The fact is, I wasn’t completely unable to pay attention, I was mostly unable to moderate my attention. I had put my foot in my mouth in class enough times to fear talking in class. The teacher calling on me could produce the feeling of a million tiny pin-pricks to my head. I would freeze up and couldn’t respond even if I did know the answer. This was a case of co-morbid anxiety that, I believe, is common with AD/HD. I became the uber serious student in the eyes of many of my teachers and classmates who didn’t know me outside of school.
Outside of school was different. I had a reputation of being the daring one that was willing to take risks. In fact, I welcomed unnecessary risk. Adrenaline was one of the things that helped me to be at my best. My friends thought it was funny when I would interrupt the conversation with my “off-the-wall” anecdotes. I was reinforced for being slightly “ditzy” and “goofy”.
When people have known me long enough they can find this dichotomy confusing and baffling. I get labeled things like “complicated” or “hard to figure out”. Many people actually encourage me to “come out of my shell”. When people told me to stop being so guarded, I would wonder what they could possibly mean? Didn’t they know that I had always gone to extreme lengths to keep my foot properly out of my mouth? Everyone makes mistakes, they told me. True, but not everyone makes catastrophic mistakes like setting someone’s house on fire (accidentally of course) or nearly starting a playground brawl with total strangers due to your complete and utter inability to recognize the difference between whispering to your friends and shouting across an empty soccer field. Oh yes, the extremes of AD/HD can be amusing to others and they can also be amusing those with AD/HD, but in retrospect. Too often you can be completely unaware of danger until it is too late; as a result hyper-vigilance can become an ingrained part of your personality.
Most people don’t realize how hard it is for those with AD/HD to focus without becoming extremely intense. In other words, my attention is either in over drive or vacationing in the Bahamas. The mechanism and brain chemistry that allows others to be relaxed yet in tune enough with your environment to avoid obnoxious comments or 911 calls does not work very well in the AD/HD brain. Hence, I have a tendency to focus in on casual conversation with the grit and determination of a samurai. Needless to say, most people just thought I was really serious. But I always lamented the fact that I found it so hard for people to get to know me for who I really am.
I find that self-knowledge makes all the difference. I now know that having AD/HD can make you a slave to the environment you are in. I was the classic flibbertigibbet around friends but I became no-nonsense in new or unfamiliar environments. The inconsistency can confuse people. I found that a lot of the mental habits I had developed as a coping mechanism were causing me to try too hard and put way too much pressure on myself. I make it a point to develop self-acceptance and this as made me more calm, relaxed and confident.