wingsForLiving
Learn, Change, and SOAR!
wingsADHD
How I Overcome & Soar!​​​​


...for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. Psalm 63:7


This page will look at my life currently, and a little bit at the past, and examine how my undiagnosed ADHD affected me then, and how I am dealing with it now. I am a Bible-believing Christian, and the Lord has been my help, my protection, my constant unfailing companion, my loving Father, my comforter. Apart from him I have no true joy; and I love to sing, like the verse above says. (Whether I sing well or not is a topic for another page.)

I have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) with executive function disorder and hyperemotions. I manage to make people around me crazy! Maybe you know me, or you know people like me. Perhaps your child has ADHD. It's not something I, or they, will grow out of, although some of the symptoms may abate over time. For instance, I have learned a lot about controlling my impulsivity. Not everything, but quite a bit. That's a good thing. But practically, perhaps it means simply that I will drive you crazy much more slowly than when I was younger. That's good for my husband and my son (who, by the way, has a little ADHD himself). And my husband will survive—I think—even though he is profoundly dyslexic and may have other issues as well. So, he puts up with (and helps) me, and I put up with (and help) him. We are a good team. I highly recommend a strong support system of family, friends, or both. 

I will focus almost exclusively on my own life, so I hope you don't get bored. I don't have the hyperactivity part, which used to be called just "ADD", but it's all lumped together and rearranged now. Some sites define ADHD as being two parts: inattention, and then hyperactivity/impulsivity as the second part. I definitely struggle with attention issues and controlling my impulsivity. You may see yourself or your child in my struggles, pain and triumphs, and find hope and (perhaps) some answers. So let's start out with some facts regarding what is currently known about ADHD and treatment. Just keep in mind that most of the current research is focused on school-age children, not adults. By way of sharing information, there's an amazing woman on YouTube, Jessica McCabe, who has done several short videos about her ADHD. Her channel is " HowToADHD ". As an adult with ADHD, I highly recommend her. "I am not alone!"  


[There are also others; just go to YouTube.com and search for 'ADHD'.]

Defining ADHD

From the National Resource Center on ADHD, CHADD.org :

Approximately 10 million adults have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In early adulthood, ADHD may be associated with depression, mood or conduct disorders and substance abuse. Adults with ADHD often cope with difficulties at work and in their personal and family lives related to ADHD symptoms.  Many have inconsistent performance at work or in their careers; have difficulties with day-to-day responsibilities; experience relationship problems; and may have chronic feelings of frustration, guilt or blame.

Individuals with ADHD may also have difficulties with maintaining attention, executive function and working memory.  Recently, deficits in executive function have emerged as key factors affecting academic and career success. Executive function is the brain’s ability to prioritize and manage thoughts and actions. This ability permits individuals to consider the long-term consequences of their actions and guide their behavior across time more effectively.  Individuals who have issues with executive functioning may have difficulties completing tasks or may forget important things. (Oh yes, this is definitely me.)

ADHD is a neurobiological disorder that affects individuals across the lifespan, and not merely a childhood affliction.

Individuals with ADHD exhibit behavior that is often seen as impulsive, disorganized, aggressive, overly sensitive, intense, emotional, or disruptive. Their social interactions with others in their social environment—parents, siblings, teachers, friends, co-workers, spouses/partners—are often filled with misunderstanding and miscommunication.

Those with ADHD have a decreased ability to self-regulate their actions and reactions toward others. This can cause relationships to be tense and fragile.

From the Attention Deficit Disorder Association,  ADDA.org

ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors. 

These brain operations are collectively referred to as “executive functioning skills” and include important functions such as attention, concentration, memory, motivation and effort, learning from mistakes, impulsivity, hyperactivity, organization, and social skills.  There are various contributing factors that play a role in these challenges including chemical and structural differences in the brain as well as genetics.

While there is still much that is unknown, there are some clear insights gained by research to date:
  • ADHD is NOT caused by: poor parenting, falls or head injuries, traumatic life events, digital distractions, video games and television, lack of physical activity, food additives, food allergies, or excess sugar. (Researchers used to believe that ADHD was related to minor head injuries and brain damage, but most people with ADHD have no such history and this theory has been disproved.  Others have speculated that refined sugar and food additives cause ADHD symptoms.) While refined sugar may not be good for one’s health in general, there has not been any scientifically proven correlation between sugar or food additives and ADHD.
  • ​ADHD IS caused by chemical, structural, and connectivity differences in the brain, mostly as a result of genetics.

Seek out a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychotherapist specializing in ADHD and related challenges if you would like to be evaluated for ADHD.  While a primary care physician can typically identify signs of ADHD and give a preliminary diagnosis, they may not have the extensive ADHD-specific experience necessary to accurately diagnose and treat ADHD. Often, a primary care physician will refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist specializing in mental health in these instances, just as they would refer you to a cardiologist for a more in-depth exploration of a heart problem.  Teachers and coaches cannot diagnose ADHD.

ADHD is recognized as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Some individuals with ADHD require accommodations in school and/or the workplace to support their challenges. There is a higher than normal incidence of learning disorders in the ADHD population, making the need for academic accommodations more common. The first step to pursuing accommodations is to check on your school and office protocols, read up on your rights under the law, and consider neuropsychological testing, which may be necessary for approval.

Some Symptoms of ADHD

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), is published by the American Psychiatric Association to set forth diagnostic criteria, descriptions and other information to guide the classification and diagnosis of mental disorders and is used by psychologists, psychiatrists, clinicians, doctors, researchers and others. It defines ADHD this way:

  • People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
    • Inattention: Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level...(9 specific symptoms listed (1))
    • Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level...(9 specific symptoms listed (1))

The ADHD diagnosis is further broken down into one of three subtypes:
  • Combined Presentation: symptoms of both criteria inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity were present for the past 6 months;
  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: predominant symptoms of inattention, but not hyperactivity-impulsivity, were present for the past six months; and
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: predominant symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity but not inattention were present for the past six months.

The diagnosis of ADHD is outlined by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-V as a lifelong, persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development across time and settings.



Dr. Russell A. Barkley, an internationally recognized authority on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) in children and adults (2), suggests that the DSM-V—used to diagnose ADHD, learning disabilities, mental disabilities and other conditions—is completely off-base in its definition of ADHD. His research shows that it is a disorder of self-regulation, and has been misnamed. It is a very serious disorder with innumerable consequences, based on the severity of each individual case. Developmental delays in brain growth leave those with ADHD as much as 30% behind their peers—a significant gap. In other words, a 10-year old with ADHD will often be operating on the emotional/developmental level of a 7-year old, yet without proper diagnosis and treatment that 10-year old is expected to be on par with his peers, and fails miserably: not only in school, but socially, emotionally, and sometimes physically. 

These delays include a motivation deficit, or being unable to follow through on a series of actions leading to a goal. They cannot resist distractions, and may respond to distractions more than others, because their attention cannot be inhibited; then they cannot re-engage the original goal to pick up and finish what was started before the distraction. Their lack of working memory makes it extremely difficult to recall previous goals and intentions. Additionally, there are emotional and social deficits due in part to impulsivity and immaturity. (Examples of this in untreated adults with ADHD are road rage, job dismissals, marital difficulties, and parenting problems.)

Part of the problem in defining ADHD is the difficulty of measuring many of the symptoms. Rather than relying on research and promoting additional studies, the symptoms are simply overlooked or ignored; 'yes, we know you have a low frustration tolerance but that doesn't mean you are disabled.' Really? Emotional disregulation is a very large part of the problem with ADHD. Not only impulsiveness, but research has proven that people with this disorder actually do feel their emotions more intensely than people without the disorder (based on brain scans and individual feedback). This is a core symptom, yet is completely discounted in the DSM-V. There is simply an inability to regulate normal emotion and moderate, or self-soothe, the overwhelming passions, so those with ADHD are often quick to anger, with low frustration levels. Is it any wonder that a staggering majority of those with ADHD—most of whom are undiagnosed and untreated—also suffer from Oppositional Defiance Disorder and/or Conduct Disorder?

These traits can be miscontrued as character flaws, leading to devastating accusations, blame and guilt. Researchers have found that the social challenges of children with ADHD include disturbed relationships with their peers, difficulty making and keeping friends, and deficiencies in appropriate social behavior. Long-term outcome studies suggest that these problems continue into adolescence and adulthood and impede the social adjustment of adults with ADHD.

Over time, such negative labels lead to social rejection of the individual with ADHD. Social rejection causes emotional pain (Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria) in the lives of children and adults who have ADHD and can create havoc and low self-esteem throughout the life span. In relationships and marriages, the inappropriate social behavior may anger the friend or spouse without ADHD, who may eventually "burn out" and give up on the relationship or marriage.

[I have first-hand experience of this in many work and personal relationships. And yes, my ADHD can be very frustrating to you, and makes me angry and frustrated and sometimes overemotional. I, however, have also been tremendously blessed to have deeply supportive personal relationships (I have the BEST FRIENDS in the world). Although I find it difficult to pinpoint the differences between successful and failed relationships (a glaring symptom of ADHD), I can say with complete confidence that I had nothing to do with the successful ones—my dear friends, and my amazing husband, are completely to blame.] 






The following infographic from chadd.org details coexisting conditions in over 65% of those with ADHD. In some instances, these disorders and complications also exist apart from ADHD.[Missing is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Executive Function difficulties, which can also coexist with ADHD.]
ADHD and hyperemotions with RSD


ADHD and social interactions


ADHD and self-medicating behaviors




**Still under construction! Thank you for your patience!**



 
Impacted Roots and Broken Wings
"Two great things you can give your children: one is roots,
the other is wings." –Hodding Carter

This is the quote I use for my business, wingsTutor. It's on my web page for dyslexia, and it's on my business cards. It's a great quote; you (as a parent) give your children roots and foundations, and I (as a dyslexia tutor) will come alongside you to help them spread their wings. It's such a great concept. But sometimes we don't have the right tools for the job we are trying to do...

  • parents may have dyslexia, or ADHD, or other learning disabilities, and
  • our own difficulties can get in the way of helping our children, or
  • we simply lack the skills and patience to support our children as they need.

Sometimes, as parents, we end up giving them impacted roots and broken wings! It's not for lack of desire to give our children the best possible advantages. And many, if not most, school systems are coming alongside families to lend support to children who are facing disadvantages due to learning differences. But are there other things we can, and should, be doing to assist our children in becoming successful adults?

Getting a diagnosis is important for your child, as well as yourself. Many parents are unaware of their own disabilities until their child starts having difficulty in school. Teachers and professional educators in schools can sometimes spot learning disabilities that may have been undiagnosed and untreated for years. There are simple treatments that can make a huge difference, especially in relationships at work, at school, and at home.

It isn't possible to give to someone else what you don't have, not even your own children. I have no desire or intention of accusing or placing blame on anyone, but we know that our children will do what we DO, and not necessarily what we SAY: they copy the behaviors, coping mechanisms, and compensation strategies that they see in us. For the most part, we already know we need to do everything possible to get the personal help we need, so that we will have more to give to our children. For people with ADHD that means any combination of things: taking medications, receiving behavior therapy, requesting learning accommodations, and taking advantage of special education services. It might mean learning to use graphic organizers and bullet journals, or it may entail changes in what we eat and when we eat. It probably means that first we must learn about our own weaknesses and disadvantages, and how to strengthen those, or learn ways to adapt to and modify our world, so that we are standing in a position of strength. Most of all it means learning about ourselves: our own differences and difficulties and how to overcome them, and our own strengths, managing and making the most of them. Using the right tools makes the job simpler, faster and the end product stronger—for ourselves and our children. Then we will have much to give to them—if not whole and complete, at least with a full toolbox, less broken and less impacted.


My ADHD

May 29, 2018
 
 
Everyone's ADHD is different. Even in my own family, with all my brothers and sisters having ADHD, we all presented differently. Some people will have additional learning disabilities which will also impact the way their ADHD looks. I can only write about myself, since even in my work with dyslexia, I don't have daily contact with others who have ADHD. So here is what I have learned about my ADHD.

I live on a tightwire between complete confidence and debilitating insecurity. Will I make it through today, or will it be the end of me? The voices in my head tell me over and over, “Who do you think you are? Everyone will find out what you are really like. Stop pretending; you can’t do this!” While part of this is residue from narcissistic abuse in my childhood and young adulthood, part of it is also my ADHD—because there’s a part of it that’s true. And part of that truth is my inability to rightly discern who I am, what my strengths are (really) and what my weaknesses are (truly); and sometimes I want to do things I just should not be trying to do—because I have ADHD.
 
My ADHD comes with wonderful gifts, along with major stumbling blocks. I can be brilliant and imbecilic in one sentence, without blinking. I can be compassionate in one breath, and then heartless in the next. It’s not a problem of intelligence, since I have a high IQ, and it’s not a problem of emotional aptitude, since I am also highly sensitive, intuitive, and empathetic. But it is definitely a problem of the impulsiveness and inattentiveness of my ADHD.
 
I struggle constantly with a cluttered house and a cluttered brain, all in a state of impossible disarray. Embarrassment and shame have not forced or inspired change in this! And my finances can sometimes be a nightmare. Without the help of my patient husband we would not have been able to buy—or keep—our lovely home. My time-blindness keeps me living in the moment and unable to plan for a financial future; future effects of immediate actions just don’t register in my ADHD brain. When something needs to be done—whether making an appointment or researching a new product for our home—I know what I have to do, but for some inexplicable reason it just doesn’t happen. I forget (again!), or I get distracted (again!), or it’s not a convenient time, or I get wrapped up in intangible anxiety.
 
Sometimes I cannot communicate. I want to tell you what I’m thinking, what I wanted to happen, what I thought was going on—but the words stick in my mouth and I can’t get my thoughts to make enough sense to allow them to form words. Or I simply don’t trust what I want to say, and I remain silent in fear, choking on my thoughts and emotions, fearful of rejection.
 
Some days I seem to be running into things everywhere. I trip on the door step, drop my phone and spill my hot tea all over my hand and shoes. Sometimes, though, I also bump into walls mentally: the data I need for the report that’s due has gotten lost in the piles on my desk; the help I was counting on from my coworker dissipates in a rush of last-minute busy-ness; the phone won’t stop ringing and I haven’t time to answer. I try to write my article but my mind is blank, and I can’t recall any of the research I’ve been pouring over. I don’t know where to start or how to figure it out. I am stymied. Then I yell at my young son for some minor infraction of some stupid rule I’ve laid down—and immediately repent and tell him how sorry I am for yelling at him! He smiles at me, grateful that the aliens have released his mommy from their tyrannical control.
 
There can be meltdowns. There used to be meltdowns: I can remember all the way back to my childhood the overwhelming frustration and overstimulation that left me literally screaming for an escape. I was completely convinced that everyone in my family (all 7 of them, without me) would congregate in the middle of the night to decide what they would “do” to me the next day. Some of my days were THAT bad. My ADHD gave me a low frustration tolerance, which applied to everything from cooking to relationships. Burned potatoes? Disastrous. Offended friend? Catastrophic. Thankfully I have learned techniques to manage my emotions, and I don’t believe I’ve had a meltdown for a few years…although I’m not swearing to that.

The effort required to manage an ADHD brain—undiagnosed and/or untreated—often leads to self-medicating behaviors. I don't have "things," I have "collections." A pretty decorative tin for my kitchen? I have a dozen, at least. A beautiful doll? Unfortunately I now have several dozen. Books—DVDs—pictures—even apps on my iPhone, hundreds. My collecting is a way to stimulate my brain, increasing the dopamine that I am lacking. But there are many other behaviors that do this: eating sweets, especially chocolate (many, many people with ADHD are overweight); video games; smoking, alcohol and drugs; the list can go on and on (I am writing more on this in another section). It's an actual "thing:" the dopamine reuptake doesn't work properly and requires dopamine reuptake inhibitors—the drugs most used to manage ADHD symptoms. 
 
I need quiet, calm and peace to maintain equilibrium. Not all the time, but when I need it, I need it. Sometimes that’s inconvenient for others, or they see it as an excuse to escape responsibility. I need regular schedules and set times and all the stability that is at all possible: routines are often my salvation. Perhaps that is why, before I was married, I was so happy living alone: I could set and maintain a regular schedule. And when I had to change it, it didn’t interfere with the plans of someone else, so I didn’t have to answer to another person for working late or comforting a friend at all hours of the night. I could adjust the next day’s schedule easily enough.
 
Sometimes I fail (astoundingly), though I usually succeed (even spectacularly), but it’s exhausting and painful to fight this daily battle. So I hesitate, hovering between boldness and inaction: afraid to move forward lest I fail, but compelled to step out and try. And yes, this can last for days, weeks and even months. It’s not laziness or fear; it’s my ADHD. So far I’ve always overcome and been able to step out in faith. But it takes time for me. And I’m finding that as I age, it does take longer: longer to recover, and longer to win the battle.
 
So yes, sometimes I am my own worst enemy. But then sometimes I am my own best advocate. Having ADHD means I can love passionately, freely and without limits—regardless of the response. I can see an array of colorful solutions where others see only black and white, or shades of gray; I am living outside the boxes and drawing my own lines. I can see a way through where everyone else can see only blank walls. I can make connections that others would never consider—because my ADHD allows my brain to work differently. When things work, I am flying high, walking on air. Change excites me and challenges me, and I embrace it. (Of course like nearly everything else, this has become somewhat mitigated by age!)
 
There are still rough edges, but it’s a diamond in the rough nonetheless. By guarding this gift and polishing and smoothing the hard edges, I find my life to be enriched and a blessing to those around me. I embrace my ADHD and live with its challenges, bravely facing each new day.
    

Strategies, Coping Mechanisms & Relationships

I have learned strategies over the years that make my daily schedule much easier. I forget far fewer things, which has been one of my biggest ADHD problems (keeping deordorant at work in case I forgot to put it on), and I keep my frustration level low, which has been another of my major issues. It is important to know your own personal weaknesses so that you can develop effective methods to conquer, or at least combat, the areas most difficult for you. I do not have a busy, packed schedule, with multiple deadlines. I have managed to reduce my workload. I have good relationships with my husband and son. All these things diminish my stress considerably, helping me keep my ADHD a non-issue. 

When I worked a 40-hour week in a major city where traffic was terrible, I searched out alternate routes to and from work, and I was able to adjust my hours so that I could avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic—it's just so very frustrating. I made certain to leave earlier than I needed to; I would often arrive early to work, but I wasn't late due to traffic. With the advances in GPS services, and the wide availability on cell phones, it would be much easier now to avoid traffic jams. Granted, it is NOT always possible, but even if it is only possible once or twice a month, it is worth it for those times. Avoiding frustration is not a character weakness! There are many ways to reduce frustration, conflict, anxiety, and stress that should be employed at every opportunity, especially when you are weak in those areas. 

Another thing that helps me tremendously is good routines. As an ADHD-er, a routine frees me from making a multitude of decisions on an hourly basis. Granted, I can still improve! Like my early morning routine, for instance. But the routines I do have make it possible for me to accomplish necessary tasks with less effort, even if I'm half asleep. I don't have to concentrate since things become more automatic.

I've learned much about friends and friendships. If it isn't a give-and-take relationship—if you are the only one in the relationship who calls, wants to get together, plans activities—it's not a good relationship. You can stay on friendly terms; you don't need to have a big fight and become enemies, but stop running after it. Perhaps they have decided you can't do anything for them. It's stressful to have non-reciprocal friends. If you have difficulty making, and keeping, friends, there is hope. ADHD can make all relationships difficult, but it helps when you understand your own symptoms and issues. Explaining to others that you didn't intend to be offensive (or whatever), but that it is a symptom of your ADHD that you are working on, can help them understand and start to see past your symptoms to the wonderful you they haven't met yet, or don't see as often as they wished. Keep meeting new people, and try to reconnect with old friends. Facebook has been invaluable to me in this area. Old college friends, high school friends, and even elementary school friends; neighbors who moved away; coworkers who moved on; even long-lost relatives. You don't need to be friends with everyone you meet! But there's a good possibility that you will miss a wonderful relationship if you don't keep reaching out. Friends are invaluable supports for everyone, but especially those who face particular challenges like ADHD.

You may also have an ADHD symptom of hyperemotion: truly, research proves that we feel much more deeply and intensely than "normal". You are not "too sensitive", but you may be very empathetic, and you can indeed be devastated by a comment that someone else can just pass off. Perhaps one of the truest tests of friendship is whether your friends can allow you to be hyperemotional without condemnation, and without ending your relationship. Strong, deeply-felt emotion does pass (usually relatively quickly), and does not have to define someone with ADHD. Learning to forgive is a big part of managing these emotions and their aftermath, and preventing them from taking over your life. (See my page wingsSpirit for a treatise on forgiveness.) The correct medication, in the dose that works best for you (this may require some experimentation between you and your doctor) can greatly relieve these hyperemotions, as well as other symptoms of ADHD, making life easier for you and the people around you. 

Unfortunately there will always be people who will attack you for your weaknesses. They will accuse you of bad (deficient) character, intentionally causing disruptions everywhere you go. You may also find that you attract unsavory characters who want to take advantage of you because of your ADHD symptoms. Don't be afraid to say goodbye to destructive relationships, but do take care of all supportive relationships. You might not 'hit it off' with someone, but if they like you and accept your issues, you may have an opportunity for a lasting, long-term companionable friendship. Perhaps you both enjoy art, or bowling, or watching the BBC. Doing things together will allow you to develop a non-threatening friendship while you size each other up and get to know one another. Unreasonable expectations will destroy any relationship, so be willing to take it slowly. Platonic relationships are some of the closest that can be experienced, and that is beneficial for everyone's mental health.
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Links & Footnotes

1. https://www.addrc.org/dsm-5-criteria-for-adhd/

2. Dr. Barkley is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Virginia Treatment Center for Children and Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Richmond, VA. http://russellbarkley.org