What It's Like Having ADD

by Dorothy O'Donnell
Originally Published: 
A stressed-out blonde woman with ADD in a white sleeveless shirt and gray pants sitting on a gray co...

After my daughter was diagnosed with ADD, I read as much as I could about the disorder so I could help her. The more I learned about it, the more I realized my girl might not be the only one in our family with ADD. I’ve always been scattered, a champion procrastinator and struggled to start and complete projects. I often wondered how people far busier than me could be so productive while I couldn’t even pay my bills on time. Finally, a doctor confirmed that I have ADD and a life’s worth of behavior patterns that have embarrassed me and sometimes held me back suddenly made sense.

Ever wondered what it’s like having ADD? Here’s a snapshot of my life…

Monday – You wake to find a postcard from the County Court attached to the refrigerator by your husband. It says you failed to show up for jury duty two weeks earlier and may be subject to a fine. You call the number at the bottom of the card and are grateful, for once, to deal with an automated phone system, thereby avoiding the humiliation of having to explain to an actual person that you somehow never got the original summons. You know it is likely buried in the pile of bills, photos, your daughter’s artwork, school announcements, thank-you notes you never mailed, receipts and other random items in the perpetually overflowing “in basket” on your kitchen counter.

Tuesday – You are annoyed when your phone rings and caller ID shows it’s your credit card company. What the hell do they want? You ignore the phone and go back to checking Facebook. You know you paid your latest bill. They’re probably calling to remind you to activate the new card you received over a month ago that has since mysteriously vanished. Just to be safe, you log on to your credit card account. You are shocked to discover that your payment is, indeed, overdue. How is that possible? you wonder, as you calculate how much your stupidity is going to cost. You bite the bullet and pay the bill.

Wednesday – You have a dermatologist appointment that afternoon. But you forgot to write the time down on your calendar. You’re pretty sure the reminder card is in your purse. Or did you drop it in the aforementioned basket? No, no—you definitely remember setting it down on your bedroom dresser. You rip up the house searching for the card and finally locate it under a water glass on your nightstand. Your relief is short-lived when you discover that your appointment– in a town 15 miles away— is this morning. At 10:45. It’s 10:27. Your hair is still wet from your shower and you’re clad in stained sweats. Hyperventilating as you screech into the parking lot, you congratulate yourself for being a mere five minutes late. You try to ignore the stares your beet-red face and damp tresses receive in the waiting room. And forget to be anxious about the biopsy you’re getting for a spot you’re certain is malignant melanoma.

Thursday – You spend the day scrambling to finish an essay for a contest. The deadline is that night. You’ve known about the contest for months, but didn’t start your piece until yesterday. Still, you’re happy with your progress. That afternoon, you remember it’s your daughter’s back-to-school night. You’ll have time to finish the essay when you get home, you assure yourself as you race to her school. By 10:30, you’re almost done. A sickening thought flashes through your head. Was that 11:59 deadline your time? Or Eastern Time? You frantically pull up the contest rules. N-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o! You missed the deadline.

Friday – Your car registration—which you kept telling yourself you had loads of time to pay when you received the renewal notice months earlier, yet still managed to send in late— arrives in the mail. You know you should go out to your car, this second, and slap those stickers on your license plate. But you’re tired. And hungry. Besides, what’s the hurry? You’ve got two whole weeks until the old ones expire. You toss the registration envelope in the kitchen basket. There’s no freaking way you’ll get another ticket for driving around with expired tags…

Saturday –You can’t understand why the credit card company is still harassing you. They should have processed your payment by now. You sign in to your bank account to see what’s going on. Your eyes bulge out of your head in disbelief. Your outgoing payments show nothing for the credit card company. Seriously? Furious with yourself, you send the payment again. You triple-check to make sure it goes through. It did. Didn’t it?

Sunday – You hustle to the ATM to deposit miscellaneous checks you’ve been collecting. There’s the birthday check your mom sent back in July. (At least this year’s check will be cashed.) And the payment for an article you wrote five months ago. There are checks for insurance claims you submitted in the nick of time–you try not to think about all the claims you never got around to filing. You drive away without the cash you meant to withdraw. But maybe that’s a good thing—you’ll be forking over a lot of money to your credit card issuer to cover those late fees. And to the DMV for the ticket for those expired tags.

Later that night, you reflect on the past week and realize it wasn’t a total bust. You have a finished essay ready to send to other publications. You got your daughter to school on time all week. You fed and walked the dogs every day, prepared meals, picked up your husband’s dry cleaning. And that biopsy you put off getting for a year came back normal.

I briefly tried medication for my ADD. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. But just knowing that there’s a biological explanation for behavior I used to beat myself up for has been a huge relief. I’ve also benefited from support groups, breaking projects down into small steps, keeping short to-do lists on my phone, and exercise. I pay my bills on time—most months—and haven’t been hounded by collectors in more than a year.

Related post: What You Don’t Know About that Unruly Child

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