An honest take on life and parenthood

My Brain Cloud: Life with ADD, Part 1

on June 1, 2015
Image credit: Google images

Image credit: Google images

When I learned that I was expecting a baby, I did not worry about sleepless nights or colic or potty training.

I worried about forgetting her.

I feared that I would forget my sleeping child in a hot car on a summer’s day.

I wasn’t being dramatic or unreasonably worried.

You see, I have always been absent-minded. Everyone in my family has a story – okay, a dozen – about my forgetfulness.

I’m not a creature of habit or a linear thinker. I have lost my keys countless times. I often call my cell phone from a landline to locate it because I have no idea where I put it down. I sometimes leave the house without my wallet. I have shown up for appointments on the wrong day, in the wrong place, or forgotten about them completely.

I have misplaced plane tickets, my passport, my room keys, my work badge, checks, and important documents.

These items are never truly lost, since they inevitably boomerang back into my life, but not before I lose time and money and self-respect as I search frantically through my piles for things that everyone else seems to be able to track effortlessly.

At some point before I find the missing item, I often have to confess to my husband or boss or friend that I cannot find it.

It is hard to describe the embarrassment I feel in these moments. I feel about 2 inches tall and like an irresponsible f*up. My body floods with shame. My brain scrambles and I cannot think clearly.

Fortunately, my husband, Michael, finds these incidents funny, and gamely helps me search for the missing item, fix the mix up, or comes to my rescue. He has been known to drive an hour down I-95 to reunite me with my wallet, for example, or talk me out of the trees by calmly reviewing steps I can take to restore order to a logistical mess I created.

Some bosses and coworkers and friends have not minded my fallibility at all, and accept it as part of being human. (Though if truth be told, I am pretty good at hiding these quirks. My compensation techniques are crafty.)

More Type-A personalities interpret this behavior as lazy, rude, uncaring, and unprofessional. I am their worst nightmare.

I understand why they don’t understand.

How is it possible that I can present myself as so intelligent and capable, yet I have trouble with routine tasks and attention to detail? It defies logic.

Yet I do have trouble with predictable, linear tasks.

Give me a big, bold creative project, and I will run with it.

Give me a repetitive administrative task or technical project, and watch the careless mistakes in my work roll in and my work ethic tank. I get bored faster than you can say “Rumpelstiltskin!”

And don’t even talk to me about paper. PAPER! UGH!

Paper is my nemesis. I struggle with what to keep, and what to throw out. There are always piles of paper around me.

I hate filing. I know that I should keep up with it, but it is so hard to know what to do with certain pieces of paper. I set aside some because I want to read them eventually or because I have to act on them.

I feel compelled to look at every paper before recycling it, shredding it, or throwing it out. Those additional steps of decision making (recycle, shred, toss) add to my feeling of being overwhelmed.

I envy people who are clear minded about managing paper and clutter.

When I first started dating Michael, he noticed the towering pile of unsorted mail in my studio apartment. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore, and volunteered to help me sort through it in an effort to clear it away.

With a mixture of trepidation and relief, I sat down with him to confront the ever present pile of mail. He held up the first envelope.

Michael: “Why are you holding on to this?”

Me: “It might be important. I have to open it and see.”

Michael: “It’s addressed to ‘Resident.’ You don’t need to open that.” He tossed it into the trash.  My mouth dropped open in shock.

We both still laugh about that day, but the story captures my difficulty perfectly.

Over the years, I have developed techniques to cut down on the paper in my life. I use the Evernote app to clip soft copies of articles I want to read. I hired a professional organizer to create an easier filing system for personal papers and bills.  I have worked with a coach to develop better strategies for managing paper and other clutter, but it is still a battle that I fight every day.

Piles are a home décor item for me, whether I like to admit it or not. Piles of papers and mail and magazines and catalogs. Piles of laundry. Piles of the Pooh’s toys and drawings. Piles of dishes, which magically regenerate minutes later, no matter how often I clear them.

The Pooh's table, which is a disaster area.

The Pooh’s table, which is a disaster area.

It stresses me out and overwhelms me to see the piles, but I hate the tedium of putting things away. It’s boring. If I don’t have an easy place to put an item, I procrastinate more and it sits out longer.

When I do tackle the piles, I am frequently distracted by something else that seems more interesting, such as reorganizing the Pooh’s bookshelf or finding a magazine article on the best brunch spots in Providence.

And then I look up at the clock and realize that I’m late for the next activity in my day.

Yes, I am one of those people who runs late for everything. I don’t mean to be inconsiderate. I just lose track of time. With my magical thinking, I believe I can fit one or two more activities into a block of time than is realistic.

So why am I sharing all of this with you?

Because the forgetfulness, messiness, decision making problems, and distraction are all hallmarks of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Predominantly Inattentive Type.

Michael affectionately refers to it as my brain cloud.

I just call it ADD.

Although this disorder is most commonly associated with hyperactive little boys, it is often overlooked in quiet, dreamy girls. For many years, the medical community believed that children outgrew the condition, but now they know that adults can have it too.

When I received a formal diagnosis of ADD last October at the age of 43, it came as a relief.

I could finally stop beating myself up. My difficulty with finishing tasks, my slow processing speed for certain types of problem-solving, the absent-mindedness, and the challenges with prioritization were all classic symptoms of a bigger problem. They were not character flaws, or nor did they demonstrate a lack of willpower or effort.

I now had a medical explanation for these quirks that frustrated me and tripped me up constantly.

Simply put, my brain does not work the way it should. My brain structure and brain chemistry are defective, so it takes me a tremendous amount of energy and effort to do many of the things that other people do easily, even though I have a high IQ. Strangely enough, ADD is not related to IQ, and people with ADD have IQ’s that span the normal range.

If you are anything like me, you probably have many more questions. You may even think that I have succumbed to the diagnosis du jour, but I believe that the diagnosis I received is correct, for a number of reasons.

There is so much more I want to share with you about what I have learned about inattentive ADD, and I will, over the next one or two blog posts.

In those posts, I will tell you more about what led me to be evaluated, how I found a doctor I trusted to run the tests, and how I have managed my treatment so far with lifestyle changes, behavior modification, and medication.

Stay tuned, my friends. And thanks for staying with me on this journey called life.


The “desk” area in my attic that needs to be cleaned up. I will, I swear.

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