Many of you will remember the post I wrote last year where I came out about suffering from Depression. I never provided any updates about my condition after that though.
The condensed version is that a few months ago I was clinically diagnosed with ADHD instead of depression. This was a complete surprise to me, but so many things in my life make so much more sense now in light of what Iâ€™ve learned about ADHD.
I have a lot more that I want to share on my blog here about my experience with ADHD, but I feel that before I can, I need to write an initial update about how I went from a depression diagnosis to an ADHD diagnosis. So, here is a more detailed look at what has happened in my life over the past year or so.
The Long Journey to Discovery
In my previous post, I wrote in considerable detail about my history to that pointâ€”how I searched for some answers to what I had been feeling and experiencing for a few years. Youâ€™ll remember that I talked to my doctor about what I was experiencing and he agreed that it sounded like I was experiencing depression. He prescribed 10mg of Paxil a day. I took this for about five months. For the first month or two I felt much better, but it quickly wore off and I was right back to feeling bored with life and feeling down about certain aspects of my life. I attributed my temporary improvement to the placebo effect of being on a drug. I stopped taking the Paxil entirely after a particularly difficult weekend where I experienced some kind of breakdown that left me in tears and unable to drive or even communicate for a couple hours; Godâ€™s grace pulled me through that.
For a few months I worked with a wonderful productivity coach, Tara Rodden Robinson, in a small master-mind group. That was helpful, but still didnâ€™t fully resolve my issues with what I was feeling and experiencing.
I worked with a Christian Counselor for a couple months too. Although he was a very nice guy, and it was great to be able to open up to someone about some things, I didnâ€™t feel like we were making any progress so I stopped seeing him.
I finally decided to schedule an appointment with a Clinical Psychologist. This is what I should have done several years ago. After our second session, he told me he suspected that I suffer from ADHD. That was a total shock and a real surprise to me because it wasnâ€™t something I had ever considered at all. He asked me to take a variety of multiple-choice tests which would help him to better diagnose me. The tests confirmed his initial suspicion; he made a definitive clinical diagnosis that I do in fact have ADHD. One of the tests also revealed some mild depression, but certainly nothing at the clinical level.
How Can ADHD Be Confused with Depression?
Most people think of hyperactive children when they hear the term ADHD. Although many hyperactive children do suffer from ADHD, ADHD isnâ€™t just a disorder experienced by children and isnâ€™t just about hyperactivityâ€”everyone who suffers from it doesnâ€™t display the bouncing-off-the-walls disposition.
The things that most people with ADHD do have in common is that our minds are constantly thinking a whirlwind of thoughts. Our minds are constantly looking for something we find interesting and if it doesnâ€™t find it we feel â€˜bored.â€™ The whirlwind us usually only broken when a particular thought grabs our attention at which time we go into a mode of â€˜hyperfocusâ€™ where we explore the interesting topic deeply in our minds and find it extremely difficult to think about anything else.
When the boredom and hyperfocus from ADHD is combined, it can easily confused with depression. There are several symptoms of depression. One of those is, â€œloss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once pleasurable.â€ When one has ADHD, most things are only interesting for a while, then we get bored with them. Another symptom is, â€œdifficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions.â€ Although many of us implemented a variety of coping mechanisms over the years, these things are a day-to-day reality for us because we always have this whirlwind of thoughts going through our minds. One of the symptoms of depression that most people thing of when they hear the word depression is, â€œpersistent sad, anzious, or â€˜emptyâ€™ feelingsâ€ and â€œfeelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness.â€ When my mind would discover a problem over which I really had little control, but yet felt that I ought to be able to find a solution, my mind wouldnâ€™t stop thinking about the problem for days while it looked at the problem from every angle and sought for solutions that just didnâ€™t exist. As my mind hyperfocused on the problem and looked for solutions it resulted in those empty feelings.
Why Am I Just Now Realizing I Have ADHD?
Although ADHD is something that usually appears in early childhood, itâ€™s not uncommon for adults to be diagnosed as well. Most people who are diagnosed as adults are diagnosed because they have a child who is diagnosed and they get tested along with the childâ€”ADHD has a strong genetic component. Iâ€™m pretty convinced that my Dad also ADHD and that was a big factor in his restlessness (we lived in more than 20 houses and by the time I graduated high school), his interest in starting many projects (but finishing very few of them), and his alcoholism (as a means of self-medicating).
Many of us who grew up with ADHD (whether we knew we had it or not), develop a number of coping mechanisms. We know what is expected of us and we implement systems and behaviors to help us meet our day-to-day obligations. I also think that having a â€œnormalâ€ â€œjobâ€ where there is a definite schedule, expectations, and oversight is a mechanism that helps keep many of the ADHD symptoms from becoming obvious. So, the normal job becomes a coping mechanism in itself.
In November of 2006 I started a new job that allowed me to work from home most of the time. I could set my own hours and had a lot of autonomy about both what I did and when I did it. A big part of my job involves writing, which is a very difficult in itself. I believe it was the combination of lots of freedom, lack of direct supervision, and mentally intensive work, that brought my ADHD symptoms to light. In March of 2008 I wrote about I felt it was time for a new hobby. I had been feeling restless and bored for a while and I thought I just needed a new hobby or something to get me away from the computer. In retrospect, this was the beginning of my awareness that something wasnâ€™t quite rightâ€”and that something was that I have ADHD.
So, What Am I Doing About It?
ADHD canâ€™t be cured.; it can be treated though. There are two primary treatments: pharmaceuticals and coping mechanisms. Both my psychologist and I want to avoid drugs if at all possibleâ€”they always have other side effects. Over the years Iâ€™ve been really good at implementing various coping mechanisms to help me overcome my natural inclinations. Our hope is that I can continue to discover and implement new coping mechanisms.
I could write a lot more now about things Iâ€™ve been doing for years to help me cope with ADHD, as well as the new things that Iâ€™ve implemented since being diagnosed. I want to save those for other posts though.
Also, ADHD isnâ€™t just a debilitating disorder. You may find it interesting that the very things that cause me the most trouble (a constant whirlwind of thoughts and the ability to hyperfocus) have both been very instrumental in my own success in life and business. I will probably be writing more posts about how my ADHD has helped me in life too. Another reason I donâ€™t want to take ADHD medications is because I do have some fear they may cause me to lose those strengths that have given me an edge in business, ministry, and life.
Just like when I thought I was suffering from depression, God is continuing to use my journey and my diagnosis in my interactions with others. I certainly have more compassion on others with psychological disorders than I used to. I accept that this is the way God made me and I wouldnâ€™t want it any other way. He knows exactly what Heâ€™s doing in my life and I try to see ADHD as another gift He can use. I expect Iâ€™ll be writing more about how ADHD is a gift God uses in my life–and the lives of other–too. In fact, the reason I wan’t to write more about ADHD here is so that I can help others by sharing what I learn along this journey.
So, stay tuned here to find out more about my ADHD experience. If you have specific questions or comments, feel free to post them belowâ€”I really do appreciate and enjoy the feedback and I respond to as many comments as I can.