Adult ADHD General

Hey! I’m not Depressed! :-) I Have ADHD!

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 I’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 point—how I searched for some answers to what I had been feeling and experiencing for a few years. You’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; God’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 didn’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 didn’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 wasn’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 isn’t just a disorder experienced by children and isn’t just about hyperactivity—everyone who suffers from it doesn’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 doesn’t find it we feel ‘bored.’ The whirlwind us usually only broken when a particular thought grabs our attention at which time we go into a mode of ‘hyperfocus’ 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, “loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once pleasurable.” When one has ADHD, most things are only interesting for a while, then we get bored with them. Another symptom is, “difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions.” 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, “persistent sad, anzious, or ‘empty’ feelings” and “feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness.” 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 wouldn’t stop thinking about the problem for days while it looked at the problem from every angle and sought for solutions that just didn’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, it’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 child—ADHD has a strong genetic component. I’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 “normal” “job” 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 wasn’t quite right—and that something was that I have ADHD.

So, What Am I Doing About It?

ADHD can’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 possible—they always have other side effects. Over the years I’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 I’ve been doing for years to help me cope with ADHD, as well as the new things that I’ve implemented since being diagnosed. I want to save those for other posts though.

Also, ADHD isn’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 don’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 wouldn’t want it any other way. He knows exactly what He’s doing in my life and I try to see ADHD as another gift He can use. I expect I’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 below—I really do appreciate and enjoy the feedback and I respond to as many comments as I can.

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Vicky Huff
    7/23/2011 at 6:30 pm

    I really liked reading your blog. This was so interesting because I didn’t realize adults have ADHD. I worked juvenile court for 12 years and every day would see kids who have ADHD. Of course, most of them were being medicated. So glad you were able to find the cause of your illness and I hope everthing works out for you. Tell Sandy hi and hope to see you two in the near future.

  • Reply
    Scott Mayo
    7/25/2011 at 12:27 am

    Very brave Ricky. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    Augusto Pinaud
    7/25/2011 at 8:04 am

    I am so glad Ricky. I am really interested in learn about how you are coping, and what techniques are you using…

    I hope that now that you know the cause of the root, you defeat it!

    Best,

  • Reply
    Reinout van Rees
    7/25/2011 at 10:38 am

    It *was* kinda quiet on your blog 🙂

    Good to see the problem is now known. And especially that you’re thinking about solutions. Have fun implementing them and tweaking them as needed!

  • Reply
    rickyspears
    7/25/2011 at 9:31 pm

    Vicky – Yep, that’s what a lot of people think. Some say Adult ADHD is one of the most common, yet undiagnosed, mental disorders among adults.

    Scott – Thank you for your support and encouragement over the past year as I’ve sought to find out what I was really experiencing.

    Augusto – I really enjoyed being in the Tara’s Productivity Mastermind group with you. It turns out that the things I was trying to work through in that group were the result of the ADHD. So, I’m still working through a lot of those same things, but I have a new framework to place them in now.

    Reinout – Well, now everyone knows why I’ll take blog posting by spells. I’ll hyper-focus on the blog for a while, then become bored with it, then later the cycle repeats all over again. Thanks for subscribing for so long!

  • Reply
    Judi H.
    10/18/2011 at 10:46 pm

    Wow! I stumbled across your blog while I was looking for reviews on the “Planner Pad.”
    I, too, was diagnosed with ADHD in my middle adult years. I was treated for depression many times from my early twenties on. I knew the depression didn’t make any sense. Finally, I was tested for ADHD with a Psychiatrist, and all the bells started ringing!! It was a relief to finally understand how my crazy brain works and why. I have been learning new strategies to cope with it ever since. There was a national convention recently (October 1-3, 2011), that was available online. Unfortunately, my schedule didn’t allow me to attend. I have found that counseling, books, prayer and meditation have helped me slow my monkey mind considerably! If you’ve found any good resources on the web I’d be interested in reading more on your blog. That is, of course, you haven’t grown bored of the topic and moved on to something else!! I can relate.

  • Reply
    rickyspears
    10/29/2011 at 7:27 pm

    Judi – Thanks for finding my blog and for sharing your story. It’s always nice to meet other kindred spirits along life’s journey–and we never know where we’ll encounter them.

    I continue to find myself fascinated by the ADHD mind (and mine especially). 🙂 I do want to share more about things I’ve discovered, especially tips and tricks for motivation and anti-procrastination. So, please stay tuned. I do have more to share, I’m just not sure when that will be.

  • Reply
    Ricky Spears’ Blog » Blog Archive » Power Through Email, Complex Projects, or Boring Tasks by Tracking Your Progress
    11/12/2011 at 10:58 pm

    […] Hey! I’m not Depressed! 🙂 I Have ADHD! 12 […]

  • Reply
    Jessica
    8/19/2013 at 4:37 am

    This is so great! Lately ive been realizing I just might be, due to the hyperfocus (giving me the ability to play guitar&sing) & depression only coming from boredum or someone making me “feel wrong” for something I didnt realize I did. I feel the same way about God using my inattentiveness& hyperactivity for His way!! Awesome!!:)

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