Is that an earthquake? No, but the dining room table vibrated through each meal with James. He should have been nicknamed “Thumper.” He just had to move something and at dinner it was one leg that constantly made the dishes rattle.
While the rest of the family spent holidays together eating, talking, watching games, playing with new gadgets or tools, James took a drive to find at least one store that was open. He didn’t care what it was, just something different and away from a group gathering. If he couldn’t get away, he drifted to the back of the group and let his mind fly free.
His room was a disaster area, littered with dozens of half-empty Coca Cola cups, jumbled books and papers, mountains of clothes- both clean and dirty. No amount of time or effort could make sense of the mess.
Incredibly gifted at seeing how things work, he learned to repair computers. He could take laptops down to their smallest pieces, repair the problem, and put them back together again. (It was pretty scary if it was your computer he was dismantling.) From there he went on to servers and huge computer backup solutions. Although his solutions to the technical problems on his job were often brilliant, he had difficulty staying in a job for very long. His verbal outbursts and critical attitude caused trouble with bosses and co-workers and his own restlessness drove him to find something “better.”
James thrived on impulsive, high risk activities. Racing bikes down steep mountain trails gave way to frequent speeding tickets when he was old enough to drive. He was a night owl who struggled through a haze to wake up in the morning. Only the inevitable Coke seemed to help him get through his day.
All these pictures came to mind as, Nancy, the presenter spoke. Last December my husband and I attended a conference for those who help support PWs.
I called James that evening and asked him to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as I read a list of symptoms to him. He said ‘yes’ to almost every one. That began a process for him of getting help for a condition that was not recognized through childhood and young adulthood. The topic of this session was Adult-Attention Deficit Disorder (Adult-ADD). We were told that there is a much higher incidence of ADD among families that work cross culturally. Since there seems to be a genetic link, families with ADD children, may also have an Adult-ADD parent that has gone undiagnosed.
His primary care doctor referred him to a psychiatrist who could test thoroughly and prescribe appropriate medications. The first medicine he tried really worked for the ADD symptoms but left him with some unacceptable side effects. After changing the medicine, he has no side effects and he is doing much better at work, at home and in other relationships.
The ironic twist in the story is that his wife has struggled with anxiety for years. Frustrated with medications that just didn’t seem to touch the problem, she discovered that she possibly also had Adult-ADD. Michelle made an appointment for testing.
She had to drive to a part of town that she wasn’t familiar with and then had to parallel park. Now Michelle finds parallel parking extremely upsetting, so she was still nervous when she went into the office. She was digging through her purse trying to find coins for the parking meter. A nice looking man came from a back room and asked who she was there to see. He explained that the office she needed was across the street. She told him she needed change for the parking meter and asked to use the restroom. He directed her to the restroom and when she came out, he said he would walk her across the street to the correct office. He put a coin in the meter as they crossed the street. She no sooner arrived in the other office when she realized she had left her purse in the restroom across the street. The helpful man turned out to be a doctor in the same practice. He said he would retrieve her purse for her and turned to the doctor she was supposed to see and said, “Be sure to test her for Adult-ADD.”
Michelle was amazed that he thought what had just happened was extraordinary enough to warrant testing. That was just a normal hour for her. Michelle didn’t have the same symptoms as her husband, yet was clearly ADD.
Michelle had gone mis-diagnosed for years. She didn’t have the usual hyperactive symptoms that alert teachers and doctors of ADD in boys.
In her teens, mood swings, hyper-irritability and emotional over-reaction were blamed on PMS. She often felt out of step and this led to anxiety and depression for which she was treated for years. Like so many other women, she had compensated better than her husband. But when the stresses of a hard job with a long commute and balancing family life, work and church increased, she could no longer cope. It was in this slurry of anxiety that she finally got the help she needed. A quiet, withdrawn, compliant, very hard-working girl didn’t raise any alarm. The fact that she had to work so much harder than her classmates to read and complete assignments was masked by the fact that she was so conscientious. She worked really hard at not being labeled “bad” in social interactions as well as school work.
She was tested and a medication was prescribed. Within days of starting the medication, life seemed to slow down to a tolerable level. In the midst of the sale of their house, a move to another location and job change, she is doing well. She is much more organized, less frenzied, and happier.
So what does this mean to women living cross culturally? In a group of more than 650 women, there are sure to be some with undiagnosed Adult-ADD. Many of you may be living with an ADD husband or children.
The next time you have the opportunity to be tested and treated, don’t pass it up. It may take several tries to get the medication balanced properly, but it is well worth the effort and cost.
Some of the following suggestions will work with anyone dealing with ADD, but they are primarily helpful for women with Adult-ADD.
- Learn about your ADD
- Make more realistic expectations for yourself
- Educate your husband about your ADD and how it affects you
- Keep an attitude of acceptance and good humor
- Simplify your life by reducing your commitments and the commitments of your children
- Don’t hang around those who make you feel bad by comparisons
- Build a support group with some others who are understanding and supportive
- Find a way to “recharge your batteries” each day and a larger block of time each week
- Eliminate clutter
- Delegate to others responsibilities that overwhelm you
- Get help for PMS
- Focus on the things you love to do
- Make good use of lists and priorities- break big projects into smaller pieces
- Get enough sleep
We could only scratch the surface of this topic. So if you are interested in more information on symptoms, treatments and coping skills, check out the following resources:
Women and ADD
ADHD in Women
Managing adult ADHD – Dana Rayburn