Understanding My New Brain With ADHD

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Words by Melissa Boles

I couldn’t focus. Every day seemed harder and harder – I was losing my ability to accomplish my daily tasks and I couldn’t understand what was happening.

Nothing seemed to work. I’d get up and walk around, and when I sat back down the first thing I would reach for is my phone, my crutch when I was bored. The thing was, I wasn’t bored. My brain was being challenged, I was learning new things, and I had a lot to do. But I couldn’t seem to get anything done.

So, I picked up the phone, called my insurance company, and set up an appointment with a therapist. There was something going on, and I needed help figuring out what it was. My therapist is wonderful. She’s a few years older than me, and has been incredibly astute thus far.

So, when she told me that she thought I might have ADHD, I listened.

She gave me a book called Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, MD, and John Ratey, MD. The best thing about it was that it was designed for folks with ADHD – you read what you need, so jumping over pieces of the book not applicable to you was completely okay. I flew through the pieces that applied to me and began to have flashbacks from school.

In fifth grade, when I was “bored” during math, I would get up and leave. In high school, I just wouldn’t do my homework, and I couldn’t explain or understand why. In college, I paid attention best in classes when I was doing other things, but my professors thought I wasn’t paying attention.

I’ve been a daydreamer my whole life. At cashier jobs, when I didn’t have customers, I’d pull off extra receipt tape and write stories. I’d lose hours when I was supposed to be doing homework or student involvement work because I’d be dreaming about the future, or thinking about how to change something in the past. Neither were productive.

I’ve read several books since that first book. Each one gives me a few more tips and tricks for how to focus better, or how to accomplish my tasks. Some days are easier than others. Some tips I’m still working on.

Based on what I’ve read, what I’ve covered with my therapist, and what I’ve talked about with my family, I’ve had ADHD for much of my life. But this is the first time I’ve known about it or tried to deal with it. And that has honestly been the hardest part.

It’s both liberating and paralyzing to know that there is a reason your brain works differently. There’s suddenly a reason for the way you’ve been doing everything. Admittedly, it can be hard to not use that as an excuse at the beginning. “I didn’t do that. I have ADHD.”

Then I started listening to a podcast called “Faster Than Normal” by Peter Shankman and that started to change everything. ADHD isn’t debilitating – it just means that my brain is moving faster than normal. I’m still figuring out what that means and how to work within it, but it’s helped me to understand better what is happening in my brain.

I turned 29 at the end of May. When I was younger, I imagined that this close to 30 I would have everything together. I had visions of a condo I’d purchased, a car that wasn’t above the legal drinking age, and a partner with whom I shared a grey cat. None of those things exist yet, and instead I’m still figuring out who I really am and how to be successful. Getting an ADHD diagnosis was a lot harder than I expected. I already wasn’t on the path I imagined myself to be on, and this took me off further.

I said this to my therapist recently, and she told me to take a better look at where I was. I have a good job where I’m learning a lot and am challenging myself. I own my vehicle. I live in a nice home in a good neighborhood, with a great landlord. I have good friends, and am involved in the community. Just because it doesn’t look exactly like I envisioned doesn’t mean I’m not at a good place. And suddenly knowing I have ADHD doesn’t mean I’m not the capable, successful human I’ve always been.

There’s a lot for me to learn still. But I’m ready to learn and grow and understand my faster than normal brain.

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Melissa Boles is a young professional living in Washington state, who is learning to cook, to keep a plant alive, and to love herself and others. She is a love letter and coffee date enthusiast, a storyteller, a greater fool, and a feminist. Her heart lies in helping people and improving the world around her.

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