Sunday, July 5, 2009

Do I Have Adult ADHD?

When I first learned about ADHD, I immediately became very interested because I thought I saw those traits in members of my family. I pretty much believed that it didn't it describe me but I did suspect it just a bit.

However, this journey to find calm is regrettably still going on and so I'm considering everything. Thus, I've been looking at my younger years to see if I had moments of impulsivity, inattentiveness, and hyperactivity that were so bad that it interfered with my progress academically, socially, and emotionally.

When I look back to my childhood, I see a girl who did a good job at hiding her problems. It was easier to do this because I grew up with an older brother who always out shined me in everything. When we were kids, there was never any question that he was smarter, more popular, more talented, and always, always got into so much more trouble than me. Perhaps this might be why I felt like my problems weren't too big because he always had a bigger load. But does that mean, I didn't have any issues including ADHD? Now I'm thinking no especially since I am learning now that ADHD could be a bit different in girls and women.

I've been looking for clues these past few months and it didn't take long to figure out that there were many signs that I was not the calm kid I framed myself to be. I broke my leg when I was four because I went on some broken playground equipment just to keep up with my cousins. (Hard to explain, just trust me). My mom also told me when we were still living in Korea, I would sometimes tantrum or freak-out so badly that they had to give me "medicine from Germany." What the hell was that? I will never know. I think I was probably 3 or 4 years old.

When I was six, I did not want to lose for the hundredth time to my brother in our daily race home from the school bus stop. We were latch-key kids so we often had no supervision until my mom came home from work. One day, it was pouring rain which automatically meant that our race was canceled. However, I decided it was my day to win and so I closed my eyes and darted across the street, from the middle, not the crosswalk. It wasn't my light and so of course I was hit by a car and broke my leg.

In the fourth grade, I had a not-so-patient teacher who tested our reading comprehension every week by making us answer four questions after reading the most boring stories in the world. I failed every one of those tests that year because I could never get past the first paragraph. I would invariably just get lost. My parents didn't know because I managed to hide it from them. I was a good at forgery of which you just have to forgive me because my Dad believed in corporal punishment. The next year, I had a wonderful teacher who motivated me and had little trouble in school. I actually got good grades most of my life until 10th grade when things became harder and then I ended up with average grades.

Socially, I was somewhat awkward. I always had friends but I would be very self-conscious to the point that I sometimes didn't even hear what they were saying to me. I rarely wanted to go out to play. I was content watching t.v. and eating Chef Boyardee every day after school but luckily for me, they managed to drag me out often. I did enjoy playing but transitioning out of my house afterschool was hard for me.

In high school, I didn't really find my way socially until I founded a club that focused on celebrating Asian cultural heritage. However, the experience was so much more than that because leading a club often meant that you got a chance to practice public speaking, recruiting, advertising, and selling. This is the way I chose to interact with my classmates. I couldn't just be there and have friends, I always had to have some purpose or task.

Additionally, I had strange habits in school. I was a horrible note-taker and learning generally consisted of going home and teaching myself the lessons through the textbook. I was successful at it until the coursework became too difficult. To be sure, physics and pre-calculus stopped the "teach-thyself" method dead in its tracks. I was also a night owl, unable to study and do complicated homework until it was late at night, quiet, with no distractions.

Believe it or not, I'm not that different now. I can read much better especially when it's quiet but I still avoid reading or learning things that are boring, tedious, and complicated. Luckily, I have Kai to help me with some of these things.

I am also still self-conscious in social situations and I have a much easier time in a crowd if I have a job to do, whether it be serving drinks or serving the cause of my charity. ADHD experts say that undiagnosed adults have found ways to compensate for their condition and only find out about themselves when their child is diagnosed. For me, I still never looked back at my childhood with a clear eye when Logan was evaluated. In fact, I managed to attribute everything to Kai. (Could I be more pitiful?) But the truth could no longer be ignored because as the kids got older and the behaviors became more challenging, there was certainly no compensating my way around them. I wonder if all children have a way of making their parents uncover things they don't want to admit about themselves.

Last month I met a neurologist who quite instantly agreed with me that I might have ADHD after I told him what I have been going through and about my childhood and my child's diagnosis. It took less than twenty minutes. Could it be that simple? Perhaps it could be since I was giving him the results of all I had gone through with other doctors and yet, it still felt a bit rushed and uncaring. I decided that that this was managed care and that I should do my best to work with this person for at least a few months. I am also afraid that I am going through doctors like fortune tellers, just waiting for the right one to tell me what I want to hear (whatever that may be).

The neurologist gave me a prescription for a stimulant and wanted to give me something else because he felt that I had "two pathologies." (Why do doctors talk this way? Do they take a course in med school named, "How to Make Your Patients Feel Certifiable") I told him that I'd like to try one drug at a time and he suggested that it be the ADHD drug. I don't dislike drugs but I no longer use the analogy, "an ADHD drug is like putting on a pair of glasses." Sorry, but there are no glasses that I know of that can even possibly raise the risk of sudden unexplained cardiac arrest in children. And yet, I want to give everything a try because while an ADHD or any psychotropic drug may not be like a pair of glasses, it doesn't change the fact that you are indeed squinting to see things.

Bottomline: Three MDs and still I don't feel like I've found all the answers but I haven't given up. The doctor wants me to do an EEG and an MRI. This really annoyed me because I don't even feel like I have time for a haircut but I'm going to close my eyes, shut my mouth, and just jump. Let's see if this doctor and the Theory of Two Pathologies can help this mom be calm.

Picture: Me in my first grade portrait which obviously has not been properly stored. That year, I managed to move to a new country, adopt a new name (Jennifer), learn to speak English, make rice for dinner, and get run over by a car.


maniacal groomer said...

ADHD does behave differently in women. Women tend to have ADD more frequently but some of us do have ADHD. Also hyperactivity is something that can disappear throughout the years, not necessarily but often it does. Wether the more frequent occurrence of ADD as opposed to ADHD in women has a biological cause I don't know. It could also be a process of socialization because there are different standards of behavior for women in most cultures and Hyperactivity is not seen as something gender-specific ( and therefor desirable for girls). I lost my hyperactivity around the age of seventeen I guess.
I will tell you a bit more about my diagnosis. It's meant for you to look at to see if you recognize anything (hoping it's helpful in some way). I'm 31, I was diagnosed at thirty. I was oblivious to anything ADHD related up to that point. I went to the doctors with symptoms of depression. I felt like I couldn't cope with the most normal things in live (and this is key) like: time management, financial administration, study and social interaction. I thought this was due to my depression. I was also concerned since I was recently laid off from a relatively simple job as a consultant for a bank where during a very simple training I failed a specific test which demanded a lot of role play situations where that mimiced actual situations where we had to advice customers who had very disorganized ways of communication. It was in essence a test wether we could handle chaotic customers who provided a lot of disorganized information to us. I failed and because I was already working in a job below my below my education level and had never been laid off this was a huge blow to my ego. It did however led me to spiral into depression which eventually led me to seek professional help. I was diagnosed in one session. What gave me away was that I actually described in minute detail every symptom of ADHD as my behavior. Just in different words, which is logical since I wasn't aware of ADHD vocab. So I didn't use the word hyper-focus but I described I couldn't concentrate unless under extreme pressure on a one aspect of a task to the point of exhaustion which then let me to loose track of the bigger picture and disrupt the other processes of the situation/task. I didn't say I was inattentive but instead I remarked it was impossible for me not to fuck up at least every five minutes because of my messiness. Basically I was describing ADHD without knowing it. What really gave me away is when I started about my childhood and my relationship with my mom which was bad because she never knew what the problem was. I was the black sheep of the family. When I was really young was a major tomboy. I always wanted to have my way and was overly talkative at a very young age. Since it was apparent that I was intelligent everybody attributed my inability to follow directions and listen to fault. They also thought I was rebellious. I did have tantrums and was quickly deemed the difficult child. I know my mom discussed me a lot (to her dying day actually with relatives). My difficult behavior subsided a bit up to my twelfth year. I was a reblious angry teen who was quite the class clown and NEVER did ANY homework throughout high-school but still passed classes with mediocre grades.

maniacal groomer said...

(follow up) When I got my first boyfriend I decided to give up the class-clown act because I wanted my BF to like me( the things we'll do for men). I succeeded at toning down my hyperactivity and started behaving more like a lady while suppressing my spontaneity. I never did actually quite fit in with the gals because of my complex psychological makeup. But with standing out less also comes that people have expectations of you because you're a young seemingly normal adult. And that was where it all started going wrong. In college where the degree of difficulty mounts up I couldn't cope. That's where my inattentiveness really reared it's ugly head. And even though I "overacted like a lady still couldn't fit in with my sorority sisters. The constant administrative fuck-ups I made when I had to something for the sorority and my bluntness were yet again mistaken for sabotage and rebellion and I was actually socially ousted from my sorority in a way. I guess what I 'm trying to say is that socially I've always stood out like a sore thumb. In some occasions my environment reacted okay to this and in some cases it has led me to become an outsider. That's basically how ADHD has manifested itself in my live. You might recognize something and you might not but don't use one person's story as an ultimate yardstick. ADHD/ADD has many faces and manifests itself in lots of different ways due to lots of different factors ( sex class upbringing culture....). If you want to read more on other people their stories tryout This is a forum for adhd/add parents patients etc. For me the forum was where I really found recognition. Maybe it will help you too? You will have to become a member though, good luck!

Karen Griffith Gryga said...


Wow -- good luck on your journey of discovery. Keep on pushing forward -- you are doing terrific things!


Hartley said...

Hi Jenn,
I think as special needs moms our definition of "calm" needs to be tweaked a bit. I may just write my own blog post on this (inspiration is everywhere!), but it sounds like you are comparing your pre-kids life with your with-kids life. I am not trying being pesimistic, but you will never fully get that life back. There is such a long grieving process that we go through over and over again raising kiddos like ours. You are not going to find the same calm you had before--I spent 2 1/2 years on antianxiety meds before realizing that the chaos I live in is here to stay. My advice is to find our OWN calm inside yourself. It is there in brief and often fleeting moments, but you can and will find it and it will help recenter you (often!). Remember the feeling of calm won't always be there, but it will come in small doses here and there. Even if you do or do not have ADHD. :)
Hang in there. You are doing a fantastic job being calm and mommying those darling boys of yours. Email me anytime you need to chat--or just aren't feeling calm. ;)