Nathan’s Story

My life reads like an ADD informational pamphlet. More deadlines missed than made. Lost keys more times than I care to count. Becoming so preoccupied with a thought or a worry that Ive locked my keys in my car at least once a year. Tasks left half finished all the time. Teacher comments. Constant distraction. You name it, I probably exhibit it to some degree or another.

Symptoms of ADD first began to catch up to me in the third grade. Prior to this, I had tremendously dynamic teachers who saw the potential in me and took note to keep me actively engaged. By third grade, school became more traditional–homework, sit at your desk, remain quiet, wait your turn. I was ridiculed by my third grade reading teacher for being a space cadet and disorganized. You dont want to be like Nathan was mentioned a few times to everyone. I went from being an outgoing kid to absolutely devastated and reserved over that year. Sunday evenings were hellish. Crying about going back to school in the morning, anxiety to the point of vomiting, it was too much for me to handle. I was the smart kid in the class with the messy desk, who forgot his pencil, paper, and homework. Teachers would catch me drifting off mentally several times a day. My grades were always good mostly As and a few Bs, but I was testing out in the top 0.5% on intelligence tests. M! y parents constantly heard from my teachers how I was never living up to my potential. No one knew about ADD, so I was just labeled an exceptionally bright kid who was never challenged.

My life at home was pretty disorganized as well. On more than a couple of occasions, when asked to clean out my closet, I wound up distracted by all the treasures I had stumbled upon. I would spend ten minutes playing with a small car I found under a pile of shoes, another half an hour with a microscope in a box, etc. Four days later, my room had more clutter scattered about than I knew what to do with, and my mother would throw her hands up and finish the job for me (in an hour).

Through it all, I managed to attend a prestigious university and get a decent GPA (3.4) without doing much studying. Life at school was great, particularly my freshman year. I constantly socialized with the people on my freshman floor. I gained my confidence back. If I was bored, there were fifty rooms on my hall to visit and chat with, guys and girls. Perfect. People would get a kick out of me studying. When I crammed, I would do it by walking around the hall reading a book, mumbling or talking things through to myself.

By the time I had graduated, I was really overwhelmed. I had taken the whole gamut of courses in different subjects, but I always lost steam by the end of each semester. I never really fully attached myself to one subject. I had essentially drifted through class and nothing really seemed to inspire me to say, this is it.

I landed a job after a lot of soul searching and started life in another city. My apartment was always a mess. It was hard for me to date anyone because I was always embarrassed by the condition of my place. Bills were paid late. One time I got a phone call while searching through the phone book for someone elses number. I had the number on a post-it note somewhere, without a name. Which one was it again? There are no names on any of these. I was eating a pizza when I got the phone call, and immediately made plans to go out. I awoke the next morning to find the pizza box next to my phone and the phone book in the refrigerator. This is not atypical.

The past three years are what led me to my diagnosis. I met a wonderful woman at the beginning of 2000. I didnt have my stuff together yet, but she accepted me for who I was. After dating for nine months, she really was pushing for us to move in together. I agreed after expressing some major reservations mainly my disorganization. Mistake number one. I took a better job in my field. More work, simultaneous tasks, high stress, and very detail oriented. Mistake number two. This was a recipe for disaster.

Initially, she wanted to help out. She would say things like, Dont do that. Youve had a long day at work, so I can take care of it. The truth of it was, I couldnt focus at work. Things were taking me a long time to complete. I wouldnt even record all of my hours, because I felt guilty things were taking me as long as they were. It was always a rush to the deadline on our projects. By crunch time the partner in charge would tell me to get X, Y and Z done and I would really fly when things were laid out for me. It kept happening the same way over and over again. After a year or two, I felt like I was living a lie at work. Id been promoted twice, but the pressure and disorganization were driving me crazy. I would bring my work home to catch up and my girlfriend was getting fed up with my lack of her time. Id go to the laundromat, wash our clothes and then leave them in the basket for a week. Id start to do the dishes, get caught up in something else and ! they would sit for days. Pressure at work and at home really got to me. Some mornings when I felt particularly overwhelmed, Id be so anxious, Id get sick. Eventually, she felt unloved. She built a life without me and then moved out when her ducks were in a row.

It sickens me that I had to learn about this and come to grips with this after paying the price of losing someone I will always dearly love. But Im optimistic that Im now on the right path. Its not going to be easy. No one is going to wave a magic wand and make everything better, so its never going to be easy. At least now there is a way to go about making it easier. I can stick to my ADD plan and start living a better life. I wish I could have learned a little sooner, but better to learn at 27 than to go through my entire life wondering why everything seems to be so difficult.