Kristen’s Story

This is the first time I have ever written to a site about my ADD. I am going to be 34 and was just diagnosed this past year. I am female, left-handed; not that these matter that much to the story.

As a child I was very creative, intuitive, ‘saw things’, and learned how to read/write very early. This kicked off a grammar school career of being alternately bored and frustrated by having to suffer through my classmate’s slow (to me) grasp of spelling, grammar, comprehension, etc. I was put ahead from 5th or 6th grade when I tested, along with two other classmates, as far above the state and very high in the national levels for verbal/reading skills. But, when I got to 7th grade there was nowhere else to go so I did independent study. My math skills were average and sometimes seemed below even that– a sharp contrast to my verbal/written skills. In order to understand math I started early on making up stories about the numbers and their relationships to each other; as if they had personalities.

High school went okay but by then my ‘misunderstood’ personality was showing through. Separated from my one best friend, it was very hard for me to make friends or function in ‘cliques’ at my all-girl school. I was very lonely. College was much better socially–a large state college where I lived in a male/female dorm and quickly got into the social scene. But, academically, things were rough; 2 reasons- the classes were HUGE, which made in impossible for me to connect to instructors or pay attention, and I could not resist the distractions of social life. I got by in my old standby’s… literature and the arts, but math and science classes were a disaster. I transfered with a friend to a smaller college with less stringent academics and smaller classes and managed to do well while simultaneously working and having a social life.

My friend and I had gotten an apartment and this really reduced the distractions I think; also, I was able to connect with professors and pursued a sociology/creative writing degree. I graduated a little late but got out and jumped into the working world– as an outside sales person for a beauty/fashion related company. One of my problems, I think ADD-related, is that I have NO sense of direction. My post-college job required me to drive all over the state and I was constantly getting lost. Also, I was required to make and manage my own schedule of calling on clients– my boss operated 3 states away– so as you can imagine, if you are ADD, there were many detours and blown-off appointments. The funniest thing is that I actually got into a car accident with the owner of my company’s biggest client; a high-end day spa in Greenwich CT. I rear-ended the owner’s rare old Alfa Romeo. My job did not last long after that.

Following that stint, I became a nanny, a writer for a women’s magazine (small, free) and then joined my college roomy at her job with a recruiting firm. I stayed there for 8 years, always plotting an escape but over time managing to make more and more money due to our ‘sales pyramid’ system.. eventually I ended up with the golden handcuffs syndrome. The ups and downs of the sales world actually suited me; stimulation and uncertainty; roller-coaster riding that made each day somewhat novel. This was during my 20’s.

My social life was wild; I hung out with the freaks, artists, musicians and party people and did and saw things that I marvel at now. Eventually there was an emptiness in my soul at the end of every weekend. This time was also, ironically,a very spiritual one for me; many hours soul-seeking, writing in my journal and stints of psychotherapy. As a single young person I had few responsibilities other than to get to my job each day so I managed along looking like a successful professional.

When I turned 30 I was making @100K and was pretty impressed with myself. I had formed a writer’s group and between that and art classes, got the creative outlet I have always needed. Three months after my 30th bday I met my husband. We had a whirlwind romance culminating in our daughter being conceived after we had been dating for only three months. Regardless; we were both ecstatic.

I knew that I had found my soul mate and was not frightened. I had done a lot of praying before meeting my husband and I knew that ‘the one’ had arrived in my life. We braved the shock and concern of our families.. bought a house about a month before our daughter was born, and got married when she was 11 months old. Talk about doing things backwards; but for us, it worked.

Sorry for all the background; here is where it gets interesting. After I had the baby and went on maternity leave I discovered that my position/title was being “restructured”– ie I was demoted– and I commenced a 2-year legal battle with my former employers. The stress of that time was unbelievable; fighting the lawsuit while being a new mother and helping my husband renovate and run a multi-family house. The loss of my job and new role as mother created a massive identity crisis for me and the stress levels really brought out the ADD symptoms in full force.

I started a new business in antiques and lost myself in the “search and find” elements but could never keep my records/paperwork straight; could not break my pattern of novelty-seeking to tend to the other aspects of the job; muddled in time-management issues that made me late for appointments or forgetting them all together. During this time I could not even get myself to keep a daily planner–that alone was too much of hassle. Scraps of paper were everywhere. Piles were everywhere. I really wanted my business to work and realized that I had serious “executive function” issues. It was so demoralizing.

One of the only things my husband and I fought about, believe it or not, was when he on occaision brought company home without warning me ahead. The shame I feel when my “mess” is visible to guests is unbelievable. This is one of the first first “‘red flags” that gave me a clue about my ADD. I was reading an article about women who are ashamed of their messes. The symptom list for ADD at the end of the article fit me pretty closely. I went to my therapist and told her what I had discovered and her reaction was very cool. She does not believe in ADD diagnosing and/or medication.

I started to research on my own and ended up leaving her and going to a behaviorist to be tested. The testing session was extremely emotional for me. Having to say “yes, yes, yes” to all the questions– I was laughing at some points and crying by the end of it. I took my diagnosis to my GP and started Adderall about 5 mos. ago. I have good and bad feelings about it.

In the beginning I was STUNNED by the organizational skills imparted but as is common the effects have diminished subtly over time and I have psychological concerns about the concept of taking a stimulant and becoming dependant. I don’t like the coming down phase every day and am aware of it even though it is supposed to be gradual and gentle. I also get insomnia if I take it too late. Timing it is still hard for me; dosage levels, etc. BUT, when my Adderall first kicks in, I am able to painlessly and efficiently tackle things that I would have let go for months before… in a few months I will be taking over a small retail business while managing my household and my 3 year old daughter’s life, and all of this requires time management skills, focus, and all of those good things we ADD’ers find in such short supply.

I am optimistic, though, an just thought of another good thing; before going on Adderall I was starting to have nightly anxiety sessions that were almost irrational. I think by that time my adrenals had just been taxed out completely. I don’t have those any more. (Anxiety spells.) Side effects have mostly gone away– I lost some weight and was already thin so this is a bit of a bother but it seems to have leveled off. Sex drive is back; initial headaches went away. Now if I can just get over the guilt feelings of “taking drugs” I should be in good shape. Pray for me if you do that sort of stuff, thanks for reading my post, and Good luck to you all and peace and success in your journeys!