There’s one statement that almost everyone will say in their lifetime: “I can’t find my keys!” Friends consoled me - they lost things too... and we laughed, maybe a little uncomfortably, that it was dementia associated with HIV. Maybe we had “Attention Deficit” or we were just getting old, hah!
Perhaps you’re like me - you drift off when you should be concentrating? I’ve started a load of washing and then moved on to do other things, only to find the laundry sitting wet and smelly two days later.
Do you often run late? I set my clocks forward to fool myself and paid a fine to my friends if I was late. It was an immediate consequence and has worked.
Many times I haven’t shown up at appointments at all - even when I put it on my calendar and scheduled an email reminder. I would start thinking of other things and the appointment would slip from my mind... the doctor’s office finally gave up calling me to find out where I was.. absent-minded!
I went to see a counsellor during a marriage breakup but I once forgot that appointment too. She was kind and I laughed that it was probably Attention Deficit Disorder. ADD.. another label… I felt I had enough of those! She gave me a written test and said I rated high, she felt I definitely had it… oh well! I figured I’d just try harder to change.
Then friends looked bewildered as I asked them questions they’d already answered. I laughed - they were obviously mistaken, I had no recollection of any such conversation. They’d imagined telling me and had never actually said it to me! I remembered everything I had told them, why wouldn’t I remember what they had told me? People, hmm!
Recently, I set a goal, to become an inspirational speaker but my plans seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace and I couldn’t figure out why.. I really wanted to do it and knew I was determined. Depression about my inability to act on my intentions began to settle in. What was the matter with me? Why couldn’t I focus and follow through?
Then, one night it all became crystal clear. I asked a friend a question. He sighed: “Denise, I told you that yesterday, I don’t understand why you don’t listen to me, don’t you care what I say, isn’t it important to you?” I really had no recollection of the conversation at all... then the words seemed eerily familiar… my stomach churned. Why couldn’t I remember conversations? What was going on? I got very scared.
Could this really be Attention Deficit and what exactly was that? I turned to YouTube and typed in “Adult Attention Deficit.” What happened next was nothing short of life changing. I watched as Dr. Russell Barkley started to explain the symptoms and what a serious problem it was, how little attention it got, likely because it was poorly named. He said it should be called “Intention Deficit Disorder”.
I panicked. Memories of my childhood came flooding back, my heart was pounding and I felt like crying. I began to remember all the other times…
When I was a little girl, I was constantly losing the house key; eventually out of frustration, my mother tied a string around my neck with the key attached to it.
I had been in high school in England and my father was tyrannical about me studying for exams. He thought I was smart but easily bored and he encouraged me to find a study partner. At age 16, I passed all my exams and prepared to take my last exams to earn a scholarship for college. Then my mom and dad decided to split up, and I listened to them having loud arguments and couldn’t focus, I couldn’t wait to get out of the house. I failed exams and didn’t get the scholarship. My report card read “Denise is intelligent and needs to apply herself”.
In those days there was nothing much known about Attention Deficit but people are often unable to reach their goals, they need one-on-one coaching, and often they drift through life unfulfilled; it’s a heavy burden on those around them trying to understand why they can’t focus.
At work, I put things aside to deal with later and then came in on the weekend to catch up, I was good at bluffing that I had things under control. Most of my secretarial work was projects though and so I could deal with them quickly and effectively.
ADD’ers are impulsive. Resisting spending and trying to save is difficult. Other addictions can go hand in hand, such as gambling, alcoholism and drugs. My addiction was nice clothes.
Attention Deficit can make you impulsively blurt out comments or become angry.. road rage can be a problem and due to an inability to concentrate, you can be more prone to vehicle accidents. Often others think that someone is a jerk but ADD’ers will tell them!
I discovered that impulsiveness associated with Attention Deficit can also lead to unprotected sex and STD’s. When there are immediate, tangible results, people with Attention Deficit respond well. Getting pregnant was a big fear in my day and I was on the birth control pill... but getting an STD didn’t really seem probable as I had not had many relationships… unfortunately not insisting on a condom had resulted in me getting HIV.
Possibly one advantage for me was that remembering to take my three doses of HIV medication on time was next to impossible and perhaps lead to me being able to avoid the toxicities of the medication in the early days of HIV.
When I looked back, the clearest evidence to me that I had Adult Attention Deficit was a hilarious situation I got myself into one day. I was getting ready for work and I was trying to multi-task… an impossibility. Finally, I donned my raincoat and left my apartment. I walked from my West End home to the TD Centre and, for once, I was early. I headed for the coat closet.. no one else had arrived yet and as I undid my raincoat I felt a cool draft. I looked down and was absolutely horrified to discover that I had forgotten to put my skirt on! I had been looking at myself in my home mirrors that were only half-way up my body and my skirt was still lying on the bed. I took a taxi home immediately and returned to work very red-faced!
You’ve probably never forgotten to put on clothing and, let’s face it, sometimes we’re all just forgetful without having ADD. However, it’s important to realize that this is a problem that doesn’t just affect children, it often continues right into adulthood and you may want to check out the symptoms.
And so back to the present. I was desperate and scheduled an appointment with my psychiatrist at St. Paul’s Hospital - I wouldn’t forget the date and time. I told her that I felt ADD was having catastrophic effects on my life and I couldn’t function. She told me there were methods you could use to focus and there was medication if I wanted it. Even though the side effects sounded a little alarming, I wanted immediate results.
The drug I’m taking now affects my sleep and sometimes I lie awake but there are positive changes too. I make a list every morning (I had tried that solution before but didn’t follow through). I arrive on time. I take money seriously, I cut up my credit cards and use cash instead of my debit card. I try to concentrate on one task at a time and try to stop acting impulsively.
If you’ve wondered if you’re forgetful, are getting old, have dementia or maybe all of this is making you think twice, try checking out this website and watching the following video and see where it leads… I hope you find peace of mind too.
Post-script: I came off the medication due to side effects and am trying omega supplements instead.