ADHD Story: "I can tell you that my life has improved tremendously"

 

Success Stories By Melissa Davis

It never fails. The same question comes to mind each time I enter through the gates of NASA Johnson Space Center.

“How in the world did I get here?!”

I’m still amazed by the fact that this small-town Indiana native has worked for nearly two years at the home of human spacefight. I’m even more amazed that I went from being the Center’s newspaper editor to recently being promoted to Senior Communications Specialist, serving as my team’s lead. Sometimes I find myself shocked that the chief of Mission Control’s Flight Directors doesn’t laugh at me when I call for an interview or an astronaut doesn’t stop in the middle of a press conference to point out that I don’t belong there.

Don’t they know that basic algebra terrifies me, or that I never took physics? Can’t they tell by looking at me how pathetic I did on the SAT or that I never earned my bachelor’s degree?

I’ve had Attention Deficit Disorder all of my life. However, it wasn’t diagnosed until 29 years had passed. That’s a long time to try and hide all my “dirty little secrets” – like how I procrastinate everything, lose focus as quickly as I gain it and struggle to understand what people are saying to me because my thoughts are swirling around a zillion miles a minute.

I’m a writer who hates writing but loves having written. I’m a copy editor who can’t force herself to read an entire book. I’m a journalist who has little mainstream knowledge because I can’t sit through a movie or watch TV for any length of time.

My ADD was first recognized by a therapist in late 2000. What a shock it was to hear, since I was there to receive guidance through my marital separation. (Little did I know that failed relationships are common amongst ADDers.)

I first resisted the idea that I could have ADD. I was a known ADD cynic, dismissing it as a psychobabble label they stuck on little boys who simply needed a spanking. In my mind, ADD was over-diagnosed and definitely not something that affected adult women.

Once I took time to familiarize myself on the subject, I learned there are various types of ADD. When I read the symptoms of the inattentive type, I felt as if someone had written down all the behaviors that have caused me extreme amounts of anxiety, frustration and, at times, embarrassment throughout my life.

I worked with a psychiatrist who put me on medications that didn’t work well for me. Before she could find a solution I moved to Houston. Once arriving here I tried to self-manage through strict regimens that fell apart with the smallest amount of unforeseen stress.

I struggled for a year until I finally started seeing Jackie Reese, a therapist who oversees our employee assistance program. While her specialty isn’t ADD, she’s worked hard to understand my situation. Her encouragement has been the key to keeping me as balanced as possible.

Jackie strongly encouraged me to give medication another try. I found a psychiatrist to work with and he prescribed Adderall. I couldn’t believe the difference. I didn’t feel funny or sick; life just suddenly came into focus. I instantly had drive, energy and the desire to do even mundane tasks.

There’s no cure for ADD but I can tell you that my life has improved tremendously by (1.) learning how to deal with it through knowledge and simple organizational tips and (2.) by getting properly medicated (with ‘properly’ being the key word!).

I’m now ready for a third step: Coaching.

Medication is great but, if you have no structural support to channel that energy, you still feel stuck. I was fortunate to locate in Houston an innovative place called the Clinic for Adults with Attention Problems. The CAAP staff – led by Dr. A. Timothy Butcher – uses assessment data to carefully tailor medical and behavioral treatments to each patient’s unique needs.

I had to go through an extremely involved screening process consisting of meetings, lots of paperwork and a six-hour day filled with testing to pinpoint neurological indicators of ADD. The testing was designed to completely strip away all of the adaptive skills I’ve learned over the years. The tests were grueling and I felt pretty lame when finished.

While I hated the process I’m glad I completed it because Dr. Butcher was able to confirm that I do indeed have inattentive ADD. At first it was hard to grasp that, without a doubt, I truly do have a learning disability.

However, I soon felt an amazing amount of hope when Dr. Butcher assured me that he and his staff will help me readjust my learning style and organizational habits for greater personal success. He also made me promise that I wouldn’t give up if the process seemed too hard, too tedious or too boring. It was then that I realized he truly does understand how my ADD brain works.

I’m now thrilled to think I might actually achieve what I know I’m capable of achieving.

At this moment I stand at the threshold of something better than I’ve ever known before. I can just feel it. I’m eager for the day when the anxiety lessens, the white noise in my mind quiets down and the chaos is effectively managed by self-discipline.

I’m eager to know how much more I can achieve when taught how to remove self-imposed obstacles, to push myself to act when the time is right and to achieve balance through organization.

In spite of what has entangled my thought process for 31 years, I still can say I’ve pieced my life together pretty well through determination and sheer will. However, external success will mean so much more to me when I can stop the constant struggling and actually feel harmony in my spirit and calm in mind.

 

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