Adult ADHD/a Comprehensive Treatment Plan is Key to Success
Adult ADHD / A Comprehensive Treatment Plan is the Key to Success
I was fifty five years old, nearing retirement age and I was being diagnosed with ADHD or ADD. I had no idea what was involved in having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD) other than, of course, the symptoms I had been living with all my life were being given a reason for their presence and now I knew there was a medical cause for them-at least it was known there was a neurological, cognitive malfunction of some sort. Okay, give me some medication and I’ll go home and see if it helps enough to clear my static-filled head so that I can function somewhat like everyone else-the normal people. There was no education, no suggestions of what else might be helpful to try, no offer or recommendation to engage in any type of therapy or coaching. In other words, no comprehensive treatment plan.
The medication was a miracle or so I thought! What happened on the first day of taking this medication was simply amazing. I distinctly remember sitting on the living room floor working on one of my many art projects when, all of a sudden, something very unusual caused me to slowly lift my head from my work and carefully begin to scan the room. Shifting my eyes from one object to another trying to convince myself that what I was seeing was real, I jumped to my feet with excitement. My first thought was, “So this is what the world looks like to other people!” The only way I could think of it was to compare it to having been walking around extremely nearsighted all of my life and having just put on my first pair of glasses. I couldn’t really figure out what it was that was causing everything in the room to appear so clear. I mean, this was supposed to be a problem in my brain, not my eyes. It wasn’t long before I gave up caring what it was because I got busy in the days that followed enjoying my new found ability to function in a more organized fashion than I had ever been capable of in the past. I thought the medication had, not only changed my life for the better, but saved it, too. It wasn’t until sometime later that I was able to figure out why the objects looked so much clearer to me now. It was that I was able to focus on each one individually. Prior to taking the medication it was more like everything I looked at was just one of a cluster of everything within my field of vision.
It’s been about five years now since my diagnosis and although the medication continues to be tremendously helpful, I’ve since learned that the pills alone don’t cut it. Once I became accustomed to this new and improved ability to filter the clutter, I found it wasn’t enough to allow me to function as well as I would have liked. When I found myself becoming overwhelmed with trying, I began to intensify my research to learn everything I possibly could about this disorder, why I didn’t seem to be “better enough” and what I could do, if anything, to live a more satisfying and productive life with ADHD. What I have since learned that is most helpful is that, although, medication appears for most to be the first line of treatment, other strategies were absolutely essential for optimal functioning. They include coaching, cognitive behavioral therapy, emotional support/support groups, modification of techniques tried, professional organizing help and continued reading to learn as much as possible and to stay updated on the latest research. Not all of these are necessarily needed for everyone and can be expensive, but these are options available to assist the ADHD person to live a good and even a great life. Most of what I have been able to take advantage of so far is educating myself by reading everything I can whether in books, magazines or on the internet. There is a wealth of information available. I also listen to webinars and podcasts available on sites such as ADDA.org (Adult ADD Association), which, by the way, is a great site for resources. You can even find video information on YouTube. I did hire my daughter, an unemployed teacher and master organizer, to help me to organize my files and prioritize my “to do” list. She has acted as my coach, as well. It was extremely helpful to delve into what seemed much too overwhelming to even begin. But the thing I have found to be most helpful is to continually monitor what it is that I can change if my life does not seem to be flowing well in a particular area. I’ll give an example of what my modifications came down to after reassessing why it was taking me so long to get through a morning routine. I finally came to the realization that I had to make a list, a very basic one, every morning. This was not your typical list of what needed to be done that day, no, it is a list of the
basic, every day activities that most people do without a second thought. Here are the items on my morning list: Teeth, face, meds, vitamins, exercise, meditation, shower, dress, hair, make-up, water (to remind myself to drink it throughout the day). Since I’m semi-retired and no longer have the structure of going to a job outside of the home, if I don’t make this list, I might look up at the clock at three PM and become distraught with the realization that I have not yet brushed my teeth. Rather, I may get so distracted with one idea or another that I don’t even think about anything on this list. It has been fun for me to find out how well this works and to change one more little thing that results in speeding up the morning process. An example would be, I figured out that I have to be very much aware of going directly from one task to the next, even if I have to say, “No!” out loud to keep myself from wiping down the whole bathroom after brushing my teeth. I could be walking from the bedroom to the bathroom and on the way have so many thoughts of where else I need to go and what I want to do during that short walk, I will have to keep reeling myself back into the straight line from point A to point B.
I’d like to emphasize that medication, in my experience, is an excellent beginning point. However, don’t stop there. The medication is going to provide enough filtering and focus for you to be able to explore all that is available and to determine which additional strategies will provide the most benefit to your treatment plan. The other thing to remember is that continual assessment and reassessment of what’s working and what isn’t is vital for improvement. And remember, there is always something that can be modified to keep you on the upward climb to ultimate success! So medication first is the best place to start, but just don’t stop there. Do yourself a great favor and delve into all that is available and talk to your doctor and figure out what will be most helpful to compliment your medication regime. The key to ultimate success in living your best possible life with A.D.D. is to be following a comprehensive treatment plan. You can do this withthe assistance of a health care professional as well as by reading the multitude of literature available now.
Here are some websites with reliable resources and information:
www.add.org : Attention Deficit Disorder Association
www.chadd.org : Children and Adults with ADHD
www.additudemag.com : Living Well With Attention Deficit