When an adult is first diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, it can be a frightening, yet exciting, time. It can be confusing and bring a sense of relief all at once. For some, it is a journey of self-discovery. Noll was 30 years old when he shared his story with me.
Noll had been working as an advertising sales representative for a national magazine for over 2 years. It was his most recent in a string of jobs. He is doing well, although, by his own admission, he felt that he could do better. He gets along with his co-workers and bosses. The company is relaxed and flexible, allowing him a little more freedom than he would have in a larger, more rigid company. Even so, Noll has begun to feel restless and wonders if he should begin to look for a new job. This feeling is familiar to Noll, he says it happens often, that jobs get "old", that he begins to feel restless, that he begins to start thinking of where to go and what to do next.
Noll has had a series of jobs over the years. He began as a graphic artist and following that has worked in remodeling, customer service, landscaping, door-to-door sales and telephone sales. With each new job, Noll would succeed for a while. Then he would become bored or just felt he needed a change and off he would go. His present job, at more than 2 years, is the longest he has held any one position. Noll feels those same feelings and this time they scare him. Since he started this job, he has gotten married, bought a house, and had a baby. This time, there are other people counting on him and he needs to create stability for his family.
Over the past few years, Noll has watched as friends moved ahead and received success. He has seen them receive promotions and gain more financially and although happy for them, he wondered why he could not seem to reach the same status. He was bright enough, but always seemed to be starting over rather than building upon his successes. Intellectually, Noll knew all the reasons: he was disorganized and lacked motivation. He became anxious and easily distracted. He sometimes "locked in" to a task and couldn't move on until reaching a certain point. He knew that there were projects throughout his life that were never completed. Noll knew all the reasons, but he did not understand any of them. He didn't understand why friends could get it together and he could not. He didn't understand why he couldn't follow through and why he couldn't complete anything. He didn't understand why he would start a new job with enthusiasm and then suddenly get bored. He didn't understand why his ideas were so great, but nothing every came of them.
Familiar with psychiatry because of family members, Noll decided one day to make an appointment for himself. He wasn't sure why or if there was anything they could do to help, but he was running out of options and desperately wanted to be a provider for his family. He wanted to change and wanted to improve his life. Noll was shocked when the psychiatrist told him he was exhibiting symptoms of ADHD. He had heard of ADHD, knew what it was, but had never associated it with his own problems. It had never occurred to him that all his difficulties might have a name and a reason.
Being an "idea" person, Noll liked to research and explore theories. He began a search for information on ADHD and the more he read, the more he knew it described his life. During his school days, Noll had been diagnosed with a Learning Disorder, although he has no recollection of the name of the disorder. He was sent to a school that specialized in teaching children with learning problems. During that time, his parents were getting a divorce and they were told that his behaviors could well be a result of their separation, that he was acting out in an attempt to get them reunited.
The information he was reading now explained the problems he had had in school.
Noll could never sit still; he had trouble concentrating and suffered from insomnia all his life. For years, Noll had felt there was something "wrong" with him and now he saw that all of the behaviors had a name and a reason.
When I spoke with Noll, he had just been diagnosed with ADHD a few weeks before. He started medication and felt it a strange experience, although it helps. He has slowed down and is not always rushing from one thing to the next. Where he routinely drove around 80 miles an hour, he has noticed that his driving has slowed to around 65. He feels calmer and is getting tasks completed. Concentrating once took effort but now he is much more able to pay attention to what he is doing. Although it has only been a week with medication, Noll can see how the medication can help him improve his life.
Noll knows, however, that medication alone isn't going to change everything and plans on continuing some of the strategies he has used to compensate over the years. For example, he was always writing himself lists (although now he thinks maybe he won't always lose the lists); he sets himself deadlines and goals for completing work. (For example, when working on his basement at home, the start of the upcoming football season was his goal to be finished.) Noll uses a fan for white noise to help him sleep, and has actually recorded the sound to take with him on trips.
Noll is sure that understanding ADHD is the first step toward improving his life. He no longer needs to feel guilty about his behaviors, and although he does not plan to use them as an excuse, he does plan to understand them so that he can work around some and improve others. Noll thinks that lack of motivation is the biggest obstacle in his life right now and plans on tackling that before trying to change everything. One day at a time, one obstacle at a time. But now, Noll has hope for his future and looks on this as the beginning of a journey.
Published On: November 11, 2007