Disorganization. Recklessness. Forgetfulness. For the approximately 5% of adults diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, those aren’t just irksome personality quirks–they’re huge hurdles in everyday life. And recently (thanks in large part to Adam Levine‘s Own It campaign), adult ADHD has finally been getting the attention it deserves. But I still had some questions, so I asked Here’s to Not Catching Our Hair on Fire, author Stacey Turis.
Turis, who Tweets under the handle @ADHDSuperhero, is exceptionally honest, both about her own struggles with the disorder, as well as the incorrect assumptions that many folks have about what it looks like in adults. Over the course of her journey, she’s learned a lot–and has a lot to offer to those who listen. Here’s our conversation.
Can you explain the difference between ADD and ADHD?
It’s basically the same monkey in a different sweater. The “H” stands for “hyperactivity.” A person with ADD doesn’t have the hyper aspect whereas a person with ADHD does. They actually got rid of the term “ADD”, and as of right now the correct term for both is “ADHD with or without hyperactivity,” which may be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. I think it’s kind of ironic that they made the name for the disorder as confusing as possible, as if we aren’t walking around confused enough. I write it as AD(H)D to separate the two while including both, but I don’t actually have the “H.”
When were you first diagnosed with AD(H)D?
I was diagnosed six years ago, when I was thirty-three. It was kind of a fluke the way it happened. A friend of mine casually remarked that I “have a touch of AD(H)D”. I thought she was nuts because I had the same view on AD(H)D as others that aren’t educated on the subject, which is an individual that can’t concentrate and is extremely hyper. I’m not hyper. Well, my brain is hyper but my body is perfectly content sitting on its ass when it can find the time. As far as not being able to concentrate, when I want to, I can hyper-focus a hole through a brick wall.
I decided to Google Adult AD(H)D and I was stunned. It was like someone had been taking notes on all of my quirks as they followed me throughout my day. As I read through the laundry list of typical symptoms and behavior, I started to cry. I couldn’t believe that all of my weirdness was listed in bullet points on the page in front of me. That same week, I was formally diagnosed by a psychiatrist. I was torn on how to feel about the diagnosis. On one hand it felt like a mental health death sentence, but on the other hand I felt like I was starting my life over with a clean slate. I was just so thrilled that I wasn’t actually the freak I had always imagined; the damaged, charred and scarred parts of me started to fall away that day.
After the initial diagnosis and then research, I went through a myriad of emotions as I wondered how my life would have been different had my teachers and parents known how to guide me. My GPS system never did sync up with the other kids, so I basically just wandered aimlessly through my days. They had no idea that I could have moved the moon had they just given me the right map. Now that I finally have the map, I’m sharing it with the world come Hell or jelly beans!
Why did you decide to write the book and become the ADHD Superhero?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that I would someday write a book. It was an intuitive thing and as such I’ve basically kept detailed mind recordings of events that have taken place as I’ve chugged along through my chaotic life. It wasn’t until after my diagnosis and then subsequent self-acceptance that I actually knew what the book would be about. Everything about my life was suddenly clear and it was apparent that the community of AD(H)Ders was in serious trouble.
Depression, anxiety and self-loathing is a huge epidemic in our tribe and a definite deterrent to us finding and then developing our incredible, kick-ass gifts. That to me is unacceptable. I’ve traveled the path from suicidal to self-accepting and I wanted to make the trek easier for those farther back on the trail. They appreciate coming across a handwritten sign pointing to the quicksand. It saves them grief and they don’t have to change their underwear as often.