DEV Community

loading...

I have ADHD 🌧️

Kasey Speakman on November 17, 2020

I am pathologically incapable of performing uninteresting tasks. And I hate myself for it. First I should probably explain what ADHD really is. It...
pic
Editor guide
Collapse
nilegfx profile image
Ahmed Ayoub

I literally cry my eyes out right now.

I grew up in a "developing" country where we have zero mental health education/awareness.

I am 36yo and I have never ever what so ever knew anything about ADHD before reading this article, and yet can't believe that it was written by someone who's NOT ME!!

Adding to all the difficulties and struggles you mentioned, I am not a native speaker, not a computer science graduate and I made it. I had a very successful social life and successful career, I even started my own initiative/startup that help other build their career, but I always felt there is something wrong with the way my brain function!

I am so grateful that currently I live and work in Germany and I'll definitely seek a therapist after corona.

I'll add some other difficulties which I struggled with and you didn't mention, not sure how it could help someone else, but just in case..

  • inability to finish long articles (yours is the longest article I read since years)

  • slow reading (super slow)

  • I rarely read documentations, instead I read code and tests

  • I started as frontend engineer almost 10 years ago and now I do architect systems and I fall in love with kubernetes, kafka and elasticsearch, didn't know why, but now I knew, it is because these technologies have a wide range of use cases and very intensive documentations which keeps me busy and always interested to test and discover more possibilities and use cases

I can't thank you enough for opening this mystery box and putting me on the right track where I belong :)

Collapse
zaidmarji profile image
Zaid Marji

I can relate man, I also grew up in a developing country in the same environment. It's especially hard on us because teachers would hit or berate us for our behavior. I can say some of my personal experiences were traumatic. You are doing great my friend ....hang in there

Collapse
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman Author • Edited

Much love to you friend.

From what I researched, ADHD frequently occurs with other learning differences like dyslexia which affects reading. Check out the Understood.org videos to find out more. Or this video.

Best wishes!

Collapse
justchapman profile image
Chapman

I too discovered my ADHD rather late in life. I have a strong tendency to let my mind wander in 15 directions at once. I'll bounce from topic to topic, do some internet searches, then read a few blogs and suddenly it's 3 hours later and I haven't written a single line of code.

For me, a few things have helped:

  1. For starters, I had to accept who I was and corrective measures I must take. There's nothing "wrong" with me, just a couple extra steps I need to take to stay on task. This is a BIG step but, an important one.

  2. I started using apps that focus concentration. For Mac and iOS, there's an app called Brainwave Studio. tip: I ditch the hokey music and just use the repetitive sounds and/or the binaural tones. Another app that I started using recently is called Vitamin R, which enforces the Pomodoro Technique. (Sorry, I don't know of Windows/Linux equivalents.)

  3. Sleep. I too have struggled for years with getting quality sleep. I tried some prescription meds but felt they we just too much. I started trying various over-the-counter brands until I singled out one that works best for me. I have found that some brands - even though they may have the SAME ingredients - work better for me. Trial and error. And oh yeah, sleep really helps with the depression too. A lot.

  4. I started taking a walk before work. A couple miles works best for me. Just long enough to feel like I'm getting away with something, and long enough to let my brain re-index before working. When I do this, I find I spend less time reading the news or whatever to start me day.

Anyway - good on you for recognizing the symptoms and taking steps for self care! Just like the airlines tell you, put on your mask before you try to help anyone else. The same goes for mental care.

Collapse
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman Author

Thanks for those tips.

Everyone's ADHD is different. For me routines like sleep and going for a walk/run (and getting up early to do so) or using an app do not work because I cannot do them consistently. I have often tried to take something to let me sleep, but when my mind has locked onto something my hyperfocus easily overcomes the medication and keeps me awake. And if I take something strong enough to knock me out, I am basically useless the next day from being groggy. So I haven't quite found that combination that works for me. But I am really happy that you have!

Collapse
yougotwill profile image
William Grant

Awesome post! Out of curiousity for the ADHD programmers reading this do you have any advice for practising problem solving and interview preparation (i.e. LeetCode, Hackerrank, etc.) I really try to sit down and practice but my progress is really slow and my mind just refuses to retain information. In contrast ask me to build something and I'm going at 150% from the start. Currently looking for jobs but the initial coding problems keep getting in the way of me showing my full abilities to a potential employer.

Collapse
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman Author • Edited

One thing that works for me (discovered by accident) is to be passively angry about something. It has worked for me twice now. It is enough to focus my mind and also not really care about the consequences of the interview. This in turn relieves some of the interview anxiety which means I approach it more relaxed.

This works for me since my variety seems mostly to be the inattentive kind, but it might backfire if your ADHD is the impulsive and/or hyperactive kind. (Edit: after official diagnosis, I have combined type. I guess my temperament is just more passive, so this method works for me.)

I haven't managed to schedule an interview around this, but I do sometimes have days where I feel "normal". (Actually I would describe such days as euphoric, but the therapist says it is how most people feel normally.) If you also have those, they seem like good days to have an interview if you can manage to get one on short notice. They haven't lasted long enough for me to do so.

Collapse
yougotwill profile image
William Grant

I kind of know what you mean. I think that has happened to me unconsciously a few times when I'm in the zone at work. I'll try and use it actively as you suggest.

I also have the so called 'normal' days. Sadly 2020 hasn't had too many of them.

Thanks again for this insightful post!

Collapse
p810 profile image
Payton Bice

Something that really helps me when I can't focus is listening to repetitive music. For example, I really like the Animal Crossing soundtrack, and there are videos on YouTube where the songs are looped for anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour. Most days I'll put those on and it helps. Songs that I know well and have listened to many times also qualify, because they become a kind of energizing background noise, but most of the time I try to avoid anything with lyrics. I also include caffeine, which works similarly to prescription drugs (i.e. stimulants such as Vyvanse) or pressure because it stimulates the areas of the brain in which people with ADD are deficient; with ADD, a lack of stimulation is the primary issue when it comes to executive dysfunction. However, because caffeine is so abundant and available in many first world countries, many people develop a tolerance early on in life, causing it to lose effectiveness unless one decides to take a tolerance break or up their dosage. Lately L-theanine has become popular because it potentiates the focus enhancing effects of caffeine, and reduces the negative side effects like anxiety. I've gotten a good bit of benefit from taking these supplements with my caffeinated drinks and definitely recommend it.

When it comes to memorizing and retaining information, I like to make flash cards for terms and ideas that are new to me, and core concepts relating to the tool, language, etc. that I'm learning. This causes me to take a break from what I'm reading to repeat the information back to myself through writing. Then I can quiz myself throughout the week by shuffling the cards into a random order, drawing them sequentially and saying the definitions out loud to myself. For example in my Rust stack I have a card titled "Ownership." When I draw this card I'd say something like: "Each variable has an owner. The owner is the scope that the variable belongs to. Variables are transferred into a new scope or copied depending on how they're passed to a function," etc., and then compare what I remembered of it to the notes on the back. If it's something I got wrong, or I missed an important aspect, I'll prioritize practicing on that thing.

Collapse
joaomachiana profile image
Joao Machiana

Hi @kasey . Thanks for this post. It summs up all my life. Luckly for me I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and one day in a social event she looked at me and said, "you have ADHD, I can see the symptoms all over you. Don't worry I have it too." She gave me the contact of the medic who diagnosed her and I went to an appointment a few weeks later. Unfortunately because of COVID and borders closing (the medic was in another country, unfortunately I could not find a specialist in that area in my country) I had to stop the threatment and therapy. But the borders are open again so I can start over.
You know, I wanted to print this post and send it to some close people to me so that them could understand why I did, and still do and behave differently than everyone else.
Once again many thanks for the post.
Best regards

Collapse
lmorchard profile image
Les Orchard

I was nodding along with this post so furiously that I may have injured myself. At age 45 and roughly 25 years into getting paid to bother computers, I'm right there with you.

The one "good" thing I've got going for me is that I seem to have developed an ADHD coping strategy that has allowed me to be professionally functional and not be fired: I impose an immense sense of impending doom & calamity on myself - and that eventually causes me to focus. The problem, of course, is that I'm an anxious & depressed mess a good portion of the time.

So, uh, awkward high five.

Collapse
kspeakman profile image
Collapse
bias profile image
Tobias Nickel

thanks for sharing this.

sometimes I think to be different, But I thing most people think that of themselves. I ratger wonder when I see some colleagues who power through problems.

I want to do the things right, because i believe then it is not needed to go though pain and power through.

I see it as a different strenght. I see people solving problems, I did not think of doing. Bit also last week, I delivered a feature and got told, the solution is months ahead of what was expected.

I kind of see myself in your post, maybe to a lower degree. i just took that for me as: people have different strenghts. and want to see it positive. So far it play out well.

With this approach I got into the position of a tech lead. And for a lead I use the word I to much in this comment. As I go this path, I tell, there is a difference of beeing a manager or beeing a leader. And to get the project done successfully, both is needed.

Collapse
kmskelton profile image
Kristopher Skelton

Hi Kasey. I was also diagnosed with ADHD at 41 and like many other commenters I feel like I could have written this. Working with the ARNP who diagnosed me we tried six months of CBT and attempts to modify my patterns and focus, then I agreed to try medications. We couldn't find a combo that worked - counterintuitively stimulants made me sleepy mid-day and completely checked-out. Rather than destroy my heart with stims, or add to my collection of failed medications, I stopped taking meds. My current psychiatrist uses a genomic tool to assess mental health issues.

When we got the results he said "oh! No wonder you weren't responding to stimulant meds. Between this allele that reduces your dopamine reception and this one that prompts you to overproduce dopamine, those stimulants couldn't have been doing anything." We're trying a regimen of amino acids, with moderate success, and we may try an antidepressant (I'm being vague because I don't want to imply that something that's working for me might work for you). My reason for creating an account and posting this is to point out that most folks have to try several medications before they find something that works, and to say "thank you" for sharing your experience.

Collapse
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman Author

That is awesome that genomics gave you great insight. After reading about it, I suspect that I might have Reward Deficiency Syndrome which has been associated with certain alleles and a reduction in dopamine receptors. I tried to get a genetic test with a local lab, but they don't screen for anything related to ADHD currently.

Interesting how the stimulant affected you. I had the same reaction when I tried taking an herbal supplement (velvet bean) to increase dopamine. I might has well have taken 2 Benadryl as I was falling totally asleep. I wonder if our issues could be similar. I may see if I can make more ground on the genomic front.

Thank you so much for the response!

Collapse
joojodontoh profile image
JOOJO DONTOH

Thanks an awful lot for sharing this. Throughout my childhood I've always been known to be the lazy child who cannot be serious with anything. I first heard about ADHD on the netflix mini documentary: "Take your pills" and I have never related so much to a documentary like that before. I felt cheated my whole childhood because, instead of being properly diagnosed and properly taken care of, I was made to feel like I wasn't good at performing complex mental tasks. This really hurt my confidence and buried my self-esteem. Thankfully for me, I have a fighter mentality and can work extremely hard at anything if I'm angry. So sometimes before I go to work in morning, I treat me day like a sporting event and treat my work like the opponent. Clearing all my tasks during that day meant had "smashed" them and that felt good. This is basically how I've been able to keep myself afloat in this deep blue sea of software engineering. All the best Kasey, it shall be well

Collapse
jeremyabbott profile image
Jeremy Abbott

Aww Kasey! My career and experience with ADHD has been eerily similar. I imagine my partner would agree with your wife’s experience too! I don’t have any solutions, yet, but I can say just knowing there’s a reason helped me tremendously.

One of the symptoms I struggle with the most is emotional dysregulation. Again, knowing it’s a thing helps me manage it a little.

The other is rejection sensitivity. This one really wreaked havoc on my life early on. I still struggle with it, especially when it comes to the dreaded coding interview. 😱

Thank you for writing this and sharing your experience!

Collapse
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman Author • Edited

Thanks for sharing!

I didn't address emotional dysregulation, but it hits me too. My first job after college I remember tearing up, almost crying while trying to convince co-workers I need to make a major code change. At the time, I was only writing reports and therefore dying inside. I desperately needed to do something else. I still feel the spikes sometimes, but have gotten better at managing or avoiding those situations. From the other direction, I got the chance to create a team that shares life and can be real about their acute feelings and be supported. I even sent them the link to this post. They are awesome!

Same with rejection sensitivity. I can look back and see it all through life. We get so used to letting other people down unintentionally that we anticipate their rejection or interpret their ordinary actions (such as saying they can't make it) as rejection for something we did. I've mostly learned to let this go, but it especially still affects my closest relationships. When my other half is in a bad mood my go-to is always "What did I do this time?" And try to fix it right then. Often she is still processing it so I guess at what it might be. "Was it because I didn't do laundry?" It seems to make it worse. Then they want to hide negative feelings so we don't blame ourselves, but that is also detrimental. Now that I recognize it, I have a decent shot at catching myself and instead showing support and giving time for it to be ready for sharing.

Thanks for pointing out these areas!

Collapse
mslupski profile image
Michał Słupski

I've had people tell me "you think too much", or the classic "just sit down and do it" whenever I'm struggling with doing the easiest task. Pretty much nobody understands when I tell them that for me, doing the easiest thing is the hardest thing in the world. Even when I manage to sit down and start doing it, my brain hurts more with every minute that I do it. Even when I'm doing things I'm passionate about, I can't keep my brain focused on them.

Thank you for this article. I think I'm finally gonna try and go to a psychiatrist, too.

Collapse
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman Author

Yay! I think it is good to go see people who are trained in these issues. Just like if I had a broken foot, I would go see someone who can mend it.

For a long time I was apprehensive. I did not want to be stigmatized or have it used against me. But then I would have good days and think "I really should be having more days like this." And finally I saw that video where a person shared their behavior and it was a lot like mine. And they were able to get better with treatment. I hope for that for both of us!

Collapse
mslupski profile image
Michał Słupski

Yes, finger's crossed, wishing you all the best!

Collapse
rawsteak profile image
Rafael I

oof, relatable article is relatable. this is me, but with a different name 😕 have you tried changing careers or interests? I hate monotony, but manual labor is oddly relaxing to me. like calories are being expended but brain isn't getting used, or used as much. maybe as a hobby though, manual labor doesn't pay as much as IT work 😅 anyway, keep fighting the good fight.

Collapse
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman Author

I used to love being out in nature as a kid. I remember playing in the woods behind our house for hours. And I have often had the instinct that I want to live in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps I subconsciously know that it will force me into situations that my brain needs. But life is a shared experience, and I can't just focus on my needs. There is a lot that I enjoy about working in software. I guess that is to say: it's complicated. And I think there probably is a role for me in software that can take advantage of my strengths. One of the things I learned in studying architecture is that there is no wrong architecture, only wrong fit for the problem.

Thanks for the comment and support!

Collapse
erinb223 profile image
Erin Bensinger (she/her)

Thank you for sharing your experiences! I was diagnosed with ADD when I was 20, and it was really hard to wrap my head around the fact that what I had always thought were personality flaws and shortcomings were actually a matter of brain chemistry. It took me a long time to "accept" that diagnosis, since disorders such as ADD and ADHD are so often used as a punchline. Labels and diagnoses don't empower everyone, but they have definitely helped me name and control my own challenges, and it sounds like that's been the case for you too. I'm proud of you!

Collapse
polluterofminds profile image
Justin Hunter

Really appreciate this post! My son was recently diagnosed with ADHD and it’s important to me and him to find stories of others. To not feel like an outlier is something special and important to him. So I’ll be sharing this. Thank you!

Collapse
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman Author

I am really happy that you discovered it. His life can unfold from a place of empathy and playing to his strengths. What a blessing!

Collapse
zaidmarji profile image
Zaid Marji

As I sit on the toilet, basically hiding (sorry tmi), after being up till 3am getting something done that should have been done during the day, and getting the same defeated dejected conversation with my wife about forgetting yet another thing, this hit home, hard. Every statement you wrote I can identify with exactly. The highs and lows of this thing are exausting. Can't even take the meds anymore they reeked havoc on my body. Theres got to be a better way.

That said, I'm happy to stumble across this article. We are not lazy, we are not the trash people our brain, or other people, claims us to be. You belong, you are successful not dispite your condition, I say it's partially because of it. You are the one who will not sleep until it's done, you are the one who is so resourceful that no project seems impossible to you. You've saved your team, and your company countless times I am sure. The fact is we are hunters, and this world wasn't built by hunters. Keep coding, keep building. You are not alone, I am not alone!

Thank you

Collapse
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman Author

Thank you for the comment. I am appreciating each and every one because I didn't know anyone who had these struggles. So comforting to know I am not the only one!

You mentioned your medicine not working out. I learned that sometimes the first try does not work out. So don't hesitate to tell your doctor and ask for a different medicine.

Collapse
jasonjpeters profile image
JasonJPeters

You wrote this as if you had a direct view of my everyday life! Wow! Thank you for sharing. Dealing with ADHD is certainly a cursed blessing.

Collapse
sharpninja profile image
The Sharp Ninja

Bravo! So proud of you for recognizing this and getting help!

Collapse
codingpop profile image
Babatunde Adeyemi

Kasey Speakman just described me!