ADD: A Curse and Gift

Sometimes I Wish I Didn’t Like So Many Things

When I began to learn what it meant to be ADD (diagnosed in 2004 at age 33), I thought what it mostly meant that I was easily distracted, sometimes had trouble learning details, etc.  But what I WASN’T expecting, was to learn that being ADD is often connected with being highly creative and being able to learn new concepts and skills extremely rapidly.  Looking back on my life, I was able to see all of those things in myself, with both the good and bad.  Since I started medication (I currently use the Daytrana patch), the good generally far outweighs the bad, but sometimes….being so creative and having so many interests can be difficult to balance.

Being ADD has advantages

The above photo was taken and created in mid-2013 as a Photo Assignment by someone I met on Google+ named Jake Johnson.  His assignment for me was the following:

“If there were no limitations on networks, time, money or resources, what would you do? Show us in a photograph.”

Being typically ADD, my first thought was, “OMG, how can I only pick one thing that I would do with unlimited networks, time, money, and resources!?!?!?”  Because really, if there were no limitations, there are a GAZILLION things I would love to do.  This brought to mind my favorite quote, which Jake surely saw on my profile:

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” ~Francoise Chateaubriand

I am blessed in that I truly love what I do – there is no line between my work and play – it is ALL my PASSION.  But there are only so many hours in a day, so much money, and so many commitments that limit what I actually get to do, and it really can be difficult to balance and choose where to put my time and energy.  And as much as I want to keep the commitments that I make, being ADD adds a layer of complexity and difficulty, no doubt about it.

Structure and/or Flexibility

The longer I’ve been living with the knowledge that I’m ADD, and the more I’ve worked to adapt to this challenge/gift, the more I’ve come to some simple and powerful realizations:

  • As much as it’s helpful to have structure and routine in my life to minimize distractions, when I attempt to structure my life too much, creativity suffers.
  • When I get in the mood to do something, it’s best to go at it full-force to get the most done; if I don’t, a lot will be left undone.
  • When I simply allow myself to be like this (the 2 previous points) in peace, the more creativity flows and the more gets done.
  • My life goes in a series of “streaks,” with unpredictable trends.
  • The challenge is to learn to just “be OK” with this way of life and to not get upset with myself during those “streaks” when i’m not getting as much done.
  • It helps a LOT to have someone else to whom I must be accountable, because if I know someone’s waiting for something to get done, I’m more likely to do it.

The Importance of Learning to Say “NO”

One of my absolute biggest challenges, though, is to recognize when it’s time to say “NO” to anything new, or to recognize when it’s time to discontinue something that I loved saying “yes” to doing.  When you love doing so many different things, sometimes you just can’t do all of them, and you have to refuse in order to stay focused.  

So what tips or tricks have you found that help you live and be productive despite, or perhaps because of, your ADD?  Helpful books, apps, websites, what?  Do you find that being ADD is more a gift, a curse, or an equal mix of both?