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I Worked From Home Because The Light Turned Red

November 21, 2013

(Photo Credit: Project Squirrel)

I got up on time.

I got dressed and ready for work.

I got in my car and headed to work in plenty of time.

A stoplight turned red. I could either wait for it to turn green, or turn right and go work from home.

I turned right.

Such is the life of people with ADD. It’s almost a cliche to claim ADD, or as is my case, ADHD. There is certainly no stigma in claiming to have ADD. Many celebrities not only admit to having it, but claim it helps them be more successful. And there are definitely some benefits to ADD. But, if you are actually afflicted with it, there are some major drawbacks as well.

First, let me tell you how I figured out I have ADHD. Like many Mormons who don’t drink coffee or tea, I enjoy colas. I have drunk them since college. And it never really seemed to bother me. Eventually, I decided that perhaps I should try to cut them out. So, I started cutting my 44 oz morning Coke with 1/2 Caffeine Free Coke. (Yes, there is such a drink. It’s very popular in Utah for no reason that I can fathom.) Eventually, I had weaned myself completely off of caffeine. I managed to do it without the headaches and shaky withdrawals. I switched my morning drink to grape soda. (Yes, I know about the sugar content. Don’t judge me.)

I avoided the headaches, but something else started to happen. Work got REALLY hard. Not physically difficult, but it became nearly impossible for me to concentrate on a project that took longer than about 15 minutes. I was irritable, and I always felt like I was a couple steps behind where I needed to be. I knew how to be successful in that job, I just had trouble focusing.

One day I saw an ad for an ADD test. “Yeah right,” I thought. You’re going to self diagnose? That couldn’t end badly.

BTW, I should say at this point that I have three kids with ADD. They are all three blood related. I have thirteen children total and 10 are adopted. A group of four of them are birth siblings. Three of these four have ADD. I know there are people who claim ADD is simply bad parenting. Trust me, I know the difference. My lovely wife and I have raised a lot of kids. These three kids definitely have ADD.

So I filled out the “Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS) Symptom Checklist.

For Part A I scored a 25. For Part B a 23. These numbers meant nothing to me. (You normally have to go see a doctor to get the score.) Just to act as a check on myself, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t simply deciding to pick higher numbers because I already thought I might have ADD, I asked my wife to score me on the items. Her assessment for me was even higher.

For Part A she thought I was a 30, and for Part B a 24.

So, armed with my completed survey I went to see my doctor.

Oh, you are definitely ADD Rodney. ADHD, in fact.

How can you tell?

Well, this section A where you scored a 25? Anything below 16 is normal. Seventeen to twenty three we would consider ADD as possible. Above a 24 is a positive indication of ADD.

And I scored a 25. Annie ranked me a 30.

Thirty six is the max.

Well, I’ve always been a good test taker.

So, ADD, attention deficit disorder. But, what about the HD, the hyper-activity part?

Part B measures the hyperactivity. Again, sixteen and below is normal. So, you aren’t as strong in that area, but you are still in the positive category. However, if it weren’t for the survey, I wouldn’t have considered you ADD or ADHD.

Really? Why not?

Well, just look at you. You are sitting here calmly in my office, you aren’t fidgeting. In fact, you are exhibiting very few outward ADHD symptoms.

I can explain that one. I’ve been a teacher or a trainer most of my life. You learn to not click your pen, or rattle your keys, or nervously tap, or fidget.

We can prescribe medication for it.

It’s essentially amphetamines, right? Why don’t you give me three pills and I’ll let you know.

Ultimately, I decided I didn’t like the side effects. I went back to self medicating with caffeine. And an amazing thing happened. The first day back on caffeine, I had my most productive day at work in weeks.

So, I’m lucky, right? ADD people are supposed to be able to get more done. And the drugs they use to treat ADD? I’ve read studies that show that if you put ANYONE on speed, they do better at their jobs. Well, a little speed. Yeah, those lucky ADD folks. And there are certainly advantages. I am GREAT at crisis management. When it comes to juggling several different inputs while also trying to focus on solving a problem, I do that easily. However, when the pressure is off, when there is no fire that requires me to focus, I struggle to sit down and force myself to pay attention. Preparing for filing my taxes is painful. I say “preparing” because I don’t actually file my taxes. I have an accountant who does that. All I have to do is give him the records. And I don’t even have to provide all of that. My lovely wife does the bulk of the preparation. And even that tiny involvement nearly drives me into a paralysis of inactivity.

It really is a disorder. It’s not as debilitating as something like fibromyalgia, or OCD (the real disorder, not the “I’ve got OCD. I always carry my phone in my left hand!” type examples.) If my desk is in a high traffic area, I’ll get to know my coworkers well, and get very little done. Conversations involve multiple “squirrel” moments. And I have to consciously monitor the amount of time I talk. Anyone who’s worked with me, I’m sure doubts it, but I will often think about each thing I plan to say and evaluate if it will be dominating the conversation too much. In class, I WANT to answer every question. In fact, I want to have a conversation with the teacher about not just the class subject, but his family, and my collection of miniature Ford Mustangs, and the affect of the Atlantic hurricane season on Presidential elections over the past several decades, and . . .SQUIRREL!! The worst part is knowing that I am exhibiting ADD behavior and having trouble stopping. I’ve had to tell myself multiple times per day, “Think! What do you need to do right now?” ADD people are big fans of lists. The list forces me to focus and puts my random thoughts into an order. But, sometimes the ADD is so bad I don’t want to make the list. . .even though I know the list will help.

Anyone with adult ADD, especially if they went for years with it undiagnosed, has developed techniques to remain effective and employed. But, like anything, there are good days and bad days. At it’s worst, I just want to crawl under my desk and block out all stimulus and decision making. Fortunately, I don’t spend much time under there. However, I do occasionally end up working from home if the stoplight turns red.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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  1. Thank you so much, Rodney! I have suspected that ADD isn’t always all bad, and the crisis mode operation sounds like one place. (The ‘Percy Jackson’ series claims “it’s just your battle reflexes, Percy.”) Finding a way to manage the condition and turn it to your advantage, I mean. Still, tough to deal with, I’ve seen the ‘crawl under your desk’ times.

    I’ll ask my son about caffeine. He was diagnosed with ADD when he started having trouble studying in high school – bright, thoughtful but was having increasing trouble studying in a school that thought increased pressure was the way to learn. He tried the usual drug regimen but after several dosage changes abandoned it for the same reasons you did. He is currently working at Nintendo as a game tester, and while he enjoys the work and wants to stay in the field he needs more education to advance. Maybe he can find something in your example to help.

    • When my ADD is really bad, lists are my salvation. Many people make a daily todo list. I’ve been known to make an hourly todo list. And at its worst, I’ve even made 15 minute todo lists. At that point, I’m often to the point of a todo list with a single item. It’s that “what do I need to do RIGHT NOW?” technique.

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