My Life, Work, and ADHD
Andy Johns, CPLC, APSATS CPC-I
I’m sure you’re expecting the “typical” ADHD story here. The person who grew up being hyper, disruptive, unfocused, and couldn’t stay motivated/productive; but actually, this wasn’t the case for me. In fact, if you would have asked me three months ago I would have told you that I was the complete opposite of ADHD, but that was before I learned about all of the misunderstandings around it.
So first I’ll explain how it started. After hearing some of my issues, my therapist recommended that I go get tested for ADHD. I basically responded with, “how in the world could I be ADHD?” From what I knew, I didn’t fit the description, AT ALL. With her advice, I set up the appointment anyways, almost didn’t go—because again—there was no way I was ADHD. I took the test, waited about a week for the results, and was surprised that the test actually came back positive! That should have been enough to convince me right? But no, it wasn’t. I still had doubts, a lot of questions, and wasn’t quite convinced. Until I started doing my own research into adult ADHD.
Adult ADHD is different than ADHD in children. Even then, every adult with it may have different symptoms and struggles. I’ve always been motivated, a high achiever, I’ve done well in school and work, so why would I ever think I was ADHD? Also, what most people notice about me is that I am usually calm and quiet; unless I’m around a group that I know well, or if I’m having a one on one conversation with someone.
So, lets break it down then, how does this make sense based off what most people know about ADHD? From the research I have done, and my personal experience, here are examples that I found to fit best for me.
1. I’m usually calm and quiet...
but my mind is always running. I’m always thinking about goals, what I should do next, how I will do it, where I want to be, etc. This may not seem bad, but when it consumes you it also exhausts you. It takes you away from enjoying the moment. I also realized that I’m quiet because it’s hard for me to focus on conversations. That may seem odd for me, as a life coach and someone who is in school to eventually become a therapist—but I believe it’s actually a strength in some circumstances. For example, I can focus during one on one meaningful conversations with people (and of course, clients). What I struggle with is small talk and talking in crowds and groups.
"I’m always thinking about goals, what I should do next, how I will do it, where I want to be, etc. This may not seem bad, but when it consumes you it also exhausts you. It takes you away from enjoying the moment." - Andy Johns, CPLC
2. Sensitivity to sights and sounds
There have been many times that I was walking through the mall with my family, and couldn’t focus because of all the movement and conversations people were having around us and while walking by us. For people that deal with this, it isn't simply an inability to focus, it causes intense anxiety and frustration, and for some people even panic attacks. This is one of the biggest struggles for people with ADHD, but it wasn't a symptom that I was familiar with until doing more research.
3. Motivation and Focus
The misconception is that everyone with ADHD struggles to focus and stay motivated on a task. This may be true for some, but for a lot of us that isn’t the case. We can focus on a task or goal if we are very interested in it. What we struggle with is little set backs and in between tasks that stray us from the goal or task that we are actually interested in. Here’s my biggest example. I work full time as a quality control inspector for electrical and instrumentation in the refining industry, I’m a part time psychology student, and part time coach. I know, weird career shift; but it’s a great job that provides for me and my family, I can still work towards my goals, and I actually do enjoy it. For a long time though, I struggled going back and forth about what I wanted to do, my college major, etc. If I had a bad day, I knew I wanted to go to school and I could focus all my attention on that, but it made me miserable at work. If I had an enjoyable day, it made me question why I was trying to change careers, and I would doubt my decision and commitment to school. The healthy alternative to this would be, as I’ve said before, to be content with where I was while working towards the goal of where I want to be. But that is extremely difficult for someone with ADHD, especially if they are highly motivated and goal oriented. It causes you to be all in on one thing, and want to get there NOW, rather than focusing on small steps and the long term goal.
"The key to successfully transitioning is to be content with where you are, while working towards the goal of where you want to be." - Andy Johns, CPLC
4. Addiction, coping mechanisms, and ADHD
Research shows that an estimated 25% of people being treated for alcoholism and substance abuse have ADHD. Also, ADHD is anywhere from 5 to 10 times more common for someone with alcoholism. It is likely that ADHD is associated with other addictions as well, but the majority of the current research is on substance abuse and alcohol. Through my research and experience, I believe that childhood ADHD (along with many other factors) lead to my feeling of not fitting in, then depression, which eventually lead to my substance abuse issues, addiction, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. It is likely that both the addiction and the ADHD lead to impulsiveness, lack of proper decision making and caused me to be unmotivated—which as I have mentioned, I don’t typically struggle with.
"Research shows that an estimated 25% of people being treated for alcoholism and substance abuse have ADHD. Also, ADHD is anywhere from 5 to 10 times more common for someone with alcoholism. It is likely that ADHD is associated with other addictions as well"
Those are just four major observations I have had. Of course there are more. As well as tons of small symptoms, such as constantly being busy but jumping from task to task, reading half of a book and not finishing it, constant tiredness from overthinking, etc. It’s important to mention that in all of those scenarios, ADHD is not the only factor at play. There are many different reasons why I am the way I am and why you are the way you are. But I can definitely see that ADHD was a major one influencing me. It’s also important to emphasize again that everyone is different, and some people have more severe ADHD. Just because this is how mine is, doesn’t mean that’s how it is for everyone.
So what is the point of all this, and why did I decide to share it with everyone? Here are some takeaways that I hope can help anyone reading.
1. Listen to your therapist, physician, psychiatrist, etc! This sounds obvious, but it isn’t. Sometimes we can be hardheaded. Especially if something doesn’t fit into our previous beliefs. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek second opinions, but if something is recommended, we should look into it.
2. Look for red flags in peoples behavior. Especially the ones closest to you—and try to help. If you notice that your child or spouse is struggling with tasks, seems unmotivated, or seems down or depressed, encourage them to get help.
3. There are so many misconceptions about mental health and the various conditions associated with it. Even if you don’t have any mental health conditions or disorders, you have certainly been through things that had an impact on your mental health. I am now seeing the benefits of following through with a recommendation and working with a doctor and therapist on the issue, rather than going with my own opinion and “helping myself”. If I had gone with my own beliefs, I would still be struggling. Not only is treatment helping, but simply understanding why I’ve had these struggles makes a huge difference.
"Look for red flags in peoples behavior. Especially the ones closest to you—and try to help. If you notice that your child or spouse is struggling with tasks, seems unmotivated, or seems down or depressed, encourage them to get help." - Andy Johns, CPLC
I appreciate you for reading my story. As a coach and someone who is passionate about psychology, I felt that I couldn’t go through all of this and not use it. I don’t only want to share my story, I also want to help others!
Along with the right treatment from a doctor, coaching is an extremely beneficial service for people with ADHD. The core of coaching goes perfectly with what most ADHD people struggle with. Setting goals, implementing action plans, staying dedicated and committed, and following through.
If you or someone you know could benefit from working with me, or would like to know more about me, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or 832-629-9164.