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The next few paragraphs should be a blinding flash of the obvious.
For those who have followed this blog for any length of time, you will notice and you will know certain things about me. You know I have a high energy level. You know that I am involved in a lot of endeavors, and enjoy those endeavors. You know that I like to write, sometimes a lot. You know that I enjoy investigating various aspects of life and the way things work. You also know that I believe strongly in being an open book about my life, my journey and the challenges that I face. So here goes, and if this is a surprise to anyone, you really aren’t paying attention…
I am an adult with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Adult ADHD).
Nope, no self-deprecating humor this time. No jokes about “squirrel” or “shiny” or any of that. I have ADHD, and for the past 27 years, I have done my level best to try to deal with it in a variety of ways. The key point is that, for those 27 years, I have left out one piece of the puzzle, and entirely on purpose… medical treatment, and specifically, medication.
When I was younger, meaning around age 7 or 8, I first went on medication for ADHD. Like many kids in the 70s, I was put on Ritalin (Methylphenidate Hydrochloride) to help keep me under control. It worked amazing well in areas of focus and information retention, as well as getting good grades. What I hated about it was the person it made me; moody, angry, sullen, withdrawn, introverted, and isolated. I hated the latter elements so much that I was willing to do battle against the very benefits it provided. Over three cycles of my school life (elementary school, junior high and then in my first years at college) I used Ritalin. Each time, the same things happened. My grades and performance improved, but I became a raging tool in the process. Ultimately, I decided to just live life without the meds, because I didn’t want to be “that guy”, even if “that guy” could focus and be extremely effective.
Fast forward to today. As a part of playing with “The Hours”, investigating issues such as expectational debt, looking at my time commitments, my energy levels, where I choose to focus my time, and how it ultimately gets distributed, the tester in me decided it was time to do an even deeper dive. Enough with the immediate and superficial; let’s look at the past 20 years of my career! I spelled a lot of that out in my posts about meandering through 20 years of software testing, but I realized there was a lot I was leaving out. Not deliberately, but because I wasn’t willing to face what it meant to examine it at the time. Many of my career choices, the activities I participate in, all of the ups and the downs and the very way that I like to work (as a lone tester), all make sense when you put one phrase in context with all of it: Untreated Adult ADHD.
So what’s made me decide to do something about this now? I have three people indirectly to thank for planting this seed in my head and convincing me to act on it. Those three people are Merlin Mann, Scott Hanselman and Iris Classon. Merlin, as many of you may well realize, figures into lot of the things I talk about, because he’s where I heard about a lot of this stuff first (Expectational Debt deserves to be a service mark of Merlin Mann as far as I’m concerned 😉 ). In one of the earlier Back to Work podcasts, he talked very directly and specifically about his own challenges with Adult ADHD and years of not treating it, and finally deciding to treat it. Scott Hanselman, in addition to being a vocal tech pundit, has also been quite vocal about his own challenges and issues with diabetes, and the fact that he’s been willing to put it out there for everyone to see first hand. He said he could have hid it, but why? Finally, it was on Scott’s podcast with Iris and her openly discussing her challenges with ADHD as a child and as an adult that made me decide “there’s no reason for me to hide behind it any more.” Besides, if I do hide behind it, it has to be the world’s worst kept secret.
So today, I made the first steps into the fray of this. My primary physician just made the referral to the psychiatry department so that I can get this underway. Am I nervous? A little. At the same time, the tester in me would never forgive myself if I didn’t at least explore this avenue of who I am and if I can do something about it. It may turn out that I’m actually fine, and that I’m making much ado about nothing. If that’s the case, then I’ll have other avenues to explore. If I am diagnosed, there are a lot more varieties of treatment today compared to three decades ago. Also, this time, I’m not the sullen kid resenting the fact that I’m “different”, and wishing beyond hope that I could just make it go away. Instead, I now have the opportunity to actually look at this for what it is, and potentially change how I interact with my own brain. In a way, I’m excited about that. Perhaps there are benefits to being older, wiser and a bit world weary. Because I’m all of those, I’m willing to take it for what it is, and deal with it non-judgmentally, with open consideration as to where the road may lead. Like all good testers should :).