The Older A.D.D.er

A.D.D.ers spend years in a dream world. Spinning ever more elaborate fantasies (financial conquests, sexual conquests, social conquests) life seems like a far-off horizon, something that stretches out before you in an infinite regress but which you are never able to reach. Today you have failed but you live to fight another day, holding on to the possibility that a future “success” will salve the wounds of past failures. And yet each day brings more failures: a forgotten task, a misspoken word, a missed opportunity.

The non-A.D.D. world marches forward and leaves you further and further behind. Every day you re-imagine the trajectories of your life (what if I married that person instead of the one I am married to now? what if I take that job instead of the one I have now? what if I suddenly win the state lottery?) Your life remains mired in “becoming” but never quite “being.” You never quite arrive at a whole, consistent “you.”

And then one day you find you are fifty years old. Your children are older and, somehow, more dependent on you than when they were small. The financial burdens have grown as you are faced with college tuition and, gasp, the unthinkable, YOUR possible retirement. But at age fifty you now see things you did not see before. You now see the trajectories that are closed off. Though fantasies remain, the biggest fantasy of all, the possibility of following a different life trajectory, is basically over. Yes, you can get divorced and marry that attractive young woman who works in your office but, let’s be realistic. Can you really do that? And even if you could (and DID!) what does that really mean? You will not be a thirty year old with a young woman…you will be an old man with a thirty year old. You cannot relive being thirty and having a different wife. You cannot relive those moments. They are gone. They cannot be recaptured. They cannot be replayed. Unlike in childhood, in real life there is no “do over.” There is only “do once.” Maybe, if you are lucky, “do twice” but at some point you are faced with “never be able to do again.” And while “never be able to do again” may seem like the death of an A.D.D.er, it is, at the same time, liberating because you can now ignore the lure of the path you might have taken. Your focus becomes sharper. You are still A.D.D. but the fantasies lessen as reality and, yes, mortality, becomes a very real thought. Your Cassandra-like qualities sharpen and life becomes a very serious pursuit.

I had thought that becoming fifty years old would be the most depressing event of my life. As an A.D.D.er, it is, interestingly, one of the happier moments of my life. Part of that happiness is a result of a shortened time horizon. I am not looking at a career that stretches for the next forty years of my life. Instead, I am looking at a much more manageable ten or fifteen years. This is a time horizon that I can see, that I can plan for, that I can trace its likely trajectory. It is not an abyss of empty time but a usable and manageable block of time. It is a slice of calmness and sanity which too often eludes the A.D.D.er. If I could freeze time I would not want to be thirty years old again or eighteen years old. I much prefer the calmness and intellectual acuity that comes with being an older A.D.D.er.

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  • jj

    this was one of the best, well laid-out, and cogent commentaries I have read. Fits me to a ‘t.’ I am but a mere 45, but was untreated until six months ago. I can relate to 100% of what you wrote.

    Godspeed, by brother.

    JJ

  • Jeff

    JJ,

    Thank you for your thoughts and compliments. I think this particular post took about two weeks to write.

    And now that you have been diagnosed…hang in there. It *does* get better. It just takes time. Learn as much as you can about ADD. Read books about it. And keep trying and trying.

    Jeff

  • Tracey

    Wow.  Your post took my breath away (as did your site).  I can’t wait to get there.  I’ll be 45 this year, “diagnosed” in 2010, and still no one gets it or believes me yet think i’m the poster child for the symptoms.  Found your site by accident tonight — YOUR SITE IS MANNA TO ME.
    Congrats & Thanks from an “ADD chick” (found Zoe’s blog tonite too, thanks to you).

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      Welcome to the site! Feel free to leave comments on any of the posts…no matter when they were written (there’s over four years of posts here). It’s not like the issues have suddenly changed. ;)

      You’ll see in your own life that things definitely improve over time. Not that the problems disappear but you’re much more aware of them and you’re able to manage them.

      “still no one gets it or believes me” – That’s part of the problem with being diagnosed at such a late stage in your life (there are people who have been diagnosed in their 60′s). You’ve gotten this far in life and they wonder why no one noticed it before. If you weren’t hyperactive, the most obvious symptom, many wouldn’t pick up on it.

      “Your post took my breath away (as did your site). ” – Thank you!!

  • Caban

    I am 58, was diagnosed with ADD in highschool. I used to forget I had it, but it always came back to remind me. I agree that these years are by far the best. I am so much more at peace, I have, for the first time in my life, found love with someone who gets me and loves me for who I am. I am so much smarter than I used to be about the things that matter. There is hope! I do still take meds, have gotten by for long periods without them, but after my most recent non-medded spell, decided that life is too short not to show up for.
    Thank you, thank you for this sane, funny, honest writing. It makes such a difference to know there is intelligence out there. With ADHD.

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      Physiologically our brains change as we get older so it’s likely the combination of age and meds that has contributed to both of our positive experiences.

      ” thank you for this sane, funny, honest writing” – You’re welcome! And thank you for thinking that is writing is sane, funny and honest.

      • Caban

        As for the changes in the brain, I am also grateful for the lessening of wild and crazy hormones that plagued me on a cyclic basis. Feel so much more normal.

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