Jesse J. Anderson: My ADHD Diagnosis Story
August 23, 2022
This is episode 10 and today we're doing something a little bit different. To celebrate episode 10, and because I don't have time to, uh, interview anyone right now because I'm doing my course. I'm actually going to do a solo episode today.
Jesse J. Anderson
- Extra Focus Newsletter
- Refocus Book
Jesse: Hey, my name is Jesse J. Anderson, host of the ADHD Nerds podcast. The show where we talk about living with ADHD, and have some fun along the way.
Jesse: This is episode 10 and today we're doing something a little bit different. To celebrate episode 10, and because I don't have time to, uh, interview anyone right now because I'm doing my course. I'm actually going to do a solo episode today.
Jesse: I figured episode 10 would be a good time to maybe introduce myself a little bit more and talk about my own story with getting diagnosed with ADHD. So we're going to dig into that in just a minute.
Jesse: But first I'd like to thank our sponsor Sunsama. Sunsama is the daily planner for your work. You can plan a stress-free workday by pulling together your tasks, emails, and calendars into one place. Prioritize your work day by day and set reasonable goals for what you want to accomplish. You can try Sunsama for free by going to adhdnerds.com/sunsama
Jesse: and that's S U N S A M A. They have a free 14-day trial with no credit card required.
Jesse: Now let's get to the show.
Jesse: All right. So today I thought I would talk a bit about my own history with ADHD and what my story looks like. So I grew up in always knew that something was, you know, kind of different with my brain. I kinda chalked it up to family quirks, because a lot of the things were, my dad and my brother were similar to me in a lot of the ways that I felt were different than everyone else. So I just sort of thought, oh, that's just an Anderson thing.
Jesse: Uh, eventually it turns out, uh, it was an Anderson thing because all of us Andersons have ADHD. Uh, but I didn't know that for a long time. I just knew that in school I had extreme difficulty turning things in on time. Uh, homework at one point in junior high, I basically just stopped doing homework all together.
Jesse: Uh, because I, it was so hard to get anything done. I just couldn't stay. Focused. I just couldn't stay on task for any length of time. And so I basically just at one point, just refuse to do it anymore. I. I think I probably just like lied to my parents and told them that I didn't have homework when really I did. And I was just refusing to do it.
Jesse: And then dealing with the consequences when a report card came and it didn't seem to line up with what I was telling them. Luckily for me, I tested really well. So I was learning in the classes whenever I took tests, I would always, I would always ace them. I always was really natural at taking tests.
Jesse: I just couldn't convince myself to do the homework. So the homework was a real big, obvious thing. Uh, or should have been obvious back in school. And the other thing was just, I was late to everything. I could never go to sleep early and I had extreme difficulty waking up in the morning. And so I was just late to things all the time.
Jesse: And I would forget little details like, oh, this giant report, those do or giant test that was supposed to be today. And I skipped class and missed it completely. And yeah, I just had a real tough time surviving, junior high and high school, particularly. But because I tested well, I kind of, flew under the radar, as it were like, I was getting Bs and Cs. Uh, sometimes I would fail a class, but it wasn't super common. Usually the teacher would see that I was learning the stuff. And they would work out some sort of system that allowed me to pass sometimes with a D, but it was pretty rare that I failed any classes.
Jesse: Uh, but I definitely blamed myself for all of these issues. I didn't know where else to point the blame and everyone else was saying was my fault. Everyone else was saying that, oh, why are you being so lazy? Why can't you just, you know, I can't you just get focused. Why can't you just do it? Stop being so selfish.
Jesse: All sorts of things like that. And of course I got the stereotypical, pretty much every teacher, every year telling me like, you're not reaching your potential. You could do so much more if you just tried, if you just tried harder or cared a little bit more. Which, you know, like tore me up, but I know what to do with that information because I thought I was trying harder than anybody.
Jesse: I, I felt like I was putting in everything I could trying to make it happen, but I just didn't, I just didn't know what else that I could do. So anyway, I survived school.
Jesse: I did a little bit, I did a few years of community college. Never got a degree or anything. And then through my twenties, I probably have like 30, 30 different jobs. I was jumping all over the place. Whenever I would get a job, and I'd love it at first. And I'd be a great employee. And, yeah, my bosses would usually love me when I first started and I'd do all the stuff. And then over time I would either get bored of the job.
Jesse: Or, you know, I would start forgetting details. like important things I was supposed to do would kind of like fall out of my brain. And then I would just, never, ever remember to do that thing again.
Jesse: Not to mention the issues I always had with emotional dysregulation. And specifically, rejection sensitive dysphoria. Things would just seem to set me off really easily and I would get super offended. Um, I ha- I was looking at old report cards recently and they, all of them were talking about Jesse needs to be less sensitive or things like that. Like I was just, too overly sensitive to reactive and responsive to things that like set me off and made me mad or made me upset or whatever it was.
Jesse: So, yeah, I never really knew why I just felt I was broken somehow and didn't know how else to explain it. And so I just kind of made do, and I've figured out some strategies that worked and others that didn't. But I, by my mid thirties, I was doing well enough. Um, as far as my job, I found a job that worked well for me, but, you know, I'd been married for about 10 years at that point.
Jesse: And our marriage was like, you know, struggling when you have ADHD in a marriage and you don't even know, like, it definitely makes things difficult. And so that was kinda tough. And right around that time, I was 36 when my wife was talking with the wife of my best friend. And he, my best friend had just been diagnosed with ADHD. And so his wife and my wife were talking about the symptoms.
Jesse: And then my wife came back to me and she's like, yeah, so I don't know how much you know about ADHD, but I'm not going to tell you to look into it, cause I know that will mean you won't look into it. But maybe you might want to just like, just look at some of the symptoms so you can better understand it maybe.
Jesse: So I kind of reluctantly started looking into it. I was like, I remember saying at this time that like, I can't have ADHD because I have no problem with focusing on the things that interest me. Which is funny now, because that really does kind of define what it's like to have ADHD, like yeah, you, the things you're interested in you often don't have trouble focusing on them. In fact, you get hyper-focused and can spend hours and hours doing those things.
Jesse: Uh, so yeah, so I looked into it some, and I also like grabbed lunch with my, with my buddy who had been diagnosed. And he kind of talked about what it looked like for him. And that's when I really was starting to have these like, oh man, this is really, uh, these symptoms. These things are really starting to line up with my own experience that I had no idea there was a reason for all these things.
Jesse: So my, my buddy, he used the first that told me about hyper-focus and that was like, oh no, I thought that was the reason I couldn't have ADHD turns out it might be because of the ADHD. Um, and I remember reading lots of symptoms as well, and one thing that stuck out to me, even though it's not technically like an ADHD symptom.
Jesse: It was common enough that it just stood out to me. And that was, that people with ADHD often have sensory issues, including, extreme annoyance with t-shirt tags. And so that was kind of a weird thing that like pointed out to me, like. It was sort of a weird thing that I never really talked to anyone about, but t-shirt tags always have driven me crazy. I always rip them out because they just bothered me so much that little like tickle on the back of my neck from a t-shirt tag drives me wild. So I always tear those out. So when I saw that as like related with ADHD,
Jesse: That was just like oh. That was just like this giant aha. And then I basically dove right in, I took a couple of online, you know, exams, whatever, and they all clearly sort of said like, yeah, you pretty much have ADHD.
Jesse: So after that I found a therapist which was kind of a lengthy process. A lot of the places I called either weren't seeing, uh, either they didn't really have anyone that specialized in ADHD, which I knew was important, or they only saw kids and they're like, oh, you're a grownup with ADHD. We don't, we're not going to talk to you.
Jesse: But eventually, luckily I was able to find someone and I don't know if this will work for you, but what I did is I found my insurance directory or specialist directory from my insurance. And then looked through all the people that listed ADHD as one of their specialties.
Jesse: And so I was able to find like one person and she, uh, did work with people with adult ADHD. And anyway, I took my giant list, uh, I basically had a notebook that I wrote down all the things that I thought were about, you know, all my concerns and things that I thought were like, this is why I think I have ADHD. And I took those to her. And she, I think the second session we talked is when she was like, yeah, you definitely have ADHD.
Jesse: Um, and then yeah, proceeded to work with her for kind of a couple of years. But actually have actually have my notebook. So I kind of want to go through some of those struggles that I wrote down back then. So these are things that once I'd learned, just like the real basics of what ADHD really was. These are things, these are some of the ways that I thought I was seeing it in my life at the time.
Jesse: The first thing I wrote down was short temper blow ups and shut downs. Um, this is that emotional dysregulation. I quickly recognized, oh, this is why I've had such difficulty controlling emotions. It feels like they just would like take over my life. And yet like, I've uh, nowhere have like, intense rage almost, um, where that just extreme anger, emotion took over everything. And that would be like the blow up, or I get so upset that I just completely shut down and I couldn't talk, I couldn't func- I couldn't respond.
Jesse: I was just like, almost like seething. Like I was so mad that I couldn't act. That was a common struggle for me. Second thing I wrote down, bad at estimating time for work projects. Uh, so terrible estimating time. So that's always been a big one for me.
Jesse: Another one I wrote down difficulty and not sharing my very strong opinions. I don't know so much of this one is ADHD.
Jesse: But it is something I know about myself that I, when I have a strong opinion, I have a hard time keeping it in. Like I can't not share that strong opinion. And even if I'm not saying it, it's very obvious on my face, how I feel about something. Another thing I wrote down, uh, frequently bored and antsy during stories.
Jesse: This is something because that working memory struggles to like hold all the relevant information. When someone's telling me a story. I know from experience that I'm going to lose important details.
Jesse: I like to think of my brain, like I have limited shelf space and I can only put so much stuff on the shelf before things start toppling over. So when someone's telling me something, like, especially if there's tasks in it, like they're telling me, hey, you got to do this. And also, by the way, did you know that this is related with this other, you know, they start giving me all these extra details.
Jesse: I'm just like, I can't fit all of this information on the shelf. I need, I just need to know what you need me to do, because otherwise, if you give me more information than that, it's going to knock everything on the, off the shelf. And I know that I'm going to miss important details. So that's definitely been, been a big one.
Jesse: Um, another thing I wrote down. It says my common sense seems to be the opposite from my wife. Um, Yeah, we would often, it seemed like our default thing of what we would assume about stuff was very much not on the same page.
Jesse: And, I think a lot of people with ADHD struggle with this, where it feels like common sense is this enigma that we can't really grasp. Like it's outside of what.
Jesse: It's not common to us. It doesn't really like our brains work so different that I think a lot of. A lot of things are just rewired. So we're not, we're not on this common path of understanding things. We, we look at things through this completely different lens. So what is common sense to most people, to neuro-typical people, isn't common to people with ADHD.
Jesse: Another thing I put down difficulty doing housework or chores for a long time without frequent breaks or rewards. Yeah. Huge for ADHD. I've said before, like I'd rather start a brand new business, than do the dishes. Like I would much rather do a lot more work that is interesting than that mundane little task that feels like so much more mental energy to take on.
Jesse: And I also wrote down, a lack of effort at times, because I'm going to mess up or forget a step anyway.
Jesse: Sometimes I would just kind of shut down and be so worried about, you know, historical failure that it would cause me to not be able to initiate something new.
Jesse: And here's another one that's super common with ADHD. It's funny seeing these things I wrote down when I knew very little about ADHD and how much they just completely line up with my understanding now. Working late because too focused or distracted at the office. Uh, and this is another thing, really common with people with ADHD. They're often, you know, we don't sense time passing, and then sometimes we feel the need to like make up for having not done much earlier in the day. Like we think like, oh, I knew I was distracted today. And so I feel like I haven't done enough stuff, so I better work late to try and make up for it.
Jesse: But the problem is we really don't know what that norm is.
Jesse: And so we often end up overcompensating when we do that. Another thing. I wrote down very difficult to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. And this is directly related with a delayed sleep phase syndrome. If you're not familiar with that, It's exactly how it sounds is delayed sleep phase. So it's when you go to sleep at a set time that's later than most people.
Jesse: So for me, I don't go to bed until like two in the morning sometimes, which is not an ideal time, but that's sort of where my brain is. It's like my, or my, not my brain, but like my, my sleep cycle. It's just delayed from a typical sleep cycle. And this is actually extremely common with ADHD. I saw a study that said something like 75 to 80% of people with ADHD, also experience delayed sleep phase syndrome.
Jesse: Ah, this one's kind of funny. Uh, disinterest in people I don't immediately like, and not able to hide the dislike. I think I said this earlier, like when I, when I meet someone new and I've got like a vibe, like a negative vibe about them. Um, I feel like it's true intuition and it really does seem to pan out a lot of the time, but I'm horrible at hiding that on my face.
Jesse: So a lot of times, like, I would be in a group of friends and some new person would kind of like join the group or whatever, a friend of a friend. And then afterwards someone would say, you know, like, wow, you really don't like Steve, huh? Um, and I had no idea that it was so obvious, but apparently it just like that dislike was on my face.
Jesse: I just immediately knew, like, oh, there's something. There's something about this guy that I just don't really love. And usually it would turn out that there was a good reason for that.
Jesse: I also wrote down, fidgeting and distracted during conversations. If I feel my watch buzz, I have an Apple Watch, if I feel a buzz with the notification, it's all I can think about. Completely losing track of what the person is saying to me.
Jesse: Oh, this is so common that it's like, my brain is seeking, like, what is the more interesting thing? And hey, that notification buzz on my watch. I don't .Even know what it is yet. So that makes it like thrilling. It's like this exciting unknown. It's like, ooh, I want to chase that, cause that's, that chase is gonna to get me the dopamine. Whereas when I feel like the conversation, I kinda I know that this is going anyway. It's really easy to lose focus on it.
Jesse: And this, this is another one I have written down here, which is kind of a weird, which is kind of a weird thing. I don't know if this is directly related with ADHD. But, uh, it may be related with time blindness or time agnosia.
Jesse: But I wrote down, I feel like I need to do something intentional with my time. Even if that means intentionally playing video games. Now I do remember bringing this up with my therapist and kind of talking about how a lot of times I would get sort of stuck where I had a set plan of where the hours of the rest of my day would go.
Jesse: I'd be sitting around doing nothing. And then someone said, hey, do you want to go do this? And that thing that they say like, hey, do you want to go do this? Would be a fun thing that I want to do. But in my head, I'm like, ah, I can't do that. I just set for the next like three hours, I was going to watch a show for this 40 minutes here. And then I was going to play video games. And then I was going to read that book that I've been meaning to do. I was going to start that at exactly nine o'clock. And so I can't change that plan.
Jesse: It was like, I have a set plan set ahead of me on out what to take action on.
Jesse: A few more things I put down, I wrote, procrastination and putting off important tasks and difficult projects. Um, and kind of related with that is, overwhelmed by large project scope. Uh, like where do I even start? Which often leads to avoiding or ignoring the project entirely. This is like basically classic ADHD right here. We get overwhelmed often because there's just so much, and it's hard to get started. Like we don't even know where to get started and it just feels completely overwhelming.
Jesse: So we ended up just avoiding it entirely. One thing I tried to do with this, uh, when I get stuck on a big project is try to find like, what is something about it that is interesting that I can kind of hone in on and focus on, or even just like, what's a really quick, small thing that I can do to make some progress, like try to find a small step or like one or two tasks you can do.
Jesse: Maybe they're not like the best one to start with or whatever, but just something to kind of help build that momentum going. Another thing I wrote down, which is hilarious. Cause I wasn't even considering the rest of my family at the time, but I wrote down my family often interrupts, interrupts each other. So I also naturally do that in conversations.
Jesse: Uh, hilariously come to find out later that my entire family has ADHD and that's a big reason why we often just sort of interrupt each other.
Jesse: And I find that this works really naturally like two people that have ADHD will interrupt each other in conversation and not get offended by it. Like, we sort of understand that is just how we naturally communicate. But when someone neuro-typical is in the mix, they feel like you keep interrupting them, and talking over them, and there's like this offensive nature to it. They think that you're, you're being rude by interrupting them. Uh, when for me, like, that's just sort of like naturally how I talk with other people, like my family or friends that are also neurodivergent.
Jesse: Another thing I wrote down, uh, in the past, I eventually settle into a job and then get bored and lazy, and my productivity falls apart.
Jesse: I talked about this earlier, like this commonly, when I had that feeling, it often meant like, this is the end of this job for me, because I'm never going to be able to turn that around.
Jesse: So a few more things I wrote down, but one of the things I want to highlight, I wrote down how like budgeting meetings with my wife, talking about finances can be excruciating and they feel like it causes me physical pain from the boredom. Um, and this is something that I think a lot of people with ADHD can relate to that feeling of like boredom actually being painful.
Jesse: Uh, and I never knew that that was a common experience with ADHD. I just thought there was, again, like something wrong with my brain and it didn't, I didn't know what it was. So that's sort of like where my story with ADHD got started. So that was about five or six years ago. I was 36 years old at the time.
Jesse: I got my diagnosis, met with the therapist. Eventually met a psychiatrist. I've tried a few medications. None of them actually ended up working for me. So I basically just self-medicate with coffee.
Jesse: And then after that, I basically hyper-focused on learning more about ADHD. So I've read lots of books have watched a lot of videos. And then that basically led to me kind of becoming a, I don't even know what you call it, but like an ADHD advocate, I guess, or educator. Where I like to share a lot of my own experience and discoveries and findings about ADHD, so I can help educate other people because I know, I think one of the most fulfilling things about the work that I do online and sharing about ADHD.
Jesse: Is knowing that I'm kind of helping be part of that story for somebody else. Because I know for me, once I found out that I had ADHD, that there was like a reason behind all this, it really changed everything. When you grew up with ADHD, so much of there's so much self-blame and shame that comes with it because there's something different about you. There's something different about the way your brain works and you don't know what it is.
Jesse: And everyone, what you hear around you from like authority figures, parents, teachers, bosses, and peers. Like everyone looks at what you're doing and it just feels like you're lazy to them or you're selfish or you're too emotional or too sensitive, or you're just spaced out all the time.
Jesse: Or whatever it is, and it's, It's slightly different for different people, but whatever it is, it often expresses in this way that seems like it's all your fault. Like you're in control of it, that you're choosing to be this negative version, this different version of yourself that feels out of control where your actions never quite seem to line up with your intentions.
Jesse: But we're not choosing it. Like we, I think so many people with ADHD have great intentions and are our actions just don't seem to line up with it. And it's hard to know why, when you haven't been diagnosed with ADHD and you don't know kind of the facts behind what's going on in that brain of yours.
Jesse: Anyway, I'm getting a little bit rambling here at the end, But my point being, it's just, I know how much, like finding out about ADHD really changed my perspective a lot and you know, I, I have a lot of history of 36 years of thinking that it was my fault. And so it doesn't like make all that shame and self-esteem issues and all that go away, but it helps me reframe it.
Jesse: And look at my life from a whole new perspective. And I just love the opportunity to be part of that for other people as well.
Jesse: Thanks for listening. I hope you found my story. I don't know, informative, helpful, something like that. Maybe relatable. I know for me, one of the things I love most is just sort of hearing other people that have experienced the same sort of situations I did because.
Jesse: Growing up, I felt so alone. And so it's amazing getting to hear other people's stories. So I hope my story has been that relatable experience for you.
Jesse: So that's our show. Thank you so much for listening. I especially want to thank our VIP patrons, Dan Ott, Jessica Cherry DePaul, Luce Carter, Richard Stevens, and Todd Barnett. Your support helps me do this show and the other work I do, so thank you so much. If you want to support the show, you can go to patreon.com/jessej that's J E S S E J. And you can always support the show for free by leaving a review in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or the podcast player of your choice. Full show notes and transcript are available at adhdnerds.com.