Not ‘my ADD life’ because I was an extreme rarity: I was adult-onset ADD and found a cure. The topic has come up elsewhere and my story might help other guys so it’s sharing time.
My junior year of college, I was a borderline genius, carrying a heavy load of upper-division STEM and loving the 60-hour weeks in the library & laboratory. My senior year, I would have flunked out of college had I not finished my degree a year early, less the general ed requirements. The change in behavior was that stark.
It was the standard set of ADD symptoms: restlessness, trouble concentrating, poor short- term memory. It soon got worse. I had trouble reading because the words on the page swam in front of my eyes. I would sit down to a lecture, barely be able to stay awake the entire hour, and revive instantly upon standing at the end of class. Even in classes I enjoyed.
That was the start of a fifteen-year period in which I could barely put two thoughts together. I did manual labor because I couldn’t stay awake long enough to sum a list of figures even though I could otherwise do hours of lifting & walking. I got fired for passing out in a business meeting while the company executives were talking to me. I began being careful about driving long distances because my vision started “graying out” on long stretches of road. I began collecting comic books because more complicated books kept swimming around in my vision, and got to reread the comics because I couldn’t remember the last five times I’d read them. For an extremely intelligent and easily bored man, it was a living hell.
Doctors were useless. I had no symptoms going about my daily life outside these specific circumstances. No history of drug use or brain trauma. Ironically, it took a full decade of doctor-shopping before one of them thought my attention-deficit troubles might be treatable with ADD medications. All the others thought it was being caused by my depression when I knew the depression was being caused by it. Whatever ‘it’ was. I didn’t dare tell them about my driving troubles; “I can’t help you except to revoke your license” would have driven me to suicide, living in car-crazy Los Angeles at the time. 8-12 cups of coffee a day was the better path.
I then made the interesting discovery that I was very good at handling danger & violence. When facing dog attacks and other sudden threats in gang territory, time slowed for me like Neo in the Matrix. Adrenaline rushes felt good. I’d trained a little in martial arts prior but actually being in danger was a surprisingly good fit for me.
I responded well to medication. The problems disappeared and I had my mind again for as long as the Ritalin lasted. The relief cannot be described, except to say the I’m now the favored right hand of the employer who was about to fire me for incompetence at the time I began being treated.
For unrelated reasons, I broke my back and began seeing a chiropractor during the recovery. He found that in addition to the bad back, I had tightness on one side of my neck from an old warehouse injury. I’d worked the summer between my sophomore and junior college years in a warehouse, had pulled my shoulder blade and not given it time to heal. Stupid kid. I’d thought I needed the money.
A couple months of chiropractic treatment on my neck and my attention-deficit troubles were gone.
Reconstructing after the fact, scar tissue in my shoulder blade from the warehouse injury had shrunk after a year–common–and in the process, tightened a tendon that pulled my C1 vertebra badly out of position. The top of my spinal cord had been in a semi-tourniquet for 15 years. For unknown reasons, instead of causing pain it put me in adrenaline shock–a constant, low-level “fight or flight” reaction in my limbic system. And that’s why I was good with danger, I was living my entire life tunnel-visioned from adrenaline. I was used to it. Also why I couldn’t read a book, or why I could drive safely in traffic but not on the open road. (Learn to drive, fools!)
I still use medication but infrequently; usually when the rest of my spine is acting up. Similarly, I’m down to 2-4 cups of coffee a day. I can’t tell whether the continued use is damage or simple age.
So, ADD is a real thing and could possibly be caused by a misaligned neck. Worth checking out, fellow sufferers. Meanwhile, I’ve learned that problems of mental performance are real and can be hard to confirm. That’s harsh in the Information Age with its steep cognitive demands.