5 Things Only Adults With ADHD Will Understand

05/12/2014 08:21 am ET | Updated Jul 12, 2014

I am an adult living with ADHD. Truth be told, I am probably an adult who was once a kid with ADHD, but back when I was a kid, that sort of condition was not recognized. There was no Ritalin or therapy for kids like me; if you got out of line at school, your mom cracked you on the butt and you worked hard to stop "misbehaving."

Knowing what I know now, I realize that I've always had ADHD, and when I was officially diagnosed it all made sense. I was the kid that could not sit near the window (too much distraction); I was the kid that was overwhelmed at recess (too much stimulation); I was the kid that could never finish my homework (not able to focus).

Now that I'm an adult out there in the world with a job and a life and responsibilities, I have had to work incredibly hard to "keep it together." To further complicate things, I'm an adult with both ADHD and OCD. In some ways, the two things help cancel each other out, but it doesn't always work that way.

Are you an adult with ADHD? Here are five things only other adults with ADHD will understand:

1. It's incredibly hard to sit in long meetings. Asking me to sit still for over a half hour is like torture to me! I often fidget, doodle, check my phone, or stare off into the distance. Please know that when I do these things, I am not trying to be disrespectful, I just find it incredibly hard to sit still. Also, please know that when I'm doodling or checking my phone I am still paying attention; in fact, I pay better attention when I am doing those things as it keeps me present and keeps me from daydreaming.

2. Deadlines are your friend. As a person with ADHD, I tend to be easily distracted. I'm the queen of many projects that have been started but have never gotten finished. Now, this is where OCD comes in and helps to save the day. With OCD, I feel a need to finish things and that sometimes keeps me on track, but that's not enough to always get the job done. Deadlines help ensure that a project actually sees its way to completion.

3. Large gatherings are sometimes too much. I love my friends, I do, and I love spending time with them, but a trip to the amusement park, the mall, a large block party, or large house party can be a bit much. It's overwhelming to be around so much stimulation. I often don't know where to focus (or find that I can't focus at all). All that stimulation can make me extremely hyper and it may take more than a day to calm down. P.S. if you want my full attention, e.g., eye contact, don't ask me to meet you at a crowded place; I can't give you my undivided attention with so much going on.

4. Sitting in a movie theater is like torture. Sitting at home watching a movie isn't much fun either, but at least at home, I'm able to get up and use the bathroom, check my email, grab a snack, or simply just move around. No matter how good the movie may be, it is incredibly hard for people with ADHD to give the screen their full attention. Sorry James Cameron, it's not you, it's me!

5. Don't be too hard on me; I'm already hard enough on myself. I know that living with a person with ADHD is tough on other people. I have sympathy for my ex-husband and how difficult it was for him. But it's important to remember that people with ADHD know that we have it, and we are aware of our issues. Nagging, harping, and complaining do not help. Because we are aware of our own issues, and are sometimes embarrassed by them, we can be extremely defensive when someone else points them out.

Living with ADHD is not impossible, but it does take some careful planning to keep things in check. If you suspect you may have adult ADHD, please see a health professional that can help diagnose and treat your condition. Plenty of adults with ADHD, names you may know, like Richard Branson, Terry Bradshaw, Adam Levine, and Britney Spears, have gone on to do some extraordinary things in their lives while living with ADHD.

Take it easy on yourself!