Like the (in?)famous Dr. Howell wrote, most everybody has some of the symptoms of ADD some of the time (I believe this goes for anxiety as well). Rather, its the collection, duration, and intensity of the symptoms that form that murky gray line between "having" and "not having" ADD/ADHD. Perhaps because its all so murky, many of my friends have asked me, sincerely, what having ADD and/or anxiety feels like. I hope this explains my experience (and maybe someone elses?) a little bit more.
One of my earliest memories is of lying in bed night after night, sure that my necklace would choke me in my sleep, yet unable to remove the thing. At the same time I felt that constant, disgusting frightened feeling in the pit of my young stomach, it never occured to me to just take off the necklace and be done with the anxiety. Anxieties, I think, aren't like that.
I might analogize having ADD with Anxiety to being alone, on a pitch dark night, in the woods. I don't know about you, but this doesn't exactly sound like a night well spent to me. I'm feeling around with my hands and feet, searching for a path, a focus. As I feel around, I'm bumping into so many things--probably just twigs and stones, but I don't know that. Each twig I catch my shirt on feels like the knife of a serial killer, each branch I step on feels like the tail of a sleeping mountain lion, and each stone I kick? I'm just sure its half a corpse's head (you know, the one of the serial killer's previous victims). Basically, I'm unfocused, searching frantically in the dark and haunted by fears that may or (usually) may not be "real."
Seems like a pretty frightening situation, right? It does to me, too! Let me remind you, though, that I have lived with this for a quarter of a century (25 just sounds too green! Ha!). It didn't stop me from (finally) getting to sleep when I was a kid, and it didn't stop me from working my way into and through an Ivy League education (and, when you've got my educational background, that amounts to a LOT of work! Lol!). Fumbling and frightened though I may be, I continue to press on in the dark.
Hanging out in the dark, I do use whatever is in my knapsack to help me find my way (or ways, plural). I play mind games to calm myself. I organize all the smells and sounds as best I can. I give myself a lot of small tasks to achieve, and I make sure to celebrate when I finish one.
When these things don't work, the dark is scarier, but I still have a few tricks up my sleeve: my stubborn nature, my resilience, and my sense of humor (wry though it may be at times!). Most people I know with ADD seem to have those things, too. Considering all the ghosts and goblins that my anxiety produces, I think I'm pretty lucky to have them!
One additional tool that I need and benefit from (but, thanks to a lack of health insurance, do not have) is medication. Like the experts always say, medication isn't magic. Meds do NOT make things ALL better. I'm still in the dark, I'm still feeling around for any sort of a tenable path, and I'm still catching my clothing on murder weapons at every turn. The meds do help some, though.
When I take anxiety medication, distances me a little from the the scary things closing in on me. I'm still in the dark, and I know there are scary things still closing in, to be sure, but I just don't care as much. Being afraid doesn't take up so much time and energy. Instead I begin to notice croaking frogs, the smell of pine needles (I'm from the American Northwest), and a million other, more positive things about my surroundings.
When I take ADD medication, its different. Its like someone's handed me a flashlight, or the moon's suddenly come up. The light still casts ghoulish shadows, but at least its also illuminating part of a path. I finally have something smooth for my footsteps to land on. I can't see infinitely far in front of me, but I can see just up ahead to the next small goal marker. And, since I can actually see some of the path, I can concentrate on it, and better resist the distractions of irrational fear.
I feel so much more confident in my abilities and my future when I take my meds. Meds don't work alone. For example, I find that if I don't have a list of tasks and a plan of attack, taking my ADD medication doesn't help me much at all. If I don't exercise my sense of determination and humor (including turning that humor on myself), I will lose the battle with my anxiety, no matter what.
I have to use all of the tools at my disposal or things just. don't. work. I mean, even when I do use all of the tools at my disposal, I still have SO many days where things don't work. I have SO many days where the wind and the wolves howl louder than I can sing, where I shake and bang the flahslight against my palm, and it just blinks, gray and ineffectual against the night.
I realize this isn't all that positive, but it is what it is. I cannot say, on the days when things just suck, that I'm always looking forward to a brighter day. Hell, if this were a Disney movie, I'd be 60 lbs thinner and receiving royalty checks. Its not, and I'm not. Like so many with ADD, I don't only live in the moment, I'm stuck in the moment. Each moment is an isolated experience unto itself. I live at No. 001 Here And Now Blvd., and when its dark outside, it is that way forever. When things just don't work, they've never worked. On the flip side, the opposite is equally as true when things ARE working.