A Life Changing Event

By Jeannette McDonald

I realized my life had changed the morning I woke up and the tape that had been playing in my head since I was a young child in school, telling me every day that I was dumb and stupid, stopped playing. Yes, those were the words, “dumb and stupid”.  I was in my fifty’s and I remember very clearly waking up and not hearing the message that I was dumb and stupid – it was gone. You can’t imagine what a relief it was not have that swirling in my mind anymore.  It was strange but wonderful at the same time. I had lost that part of me.

There is always a “before” and “after” when your life is radically changed. You are headed down one road and then suddenly you are headed down another. Your whole outlook on life is altered.

Anyone who has ever had a problem will tell you that you must be aware of the problem before you can tackle it. If you are in the dark about what is really going on there is nothing you can do to make any changes to improve your life. I’ve heard it said, “Knowledge is power,” and I agree.

I am not saying that finally having that ah-ha moment means everything will get easier. Life is still an uphill battle every day, but in a different way. I’m not fighting the same battle I was when I really thought I had a low IQ and was the dumb of dumbest.

Let me share a little about the “before”. Going to school every day was hard but I never missed a day. Why? I often wonder why I didn’t skip school since I was so miserable. I wanted to be like everyone else. And I wasn’t going to give up. I was constantly embarrassed by my hand writing (no one could read it), spelling (no amount of effort helped) and reading out loud in the class room was torture. I couldn’t pronounce the words on the page.

I got though school, graduated from college at age forty-five and landed a very good job with the government. But nothing I accomplished in my life mattered. I still felt flawed. One of my most telling memories is that at forty years of age, I bought a spelling book to help me learn to be a better speller. I tried and tried to learn how to spell the words, and I cried and cried because even with my hardest efforts… I just couldn’t. Every time I signed up for my next college course, I knew I would fail the class.

During this time, I was also suffering from depression and I went for counseling.  I meditated; I took up running and I’m sure I read every self-help book ever written. There is so much more to the “before” but I don’t want to bore you.

Now let’s talk about the “after”. The After. After my life changed and took me into a different direction. If there is a lesson in this story, it is that if you keep searching for the answers, eventually you will find them. I found the answer at fifty-two years of age. It might seem like it’s taking forever but you must never give up.

It happened for me when I found the name of a communications group in the phone book. Yes, a phone book. I made an appointment. I had tests done and discovered I have a word processing disability and ADHD. Finally I knew why I couldn’t spell, pronounce words and had a hard time remembering.

Now my life was better. This is the after. The “after” when you’ve found out what the true problem is. Now you can have the life that you always wanted. The life free of problems and worries. The life where you are really, really happy. The life where your job comes easy, where you don’t have relationship problems, where you are physically and mentally healthy.

I wish it was that way. But my problem did not go away. I now had a name for it, but it did not go away. So, I started on a new path. A path of different doctors. A path with medicine and side effects. But now knew I was not retarded. I could work on my memory problems and my language problem. Now I knew what I was dealing with and I could face the next battle.

It was after I found out why I always had a hard time with certain things in my life that I realized there is no end to the rainbow. I have to keep striving. I need to keep search for the truth of what my life is all about. Everyone has lessons to learn. And as you learn one lesson, another appears. Life is a continuous series of changes. Reaching the top of one mountain does not mean there will not be another mountain to climb. The real lesson for me is to keep climbing each mountain. My life will constantly change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. But I will not be stagnant. I will always live my life to the fullest.

    • Anna Cramer
    • October 4, 2019

    Jeannette, I am recently diagnosed at age 60. I am so overwhelmed. I am so glad to hear your story! I just thought I was crazy. I can’t sleep at night, I talk to strangers in WalMart, well, really I like that…. too exhausted to do my job any more, totally disorganized, yet I love to build intricate, detailed, impossibly tiny dollhouse furniture and art projects. I can focus on them for hours. Apparently I am the adult Add/ adhd poster child! Bless you for sharing your story.

    • Kate
    • September 29, 2018

    I am 58. Diagnosed ADD at 28 by a psychologist who said they don’t medicate adults, you need to learn to focus. I made it all the way to grad school by only studying the day off the test. I can’t sit long enough to read a chapter. My brothers, daughter and grandson are ADHD. None of my Drs take it seriously. I’ve never been medicated other than an anti depressant. I can’t keep a job. I can’t be on time no matter how hard I try. I lost my marriages, my businesses, my home and now I’m struggling to raise my autistic ADHD grandson. I’m a freelance designer and can’t get my jobs done on time to make enough to survive. I have piles of unfinished projects and my house is a mess.
    I know when I wake in the morning with my mind multi tracking, what the root of my problems is. I’ve watched focalin save my grandson.
    How do I get a Dr to take me serious? They says it’s depression. I think depression is a symptom of untreated ADD. I need meds that will take the static out of my brain.

      • Christine Gambardello
      • July 25, 2019

      I am 52 and diagnosed with ADHD. I have been on medications for this for over 10 years and it is the only thing that saved my life from spiraling out of control. I went to a psychiatrist, to become properly medicated. I told him my symptoms, and he listened, then he placed me on Adderal. This medicine changed my world. I also take Wellbutrin for depression and lorazepam for anxiety. So I never miss a dose due to my phone that reminds me to take my medicine. Keep on trying and go to another psychiatrist that will take you seriously. Keep telling your story and your symptoms until someone listens. Stay well and stay strong.

    • John Grant
    • September 23, 2018

    Great life story, and well told! Thanks Jeanette.
    Am I the only guy to reply to this web story? Come on guys; you know that you have a story too!
    I’m 70, retired and living in Spain with family. As the years go by, and especially when retirement comes, you start looking backwards at the many times in your life when you wish you could do some things over again, and ‘If only I had done that differently!’ Is a common thought.
    Just today, Sunday 23rd September when reading this web site, a revelation came to me: For the seven years I went to Grammar school; I was late every day, except one day (the first day). I was late to church, I was late for my date, (she did marry me: amazing girl!). I was regularly late for work when I got to that working age. I had no idea why I was late, that’s the way it was. I needed a long list of excuses as to why I was late; so I ended up needing a catalogue of lies! Guess what; I was never given the responsibility of being a school prefect, or of having any management job. I was labelled ‘not responsible’. (I guess). This has always been a puzzle to me, but today, the light has come on: A.D.D.!
    I could add that I havent been able to read a book for 5 years because its hard to remember what happened in the book last time I picked it up. I am prone to make occassional spurious out of character decisions, which end up being embarrassing some of the time. I cant concentrate on conversation for longer than…always not long enough! I cant remember names, I cant remember faces (most embarrassing), unless I have seen the person in context and have been reminded over and over again. Studying engineering at University was a real struggle to understand what the lecturer was talking about. I could not remember a thing when I walked out of the lecture hall. However, with an enormous amount of frustration and hard work I passed the exam, just! I have had some very rewarding jobs as a result in aerospace engineering.
    On the positive; typical of the D.D. Syndrome (as I now understand it) I can play a musical instrument quite well (and really enjoy it), I have produced several musicals at an amateur level and am project driven, liking to have several main projects running together at the same time.
    I feel somewhat ‘released’ in my mind now that I can see a reason why I have behaved, the way I did and sometimes the way I still do. So, thanks so much ADDA.

    • Reply

      Thank you for sharing. Yes, at 75 I wish I could change so many things that happened in my life. When people talk about the good old days I sometimes lose my temper. I so love my GPS and the computer and spell check is amazing for someone who cannot spell. I started out working in an office and there were no computers back then. Boy, I spent many evenings crying and berating myself. I only wish I could help someone not have to not go though what I did. I think just knowing that you have ADHD helps and I wish I could have found out sooner. So many years of beating myself up.
      I am never late. In fact, I fixate on time which causes me stress. I think you are brilliant that you where able to get an engineering degree. I cannot carry a tune. Wow you have produced musicals. Oh I did self- publish a book called “The Girl From Gladden Street”. You know I have answered some of these comments but I am not sure I did it right so please let me know if you get this.

    • claire
    • September 1, 2018

    Thanks for the courage to share. I was diagnosed at age 35. I’m almost 59 & still struggling. Recent posts on rejection & intense emotional pain have helped me realize I’m not alone.

    • Amy
    • August 27, 2018

    Thank you for sharing your story. My daughter struggles with many of the same things. She tries so hard but often feels so defeated. Could you tell me what kind of communications testing and help you had done? Thank you again for your story!

      • Jeannette McDonald
      • August 29, 2018

      Hi Amy;
      I have been tested 4 times. It seems like I just can’t wrap my mind around it. I was just tested lately. I found the Dr on internet. Then I did cogmed on the internet. It is a program that is suppose to help you focus. Let me know if you get this email I will explain then I will tell you more about my testing. Thanks for commenting on my stories. Rest assured I could write a book on everything that I have tried.


    • waynehillendahl
    • August 27, 2018

    Thanks Jeanette,
    I too am 75, I too have ADD, but I did not discover the problem until I was 70! In elementary school I was just a “bad kid” that did not pay attention. I have been successful in business and retired very comfortably, but I was a struggle. What a relief when I found out that I was not alone; there are things that help.
    “Never, Never, Never Give UP! ( Winston Churchill)

      • Claire
      • October 1, 2018

      Thanks, Jeanette and Wayne. I just turned 72 and it was very apparent once I was tested that I was ADHD. I have been diagnosed with issues like pathological lying. A difficulty with focus, finishing a project. I own a successful business that makes it possible to work from home. It’s better because working with other people in an office was such a distraction that I was always struggling to remember what I was working on. This diagnosis also revealed my lifelong habit of calling myself names in my head or in conversations. Dumb, Stupid, Lazy, apathetic, emotionally unavailable, don’t know what I am feeling or simply avoiding my feelings. And…Angry. I couldn’t understand why it was hard to be comfortable around family, friends so I would “check out”. My Dad was diagnosed with dementia in his 80’s and I admit that scares me. Yes, finding out that this is a commonly undiagnosed condition in adults – especially older adults did help me believe that I wasn’t broken and there are ways to learn how to management my symptoms.

      • Lesley
      • August 28, 2018

      Him Jeanette,
      I found out in my early 60’s. I diagnosed myself while working for Learning Disabilities Assn. Suddenly my crazy life made sense. I also have an LD in math (when it gets to algebra) and science. As a kid growing up in Sydney, Australia I was impulsive, clumsy, talked too much (I still do), was always in trouble. Luckily I went to school where we had to sit with arms crossed, shoulders up and if you talked you got the cane. I learned well in that environment. It is not that we don’t pay attention. WE PAY ATTENTION TO EVERYTHING!! I now have to doodle while listening to presentations. I work for a school board that is harassing me for every stupid little thing. I am in trouble because I asked a math teacher for a text book to go over the lesson the night before so I could help the student. The teacher insulted me like crazy. I disclosed my LD and ADHD in the higher grade math area and she reported me to HR and I was in trouble for that.I am on medication and I have to wear a timer under my tops that vibrates when I have move classes. My colleagues hate me because I go over and above the job and teachers like me for it. They don’t understand that I am not trying to outdo them, I just like to be busy during quiet and prep times when they sit around and chat.
      I have been marked because I disclosed my ADHD . In spite of the amazing things I have done for students HR is trying to get rid of me because of age mostly and if they do then they hire young ones on contract with no benefits. I try to change schools but every principal has been warned and they watch me and ask colleagues what I have said. There are so many distortions, misunderstandings and even lies told by people who have less seniority than me but want my job. It all started by me submit tying a Bullying Report by one of those people. The bully WON. Everyone turned against me and I was removed from a very successful job taking students with disabilities to co-op etc at the high school level. I WORKED BESIDE THEM. and didn’t just watch. Most of them got part time jobs at those locations after they graduated. Put in the elementary sector to replace someone doing a gr8 job. Everyone hated me and I don’t blame them. I knew nothing. Life at work has been hell. So many stories to tell about how I have been treated and harassed and not given a chance when I go to a new school. Unfortunately I am a single parent with a disabled son who doesn’t get much help and is costing me a fortune so I have to hang in there and find a way to shut my mouth….lol…..

        • Anna Cramer
        • October 4, 2019

        Bless you Lesley. I relate. I was a teacher in a toxic environment as well.❤️ You are not alone!

    • joan r pine
    • August 26, 2018

    Yea, Yea. I too have this problem. I could never get a job or even keep the job. So, what did I do? I kept trying to get secretary jobs.

    I am very bad with paper, filing, dictation, and typing. Talk about leaving the ladder against the wrong wall.

    • Carey Boethel
    • August 25, 2018

    Hi Jeannette. Your story is very familiar to me and one I can relate to in many respects, both the “before” as well as the “after.” For so long I thought I was uniquely challenged, struggling along on a pilgrim’s journey. Then through medication regimens some answers began to line up with my questions, especially those concerning personal limitations in the areas of reading, speaking, writing and comprehension. Sudden and then continuing revelations (personal insights) unfold as we climb the various mountains you referenced–so true.

    • Carol
    • August 24, 2018

    What a wonderful story. It is very meaningful. Thank you very much for sharing that with me.

    • Tamra
    • August 22, 2018

    Thank you for sharing your story. So encouraging to me and I can relate to much of it including the late life diagnosis…I’m still struggling with finding the right meds but optimistic. And the “knowing” is huge. I thought I had early onset Alzheimer’s until my cognitive testing results. Best wishes on your journey!!

      • jeannette mcdonald
      • August 24, 2018

      Thank you Tamra for reading my story. I am blown away because I never thought they would publish it. I am 75 and I know I worry about my memory a lot. I guess our journey doesn’t end. I have started some new medicine. I just wonder why it is so hard to find the right meds. Have you ever heard of the genetest. This test will tell you what meds you can take and what you can’t. I am one of the unlucky ones whose DNA just isn’t good for meds.

      Lets just keep on trying. Thanks again.

    • Ginamia
    • August 22, 2018

    Thank you for your courage in life and in sharing your story.
    It’s true it helps to name”it”.
    Sharing “it” like these stories is uplifting and simply helps ya to keep on keepin on
    Peace to you and the silence in your head♥️

      • Jeannette McDonald
      • August 24, 2018

      Hi Ginamia; Thank you for reading my story. When I submitted it I never thought they would print it. I am busy bragging to all my friends that I got a story published. I wish for peace and silence in my head also, but so far it hasn’t happened.
      Blessings to you on your journey

    • nicolepborman
    • August 22, 2018

    What courage & eloquently stated! Keep speaking to your mountains ⛰ and climb higher! Be blessed!

      • Jeannette
      • August 24, 2018

      Did you get my email?

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