Two years ago, at age 33, I learned I have ADHD and that it permeates nearly every aspect of my life. While seeking help for my impulsive, energetic six-year-old daughter, I was surprised to see myself in many of the checklist items. The doctor was seeking participants for a study of mothers and children with untreated ADHD to determine if treating the mothers might delay the age at which children started medication.
My early diagnoses of Tourette syndrome and migraines were blamed for my early difficulties in life and these were the conditions the doctors treated. I was always a very good student, but worked many more hours on homework in every grade level. Medications for anxiety, depression and tics (most notably hard eye rolling and very frequent blinking) that came with my TS were all consuming for years. I know many people with TS also have ADHD, but I don’t have a lick of hyperactivity or impulsivity, so I didn’t make things difficult for teachers and nobody considered ADHD.
I was often overwhelmed in grad school as I studied to be a Special Education Preschool Teacher and then again in failing grad school while attempting to switch careers to Physical Therapy.
One arm of the study was behavioral interventions for my daughter and me to work on together. That proved to be more effective for my daughter (and our relationship!) than the medicating mom trials. The few medications I tried either increased my tics or migraines. One afternoon I was exhilarated, focused and productive before tics hit so suddenly I had to pull over and calm down before I could l drive safely home. It’s been interesting living at the intersection of these diagnoses, and recently two months of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been the most effective treatment. I am still willing to try different medication options to see if it could decrease in symptoms and make life easier. I don’t want to leave anything untried. My new career plan finally takes into account my challenges, which I believe is a direct result of getting my diagnosis. I will return to being a Special Education teacher but this time in the homes of infants and toddlers. This means no classroom to keep organized, clean, and full of rotating thematic decorations and play experiences. It also means I work with each child one-on-one, giving them and their caregiver my full attention.
With my diagnosis came an acceptance that chastising myself to try harder had not “worked” for the first few decades of my life. Trying harder to be on time, to spread my attention between the students, remembering to move the laundry I started last night before it mildews, to break large tasks into small chunks long before the deadline… just led to failure and guilt, thinking I had to be even harder on myself so I’d learn.
I am so hopeful that the shift in attitude since my diagnosis, the skills I have learned with CBT, plus the wiser career choice will be an effective combination to keep overwhelm and guilt at bay. I’d sure love to hear stories of other people whose ADHD intersects with TS, migraines, being female or parenting a child with ADHD!