Staring Me in the Face For Forty-Nine years!

By: Michael

I was diagnosed with ADHD around 7 years old and put on medication but only for about a week. This was over forty years ago so I don’t have a clear memory of it.  My parents told me that I became a different person, much too quiet and reserved and after this very short experiment, they decided that medication was not for me and ADHD was never really mentioned again.  

I have battled all my life to focus on things that I did not find exciting or enjoyable – so of course I was labelled lazy.  There are a few exceptions where I could become hyper focused if it was something that really piqued my interest.  So, my academic results were either right at the top of the class or way off.  (Mostly way off because I was lazy!).  This was my school and university experience.  

I was able to knuckle down briefly when it was either you do or you fail, but it was a major effort. I would sit at my desk with good intentions and find myself totally unable to do anything – bored out of my mind in a state of mental paralysis.  These were the days before smart phones and social media, so if you were not working, there really wasn’t much else to do other than stare out the window thinking of anything and everything other than studying.  

This was me every exam time and frankly the narrative for my life story.  It became me in the workplace too.  I could interact and contribute and seemingly get by, but I was operating at what felt like 40% capacity.  I felt like I was a failure, getting by, by the seat of my pants, feeling like a cheat.  I think my strengths grew incredibly stronger by having to compensate for my weakness.  I only felt worse about myself and that I was wasting my life. I had been given all these talents and was burying them in the ground. 

I spent almost 2 decades working in a role that I loved and hated at the same time.  It really required a high degree of focus which I was not able to give.  I don’t know how I lasted as long as I did.  Funnily enough, during that time I had a number of coaches who tested me for all sorts of personality traits and with whom I was very open and honest about my feelings and struggles.  Not one of them suggested ADHD!! Not one of them.

My son (17) and daughter (21) have both been diagnosed with ADHD and are managing their lives with the help of medication. Even this didn’t really trigger me into action or help me to make the connection.  For me it was more of a throw-away line in a conversation, “I’m probably ADHD, Ha Ha!!”  I didn’t realize that ADHD was actually a big part of why I struggled so much at work – why I felt like a failure – why I felt like a lazy underachiever.  

It took me leaving my job, after coming to the conclusion at the age of forty-seven, that there was more to life than working just for the money.  My son’s doctor had recommended a book to my wife, “4 Weeks to an Organized Life with AD/HD” by Jeffrey Freed and Joan Shapiro.  I started reading this book and couldn’t put it down.  Half way through it hit me like a ton of bricks. OMG!! This is me! This is my life.  This is exactly what I have been struggling with for as long as I can remember.  It made sense of so many things.  I always thought ADHD was just an inability to focus and concentrate and my behaviour was due to boredom and laziness.  

It was my Eureka moment.  I felt equal parts relief, regret and excitement. Funnily enough (or perhaps not), it still took me a while to get to a doctor, to get a final diagnosis and to begin the journey of acceptance, management and hope for the future.  

I’m still in the early days of being diagnosed, but I already feel much more positive about the future and about myself. I’m taking medication as needed and find that it makes a huge difference. I know there are lots of other strategies and tools that I can employ to help me on my journey.  Being a new member of ADDA is one of them.

It feels like I have so many bad habits to break, but I am only at the beginning of my journey.  Bring it on!!

    • Nicole Davis
    • May 4, 2019
    Reply

    I’m 36 and was diagnosed 8 years ago after both my children were diagnosed, I was on trials and tribulations of different meds and bam my life changed . Then 8 years later my doctor passes away. I live in a rural area and have lost access to all my medications due to the unavailability of finding a doctor. So far our lives have gone downhill. Lost my business and about to lose our home after 8 years of doing great and changing my life the unfortunate medical system in my area is crap . I pray everyday I find a doctor that truly sees someone who has went their entire life struggling to a mother who gained a home 2 businesses , a new car paid off , and so much more and do not want to lost it . I wish there was another way because I’ve been doing counciling my entire life. So it is not that .I am in citrus county Florida the ace where doctors don’t exist. I have Medicaid/United healthcare

    • Karen Robinson
    • March 29, 2019
    Reply

    I am engaged to a 62 yr old man who I believe has undiagnosed ADD or ADHD. Please let me know if I am correct. He can not look at people with whom he is conversing with in the eye for too long, if at dinner with others he will shake his legs, he thinks out loud all the time, he constantly chews gum, and he told me that he really has never been able to read an entire book. I have asked him to get tested but he keeps saying, “I am fine. I made it to 62 and I am fine”. Please can someone give me advice.

      • Leng
      • May 9, 2019
      Reply

      Probably more like dyslexia

    • Reply

      I found out in my 50’s about my ADHD because I wanted to make changes in my life. If your fiancee’ is “fine” and doesn’t think he needs to change there is not much you can do. You can’t change someone else’s behavior , you can only change your own. So read books and learn about ADHD and how to live with someone with ADHD…. It doesn’t sound like ADHD but I would never attempt to diagnose anyone else. I know it’s not easy but if he is happy and doesn’t want to change then expectance and understanding would be the best option.

    • Tania
    • March 27, 2019
    Reply

    I had to wait so long to find out I had ADD. I was probably around 78 y/o and I am now almost 82. I always knew I was not made ‘right’ to cope with this world, I guess I have to say it was a relief to find out and I tried to find someone to help. I have been depressed for years and taking medication for that which really did not work. I finally found someone in the ADD field who I thought might help but she said I was too old for medication and wanted to work on my depression. I tried some sample of something the dr. gave me but did not notice much difference. I am now living in a retirement community and I’m having a difficult time getting along with people. I am very short tempered and have a difficult time holding my tongue. I think I have found another group of physicians which I will try. I am grateful to have found this site with all the information.

    • Kathi
    • March 27, 2019
    Reply

    Interesting to read your comments. Mine so much different. Age 70 yrs just getting meds in last year. My whole life was ruined by undiagnosed clinic depressionn and adhd. I was divorced and 2 now very adult kids who have nothing to do with me. Am in counseling but not getting help i need now desperately.

    • crystal
    • March 27, 2019
    Reply

    Your article resonates so much with me. I was just diagnosed a few weeks ago. My idea of ADHD was a super hyper active person always on the go, so I never thought I had it. Sure I resonate with all the ADHD jokes, but doesn’t everyone? Flash forward to late 2018. My daughter was struggling to complete her homework. My daughter, who would take hours to finish her homework since grade school. My daughter, who I had even asked other parents if their kids had as much homework as she did (all said no). I never thought it was her with a problem. She was smart. I always thought it was the teachers piling on a bunch of work for her advanced classes. Until the day she said I think I have ADHD. I scoffed it off. She was like me. She was just lazy and couldn’t stay focused, just like me. No way did she have ADHD. And I told her so. I finally took the time to look up the symptoms, to show her why she doesn’t have it. I read more. I took quizzes. Holy crap. I realized she and I both have ADHD. It explains so much. I had flashback after flashback of all the obvious signs and symptoms in my life. I had no idea this was ADHD. All the wasted struggles. Sigh. I don’t want that for her.

      • Nellie
      • March 27, 2019
      Reply

      Thank you for sharing

    • Carol D
    • March 14, 2019
    Reply

    Kate, thank you for sharing your story in such an articulate and insightful way. I’m glad you were able to finally get a diagnosis and treatment. Please remember that you have a very special brain, intelligence, and special gifts that “normals” do not.

    I had strikingly similar experiences to you growing up and attempting college. My father was a school proncipal and in his “spare time” self-contracted and built warehouse buildings. I now realize he was also undiagnosed . He would often tell my teachers my disruptive actions and over-socializing was because I “took after my mom.” Nope, it was him.

    I eventually was able to become successful due to a fluke. Taking diet pills starting back in the 70s helped with my ADD. They were amphetimines. I started a career I loved and expanded on it.

    When not on the diet pills I learned I needed a lot of support and finally had work and personal assistants to help me be organized and succeed. I also had a few misdiagnoses and suffered through endless prescriptions.

    At 62 years old I was tested and like everyone here, went through all the “stages of grief” and regret. I think every child who tests high in intelligence and is struggling in school should be tested!

    Again, thank you for sharing your painful and yet promising story. Warmest wishes to you.

      • Nellie
      • March 27, 2019
      Reply

      Carol,

      I’m a recently diagnosed 49 year old, who’s prescription meds have made no difference.

      I feel like a human failure. My parents always said if I did my best that’s all I could do. And I have just realised my best is neve good enough. Im unemployed as every job pushes me out, all senior roles. And I am now scratching my head, struggling to find ow I provide for these gorgeous kids. I wish every day for a big fat eraser that can just rub me out of this life…perhaps your diet pills could make the difference.

      Unlike all you guys, I’m not finding the exit from the hell that ADD ensues.

      Although these threads do let me look on to others who can.

      X

        • kathi47
        • April 4, 2019
        Reply

        Carol unfortunately i have found that it takes a lot of work to get help. I now know meds alone dont help. You have to find a counselor who works with Adhd. Also diet to eat correct foods is so.important. i am getting Omega 3. May i sugfest a wonderful app that tell me so much. ADDITUDE.

  1. Reply

    Thank you for your story. I had similar things happen to me I thought that I was either crazy or retarded but did not know that I had ADHD until a few years ago. Taking Ritalin and meds for depression and anxiety have greatly helped. The doctor that discovered that I had ADHD had daughters with ADHD who graduated with honors . The secret was that he instructed the professors to give his daughters more time when taking test.

    • Robin Plank
    • March 13, 2019
    Reply

    This is also my life! But I didn’t really start falling apart until high school. I was intelligent enough, but I had to work so, soooo hard to keep my grades up.

    My memory was not good & doing homework was very painful. I would put the radio on to help block out the pain.

    Math had always been a great challenge for me. In 2nd grade I had a terrible time learning to read a clock. In hindsight I realize I did not grasp that there were three graphs superimposed on the clockface: hours, minutes & seconds, so the numbers were all a jumble.

    In 6th grade I would erase my long division work until there were holes in my paper & I would be in tears. I finally had such a meltdown my parents went in & talked to the teacher. To this day, arithmetic is harder for me than higher math. I did flourish in geometry though because it is so visual.

    I became anxious & depressed in high school, even to the point of having suicidal thoughts. I would have outbursts of rage & was tired all the tine.

    In college I broke down completely, not getting work in, which was not me. I was so depressed & fatigued I just finished the semester (after a big fight with my parents about it) and dropped out.

    Since then my life has been a typical ADHD patchwork of school, random jobs, more school, adventures, etc. Marriage & children gave me more external structure, but I was always so fatigued a doctor gave me a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. I have to wonder if all those years of stress damaged my body & has caused my all my chronic illnesses.

    I am 66 & still sorting this out, but finding ADDA has given me such relief because now I know what is wrong! I am learning many cognitive tricks, but my challenge is to remember them well enough to apply. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

    Each day is still a struggle, but life has gotten considerably better as I give myself grace & learn how to better manage my life. Thank you, Kate and others, who have opened their lives up to give the rest of us a sense of validation. Thank you, ADDA, for helping me find my tribe and for the healing that has begun in my heart & life. I love you all.

    • Mark Brennan
    • March 13, 2019
    Reply

    Reading your story is like reading my own biography, only thing missing is the failed relationships and marriages

    I also was misdiagnosed with bipolar ll depression and treated unsuccessfully for over a decade, the psychiatrist said it was type 2 as I also suffered with chronic depression and anxiety, it was only after many years of meds not working properly that I was referred to a mood disorder clinic. And after a couple of days there they said to me your Not bipolar, you have, ADHD

    After going home and reading and watching many vids on YouTube, I was shocked how it described my life to a tee, just wish I did not have to wait until I was in my 50’s for the proper diagnosis.

    Thank you for sharing your story, it makes me feel a little less alone with my struggles!

    Mark

    • Kelly
    • March 13, 2019
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s not easy to re-live those memories, and the emotional roller coaster of the diagnosis seems to keep going. I can relate in many ways to your experiences, and I was given the same book and remember feeling exactly the same way!! You are not alone and you’ll continue to collect and curate the tools that will allow you to be the amazing person that you are.

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