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!!