The ADHD Crossroad: Diagnosed at 56

By Stephanie Mackeprang

They say ignorance is bliss. Knowing what I know now, my whole life makes so much more sense. I guess it was bliss! I’ve been working hard and striving to succeed in my career. My only other priority was family which left very little time for anything else. It was too stressful. I put all my energy into work. Striving to reach the potential I felt I had, my efforts fell short. I was passed over for promotions.

I’m at a crossroads. During the COVID-19 crisis, it became very clear to me I needed to make changes. The way my bosses treated me when I got sick during this time made it all very clear.

I do digital marketing and PR at a small liberal arts college in Nebraska. I serve as project manager for all digital projects. Web content strategy, digital marketing (adult and traditional), social media support and video. It takes very different skill sets, but I’m pretty good at keeping all those balls in air. Now I know why! I loved it, at first.

Then my health took a drastic turn for the worse. I had two hemiplegic migraines while on the job. One in July 2017 and one in May 2019 (on my birthday!). Hemiplegic migraines mimic the symptoms of a stroke. After the first one, the doctors treated me for a stroke. By the second one, the doctors figured it out and diagnosed me with anxiety. I have struggled with shortness of breath for years and used an asthma inhaler. I later found out this treatment was masking my anxiety.

My doctor encouraged me to seek psychiatric treatment. I was afraid of taking antidepressants so I saw a psychologist instead. I still was not diagnosed with ADHD. Rethinking my career, I sought the service of a professional coach. She got me to start journaling.

Then a world crisis occurred, COVID-19. I’d come in contact with the virus. I was sick for two and a half weeks due to a credible local contact. I got nothing but passive aggressive vibes as they struggled to understand why I wasn’t able to do more work. I was feeling anxious.

I’m the university’s one-woman digital marketing department and out of commission. They must have thought I was using my anxiety to get out of work. But after six years of working there, I was starting to fall out favor, like at my other jobs.

While I was sick with fever during the COVID-19 crisis and trying to journal, I kept writing the words down wrong. I thought to myself. Could I have dyslexia? I started researching and learned about half of the people with dyslexia also have ADHD. As I researched more, I saw myself with the symptoms.

I wasn’t sleeping and my anxiety was through the roof so I called my doctor and decided to take FMLA to treat my anxiety. That’s when I started psychiatric treatment and received the ADHD diagnosis.

Now that I have a true diagnosis, I’m on the fence about even trying to go back to this work environment. I’ve been asking for years to have somebody else take over the public relations end of my position. They claim money wasn’t in the budget. Now I have leverage. I have a diagnosis that can help them understand. I have a diagnosis that can help me understand! So, I sit here at a crossroads. There is still so much to learn about my ADHD condition. ADDA has been a wonderful resource and I am grateful.

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      • Kimberley
      • May 26, 2020
      Reply

      I was diagnosed at 51. After many years of inconsistency with home life, worklife, children, single parenting, relationships and the effects ADHD had on all and the struggles to balance.

      I was treated with meds and have since fell short of the feeling of being stable. Newly married 2.5years ago added even more tasks and responsibilities. Being furloughed due to COVID-19 has created a entire new since of “I’m crazy, paranoid, lost, alone, sad worried and confused”. Now the diagnosis of ADHD has resurfaced as a reason for these new feelings.

      Thank you everyone that was as diagnosed later in our lives. Continued care is as important as the diagnosis and treatment. Moving forward, I am waiting for a therapist to return my call to sched an appointment, so I can weigh out my options and discuss my future care. We owe it to ourselves to be mentally stable, less stressed and able to function without the effects that ADHD can present. Especially at a time like this. God Bless, and take of YOU, others do not understand our struggles and will not be able to help us. We must help ourselves.

      • Sheri
      • May 22, 2020
      Reply

      I am 42, and I have not been diagnosed, but I have been reading Sari Solden’s book Women with Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life, and it is explaining so much about my struggles. I think a diagnoses was never attempted because I was a straight A student and I don’t miss deadlines, giving me the appearance of a competent, organized person. I really didn’t have a big problem until I started working, and now I have dealt with things by reducing my work and social responsibilities so severely that I feel worthless, and I still don’t feel like I get anything done, and have anxiety about attempts to make changes and guilt about not making changing. I am just beginning to understand this, and what to do next.

    1. Reply

      Hi to all of you. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was 58 I am now 61. I feel like I got my life back. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t keep up, why I couldn’t do planning, why I was always overwhelmed and not able to do what I strive to do. I was exhausted and not bouncing back. It feels like it has been a slow process to fully understand the ways in which the ADD impacted my life, while at the same time I am moving a head on my life long dreams which is wonderful! I am working on making lifestyle changes and currently using a stimulant to help me focus. This has made a big difference for me as I have the inattentive type. I have also worked with a professional organizer a couple times a month and this helps me to understand my deficits and ways around them . Recently I have been reading and recommending to clients ADD friendly ways to organize your life by Judith Kolber & Kathleen Nadeau, PHD. That has been extremely helpful.

      • Elizabeth Murphy
      • April 22, 2020
      Reply

      Hey, I didn’t recognize it until
      62. 😕 Everything now makes sense but I spent a lifetime struggling to follow through with normal household tasks while being passionate and successful with my career. That’s because I loved my job and could hyperfocus on it. On the other hand cleaning my house and dealing with the repercussions of never getting it done well were a constant struggle.
      As I have read articles, listened to podcasts and watched numerous webinars I am now understanding the why and learning coping skills to better equip me for the rest of my life.

      Do I regret the late diagnosis? No. I believe it sets me on a different plane to perhaps help others who have symptoms but so far undiagnosed ADHD. And it frees me to relax and realize my special abilities are a blessing and my weaknesses can always be improved. The ADHD diagnosis explains my behavior and it is so encouraging to hear from others with similar struggles. I am not alone and neither are you Stephanie!

        • Loey
        • April 24, 2020
        Reply

        I was diagnosed with ADD & dyslexia (comprehension) at 67. To make matters worse I had measles at 3 months which left me with a hearing impairment. I was treated for depression for 15 years. I learned about ADD thru an interview with an author on TV.

        • Stephanie
        • April 23, 2020
        Reply

        Hi Elizabeth, I believe there are a lot more like us out there. We grew up in an age where ADHD wasn’t on the radar of educators and if so, only with extreme cases. I was a quiet child. No red flags in school. As I got older and the responsibilities mounted, the warning signs came out in my anxiety. But my pride kept me from seeking psychological help. I don’t regret my late diagnosis either and I am enjoying the journey as I learn more. Thanks for you comment!

      • Kathy
      • April 22, 2020
      Reply

      I can relate to the beginning of your story. I was was diagnosed in my early 50’s. I’ve listened to a lot of ADHD podcasts to educate myself. I’m thankful for this resource. It’s hard to find people to talk to That understand. They think you are making excuses – again!

        • Stephanie
        • April 23, 2020
        Reply

        Hi Kathy, I have found the webinar library on this site to be extremely helpful. It is comforting to know that I can connect with others who know what I am going through. I am just now learning how to talk about my condition with people who aren’t familiar with ADHD and I t’s helpful to have the language to describe it. No matter what happens in my current situation, I am confident that if this doesn’t work out I will find other opportunities. Thanks for your comment!

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