There is Nothing I Will Encounter Today That I Can’t Learn

Sean’s Story, Interview by Patricia Schwabb

I am 52 years old and just randomly read an article on Facebook about ADHD and right away recognized myself. As I read more about this disorder I looked back and saw many ways it’s had a negative impact on my life. School was always a big problem for me. I always thought of myself as quite witty and funny and so did my teachers for about the first two weeks.

Things really got serious when I was unable to comprehend math problems like the other kids. I can still see the disappointment and exhaustion on teachers’ faces when I just quit trying. I acted out my frustrations with a cornucopia of shenanigans, like my stand-up comedy routines or remarks such as, “What are you talking about lady, this seems like a good time for a nap?” Of course this behavior led to many trips to my old friends at the Board of Education. Things came to a head in high school and because I had skipped so much school and my ten year efforts at stand-up classroom comedy didn’t give me enough credits to graduate; they decided it was time for me to leave.

I could write an entire book on my shenanigans as an adult so I will summarize by saying that, with all the energy I put into my work life, I should be a billionaire. Now here I am unemployed after 15 years working as the guy in charge of building all the really cool displays at a big home improvement store, but I was terminated because of a misinterpreted reply to a comment on social media. (I thought it was funny.)

For years I couldn’t understand how I can rebuild a truck engine and make it scream or build just about anything out of wood or rewire my house or build a website, but I can’t pass my GED?

Now after being tested and diagnosed with ADHD, I’ve just started taking Adderall and I can’t believe what a difference it makes! After so many attempts at getting my GED, for the first time I’m actually able to read the study materials and not only understand them but retain the information in my brain!

I will tell you this much; if I don’t laugh about it, the past really depresses me. So I try to make it as humorous as possible.

I also breed and train Belgian Malinois, a dog that’s used by military and law enforcement agencies. My dogs are my Zen and keep me grounded and outdoors. The commands are in Czech and sometimes I get the commands or the dogs names mixed up. It’s hilarious to see the expressions on their faces as if they’re trying to help me out by saying to me, “Dude what’s next… let me give you a hint, see, now I am laying down, now I am sitting.” Now I know why!

I am relieved to know that this has a name and I haven’t lost my mind. It’s going to be interesting to see what the future has in store for me. My new motto in life, “There is nothing I will encounter today that I can’t learn.”

    • Emma
    • May 19, 2018

    Hi my name is Emma, and I was reading your message and well done, it’s great to always be positive when it comes to us adults with our differences our special gift is amazing ,and 100 and 1 things that make us us. It is so easy to look at ourselves with this and see all the negatives but to always look at the positive in what we must always do as we are amazing Fantastic and gifted ,we need to always look within and truly love ourselves forever???take care and stay safe ??

    • Dee Dee
    • April 29, 2017

    Sean, I’m finding there are so many of us – more and more all the time. I am your age and was diagnosed only a few years ago. I am a mental health professional, an RN. I have been in the profession for over 30 years now and am amazed at how little most of us know about or recognize the signs when we see them. It took a friend, who was finally diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, describing some of her struggles to me, to make me realize that, hey! I have those same issues – maybe I’d better check this out. I went to a psychiatrist who I’d worked alongside of for years. He had a program – a series of neurological tests on the computer – that helped verify, along with my own experiences, that I did have ADHD – inattentive type. I was 47 years old at the time.

    I think I was lucky with school. I loved learning, had good teachers, lots of structure and that was really my main responsibility, as a kid. With inattentive type (I like to just use the old term – ADD), I could be distracted but the structure helped me focus. I can see times in high school when I struggled and it was more difficult when I was in college, but somehow I made it through that. My shrink (I say that with affection) said that perhaps I am just really smart (thank you for that!)

    My point in sharing all of this with you is that I can see multiple intelligences in you through your story. I feel sad that your school experiences were so painful. I hope you can now pass your GED exams and experience maybe some closure with that part of your life. I know that, while I do feel that I’ve been fairly productive in my life and have done work that feels meaningful, I do often compare myself with others my age and wonder how much more I might have done by now if I had known sooner about my ADD.

    I am fascinated with what you shared about breeding your dogs and would love to hear more. I think you should check out some opportunities for learning more about stand up comedy, like a class or workshop. And I would love to learn about woodworking and wiring a home from you, as well as building a website! (By the way, we do have this thing called “hyperfocus” that allows us to remain focused on things we are interested in. It’s really cool, but I think it confuses others who don’t know about ADHD, even mental health professionals, sadly.) My last thought is that, if you were to write a book about your “antics,” I would love to read it!

    Thank you so much for sharing about yourself. I look forward, hopefully, to hearing more from you and sharing this website and journey with you!

    • Larry Wooley
    • March 19, 2017

    Thank you for your story, this last week I have been labled as having ADD/ADHD, in that, finally giving a feeling of such relief. I am confident with further exploration, my issuses will be addressed and my problems worked through. My life is changed not only from the clarity, but also the overwhelming need to understanding what “normal” people are feeling. My identification of the problems stemming from my disorder has left me with a future that is as bright as the sun. Believe it or not “You can teach an old dog new tricks at 52 years old, that is 364 in dog years”.

      • Dee Dee
      • April 29, 2017

      Being a 52 year old and about to start working with an ADHD coach, I am counting on that! May I suggest, though, that you stop worrying about what “normal” people are feeling. Normal is a very relative term, in my opinion and experience. I do understand the feeling, for sure. Maybe I’ve moved past that and just want to hurry you past that part, too. I suppose that is not really fair. Or perhaps I have my own ideas attached to that term.

      I’m thinking you are referring to those who do not have ADD/ADHD and if so, I don’t think we’ll ever really know. Though if you are talking about having a better handle on your own emotions, I totally get that! My husband told me a while after i started taking Vyvanse that I was like a different person with regard to that. I felt much more like my better version of myself, in which i am much more even tempered.

      Back to other thoughts about “normal” people as those without ADHD, My non-ADD/ADHD co-workers (AKA my alternate family members) have been very disappointing to me in their inability to understand not only me, but also our patients who have ADHD. I think I started to realize that even before I knew I had it myself. I know I will need to advocate for ADHD and those who struggle with it and teach them more about it, but first, now that I’ve begun to recognize my own struggles and have progressed about as far as the medications and my own quest for knowledge and change can take me alone, I need to ask for help from a coach.

      As I’ve been learning about my own symptoms I’ve begun to see the signs and struggles more clearly in our patients who also have ADHD – that clarity you talk about. I feel like we will always be unique or different from non-ADD people. For example, I learned, from my first contact with an ADHD coach, that our way of thinking is non-linear. I have learned over time that my thinking was non linear, but I hadn’t realized it was an ADHD thing. There is a category for it on the Meyers-Briggs test, which explained so much about some struggles I’ve had working on projects with others at times. I do kind of like my nonlinear way of thinking and sometimes of doing things, but I recognize it can be problematic at times and inefficient. I’ve been told, though, that with some (or a lot of, maybe) effort, I can learn to communicate organize and communicate my thoughts in a more linear manner. And right back to teaching an old dog new tricks at 52!

      I do share your enthusiasm for the future. I am so right there with you! But rather than understanding so-called “normal” people (I say that with a smile) I am looking forward to meeting other “like-minded” people here, feeling more understood, and learning to laugh at myself again.

        • Cari
        • September 8, 2017

        Love this note…

    • Johonna
    • March 9, 2017

    Your are perfect, just the way God intended. Only now you know it too. Bam, now that is an epiphany. Love this story.

    • Luis Diego Ramírez Guerrero
    • March 8, 2017

    In other words, we sometimes tend to think that in a given situation, we are to blame or, the most likely to receive the blame for a perceived problem when in all actuality neither is true, simply because no problem exists.

    • Luis Diego Ramírez Guerrero
    • March 8, 2017

    I’m an Inattentive ADD Adult; diagnosed (as many), when my eldest was diagnosed at around preschool age; he’s nineteen now.

    I’m an anesthesiologist; something someone in my condition isn’t supposed to be. That makes me more thankful than proud, though; and, must admit, I’ve had my share of problems in a very stressful profession. Nonetheless, my coworkers and my own fears on potential disasters have not, thank God, materialized. So, that brings me to my own personal conclusions: for me, at least, dealing with other people’s expectations about myself rather than a realistic view of my own has been my main problem, more so than actual consequences of my condition. In a nutshell, comorbidity has been my real monster. I’ve been taking Strattera for almost a year now, and I just can’t believe how I avoided taking meds for such a long time. Of course, they are not a universal cure all and there are definitely difficult moments (as everyone’s life). But, it’s definitely been greatly positive, enabling me to think and with much more clarity.

      • Dee Dee
      • April 29, 2017

      I also have the inattentive type or the old ADD. I am so right there with you with regard to others’ expectations of me rather than my own realistic view of myself. I’ve finally made the decision to work with an ADHD coach so I can both learn more about myself and my ADD brain and understand how I can get a better handle on it and my life. I’m really noticing how it is affecting my relationships with my boss and co-workers at work. I also work in a health care environment and even though I work in psychiatry (in an intensive group therapy program) I understand some of the demands of the health care system and may likely share some of the same difficulties navigating the demands and tensions in heath care these days.

      I was glad to read your post. As Ive said in my responses to others, I’m looking forward to sharing this next part of my journey toward mastering my ADD brain with other like minded individuals.

      And with regard to you’re statement that your professional accomplishments are not something that someone with this condition is supposed to be able to accomplish, I’ll share with you what my shrink said to me: Maybe you’re JUST REALLY SMART and able to somehow compensate for the deficits. That made me feel pretty good. I hope it does you, too.

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