A long-time ADHD doubter, I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 51. I didn't want to accept the diagnosis: ADHD, really? Is that even real? Even if it is, I'm definitely not hyperactive and I did really well in school. Or so I thought. It's interesting how one's perceptions often don't match reality, especially if one has ADHD. We are notoriously poor at self-observation. When I mentioned the diagnosis to my mother, she was not surprised at all. That was my second clue that perhaps the therapist was right.
The first clue was the reason I was seeing a therapist in the first place. I was struggling with depression brought on by stress. I half jokingly referred to my home life as CHAOS* (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) because I was simply incapable of maintaining a clean house. Oh, yes, given enough pressure and angst, I could make it presentable the night (and usually morning) before a major event (The Night Before Christmas has a completely different meaning in our house!), but a day or two later, it would revert to CHAOS again.
Work wasn't much better. Unfinished projects were stacking up. My modus operandi was to pour on the steam and "get 'er done," in the nick of time and come out looking like a hero ...and sometimes, not so much. This behavior was baffling to me. Why couldn't I get anything done unless I was under extreme pressure? Why was I always procrastinating? Was I lazy? Was there a part of me that wanted to sabotage my career? As my work responsibilities increased, so did the projects. I began to fear that my usual method was going to fail catastrophically.
My volunteer activities suffered as well. Lessons for the classes I was teaching were prepared either late the night before, or more often the morning of, class. I simply could not come up with ideas for illustrations, object lessons or crafts until the last minute. As the stress increased, I became so overwhelmed that I spiraled into a state of depression. Finally, I sought help and out of that came the ADHD diagnosis followed by months of research.
As I learn more about ADHD, things are beginning to make sense. No, I'm not lazy and there is a reason I have such a difficult time starting and finishing tasks. Best of all, there is hope for me. I don't have to continue to live in CHAOS and I can be successful without stressing myself out. I have started learning about things like mindfulness and pattern planning and they have helped tremendously. I also started taking a mild antidepressant and ADHD medication which have also helped a lot. I am hopeful that I will eventually be able to function without the medication, but if I can't, that's OK too. Taking meds is not a cop out. If I need them, I need them, but just as I am hopeful that I can control my blood pressure through diet and exercise and thus stop taking blood pressure medicine, I am also hopeful that I can learn to exercise and train my brain to function without antidepressants and ADHD medicine.
After hearing some of my musings about my ADHD diagnosis and experiences at a recent session, my therapist encouraged me to start a blog. I immediately dismissed the suggestion, I really didn't need any more projects! But as the days and weeks passed, I thought, what could it hurt? Maybe it will help someone else like me. So here we are, and here's my blog. We shall see how long it lasts.
*I'm not sure, but I think the Fly Lady coined the term, CHAOS.