It seems like everyone I meet was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult.
I was actually diagnosed in the 90’s in the beginning of the ADHD craze. So I have had knowledge of my diagnosis for a long time.
I didn’t always believe that I had ADHD. In fact, I only really accepted the fact after looking back at my personal history and some of my patterns of behavior.
This is written based on my point of view.
The Early Years
I remember sitting in church and tapping my toes. I remember the nervous energy that made me bite my fingernails and the inside of my cheeks.
Every little hangnail, or piece of rough skin on my lips was totally distracting. Sitting in class, or in church, was uncomfortable for me.
I remember the first time I zoned out in class. It was second grade and we were working on long division. I recall some practice problems, and I think I went through the motions and wrote all of the numbers down.
When it was time to go to lunch (or recess or wherever we were going) we lined up. Standing sheepishly in front of my teacher’s desk I said, “I don’t understand. She replied something to the effect of, “there is nothing to misunderstand.”
I never asked for help in school again.
I also recall taking notes in 6th grade math class. Everything the teacher said and did made sense. All of the notes made sense as I followed along.
When I got home and looked at my homework problems taken from the same book, I drew a blank.
I felt angry with myself. “What is wrong with me? It made sense just a few hours ago?” Looking at those pages of notes felt like trying to read Chinese.
I knew that that sort of blank space in my memory could not be normal. Other people didn’t go home and feel this way when doing homework.
My mother took me to a Psychologist to get my diagnosis.
I cannot recall exactly how it was explained to me, but I know that I went on medication almost immediately.
Having that label, or diagnosis, changed everything.
All of a sudden I was some kind of special case, who got called down to the guidance office during lunch for extra practice. I found the whole thing humiliating.
My diagnosis coincided with my stepfather passing away from a brain tumor.
Losing her husband drew my mother’s attention to her children’s shortcomings. I am not sure if I would have been diagnosed had I not been shuttled to a psychologist immediately after his death.
It was also decided for me that I was depressed. I took some type of anti-depressant along with what I assume was Ritalin. I took these medications throughout most of middle and high school.
The drugs might have masked some of my obvious symptoms, but they didn’t take care of the fundamental problem in my neurochemistry.
An ADHD diagnosis is a huge hit to one’s sense of self-efficacy. Particularly when you are told that you will take this medication and you will see this doctor and you have no choice in the matter.
If I couldn’t control my own attention and learning process, what could I control?
The College Years
I went off to college immediately after graduating from high school. This was a time of both tremendous personal growth and tremendous confusion for me.
I joined a sorority, and drank copious amounts of cheap beer. I skipped classes, and I made bad decisions about men.
Yes, I had trouble focusing on the academic stuff. But I also learned that I did not really need medication all the time.
Ritalin was helpful when I had to study for a test or focus on writing a paper.
Ritalin was not helpful for me to go to mixers and meet new people.
It didn’t matter that I was a mediocre student. For the first time in my life I was free to just succeed or fail or drink beer or whatever without anyone telling me I was doing something wrong.
I transferred to a different school 2 years into college and moved to Philadelphia.
Living in the city was the first time I started to really try to take care of my mind and body.
I started to eat differently and think differently. Exercising and buying better food for myself made me realize that it was ok to invest in my health.
Studying something I was passionate about helped me to graduate despite the obvious distractions. I even worked in that industry for a while before losing interest and moving home.
Yes, I moved home in my 20’s. It sucked.
After what I considered to be a failed first career, I moved home and took paralegal certification courses.
In retrospect, my first career wasn’t really a failure; I just needed to figure out the hard way that working retail is for the birds.
I never even finished the paralegal certification, but I managed to get a job at a PI firm in my hometown.
The great thing about this type of work is that there is a rhythm to how you maintenance files, and the steps of the process are the same for 90% of your clients.
The bad thing about this type of routine is that it breeds boredom. We all know ADHD = distractibility = boredom = low productivity.
During my 20’s the ADHD-induced anxiety started to be more noticeable for me.
I recall going on a date with this perfectly nice guy who I later blew off by not returning his calls. Avoiding any kind of intimacy was my specialty.
My friends were involved in these serious relationships, but I just couldn’t deal with it.
During this time period I met my now husband. We both volunteered with the same community organization.
He was completely different from most of the men I had been interested in. The Hubs was short and bald and funny as hell.
I cannot recall how or when I told him about my ADHD. Maybe he just figured it out? I don’t hide it well.
Hubby is good at all of the things I am not. He can do math, remember dates, organize a room, and manage filing cabinets of important documents.
From the beginning he has always been completely tolerant of my neurosis.
We were married in 2008, the year I turned 29. The same year I decided to go back to college for my teaching degree.
Around the time I got engaged I was starting to get bored with working as a paralegal. As I contemplated my decision I had a hard time coming up with any usable skills I could offer.
I just knew I wanted to do something that impacted the lives of others.
The only thing I have ever been marginally good at is writing. I also do well with research. After much thinking, I decided that I enjoyed young people and literature/writing and I wanted to teach.
Since PA has excellent state schools with teaching programs I enrolled in the one nearest to my home, and then transferred my credits.
College at age 29 is very different than age 18. Not just because I was paying the whole tab this time, plus my original student loans.
I took a public speaking class, which with my anxiety was tough. Spending hours rehearsing my speeches and writing my note cards took its toll.
Suddenly I became a perfectionist. Every test I took and every paper I wrote had to be perfect.
If I got a B I was devastated. I cut my hours at work so I could spend more time studying. Who would have thought someone with my brand of ADHD could ever spend 5+ hours per day studying?
I would do math problems over and over again until I did each one perfectly. This is where I idea of hyperfocus comes in with my diagnosis.
I got married and had my son while I was still finishing my BSE. I actually returned to class 10 days after giving birth.
My hyperfocus caused me to miss out on many of the milestones of my son’s first year.
He screamed a lot, so my senses were sort of overloaded between that and my anxiety with school.
My husband would care for my son on Sunday afternoons so I could study, interrupting me only for feedings. I actually paid a babysitter so I could study a couple times.
All of this really was necessary. As a person with ADHD I could not handle the pressures of motherhood and school on my own.
Sometimes I am ashamed of that, other times I admit it freely. Getting through that first year really did take a village.
After all of the drama and stress I graduated. My son was 2 by the time I finished student teaching. As much as I regret my inability to handle everything when he was tiny I needed to finish that degree. My son, my degree and my marriage are the things I am most proud of.
I am still heavily motivated by the need to help others, or add some kind of value to their lives. This website is slowly morphing into a community complete with parenting, ADHD and homemaking advice.
My ADHD story is hardly unique. It is personal and it is honest.
I have come through the tough stuff unscathed. I have learned some things, I have made mistakes. Now I want to use my experiences to help other women living with ADHD.
Join us over in the community. Life can be chaotic, disorganized and often frustrating. Lets create a community of dynamic, fun and supportive women that totally “get” each other.
I hope you will comment on my ADHD story.
Have you ever shared your ADHD story? I would love to hear it.
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