I was in my early 40s when I discovered I had ADD. It happened in a fairly typical way: my daughter had been diagnosed with it and I wanted to learn as much as I could about the condition so that I could help her. I read and read and read about children with ADHD and somehow, I found and read a book on Adult ADHD: Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults, by Dr. Lynn Weiss. To this day, I’m not sure why I even picked up that book, but I gobbled up every word and the light went on. At the time, it helped me to understand some of my family members (don’t worry- you will remain nameless). Pieces of the puzzle came together for me as I began to understand my family’s dynamics.
Then like a flash of lightening, I began to recognize myself in the book. Words like “procrastination” and “not finishing what you started” and “battling clutter”… and on and on it went.
I then read “You Mean I’m not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?” by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. I was certain, then, that my problems could be explained through an ADHD diagnosis. But where to begin? As a therapist myself, I didn’t know a soul who specialized in adult ADD. In fact, before reading the above books, I didn’t even know it existed! I began my research and got the name of a psychologist who was well known for his work in adult ADHD. In fact, he lived and worked in my area! I set up an appointment and was surprised (and truthfully annoyed) at the extensive work-up. Tons of forms had to be filled out. I spent a few hours in a clinical interview, describing my symptoms, remembering my childhood, my school performance and more. I was instructed to bring in my ancient report cards (why, I wondered?) and even had to haul in my husband, who corroborated the symptoms I described to the knowledgeable psychologist.
I think I met with him at least three times before he was ready to give me his clinical opinion: Adult ADHD.
Many adults who receive this diagnosis go through a grieving process. They grieve for the lost years, for the lifelong struggles. They often feel tremendous anger and depression before getting to a place of acceptance. This cycle can take years and often times, the various cycles are re-visited: anger, sadness, etc.
In my case, however, I was ecstatic. It all began to fall into place. My quirkiness, my challenges- they made sense in the framework of having ADHD. But then, something strange happened. I fell into a deep sea of denial. Surely I didn’t have ADHD after all- I was simply lazy. My chronic anxiety issues only “looked” like ADD related anxiety. No, it just couldn’t be.
I spent the next year or two– or more- consulting with other therapists to see what really was causing my chronic disorganization, moodiness, procrastination- searching for an explanation for the piles that never seemed to go away. In each case, the verdict was the same: adult ADHD.
At around this same time, I heard about an adult ADD conference that was coming to Ann Arbor, Michigan- practically in my own backyard. It was one of the first ADDA conferences ever held. And I went. I soaked up every word at ever session. I met people who, like me, forgot names, lost hotel keys and found it too easy to bump into things.
For the first time in my entire life, I felt like I belonged. From that day on, my life would change. And for the better.
I soon got involved with ADDA and CHADD. I volunteered at our local CHADD chapter that, ironically, was run by the psychologist who diagnosed me. I worked for years, helping ADDA until I became a full board member, moving all the way up to vice president for a few of those years.
The rest is history– launching ADD Consults.com, writing my book, “Survival Tips for Women with ADHD”, starting a private practice, consulting, presenting at conferences, and more. This defining moment of learning of my ADHD catapulted my life into wonderful, new opportunities, mainly, helping others who were starting their own journeys into the world of ADHD.
Recently, Margarita Tartakovsky, a writer at PsychCentral.com, interviewed me for a story she was writing: How to Pick an ADHD Therapist Who’s Right for You.
Her questions took me down memory lane. To this day, it’s one of the most common questions I get from my readers. Please read Margarita’s wonderful article HERE if you are wondering yourself where and how to get appropriate help for your ADHD.
And maybe, just maybe your life will change in ways you never might have dreamed possible
The story of your diagnosis as an adult reflects my own experience over a decade ago, except I was 53 years old. Sari Solden’s book “Women with Attention Deficit Disorder” became my guide and my diary. Ned Hallowell”s positive spin on ADHD attributes has encouraged me tremendously. Remember, the rest of the world has Attention SURPLUS Disorder … and the beat goes on ………
Regarding this statement in your post: “But then, something strange happened. I fell into a deep sea of denial. Surely I didn’t have ADHD after all- I was simply lazy. My chronic anxiety issues only “looked” like ADD related anxiety. No, it just couldn’t be.”
Totally my perspective and what I felt. Also felt angry that it wasn’t something I could just ‘cure’ and it would go away. Looking back and seeing the ways my life was ‘herded’ because of my challenges it made me angry because it only proved what I wanted to deny.
Thank you for sharing your perspective:-)
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