Older, Wiser—Never Late

At 59, a second-grade teacher learns to manage her ADHD symptoms.

Adult ADHD Profile, Part 2

CLAIRE: I’m divorced, and dating is something I struggle with. In the past, I couldn’t have anyone over, because my house was messy. One time, a date wanted to watch TV in the basement, but I refused and cut the evening short because I didn’t want him to see the mess.

Now it’s a time issue. In relationships, people expect you to spend time with them. In one serious, long-distance relationship, I felt like I was losing entire weekends when I went to his place — instead of enjoying the visits, all I could think about was how I could have used the time to clean my home, run errands, or pay bills. I ended the relationship because of the stress it caused. Learning to manage my ADHD symptoms also taught me to be respectful of my needs — like sleep. I need to get seven or eight hours a night, so when a guy asks me out, I request that we go to dinner before the movie, so I can get home at a reasonable hour and get a good night’s sleep.

JOYCE: Using a planner has helped Claire feel empowered in her personal life and throughout the workday. Planning time for herself, as well as for things that need to get done at home, is important. I met her in person for the first time when she attended a CHADD meeting I had organized. Claire is so together that she led a meeting when I was out of town.

CLAIRE: My life is completely different now. Managing time is important to me. In the past, when my students would go to gym class, I’d stay behind and work in my classroom. I’d watch the clock, notice that I had five minutes till I had to go get them, and try to cram in last-minute tasks. I’d be late picking them up. Now I stop myself from working and head down to pick them up a few minutes early.

I’ve learned to cut back on time-consuming tasks. At Christmas, I used to have the best-decorated house in the neighborhood. But it took so much time to get it that way. Last year, I threw a wreath on the door. I don’t even write long e-mails anymore — no more long explanations. The few extra minutes, or an hour here and there, that I gain make a tremendous difference. As a result, I no longer have that always-hurried feeling.

I go off medication in the summers, when I’m not teaching. There isn’t nearly as much paperwork, and I don’t have deadlines. A year ago, when school began, I didn’t resume my medication, thinking I’d be fine. By October, the hyper aspect of my ADHD was making me frenetic. When a friend asked whether I was on medication, a light bulb went off in my head, and I went right back on Adderall.

CHERYL: Claire used to be paralyzed by deadlines. Now she doesn’t stress when she has to get something done, and she stays on task until it is completed. She’s much more at peace these days, and is able to sit quietly for 10 or 15 minutes at a time.

MARK: Claire’s a living example of the serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

CLAIRE: I’m sad when I think how different my life would have been if I had been diagnosed and had acquired the skills I now have at a younger age. But I know why I couldn’t accomplish what others did so easily. I have a grateful heart.

This article comes from the December/January 2008 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Adult ADD: Late Diagnosis, Focus at Work, Organization Tips for ADD Adults

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