Having It All with Adult ADHD

After a midlife diagnosis and with help from an ADHD coach, this ADDer is on a mission to change, well, everything.

After a midlife diagnosis of ADHD, Randy Schwartz is on a mission to change, well, everything Shirl Hedges

After years of tardiness and absentmindedness, you get down on yourself. Your self-esteem takes a beating.

Randy Schwartz, diagnosed with adult ADHD at age 42
   
 

Adult ADHD Profile: Randy Schwartz

HOME: Chester County, Pennsylvaniaz

AGE: 44 years old

PROFESSION: Sales consultant

WHAT HELD ME BACK: “Being on time was the biggest challenge. I also struggled to keep track of my schedule at work. I was good at creating systems, not at following them.”

WHAT’S WORKING: “Medication, group counseling, a personal coach, and tremendous support from my family.”

MY WIFE: Abby Schwartz, architect

MY COACH: Michele Novotni, Ph.D., Wayne, Pennsylvania (pictured above)

My ADD GROUP COMPATRIOT: Nancy Bennett

 
   

Randy Schwartz, a softball dad, dedicated family man, and a successful salesman at a company that markets energy-efficient lighting and power technologies, was diagnosed with adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD ADHD) in 2006.

The year before, Schwartz’s ADHD symptoms had come to a head. He became increasingly forgetful and could not stay focused at work or in meetings. ADHD affected his home life as well.

“Our daughter and I joked that, whenever we would go someplace, we all had to wait for Randy to get in the car,” says Randy’s wife, Abby, 48, who is an architect. “Randy’s chronic lateness affected all of us.”

Despite his absentmindedness, Schwartz excelled at work. After graduating from Bucknell University in 1985, he worked as a systems programmer for AT&T. He thrived at this job, which involved short-term, task-oriented goals. For 14 years, he successfully held other positions requiring similar skills.

In 1999, though, after switching into sales, he struggled with time management, follow-through, and multi-tasking — and he didn’t consistently make his sales quotas. It was when Schwartz started his own sales consulting business, in 2005, that Abby decided to take action. She arranged for him to see a neurologist, who ruled out memory disorders. After further testing with another doctor, Randy was diagnosed with ADHD.

Schwartz started medication and began working with a coach, who helped him develop strategies to manage his ADHD. “When I first met Randy, he wanted it all — to manage his priorities better, be on time, be a better husband and father,” says coach Michele Novotni. “Which goes hand in hand with his Red Bull-like energy.”

A typical day on the job finds him making sales pitches to prospective clients on the phone or in person. When he’s not on a business trip, Schwartz spends time at home with his wife, 18-year-old son, and eight-year-old daughter.

“We’re an ADHD family,” says Abby. “We understand what Randy is dealing with every day, and we support him. Things are much better now.”

Randy: Looking back on my childhood, there’s no question I had ADHD. I bounced off walls ever since I could remember, and found ways to compensate for my undiagnosed condition. In high school, I’d cram for tests and memorize the material. It worked pretty well — I excelled in math and finished thirteenth in a class of 775. I didn’t do nearly as well at Bucknell.

The greatest challenge in my personal and professional life is being on time, whether it’s for picking up my daughter or son or meeting customers. I lack “executive skills.” I’m a smart guy, and I know what I should do, but I often go off on tangents. Through the years, many of my friends have come up with strategies to deal with my forgetfulness. For instance, they coined the term “The Randy Rules,” one of which is inviting an extra friend along, just in case I forget to show up.

Abby: I suspected for a long time that Randy had ADHD. Despite his symptoms, and the problems they caused, I always loved him. At times, though, I’d criticize him, because I thought he lacked self-discipline. We’re opposites. I’m very focused and disciplined. For years, Randy would beg me for help to get things done. I’d show him, tell him, remind him, but, in the end, none of it worked.

Randy: In 1999, I worked at a large computer company as a pre-sales systems engineer, and started taking on sales roles. I thought, “Hey, I can do this, so why not go into sales?” With a child on the way, Abby and I thought it would be a chance to fatten my paycheck. After I took the sales job, though, I had difficulty prioritizing my day, because I couldn’t estimate how long it took to do things. I spent too much time on administrative details, creating spreadsheets and templates, and not enough on making my sales quotas. Things really went downhill in 2005, when I left my sales job to start my own business. My wife noticed that I was getting more forgetful. I’d forget to pick up my daughter from school, even if Abby reminded me several times.



This article comes from the Spring 2008 issue of ADDitude.

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