When adults learn they have ADD, most look for ways to cope. Terry Matlen looked for her calling, and wound up launching a successful consulting business, www.addconsults.com. Along the way, the Birmingham, Michigan, resident has learned how to balance her creative side - she's an accomplished artist - with her work life and how to be a better wife and mother.
It was a long journey, and Terry didn't get there on her own. Along the way, she got help from several people, including Sari Solden, the author of Women with Attention Deficit Disorder.
Terry: My younger daughter, who is now 18, was diagnosed with severe hyperactivity when she was three. I began to read about ADD, and I realized that other people in my family had symptoms - including me. I had a thorough evaluation, and the doctor confirmed that I had inattentive ADD. It was 1994. I was 41 years old.
I had trouble accepting the diagnosis. I'd always blamed my problems on anxiety. I'd been treated for panic attacks for years, but nothing worked. Sari's book described a woman whose ADD caused her to panic in malls because she couldn't filter out stimuli and was overwhelmed by all the noise and confusion. That hit home with me, because I've experienced the same thing.
I started taking a stimulant, but the side effects, which included even more anxiety, made it impossible to take on a daily basis. Now I use medication only once a week or so, when I need to stay focused. When I was writing my book, Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD, I took it every day for six months.
Knowing I had ADD put my foibles in perspective - why I've always detested parties, why I couldn't have people over because my house was always a mess, and why I kept losing friends because I forgot to call them. Once I accepted my ADD, I found I had more emotional energy for my family. My life began to change.
Dr. Jerry Matlen (Terry's husband and an orthopedic surgeon): Finding out about Terry's ADD was more of a gradual revelation than a sudden shock. It explained a lot of things, including why she would start projects, then move on to something else before finishing.
Even simple things were hard for Terry. She had trouble orchestrating a sequence of events, like cooking chicken, broccoli, macaroni, and cheese at the same time. She could never balance a checkbook. Once, she opened a new bank account so she could just start over.
Terry: Like most moms, I had always believed I should be able to manage the household, take care of the kids, keep food on hand, and so on. But I couldn't, and I felt ashamed. Now I accept that housecleaning isn't one of my talents. Just because I can't fold linens, put clothes away, or even see the mess around me doesn't mean I am crazy or stupid. Now I have a cleaning crew come in once a week. I allow myself to have "no-guilt" messy areas around the house.
One of the biggest challenges I faced was helping my daughter, who had to be supervised every minute. I would think to myself, "You're a mom - why should you need help with your own child?" I had to get rid of my guilt to realize it was okay to hire someone to come in and help me keep her busy, calm her down, even when I was home. This allowed me to spend time with my other daughter, and be a better parent to both.
This article comes from the June-July 2006 issue of ADDitude.