Newly diagnosed at 40 – bittersweet

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    • #52665

      Hi all –

      Several weeks ago my therapist suggested I could have ADHD. I had an appointment with my psychiatrist right after, so we discussed it and decided to try Guanfacine. I am also taking Cymbalta for depression and anxiety, which I have been diagnosed with for the past 22 years. I am a female, and my therapist educated me on how ADHD can show up differently in females and can be misdiagnosed. Interestingly enough, I mentioned this to my parents and my mom said my teachers thought I had it in elementary school but she didn’t believe it.

      This newly found knowledge has been bittersweet. In some ways, it is comforting to understand why I do the things I do (or don’t do as it relates to the AD part!). For so many years I couldn’t understand why I was the way I was. I have very negative self-talk…like why can’t I just get my act together? Simple things like getting out of the house in the morning is so stressful….I typically will re-enter the house at least once because I’ve forgotten something and I’m always running late. There are things my family loves to do (like board games), but I find excruciatingly boring. I constantly have a million ideas running around my brains. So understanding the why has been helpful.

      But what has been difficult is the acknowledgment that although I can learn how to work with it, this is ultimately who I am. And that feels like an uphill battle. Sometimes I get angry, like why do I have to change? Why can’t society and the norms that are set accept our differences? Also, the idea of following through on the different tactics to change my behaviors can be a bit overwhelming as well (after all, it’s difficult for me to follow through and complete projects because of my ADHD).

      My husband is probably on the extreme opposite of ADHD, and I’ve shared this information with him but he’s not the easiest to communicate with. He is probably on the narcissistic spectrum. Because of our differences, he has always had an issue with how I manage my time and household chores and has over the years called me lazy and questioned what is wrong with me. Even though I feel like I can finally provide the answer, what if he isn’t receptive or never understands?

      I am a bit overwhelmed because I feel as though I have so many things to tackle – my ADHD, my depression and anxiety (or were these just symptoms of ADHD), my issues that are a result of a dysfunctional childhood and being in a relationship that is emotionally abusive.

      Who else out there is dealing with additional problems besides ADHD? How do you cope?
      How have others tackled the issue of educating your spouse?
      How have others that are diagnosed when they are older come to terms with it?

      I would love to hear others stories.


    • #52704

      Wow, I could have written this post! I have been dealing with depression and anxiety for more than 10 years now. It all started with postpartum. I was on sertraline for a long time and had no sex drive. So I was switched to Wellbutrin to help with my SAD which I suffer. It does seem to help, but I have total self-loathing too. I feel like I can never do anything right and I never finish what I start.

      So I was unofficially diagnosed with ADHD and am taking Adderall. I have read scary things online about the two so of course the anxiety kicks in. I am on an extremely low dose of the Adderall and my physician thinks it isn’t enough. I go for the official testing in 2 weeks.

      I can completely relate though to all you are going through. Maybe this is the answer for both of us. A big hug to you. Fingers crossed for relief soon!

    • #53347
      Penny Williams

      Hi Kelly!

      The following articles answer each of your questions. 🙂

      Who else out there is dealing with additional problems besides ADHD? How do you cope?

      When It’s More Than ADHD

      How have others tackled the issue of educating your spouse?

      Enlightening an ADHD Non-Believer

      How have others that are diagnosed when they are older come to terms with it?

      “If Only I’d Known This 20 Years Ago”

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #53363

      First, congratulations! I just started a similar journey, and it’s a deep well to go down. I used to call my diagnosis the best and worst day of my life – a year out, it’s shifted more towards best than worst!

      I was diagnosed a year ago at 27. Both early and late, depending on who you ask 🙂 I was started on Methylphenidate, and am working through creating the “new normal.”

      The greatest difficulties for me:

      • Self-compassion. I’ve internalized so much criticism throughout the years, I’m teaching myself forgiveness.
      • Reframing memories. Most of the things I’m most ashamed of, guilty over, sad about, can be traced to my ADHD. It’s not an easy feeling, but it gets easier with time.
      • Re-learning a lot of advice. There’s so much advice (productivity, happiness, habit formation) that works for neurotypical people, but not ADHD.

      It’s not easy to be told that yes, you are different, and always has been. It’s wonderful, because all those years I feel like I knew it, and it’s comforting to hear it’s true. It’s terrible, because I felt like I should have done something sooner. I feel guilty for how much I’ve hurt myself. It’s intimidating not to know the new normal.

      If you do anything, self-compassion. I’m sure your depression has gotten a lot of mileage out of ADHD – mine did. I rage at society for it’s warped expectations, and you’re right – you shouldn’t have to change. The conversation should be “What is important for me to change?” and “What can I do to make the rest of it not matter so much?”

      Good book to read: You Mean I’m Not Crazy, Stupid or Lazy?

    • #53447

      Thank you all for the feedback. I am eager to read those articles, Penny.

      Squirrely – my therapist is also encouraging self-compassion, and I can relate to your difficulties. I am reading a book right now by Brene Brown on shame, which I think is a huge part of my life. I love what you said….”What is important for me to change? and What can I do to make the rest of it not matter so much?” That is great insight and will be something I think about as I go through this journey.

      It’s great to hear from other people going through this!

    • #53605

      Dear kakowskey,
      My therapist also made the suggestion to me, based on a lack of “executive functioning” skills. It was during couple’s counseling when my husband was talking/complaining about my inability to plan ahead, constantly being late & frazzled when we go out & esp. getting ready for a trip or party. Ugh, I felt so bad & guilty & down & depressed.

      Well, my 23 yr. old son had gotten the Quotient testing. The results came back positive for him; a very detailed report that shows inattentivess, body movements, heart rate, etc.

      So I made it a goal to have the test before getting any treatment (tx). The test only takes 1/2 hour.

      Mine came back positive also. I was sad, angry and upset. If only I had known!! I made so many mistakes. My career would have gone so much better. I would have been a better Mom. I would’ve learned how to not be late all the time. On & on with regrets galore. Very bad at first, I felt horribly upset.

      Then I realized I just had to figure out how to deal with it.

      In researching tx, I discovered that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be AT LEAST IF NOT MORE EFFECTIVE THAN MEDICATION AT LEARNING TO HANDLE ADHD SYMPTOMS!!!!

      This knowledge was a turning point for me. I was already familiar with CBT. It is a method of gaining control of emotional reactions, learning to communicate more clearly, and move forward with your attitude in life.

      So I am enrolled in a course that incorporates both CBT and time management skills- to help with the executive function department of the brain. The course also helps students try meditation, which thickens the frontal cortex (executive function). No medication needed!!!!

      I am 58 years old and have been treated for clinical depression since 1995. I don’t want new drugs. I want to learn to use my mind and will to respond to this diagnosis. At this point I have medication for depression; mood stability; anxiety prn; and restless leg syndrome. That’s enough.

      I now keep a journal with lists in it; calendar my appointments with phone alerts and travel time included; a visual calendar; and a written list for my budget. It is helping me to organize.

      You can go for it too!!

      Re husband:
      My husband is understanding of my pain & suffering, but he is not an empathetic individual. He just wants me to “be in a good mood”. So I don’t talk to him about it. I talk to my girlfriends and sisters. And therapists. And if he reminds me about something I try to take it in the spirit in which he means it. Even though it might make me feel bad.

      Please write and let us all know how you are doing. Take care & don’t beat yourself up. Instead, sit down each evening and write a list:

      “What I Got Done Today:

      Task: Completed? Yes/No Good Job?? Yes/No

      and you will begin to see how productive you really are. 🙂

      • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by LauraG.
      • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by Penny Williams.
    • #54022

      Thank you so much, Laura! My therapist also uses CBT, and thankfully she is very experienced with ADHD (her husband also has it!).

      I appreciate your feedback 🙂

    • #55238

      I’ve been on Adderall for three days. I was officially diagnosed Thursday. I’m 43. It was excruciating working through our health care system (Kaiser) to get to a psychiatrist. My doctor asked if I’d ever been diagnosed with ADHD and as soon as I read about it I knew I had it. The first pill I took changed my whole world.

      I know I feel fragile. I spent the weekend cleaning my bedroom and bathroom and landscaping the side of my house. I’m doing my very best not to look backwards but stay present. I want to post apologies all over Facebook for life experiences but I tell myself no.

      I took DBT awhile ago and the skills there were really helpful. Mindfulness is super useful.
      If you’re feeling low, you can come take a look at my Self Soothing Pinterest Page. DBT suggested making one. It’s full of happy things. I go to it when I’m in a loop of feeling unhappy or angry.

      I know it’s going to get better. Hang in there.

    • #55590

      Hi Elisa –

      Thanks for the idea of a self soothing page! I also feel fragile, and am a bit overwhelmed because I’ve also come into some health problems that I’m trying to work through as well. My therapist has been great at reminding me to be compassionate to myself, it is a behavior I’m trying to change since I do a lot of negative self talk. I find myself in loops a lot….so I really like that idea of a self soothing page. I’m definitely a visual person, and that might be more helpful than trying to talk myself out of a loop.

      I am hoping to start medication soon. My doctor is concerned about my heart rate as my pulse is too low, so until we figure that out I can’t start medication (I’ll be seeing a cardiologist soon). That in itself has been difficult, because when I was first diagnosed with ADHD and realized how much it impacted my life I was looking forward to starting medication to help my symptoms. But for now it’s therapy and lots of compassion!

    • #57271

      I can understand the feeling. I’ve struggled with “mental illness” (anxiety, depression, maybe bipolar, maybe a personality disorder) for nearly as long as I remember. I was basically suicidal by age 8, but because I was Catholic and sure God could make hell even worse, I stayed alive. After my diagnosis, it turns out SO many of my other problems actually stem from the ADHD. My anxiety is way higher when I don’t have my ADHD medication than when I do. And honestly, alot of the trauma and depression I experienced in my early life was from “not being good enough”, and being constantly chastised for not being able to do some things. I was very bright, a straight A student for the most part, but I couldn’t keep a folder or a desk or a locker or anything else organized to save my life. I was constantly told how I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

      I found out now that my mom knew I was ADHD all along and still treated me that way. It’s enough to make me want to just burst.

    • #57283

      Hugs Daysh…especially with the last sentence and your mom. I’m so sorry your mom couldn’t be more supportive and accepting. I hope you find comfort. I am trying hard to have compassion for myself, some days are easier than others.

      Today is a hard day.

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