August 8, 2018 at 6:03 am #90573
over the rainbowParticipant
I was on the verge of being sacked from my job- in administration. My 360* feedback would always talk about my potential, my ability to think big… and then my need to focus on the job in hand, what’s in front of me, not get distracted. I had turned 30 the previous year and was absolutely determined that would be the start of my future me. The self I had always pictured. I survived on being able to turn things around in a crisis, by finding meaning and purpose in the projects nobody else wanted because they were too time consuming. I would find the focus for days and deliver something meaningful… ignoring everything I actually had to do in the meantime. I had hopped skipped and jumped my way to low level job after job, despite having a high IQ and natural leadership qualities (identified through countless psychometric tests). Boss after boss would see my potential, give me a chance… and then regret their decision once the novelty factor wore off and I spent my days procrastinating. What was so different a year ago to all the jobs before? I had a seven year old child and I didn’t want her to have the upbringing I had. I didn’t want her to live in clutter anymore, I didn’t want her to remember her mummy always being late, or being irrational with her emotions. I wanted her to have routine and order and stability- all the things I craved. I researched endless strategies to focus and stop procrastinating, but I spent more time researching strategies than I ever did putting into practice. Memories would flood my brain of school and all the school reports referring to me as a ‘lazy listener’, ‘so much potential if she would just apply herself’, ‘daydreams’, ‘forgets homework’…. blah, blah, blah. My dad would go to parents evenings and argue to death with the teachers, blaming their teaching for my lack of application. Team sports were horrendous… I couldn’t focus on more than one thing at a time, couldn’t coordinate my brain to worry about other people. So I did swimming and ballet. Essentially I spent my entire life feeling like a failure and an undiscovered diamond all my life. I knew I could be better, I knew it wasn’t laziness… it wasn’t that I looked at my bedroom and thought it was fine to live like that. I spent days, weeks, months thinking I had to do something about it, until finally a day would hit me where a surge of motivation would push me to attack it… I’d dispose of sacks and sacks of belongings to create order…. only to be in the same situation again a month later. It was this one day, where I knew I couldn’t just quit another job…. I had to make it work. I had to provide ballet and horse riding and healthy food and nice clothes and all the things I wanted to provide to my daughter. If I quit, I would never climb the corporate ladder. This was my chance. And yet, no matter how much I wanted to ‘just focus’, I couldn’t. I found myself in tears, floods of tears, sobbing. I started googling ‘why can’t I just focus’ and all sorts of other statements…. and the more I read, the more I started to build a picture of myself. But I couldn’t be ADHD…. I mean… we had an ADHD boy in our class and he would be climbing the walls… I wasn’t like that, I wanted to be good, I was always polite… I was desperate to be liked… I just couldn’t focus. Then I read about ADHD in girls. Bingo. In adults… double bingo. I knew in my heart that was what was wrong. I went to our doctor at work and she gave me a self assessment form- off the chart. She referred me to a psychiatrist in London, who needed all my old school reports, colleague accounts of my behaviour, family statements. And on that day, that wonderful day when I was finally diagnosed and walked away with a prescription for medication that would solve all my problems, relief flooded through me. I didn’t tell a soul, I just knew this, at the age of 31, was the beginning of a whole new life. The first pill was magic- it has never felt the same since. I was scared…. would I become a zombie, would I have heart palpitations… what if it didn’t do anything. I booked a day to work from home, wrote a list of all the things I needed to do but hadn’t, and swallowed the pill. Within half an hour, my mind relaxed, I can’t describe it to this day… all the noise that whizzes around continuously, just disappeared. I could focus on my list, not only the list, but actually the tasks on the list. One by one, I completed my to do list. I actually finished. That was just over a year ago now. Since then, I have gone from having a poor performance rating, to the highest rating possible. I have had two promotions and two significant pay rises. I have controlled my emotions so much better. I am rational (most of the time), I keep to commitments (I used to always make up excuses or cancel last minute) and I get the job done. I bought a car on finance- my first monthly financial commitment since I was 18. Don’t get me wrong, after those first few months, it’s not about the medication… I still haven’t tackled home…. in fact that’s next on the list. I haven’t tackled my weight. My one focus has been work and recovering my reputation. I still have to have a carrot dangling to motivate me to get started, it doesn’t come from nowhere. But I consider it a success. Getting to the top seems doable now, I can see my path to my future. I still get impatient, I want to achieve something and move onto the next thing, but I am achieving success in the tasks attributed to me. The moment I knew I had made it and felt both elated and oh so sad at the same time, was on a family trip to lapland last year. I had the opportunity to drive a husky sleigh with my partner and two children. Before diagnosis, I wouldn’t have even tried, because I wouldn’t have been able to focus hard enough on listening to the instructions, let alone actually following them with peoples lives in my hands (perhaps a little dramatic). My partner has spent the duration of our relationship doing the fun stuff- driving the sleighs, driving the car out of our own town (if it’s not automatic, it’s dangerous), but on this occasion enough time had passed to trust in my ability to listen and learn and actually enjoy the experience. I insisted on being the one to take the reins (much to his annoyance) and to this day, that is the best experience of my life. Everything became so clear in that moment that I had missed so many opportunities in life, avoiding new experiences through fear of failing and low self worth. I had spent the first 30 years of my life having people tell me how great I COULD be if I would just do X… or Y…. or Z. I realised too that my mum is also ADHD. I tried to talk to her but she will not accept any fault. She talks about how she always kept the house immaculate, how she always had our lunches and clothes ready for school. The truth is, we were quite neglected children. Food was never on the table at the same time every day, cleaning was always an event, not a daily or even weekly occurrance, and every school trip I would always be the child with clothes missing, with unbrushed teeth and greasy hair. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, I have told her about my diagnosis but she has always seen me as a reflection of herself- all the worst bits. She has never liked me very much. If ever I did something right she would down play it as a fluke, if I did something wrong it was shameful. She doesn’t really have friends… she criticises them all, yet their lives are decidedly more in order than hers. We have a bit of a toxic relationship…. and I resented her for a long time, blaming her for being the way she is and for making me the person I was. Now as I move forward, I have let go of so much of that pain. You have to give yourself time to heal and realise that the problem was never you, it was your ADHD all along. You can’t make other horses drink, but you can lead them to water. I haven’t told anyone at work, but I have spotted the symptoms in a couple of other people. One guy lost it with me in the middle of an open plan office. Publicly swearing over really nothing at all. He sent me a message that evening to apologise. He felt bad enough himself that I was kind to him. Because I was kind to him, he talked to me more about what goes on in his head… and over time I have realised (through conversations about his childhood, his inability to reach his potential despite knowing he is better than the job he is doing, his relationships breaking down, his self loathing, his constant negativity…) that he too had adhd. I pointed him towards self assessment and he’s considering making an appointment. If I had met him before diagnosis, I would have disliked him, because he would mirror all the parts of myself I disliked. Now, because I have had my own success, I can help him instead.
August 8, 2018 at 7:15 am #90576
over the rainbowParticipant
Should probably clarify that I don’t think medication is necessarily the magic answer to all your problems. I had been looking for answers for a long time before diagnosis, trying to implement new strategies without success. I had done my research, was ready to put everything into action, was motivated, was not going to use my adhd as an excuse to carry on as I was (there are only three people who know I have been diagnosed), I had been looking for answers, was ready to try anything to improve myself…. the medication gave me the kick I needed to bring it all together and execute the plan. The medication is definitely not as effective as it was in the first few months and now I realise I have to start working on my home environment too, to clear out the mental clutter as well as the physical. I need timetables, routines in place for my daughter, points systems for chores. She was definitely not born with the condition (very logical, organised, one thought process at a time) however more recently I have seen signs develop. I wonder how much is nature vs nurture… and I can’t afford to let my condition get in the way of her childhood. She needs playdates, sleepovers, washing put away, clear bedtime and morning routines. She needs to know where she stands on a day to day basis. And that’s my next carrot…
August 8, 2018 at 10:23 pm #90709
Thank you for this, your story gives me a lot of hope! You described a lot of the frustration that I’ve experienced my whole life – tons of potential, very intelligent, good at lots of things, and yet I just could never get my life to “work.” I could do a job very well and impress everyone… for a while; but inevitably my performance and effort would slide to the point where I was procrastinating on everything and then throwing it together at the last second. No matter how hard I tried, the millions of promises I’ve made myself that this time it will be different, I just couldn’t ever get it together. I started to become resigned to the reality that I will go through my life as a bundle of huge potential that just never amounted to anything. I hated myself for this but my best efforts to change got me nowhere. I constantly imagined the disappointment of all the people who have known me, who know that I am capable of so much, and yet they see my potential amounting to nothing.
I’d been seeing a counselor for a few months about depression intense anxiety. One week he dropped the bomb on me that many of the symptoms I talk to him about sound like problems with ADHD rather than anxiety or depression. At first I balked at this notion, but testing proved that I was off the charts in all areas. I was prescribed adderall and hoped that it would help me concentrate to be able to get more things done… and that happened, but the main effect was that it wiped away all of my symptoms of depression and anxiety. It sounds crazy, and I still don’t believe it myself sometimes, but treating my ADHD has largely cured my depression and anxiety.
I know that the meds won’t get me organized and fix my life… I have to do that. but like you, I have so much desire to change and have spent so much time trying to improve myself and get organized, that I hope the medication will be the catalyst to make it all work… as long as I put in the effort.
Anyway, thanks for your great story and know that you have helped me a lot!
August 10, 2018 at 8:59 pm #90822
Thanks for both your stories! I’m a high school teacher (24 yrs) diagnosed 16 yrs ago at age 35. My marriage and job were in jeopardy. Diagnosed and and medicated (Concerta 54mg), and that worked wonders in the short term. Fast forward to 21 months ago, and my marriage is again in danger. I thought that meds would be the magic fixer of this ADD ‘thing’. What I didn’t realize was that ADD has insisdious relatives that accompany it everywhere – shame, anxiety, depression, and possibly rejection sensitive dysphoria. Not dealing with those brought me to that place.
I realized a full treatment plan had to be in place to get myself back to where I wanted to be. For me, that meant both meds and therapy. While it’s still a struggle sometimes, I realize that this will always be who I am: I forget things, lose track of time, struggle with small talk, etc. But I’m better about not letting it derail me.
I have an amazing wife (just celebrated 25 yrs) and kids (now 17 & 20). They keep me grounded, as I’m better about letting them do that. I hope that you both can find those foundations that let you be the person at your core. You both have so much to offer! Keep up the good work, and I wish well on your journeys; thanks again for sharing your stories! Chris
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