I was diagnosed with ADHD in April 2018 at 36 years of age, but I always knew that I had ADHD. When I was four my mom asked the pediatrician to prescribe something that would calm me down. His answer was, “Ma’am, do you really want your kid to be a drugged-up dummy?” People would comment on how fidgety I was or that I was an excellent “multi-tasker”, and I would say that it was because I had ADHD. In fact, I would often tell people that I wasn’t going to bother getting diagnosed because it didn’t affect my life. Ah, the bliss of being young, dumb, and growing up in the 80’s.
Life between birth and 22 was full of ignorance and bliss. Aside from constantly getting in trouble for daydreaming and talking, life was easy and carefree. At 23 I got married and realized that having someone depend on you really puts a spotlight on how bad your ADHD is. Getting to places late, not paying bills on time, mounting to-do items at home, etc. Not to mention that ADHD also impacts my emotions and temper. This was the beginning of 15 years of fights, most of which occurred because we were battling my ADHD without knowing it.
The day my first son was born was one of the happiest of my life, but I quickly became overwhelmed. Since my ADHD brain easily becomes bored and is always looking for something new, I accepted a job overseeing distribution in Central and South America, which began a period of traveling for work every two weeks. I also accepted heavy religious responsibilities within my local congregation. I didn’t know how to say no. I tried my best, struggling to be a good father, but really felt my failures as a husband.
At 29, I just couldn’t deal with my life as it was. I quit my job to find something that required no travel and I dropped all religious responsibilities. This allowed me to focus more on my family, but I still faced a couple of major problems. I was still living with undiagnosed ADHD, remaining the same unreliable person my wife had been tolerating since we got married. On top of that, this was the first time that I felt like I had truly failed. I didn’t realize it (or I was in denial) at the time, but I was suffering from secondary depression and anxiety as a result of ADHD. These would persist for the next nine years and would affect my family life, stunt my professional growth, and worst of all, cause me to strongly consider taking my own life. I came dangerously close to attempting it on more than one occasion.
In October of 2014, we were blessed with our second little boy. Then in February of 2016 I was recruited by a financial services firm with the prospect of being a sweat equity partner and I accepted. This was one of the most emotionally and financially draining, difficult and disappointing experiences of my life. Not only did I not make the kind of money I was expecting, but it also caused the largest issues my marriage had ever seen.
However, it was also the catalyst that helped me turn everything around.
See, I had forgotten just how talented and smart I could be. ADHD made me think I was a failure because I started and dropped so many projects. In the words of so many teachers and employers, I was not working to my potential. Although that particular opportunity did not work out in the end, I excelled at my position and started feeling like I could be capable of great things. I had not felt like that in a long time.
Finally, in April of 2018, at 36 years of age, I realized that perhaps my ADHD was affecting me a little more than I thought. I was diagnosed, started on medication, and things started to get better. Medication made a huge difference in my life. The first drug prescribed was a stimulant, which allowed me to focus and concentrate like never before. But I realized that it was only a band-aid, addressing some of the mental aspects of ADHD but not resolving the underlying issues it had caused.
In August of 2019 everything changed. I was accepted into a clinical trial for a very promising non-stimulant ADHD drug. It allowed me to think clearly for the first time in my life. I started to give serious thought to major events that had happened in my life and the results were painful. My wife begged me to see a therapist. I resisted fiercely but eventually relented and went. I am so grateful to my wife because therapy has truly changed my life. I have begun the immense task of purging 36 years of pent-up feelings and frustrations, and although at times this is painful, I have never felt better.
Today, even on medication, I still have days where I am wholly unmotivated. I struggle with my emotions and self-confidence and it feels like I am trudging through mud. But at least now I know why and I know how to fight those feelings. I have the tools, the support, and the motivation.
I have 36 years to make up for and I am just getting started.
ADHD Voices is a series dedicated to sharing the stories of folks like you and me who have ADHD. Posts in the series are written by guest authors, sharing windows into their lives and struggles, written by them, for you and me. If you’d like to share your story, please contact me on social media or through my email, ADHDsurprise @ gmail.com