ADHD Voices: Sheena

Photo courtesy of Sheena Howard

My quick reflexes that come from laser sharp focus helped me save my son’s life when he was 18 months old. I have been reading since I was 3. I read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein when I was 10. My uncanny ability to pattern human emotions and energy has led to an enormously successful 15 yr career as nurse and health care leader.

When sitting next to strangers or standing next to them in a line, they somehow trust me enough to share their biggest secrets or their private thoughts…This has happened so many times my wife says I should write a book called “The Shit People Tell Me”.

Humour transcends suffering; I can somehow figure out the funny in the darkest part of peoples’ suffering and make people laugh. I’ve been praised for my abilities to perform well under pressure and pull brilliant solutions out of my head at the 11th hour.

And yet…

I was kicked out of the special once-per-day “enrichment” class in Grade 2 because I asked too many questions. I can’t call to order a pizza because I have to think about too many things at once. I count with my fingers and just recently discovered that 8+4=12. I can’t make my brain find simple words like chair or plate but I can speak like a snobby, academic asshole. 

I don’t know my multiplication tables…that sucks for a nurse…because, you know…people die from med errors. I nap at work because I get bored after 3pm. Replying to texts and emails makes me want to poke my eye out with a pencil. 

I used to think…What the hell is wrong with me?

Diagnosis  

Our eldest son’s pediatrician was the one who diagnosed me with ADHD. After confirming his diagnosis, she leaned over and said “So, you know you have ADHD too, right?” I looked at her and said “No fucking way.” Verbal impulsivity is part of my profile. 

I was diagnosed with ADHD-Combined Type and dyscalculia (think of it as dyslexia with numbers) when I was 38 years old and I was pissed off. The months after my diagnoses were filled with anger. I was angry about all of the shame I felt right straight through from Kindergarten to my university graduation and into my work as a nurse.

All I could think about was how much shame I felt as a result of my struggles in school. I felt so different from my peers and remembered in detail how all of those bloody stupid adults told me that I was “not trying hard enough,” “not working up to my full potential,” “easily distracted,” “too imaginative,” and “too talkative,” despite my success in school. 

Well, except for math. I cheated in math.

The sting of shame has followed me for as long as I can remember. I was never smart enough, clever enough, quiet enough, gentle enough or good enough. And I was really upset thinking that things could’ve been better and I asked what so many of us adult ADHDers have asked…

Could things have been different for me if I’d been identified earlier?

The answer for me was…likely not.  

After Diagnosis 

I really don’t think things would have been better for my spirited, loving, anxious, empathetic younger self. Being diagnosed with ADHD in the 80s as a girl would have carried much more stigma than it does now. No one knew what to do with us then. 

In fact, I think that my ADHD helped me nurture my “screw you all” attitude. That combined with my ability to make friends contributed to my resiliency. Had I been diagnosed back then, that would likely have been dragged out of me and I would be left more broken and shameful and struggling to put myself back together – likely trying to do that with booze and pot. Damn it. 

I couldn’t blame the adults for missing it. And it would have likely made me worse off if they did. Shit. I just wanted to stay in my self-righteous pity-party. That felt really good. 

Now what?

My wife gave me the answer. She asked me “Why don’t you work on embracing it? Your ADHD has given you so many amazing traits. Why don’t you celebrate them instead of cursing them?” Growl.  Sometimes she makes so much sense I want to call her a jerk. 

Our son was really the reason I began to embrace my diagnosis and start to heal my shame. We were working hard to help him understand and believe he was bright and not broken. Creative not crazy. Strong and not stupid. I couldn’t help him believe those things if I could not believe it for myself.  

So, I told him I had ADHD too and my wife told him about all of the amazing things I had done and could do because of my ADHD and how she was so happy he got my genes. That is what helped. Seeing my son’s relief that he wasn’t alone and seeing myself through my wife’s eyes gave me permission to really see myself and the gifts my ADHD has given me; for the first time ever.

And the shame started to melt. 

And because it melted, I went back to school and got my Master’s degree. Graduating with distinction in the top 1%. Screw you Mr. L who said I would never graduate high school…whatever, I am still angry with a few of the adults. 

And now I am a female entrepreneur. And I can embrace my choice to treat my ADHD with medication. And my eldest son can talk about his shame freely and we work through it together.  And now my youngest son and my wife have been diagnosed with ADHD.  And because my shame has been replaced with gratitude for the gifts my ADHD has given me, I can wholeheartedly support them to see the gifts ADHD has brought to them. 

Now that I know I have ADHD I can harness my strengths and use them to work around my limitations. I am not too sure I could’ve done that as young girl or even as a teen. The gift of finding out in adulthood is that I am not at the mercy of the beliefs and worries of adults who may or may not have been able to help me. 

I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years living in awareness of my ADHD will bring. I will be 60-something and I really hope it means I can order a pizza. 

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If you’d like to connect with Sheena,
she can be found as @SheenaLGHoward on Twitter
or through her website, http://sheenahoward.com/

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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

ADHD Voices: Delaid

Photo courtesy of Delaid

Hi my name is Delaid and I am 45 years old and amongst many other things diagnosed throughout my lifetime the most recent was a diagnosis of ADHD in September of 2019. The diagnosis of ADHD in my case is quite interesting from an objective perspective and I thought it might be of interest to other people who are late in life receiving an ADHD diagnosis.

Let me go back a few years to when I was 13 years old when I was diagnosed and treated for narcolepsy with dexamphetamine (Adderall in the USA). In July 2018 this stimulant therapy was ceased due to complications with other health conditions which appeared around that time. Absolutely nothing prepared me for what was about to occur when the stimulant therapy ceased. 

The first thing I noticed were tasks that I previously could tackle on my own and competently were falling to the wayside, to the point that I found myself in bed with Netflix on yet not watching anything just inside my head panicking about what the hell I was supposed to do and what was happening. 

I was not able to articulate to my psychiatrist or my medical team what was occurring because I had never experienced anything like this. All I could communicate was that in the last six to nine months I felt my depression was becoming so bad that I was unable to do even the most basic tasks. 

From July 2018 though to June 2019 I had multiple admissions for severe depression to a mental health unit. Each time I would describe simply that my depression was getting worse. Finally in June 2019 my husband advocated for me confirming that there was just not usual depression. 

Let me give you some examples of what was presented to my doctor:

● In the space of about six to nine months piles of paper that contained bills, important documents such as birth certificates mixed up with all sorts of other documents appeared 
● Baskets of unfolded laundry 
● Family members asking me for items and I had no idea where they were 
● Constantly running out of food in the house as I would forget to do the shopping 
● My home had become chaos and despite support from family members it would return to chaos
● I was being charged fees for missing medical appointments
● Some of my medical team discharged me as I was not turning up and therefore losing out on much needed support 
● I was constantly re-purchasing items because it was easier than the anxiety of searching for them 
● Hours spent in bed distraught as to how to fix this despite being surrounded with to-do lists 
● Yet I could plan a perfect snowboarding holiday & this seeming paradox really confused me and added to my deepening depression. 
● I would get deeply focused on an activity and easily angered if interrupted. 
● I couldn’t explain where hours of time had gone and got very distraught if asked about it 

It was noted that although there were elements of these aspects before my medication was discontinued, this was a huge change in my life that was noticeable by my husband. 

Discovering ADHD

During my June 2019 Admission my psychiatrist performed what I describe as a “reverse diagnosis”. I was prescribed Modafinil and monitored for 6 months and provided information on ADHD, Executive Dysfunction, Hyperfocus and Hyperactivity. 

Whilst Modafinil is not as effective for me as dexamphetamine, it has fewer side effects and has made a huge difference to my life. It treats both ADHD and narcolepsy. Immediately I was able to manage my day to day appointment schedule, which was a huge win for me. This meant no more missed appointment fees and I could rebuild my support network, including a peer ADHD life coach who has been awesome. 

I was no longer confused why I could organise some activities and not others, which lifted my mood. I joined an ADHD Discord group, and rather than sit in bed in angst I surrounded myself with support and ideas and I am slowly overcoming the challenges that medication doesn’t resolve.

I gained more confidence in asking family members (all adults) to take responsibility for their own important belongings. I accepted that sometimes it is just easier to order a new certificate if needed than to put myself through the stress of finding it, and then I put the new certificate in its new home. I have learned the art of throwing stuff out, ruthlessly. 

Yes my house is still Chaos. There are still baskets of laundry to be put away. There is still decluttering to be done. Each day I do at least one small thing to make my home a cleaner, more organised space. Yes some days it still gets me down, however I find the use of photographs really helps me see the progress. 

In September 2019 I was formally diagnosed with ADHD with my psychiatrist adding that I place the “H” in ADHD. 😀 

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If you’d like to connect with Delaid,
she can be found as @TheRealDelaid on Twitter

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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

Book Review: Delivered From Distraction

I read Dr. Ned Hallowell’s “Delivered From Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder,” the 2017 revision of his 2005 book. This is a follow-up to his earlier book, “Driven to Distraction.” Full disclosure, I actually listened to the unabridged audiobook. It’s read beautifully by Dan Cashman. This was the first book that I read after finding out about my own ADHD.

What stands out about this book?

Dr. Hallowell is open about the fact that he has ADHD. Writing as one of us adds a level of depth to his understanding that many experts are lacking. He wrote this book with the ADHDer in mind, knowing that many of us struggle to finish reading books, even when we start with the best of intentions. So he wrote the first chapter as a bit of a catch-all. Its subtitle is to the point: “Read this if you can’t read the whole book.”

The book is perhaps the perfect introductory material for those new to ADHD, either undiagnosed or recently diagnosed. While recognizing the many struggles brought on by ADHD, the tone throughout the book is overwhelmingly positive. Hallowell absolutely believes that ADHD is a strength, and helps frame it that way as he presents it to you. I really appreciated the following tips that he gave in one of the early chapters.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective ADD Adults:

  1. Do what you’re good at. Don’t spend too much time trying to get good at what you’re bad at (You did enough of that in school).
  2. Delegate what you’re bad at to others, as often as possible.
  3. Connect your energy to a creative outlet.
  4. Get well enough organized to achieve your goals. The key here is “well enough.” That doesn’t mean you have to be very well organized at all—just well enough organized to achieve your goals.
  5. Ask for and heed advice from people you trust—and ignore, as best you can, the dream-breakers and finger-waggers.
  6. Make sure you keep up regular contact with a few close friends.
  7. Go with your positive side. Even though you have a negative side, make decisions and run your life with your positive side.

What makes this book useful?

The strength of this book is its ability to reach the ADHD novice and give her or him the tools needed to get on a path toward understanding and potential diagnosis. In the book, Dr. Hallowell includes a guide for using the ASRS (Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale).

The beginning questions on the ASRS are these, with each being given a response on a continuum including Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, and Very often:

  1. How often do you have trouble wrapping up the final details of a project, once the challenging parts have been done?
  2. How often do you have difficulty getting things in order when you have to do a task that requires organization?
  3. How often do you have problems remembering appointments or obligations?
  4. When you have a task that requires a lot of thought, how often do you avoid or delay getting started?
  5. How often do you fidget or squirm with your hands and feet when you have to sit down for a long time?
  6. How often do you feel overly active and compelled to do things, as if you were driven by a motor?

Dr. Hallowell then gives his own self-assessment quiz, which is more descriptive and not diagnostic, but which I found very helpful. As I was questioning whether I had ADHD. the list really solidified in my mind that I wasn’t simply making all this up.

Beyond the basics of ADHD, Hallowell has provided a wealth of information regarding ADHD in this book. There are real-life examples of folks who he has diagnosed through his practice. These stories further serve to bring to life the impacts of ADHD as well as illustrating many potential solutions to make ADHD a positive force in your life.

Topics covered in other sections of the book include: conditions that coexist with ADHD, distinguishing bipolar disorder from ADHD, dyslexia, the role of genetics in ADHD, addictions, treatments, nutrition, supplements, and physical exercise recommendations, getting rid of piles, choosing the right partner, etc.

What didn’t work for me

Honestly there was nothing in this reading that didn’t work for me. I have heard from some people who feel that it’s too simple and would prefer a deeper dive into many of the topics presented, but they agree with my assessment that it’s an excellent introductory book to the ADHD world. Even knowing as much as I do now, I would absolutely consider it my go-to resource for ADHD.

Final verdict

This book is a must-read for the ADHDer or those trying to understand the ADHDer in their life. Dr. Hallowell sees ADHD as a gift, which I know shed some very positive light in my own life as I was struggling to come to terms with knowing I had ADHD. This book answered so many questions I had about ADHD, and explained so plainly the various impacts ADHD can have on your life. But it also comes with a strong message of hope, that properly treated, ADHD can be a great asset to your life.

If you only read one book on ADHD, make it this one. You won’t regret it.

🧠🧠🧠🧠 🧠 5/5 Brains – Excellent Read

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If you are interested in purchasing Delivered From Distraction, you can do so here on Amazon. And for further reading on Dr. Amen’s approach, you can visit his website at DrHallowell.com.

I am not paid or sponsored in any way through this post or the links I share. They are provided solely for the benefit of my readers.

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