ADHD Voices: Dan

Photo by Tomas Anunziata on Pexels.com

Hi, I’m Dan, a 44 yr old male from the UK, who was diagnosed with ADHD last year. This is my journey. 

Until recently I was foggy brained and burnt-out. Anxious and frustrated often by the simplest thing. Overthinking, catastrophizing, trapped in my head, either hyperfocusing or distracted. Being smart one minute, then struck dumb the next. As a teenager I self-medicated with cannabis. Academically I did okay (enough to get by), mainly because the courses I did were coursework assessed, with my coursework  usually completed last thing. School reports highlighted I was often ‘failing to meet my potential’ and ‘lacks consistency.’ My handwriting was awful – and still is. Like my brain was half a sentence or further ahead and my hand was rushing to catch up.  

This was MY normal. I’d seen therapists to discuss anxiety and stress – I also have IBS. However, since moving to a new country and having a kid, it became clear I wasn’t handling things as well as I had previously. Post diagnosis, I think family life and working in a dual language environment with a different culture exposed and crippled my  coping mechanisms. The impact of this had a significant impact on my life. My ups and down were trending downwards. Things at work started slipping more than usual and stress increased until a burnout made me look at things differently. 

Getting help and a lot of tests

It took some time, but, encouraged by my partner, I went back into therapy.

During one of these sessions we discussed ADD/ADHD. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For me that conjures up images of young kids, usually boys, disrupting class. This didn’t feel like me, but after some reading it felt familiar. So I did a quick online test. The results all suggested getting tested. 

I found a place where they specialise in ADHD in Adults. There, they asked me about my life, issues, and medical history. I spoke with a psychiatrist who asked me more specific questions which I now understand are the DSM diagnostic criteria for ADHD. 

Then came the Qb computer test.  With a tracking band on my head I had to look at a screen. If I saw 2 of the same shape and also the same colour after one another, I had to press a button. I thought this would be the test that would show I was wasting everyone’s time. Colours, shapes. Easy. When I left the room 20 minutes later, I was tired out and my head hurt. Man, that was a lot harder than I thought. 

The next step was to take a pill and then go for some fresh air and come back in an hour for the same test. Then we’d compare results. About 20 minutes after taking the pill I felt calmer. Like I’d been on a zen retreat. I could focus more. The almost constant busyness in my head was more distant, quieter. My focus was sharper. 

I went back and took the test again. It wasn’t so hard this time. Following this test I sat down with a doctor and we looked at the results. The differences between the tests were dramatic. On some sections for the first test I was off the charts. Way above or below the average. The second test I was within the ‘normal’ (my words, not theirs) range.

Coupled with all the information from the assessments, I was given a diagnosis of ADHD-combined. This surprised me. I thought maybe, possibly mild inattentiveness.  Hyperactive too, really? Of course, for me it’s normal that my foot is tapping. That my brain runs a hundred miles an hour. Oh wait, I see now. 

Managing my ADHD

That was the diagnosis. The next step was to talk management. The centre I went to use medication and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). The medication helps give you the space to work on the CBT. So we planned the first session. I was pleased to have what seemed like an answer and a path to manage my issues. 

I went home and ordered ‘Delivered from Distraction’ by Edward Hallowell. I read this over the coming weeks and find myself time and time again seeing things which to me were problematic but I figured just normal. I’ve now discovered many of these things are ‘common amongst people with ADHD’. The next few days and weeks were up and down and I was slightly emotional at times.  

I set up my twitter account and started following ADHD folks. I’m grateful to those who are sharing their journeys and offering guidance to others. This helped me process my own diagnosis. Folks like @HowtoADHD,  @blkgirllostkeys, @ADHD_alien, @DaniDonovan, @ADHDSurprise and countless others. 

Reading stories, I realised I had been lucky. For some folks, society’s bias meant they had not gotten the support they needed or they had a non-supportive health care system (yes, l am looking at you America). Looking back now, without realising it, I adapted and developed coping mechanisms to protect myself, which whilst not perfect, had, along with some white male privilege meant I’d got to 44 without major incident. 

Since the diagnosis, I’ve made changes, minor changes and am very much a work in progress. The main change being medication. I take dexamphetamine three times a day. This has helped calm my mind down and I’m less stressed about things. I explain it as the chaos in my mind is still there, but now it’s outside waiting in the car, not banging on the door. Within a week of starting medication my wife commented that my energy was a lot calmer. Who knew stimulants could calm you down. 

The CBT helped too. Understanding why I struggled with some things and what structures I’d need, helped. At present I’m out of work and the coronavirus has meant my schedule has been thrown with the family all being home. Now though, I’m more aware of needing time for myself and self care. My relationship is better because we discuss stuff and have a name for it. My awesome wife has unconsciously had to deal with my undiagnosed ADHD. But at least now, we’re able to communicate better.

I’m still learning about how to manage my ADHD but being aware of it helps. I’ve always been self-deprecating so that helps. I’m utilising technology to support me. I love my Apple Watch. I’m slowly joining the ADHD community online. All this helps. 

Some people say ADHD is a gift – that it makes you special – that’s BS. It’s tough, it’s painful, it’s nasty. The diagnosis is the gift, understanding you can’t use typical solutions on your non-typical brain. That helps. 

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If you’d like to connect with Dan,
he can be found as @RockstarMonk 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

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

ADHD Voices: Kristin

Photos courtesy of Kristin Paulson

I have always had this “I don’t care what anyone thinks” but also, “why does it seem like no one likes me” internal struggle as long as I can remember. I was a generally happy, active kid. I did dance, scouts, sports, etc. I did average to well in school. I struggled with friends, I had trouble “fitting in.” I had big ideas. I wanted to be a professional baseball player, President of the United States, or an author, to name a few of my elementary career choices.

Life in school

Middle school was okay. Same issues, just more hormones in the mix. I remember my biggest struggle academically in elementary and middle school was being assigned something to read that I did not particularly enjoy. It was so hard to read it; I found it literally painful and unable to be completed. I often got caught up in gossip in middle school amongst friends. My intentions were to be a peacekeeper but I seemed to have a knack to cause turmoil amongst my social groups.

High school was fun. I was in the marching band, I had some boyfriends, and I had a core group of friends throughout high school. One moment that sticks out in my mind is at band practice, we were practicing our routine and needed to freeze at a particular spot, like literally freeze and not take another step….I couldn’t do it. I always took one more step. The instructor was livid. Everyone was cracking up, and I had no idea why I could not freeze when I needed to. It literally felt like I had no control.

I struggled in school a little more. Things that did not interest me were awful. I struggled, resisted, and tried to make it work. At some point, my mom pondered if maybe I did have ADD and took me to be evaluated. I went to a psychologist or something and in one session, they concluded I did not have ADD so that was that.

Again, I had friends, I graduated high school with honors, I was accepted at Michigan State University. When I reflect on my childhood at home with my parents and 3 younger sisters, I was an asshole if I did not get my way. I would attempt to make everyone miserable if I was miserable. I would trash the house, yell, scream, etc. My mom could generally keep her cool, my dad, a fellow ADDer, would not always remain level headed. I was grounded quite a bit.

I did have the oldest child thing going for me, I had such an urge to attempt to do everything my parents asked me to do, that I did not often challenge major decisions, and usually respected rules and such. I often was accused of “parenting” my younger sisters. My next sister and I basically hated each other from middle school until we were adults. It was a working hateful relationship but we definitely did not respect each other until much later.

Finding my niche in college

My freshman year of college was really hard. I went away to school so I was learning how to manage my own time, going to class with 300-400 other people, and not having to show up if I didn’t want to. I struggled the first two years, netting a 2.0 GPA, and then I found my niche and became a Social Work Student—the program that required the least amount of science.

I graduated with honors, had an amazing internship in the Mayor’s office in Lansing, MI, and I got a grant job at the College of Nursing that had social work students and nursing students working together. I liked what the nursing students were doing better. I joke I went to college the first time to learn how to be an adult learner. I started chipping away at my science classes I needed to apply for Nursing school, they were so hard, but I wanted it, so I made it work. I graduated with my BSN in Dec. 2007 and have done well as a nurse…for the most part. 😉 You know, ADHD struggles.

Adulting

Here I am hyperfocused on my school story, during that time, I also got married and moved back to my hometown. ER nursing was my career choice. As my primary care doctor says, “I think most of you that work in the ER have ADD/ADHD, you can’t sit still!” As a nurse, there is always an opportunity for overtime, I could easily work 50-60 hour work weeks.

I burnt myself out. I started thinking about having kids and not wanting to be pregnant and working 12 hour shifts. I had a vacation request denied, and well, ADHD, abrupt decisions based on one heated feeling. I got a M-F nursing job at the same hospital in informatics, I helped build, train, implement, maintain the new Electronic Medical Record application for the inpatient setting, it was an amazing experience.

But I missed the ER and hated the Monday through Friday monotony. And I popped out two kids in 4 years. It was so mundane to get the kids to daycare, go to work, pick the kids up, go home, make dinner, put them to bed, do laundry, etc. (my husband was present and supportive, but this story isn’t about him). I kind of hated life and wanted to go to grad school. So I went back to the ER part time, and 5 years later made it to grad school!

I found out through parenting

My son struggled with school in 2nd grade, falling behind for the first time. After the first half of the year, his teacher was always redirecting him. I took him in for ADHD evaluation. Then I read it.

OMG, I am him, this is me, I have ADHD.

This explained so much: impulsivity, over-emotional response, ability to hyperfocus, messy house, hating cooking dinner or taking the time to eat, and so on. I got myself some Adderall and connected with some online resources like ADHDSurprise, ADHD Alien and much of the ADHD Twitter community. I also enjoy The ADHD Mama, Dank ADHD Memes and Authentically ADHD on Facebook. It feels so good to know I am not alone, the struggle is real, but it is not impossible to manage and be successful. The kids and I have all started counseling to give us the tools we need to be successful in life. I am getting my daughter, who is in first grade, evaluated this summer. I’m often tempted to toss one of her brother’s Adderall tablets in her mouth just to check. 😉

ADHD is a superpower if you can make it work for you and embrace your differences. It feels so good to know I am different and that is okay. Instead of feeling like I am wrong, I just acknowledge I am different and that is okay. I also feel like in the last few months with the Adderall, I have been able to slow down, not be so quick to respond, while letting stupid things go instead of getting fired up and firing off.

I feel like now that I recognize my thought process is different, it allows me to pause and reflect that whoever I am working with is often taking a different path. It is so important to recognize that because it allows me to have flexibility and not be upset if they don’t get my idea and also recognize why I may not understand their idea or thought process. I feel like my future is so much brighter and I will succeed with some of my big goals since ADHD gives me guts to dream big and go for it, and Adderall helps me think about it and make an effective plan!

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If you’d like to connect with Kristin,
she can be found as @EDRN_Mommy_KP 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