What I've learned since I was diagnosed with ADHD in April
In your 30s, you think you have a pretty good handle on yourself. You've inhabited your mind and body for a reasonable length of time, you've experienced some really tough things, and hopefully some pretty great things too.
So finding out that everything you thought you knew needs to be rejigged a bit, is a bit of a shock to the system.
The ADHD diagnosis itself was confirmation of something I'd suspected for about a year or so. I had done some online tests - yes yes yes, I know, but these were reputable ones. I'd read articles on ADHD in adults and how it presents in women and, well, RELATABLE.
Before that, though, the thought that I might have ADHD had never in a million years occurred to me. ADHD was something that seemed to belong to those fidgety, naughty boys at school that couldn't sit still and liked to cause mischief (hmm - actually, come to think of it, just like my cat Felix? Can cats have ADHD? I might need to do some research, hah). Well behaved women that did well in school (assuming she was interested in the subject, which, luckily I usually was) definitely couldn't have ADHD.
It was only that I read a book, with a note from the author, that featured a character with ADHD. While the author had researched ADHD for the book, she had realised that she fit the profile, and ended up being diagnosed herself. I read the article that she linked to out of curiosity, and, oh. It was like looking in a mirror.
My inability to keep my room and house clean. My difficulty in focusing on tasks that I don't find interesting. My desperate need to get organised, planners, to-do lists, trackers, that all end up lying untouched after a few days or weeks. Constantly feeling exhausted from the effort of forcing myself to get things done at work, only to come home and be unable to leave the couch at home, feeling like "adulting" was something that was so beyond me that I must be a complete failure.
I'd been diagnosed with anxiety and depression years earlier, and had been on antidepressants on and off since my early 20s, but I never really felt like they made much impact on me. I would start feeling better, but it never really seemed to be related to the meds, but maybe that was because they were working? I was unconvinced, because the bouts of depression were usually linked to stressful times in my life - a divorce, change in jobs, grief, etc. The anxiety was less clear, but I knew that it was largely related to things that I was avoiding, such as tasks I kept putting off (paying bills, despite having the money to pay them right there). The more I read, the more I began to wonder if, just maybe, my anxiety was actually a result of the ADHD.
Getting diagnosed wasn't an easy process. I finally got the nerve to let my GP know that I suspected that I had ADHD at the beginning of this year. It took more than four months, and over $500, only some of which I got back on medicare, to get in to see the Psychiatrist. My GP and Psychologist were openly skeptical when I suggested the possibility, and were shocked when I trotted back with my new diagnosis, but I felt excited, relieved, and optimistic.
Now I had a name for what I had been struggling with. Now I could let go of the shame that I'd been carrying for struggling with so many things that others found so easy. Also, I had meds now - and, luckily for me, they HELPED. I noticed an immediate difference. When I took my meds, instead of just noticing things that needed to be done and being unable to muster up the energy to get them done, I could just go on and do them. My house became cleaner and cleaner and more organised. My anxiety levels, largely, decreased dramatically - more or less. I had some stressful things going on that definitely spiked my anxiety in the second week, but that would have happened either way. And my ability to cope with the stress was actually significantly better than before. (It turns out that clutter and mess spike my anxiety, so being able to clear the mess away helped reduce my anxiety. Who'd a thunk it?).
Since my diagnosis, life hasn't been easier - but I've been able to handle things better. I've learned that the ADHD community is AMAZING and that an incredibly high number of friends my age are all getting diagnosed now. I've learned that having people that have gone through similar experiences helps so much and that there is power in owning your labels. I know some people resist getting the official diagnosis because then they have labels to stigmatise them but for me, the label means understanding myself, forgiving myself, and forging ahead with newfound power.
Have you been diagnosed as an adult with ADHD? Have your experiences been similar? Let me know in the comments.