Diagnosed with ADHD at age 39

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I had a normal happy childhood I would say. I lived on a quiet little cul-de-sac in a Southern California suburb. I was pretty shy as a child but I got good grades and Had a loving and supportive family.

School for me was always easy. I was a member of the honors society in high school despite being a teen mom (that’s a whole other story). I made the dean’s list for part of my Associates degree and I graduated cum laude when I went back to school for my Bachelors in my 30’s even though I was on disability for a lower back injury. I even made the dean’s list the quarter that I had my spinal fusion surgery when I was seriously drugged with narcotics.

Throughout school I knew that I was easily distracted in class. I quickly learned to adapt by sitting at the front of the class whenever possible and taking studious notes to help me focus on the instructor. I followed along with my finger when reading books and would rid myself of all distractions when studying or doing homework.

It wasn’t until I started graduate school that my distractability became a real problem. We were expected to read entire textbooks by the start of each class, which ran about once a month. I just couldn’t focus on one chapter, much less the whole book. Healthcare Finance is not generally an exciting subject.

One of my classmates told me that she has ADHD and takes Ritalin for it. I had never met an adult with ADHD before and the more she described her symptoms the more I realized I have very similar symptoms. I often would interrupt people while they were talking and I would blurt out whatever thought would pop up in my head (which changed from one moment to the next). I drove my partner crazy with my random squirrelly thoughts. She would ask me to do something and within 5 minutes I would forget what it was that she asked. I interrupted her thoughts and sentences and while she was talking I would be off in another place altogether. So I did an online test to see if I might have ADHD tendencies and I scored in the “moderate to high” range. This was enough to convince me to call up the mental health services and schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist.

She gave me a series of questions to answer and determined that yes, I do have ADHD.  While talking with her we realized why my symptoms had increased in the past few years. I had been taking Wellbutrin for depression when I was going through a nasty divorce. After things subsided I stopped taking it. Well, come to find out, Wellbutrin is also used to treat ADHD so when I stopped it, my symptoms came back but even more noticeable because they had somewhat mellowed out while I was on the medication.

I was hesitant to take any stimulants so she put me in a double dose of Wellbutrin. My symptoms started to improve quite a bit. After a while though I noticed it wasn’t quite enough so she started me on a low dose of Adderall. This stuff worked great! I could focus and my mind felt more relaxed. It didn’t even make me jittery like I thought it would. The only problem was that it was short acting so I would forget to take another dose until the last dose was completely worn off. I had to be tried on one more short acting stimulant before she could prescribe the extended release Adderall (pharmacy rules… they make no sense). She tried me on Dexadrine which was horrible.  I was so wired and hyped up I felt like I was acting like s tweaker. So now I wait to meet with the psychiatrist to get on the extended release Adderall. I hate taking more drugs but it helps so it’s worth it. Of course, indica varieties of cannabis also work wonders but I can’t go to work stoned even if recreational pot is legal here in Oregon.

Anyways, so that’s my little story of how it took me almost 4 decades to realize I have ADHD. One thing that my therapist helped me realize is that there’s nothing wrong with me. It’s just the way my brain is wired. I can be hyper focused in some areas and not at all in others. It’s often not diagnosed in women because we tend to have more if the inattentive version vs the hyperactive version that is more noticeable in young boys. So all my life it’s good to know that I wasn’t going senile or having early Alzheimer’s. My brain is just different.

Now that I have a label I can learn how to best function in today’s non ADHD friendly world.

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