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Old 08-07-11, 02:43 AM
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my story, years of no diagnosis

Thank you all for this forum. It is by far the most useful, positive and informative I have found!

So my story, it will be long! I guess it may not matter if everyone reads the whole thing it is just nice to put it somewhere where it feels people will understand. Hopefully someone else relates to one part or another.

I am a 37 yo woman starting the 5th year of a PhD program. Academically I have always done very well so no one suspected I had learning attention issues. They were a bigger problem outside of school. Looking back there were classic signs that were always written off as me being lazy or disrespectful. I never got in trouble in school except I couldn't stay in my seat when I was younger and was never very good at waiting my turn. In kindergarten I could already read and perform far above my classmates but that was overshadowed by my constantly getting out of my seat. By first grade I was already bored and wanting to do things the older kids did but was punished for it. I scored well above grade level and my classmates on all achievement tests but didn't get all As. I was sent to the principal's office in 3rd grade and threatened with paddling because I constantly asked questions in class without waiting to be called on. I was terrible at doing anything that required me to do math with a time limit even though I usually got As or high Bs in math. I was passed over for gifted programs because my grades weren't the highest in class. I was terribly resentful of the teachers who punished me for being so genuinely excited about learning I just couldn't wait! I cared so much and tried so hard and this enthusiasm was usually punished because I was not quiet about it. Thank goodness for the teachers who were supportive and kind and saw through my irritating side. I genuinely loved school and my biggest dream was to go to college.

In spite of all these issues at school the real issues were at home. While I liked school and had a lot of success there, my childhood was constant non-stop conflict at home because I didn't do my chores adequately and was constantly told I was lazy and disrespectful and un-grateful. I tried! I really did! I just really really hated doing anything inside and housework in particular. I was terrible at it and genuinely just couldn't do it. Still can't. I wanted to work outside but that was boys work, girls did housework. Wasn't a big fan of being a girl! My academic achievements were not valued but I was still criticized for poor spelling and hand writing and for always needing to have the TV on when I studied. This was considered lazy and I was told these were things only lazy people did, that if I turned the TV off and tried harder I could do it. Actually, I couldn't. Having the TV on made it easier/possible. I read, constantly, at a very high level. I played 3 instruments and excelled at sports. However I felt like a completely unloved and unliked failure most of the time. I basically felt like a complete outsider in my family and the tiny community I grew up in my entire life until college. I was picked on constantly because I talked too much and couldn't wait my turn. Changing to fit in just wasn't an option, I liked who I was but was very ashamed and was told I needed to fix myself to be liked and accepted by anyone. Since I couldn't change I just accepted no one would like me. These became my core beliefs, that I was lazy and unlikable.

Luckily I had the drive and ability to succeed at school and get a job and do well. Being wicked smart allowed me to be independent and support myself, to live out my dreams and make the things I wanted in life happen. Except I was never able to really fit in because I lived my life as if no one cared if I was a part of theirs. I walked away from every group of friends I ever had, never thinking this would be hurtful to others. I never really felt like I belonged in any group, I was always lonely in a group of close friends. I had a near breakdown my senior year in college, mostly because I had over committed myself and couldn't keep up academically. But also because my goal had be to get away and go to college, having done that, what the hell was I going to do next? All that worry and I still graduated with full honors, but I knew I could have done better! I knew enough from the breakdown that I could not stay in academia without de-coupling my sense of self worth from school and grades. I needed to gain some perspective and learn to value simply enjoying life and experiences. So I took off and explored the world, lived my dreams, moved 15 times in 9 years. Had a blast. Alone.

About 7 years ago I finally returned to Grad school and found my people and a community and really started to heal in an environment where I fit. In the last year I realized I was having problems academically that weren't typical for my fellow students. I share an office with 5 other students. They all sit still and work at a desk for hours at a time. I would find myself wandering around and not even remember getting up. I had just hit a wall that my intelligence could not get me past. I was getting very worried about the focus required to finish up my degree. So 6 months ago, after discussing this with her, my counselor finally suggested ADHD. I started on Adderall about a month later and the only way to describe it is life changing. On meds my head is clear and I know I am able to complete the tasks necessary for my degree and the rest of my career. I don't turn the TV on anymore. My head got so quiet in a silent room. Amazing! I didn't even know it was noisy before! I am not altered or different, instead my external person now matches the internal image I have always had of myself. Not a physical change (except the 15 lbs I lost on Aderall of course) but somehow for the first time the person I see in the mirror matches the person I picture in my head when I think of myself. I was always proud of myself inside but ashamed of the external person that I presented to the world. I could not make the 2 match and didn't know why. Now I understand.


Right now I am really angry at all the people in my life that did not reach out to help me the many times I sought help. That no one looked at the bright, enthusiastic kid that didn't get the right grades and thought there was something wrong there. When my brother was being failed in all subjects for poor spelling and handwriting my mom had him tested. I wasn't failing but had the same problems and was told I could do it if I just tried harder. I was torn apart for not doing my chores and told it meant I didn't care about the family or appreciate them. I tried so hard but it was never right so I gave up. In college I sought out help with study skills when I was struggling terribly in chemistry and no one picked up on it. I ended up in counseling 3 times because when I struggled academically I would lose it emotionally. I had a lot of family issues to deal with so that was the topic of counseling and ADHD never came up but anxiety did. When I started Grad school I went to counseling again just for help with relationships in general. I was offered anti-anxiety meds, which just didn't fit what I felt was wrong. I truly am not an anxious person. Finally, at my current school I spent several years going around and around with my GP about my inability to focus even though I really really wanted to. I had exhaustion for no reason and being so anxious because I have so much I want/need to do but that I just couldn't make happen. I had a lot of tests which all came back normal. She suggested it was allergies or stress and to try meditation and said everyone feels this way sometimes, that is just grad school. She has apologized for missing it, hopefully this will help someone else down the road because she will pick up on the signs.

I guess I am somewhere between the anger and acceptance phase in dealing with the diagnosis. I am angry at all the lost years of having love in my life and all the friendships I walked away from because I just didn't understand. I guess I put on a good front so no one suspected there was anything wrong. I know I am lucky that I had the skills to overcome a lot of the negatives of this disorder. I reap the benefits of the positives, they make me very good at what I do, well except the sitting still part! I am a happy functional person who has lived her dreams. There are a lot worse lives to have.

I am very interested in hearing how others deal with relationships and interpersonal challenges. I know my ADHD life is not typical. I don't have the same struggles as many did with school etc. Perhaps the tricks I used to stay focused during lectures and while studying can help others.


Anyway, too much over focus and waxing on. Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences and understanding. I hope I can offer something to this community other than this long dialog containing many I's.

C
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Old 08-07-11, 03:14 AM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

I diagnose ADHD in people based solely on the length of their posts. Psssst, everyone, she's one of us!

Welcome!
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Old 08-07-11, 03:20 AM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

Everyones meds have long worn off at this time of day but, I bet lots of people will read it in the morning after their first dose...

WELCOME

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Old 08-07-11, 04:19 AM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

Okay, read it. Wow. Totally can relate... except I'm more crazy smart than wicked smart since I'm not from Maine. Really dark humor aside that nobody's gonna get anyway -- I grew up being misunderstood, I still feel misunderstood, my brain functions on a different level than most people and it has always completely baffled people around me. The biggest ADHD irony is how we hate to be interrupted yet interrupt everyone else. Bleh. If you're ADHD and a smart cookie, then you're blessed and cursed. On the one hand, the smarts make you highly skilled at solving problems. We can connect two seemingly unrelated pieces of information to solve problems because of all the practice we get at picking out thoughts out of the endless stream. Some people lack inspiration, we have too much of it. The middle ground is called Adderall.

On the other hand, it causes all the bad things you mentioned. I was victimized by the evil of "he can't have ADHD since he's doing so well academically" haha. So, I aced school, got a sweet job and aced that too. But all my relationships suffered. The only reason I didn't get expelled from school is because of that same benefit of the doubt thing. Second chances, third chances... Same for work -- the only reason I didn't get fired is pretty much the quality of my work. Cause in my impulsivity I always end up putting my foot in my mouth and though I always mean well, stuff gets said that was misunderstood or unintended and eventually someone gets all back-stabby and all office politicky on me. If you think about it, lack of focus is such a huge relationship killer. Almost by definition! But it's not for lack of charm. I personally think people with ADHD are the most charming of all. It's that we're so impossible to live with, unstructured and often focused on a single goal at a time. When someone is 33 and divorced twice, he must have ADHD!

In my case, I was diagnosed at 29, and it completely opened my eyes to everything that ever was. I was briefly but acutely angry at e v e r y single adult from my childhood because they failed to recognize the OBVIOUS signs -- parents, teachers, aunts, teachers, friend's parents, teachers, principals, vice principals, assistant vice principals and secretary of the department of presence and forged parental notes. The anger subsided pretty quickly since there really isn't anyone to really pin blame to if you think about it. So, you let go of the past, and the adderall helps the present. In my case, it made an enormous positive difference in everything that was hard about life. But life just became hard in different ways, cause life is what it is. And this place is a nice little oasis of getting a little help and understanding from our ADHD friends.

So, welcome again!
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Old 08-07-11, 05:36 AM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

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Old 08-07-11, 04:09 PM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

Thanks everyone! Especially Pedal! Wow, it is really nice to have someone relate and not feel like I am just a big complainer! Yeah, I realize it isn't anyone's fault so there is no one to blame. The best thing is now I can quit blaming myself! I have been doing a bit more reading and realize that the science world is just now coming around to the fact that girls have ADHD too, and diagnosis in women is even further behind. I am in academia and the sciences, maybe I can help create awareness.
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Old 08-07-11, 11:30 PM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

I had a similar problem with doing well academically, up until nursing school which required sitting and listening for up to seven hours at a time. If it hadn't been for the five minute breaks every hour, I would have quit or gone totally bonkers. In highschool, though, I had a 4.0, and my general college courses, I had 3.7. My problems academically were maths, and standardized tests. Unlike my sister who was a national merit scholar and got a free ride through a four year institution, my PSAT, SAT, ACT scores were all pitiful, because I coulntnsit still and concentrate in hour long tests.

After barely getting through nursing school, thanks to my total inability to pay attention to lecture, but the fact that they covered too much material for me to read everything, I got a job as a nurse. Never having to stay in the same place more than two minutes, except meetings, I did very well in it. The only things I really have had problems with in this job are putting my foot in my mouth and disorganized charting. Once I got into a never changing routine, though, my job improved significantly.

At home, I was disorganized and bored. Still am some, though my disorganization at home reached critical point of getting help. I cycled through hobbies, and sometimes friends, like this season's fashion designs. Eventually finding a few things that kept my interest long term, and working on relations to just not forget they ever existed unless reminded. Chores sucked, cleaning sucked, I always got distracted by...anything. Usually a bauble, or a book, or a shiny object. My husband is beyond frustrated, because of my attention span and distractability.

I mentioned to my parents that I thought I had ADHD, I guess in highschool. My mom's response was that ADHD was a label used by bad parents for lazy children, and my father's reply was "Well, if you're bouncing off the walls in church, you'll be bouncing off the walls in the mission field for God." Yeah. Never went to the mission field. Oh well.

A few months ago I finally decided to get tested, although several of my friends who are unmedicated ADHD(and my husband) were like "Dude, you don't need a test, you ARE ADHD. And don't do the drugs." but I decided to try it anyway. So now I'm on 10mg IR Adderall BID, though It's only been a week since I started it, and I've made more progress just knowing I'm distracted by baubles and shiny objects and stopping myself when I do it. I can't tell much on the medication side yet, except that I don't have any songs stuck in my head, and it's strangely quiet.
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Old 08-11-11, 10:29 AM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

Welcome, welcome. Read this site more and you will find many others just like yourself. I was self diagnosed in my 50's and took two years to get up the courage to go to a psychiatrist where I scored way high on all the tests. My parents did not "believe in" psyschiatrists and going carried a big stigma. My family does not know even now. It would be pointless to discuss it with them.

In school, I was always bored and could not study for more than 10 minutes at a time. Finals got a whole two hours of study in HS but I still did OK. Studying was something I did just enough of to get decent grades. It felt physically painful to do. How others could sit for hours was beyond me. "Intellectually lazy" was how I was labeled. "He could do much better if he just applied himself" was what my parents and all my teachers said. I bought it. Still, I did well enough to become a doctor and surgeon. It was hard. Focusing was always hard. Luckily, in the operating room I could superfocus. In the last year or so surgery got boring and focusing got hard. I quit before I could hurt someone and stuck to clinical practice only. Finding and keeping friends was impossible since I irritated them all. Going along to get along was never something I was comfortable with. Blurting out what I really thought would finish off whatever friends I did manage to find.

Has it all changed since being diagnosed? Things are certainly better. Much better. Understanding why I am the way I am helps. Finding the right medication has been an adventure. I just finished taking a mindful meditation class and that has helped clear my mind too. Getting better is a process, not something that will happen overnight. I am not angry at the years I missed. ADHD is all too often just plain missed in adults because it was always assumed it was something people grow out of. And you sound old enough that when you were a child it was missed because at the time it was much less well recognized much less understood. So I hope you can find a way to not let the past eat at you and let today be the first day of the rest of your new life. You have much to look forward to. Best of luck in your new career when you graduate.
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Old 08-11-11, 11:17 AM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

Welcome cattail.

Your story sounds very much like mine. I'm pretty sure when the research is more advanced, it will turn out that we are in fact quite typical of smart girls with ADHD.

I like to think of us as Annes. Did you read the Anne of Green Gables books as a child? Did you identify with her extreme emotions, her impulsivity, her difficulties with chores, her talkativeness, her imagination, and her academic success? I have recently re-read my Anne books, and it is absolutely striking how much of the fictional Anne's "personality quirks" resemble my ADHD symptoms.

This was, and to some degree *still is*, me. Messy, hyper, chatty, literate, clever, thoughtful, creative.

It would seem you are a kindred spirit.
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Old 08-12-11, 01:52 PM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

Wow everyone! Thanks! I am sorry I didn't come back to this post sooner. What wonderful support and sharing.


EvilHobbit, I understand so fully your last comment about how quiet it is on meds. That was the first thing I noticed. Have gotten used to it now but it was lonely for awhile! Always felt something was missing! I look forward to hearing how you do as a newbie too!

Pechemignonne, I have read and re-read Anne over and over. Just did it again actually! I am also a red head so I definitely related to her and always wished I had such a wonderful family to adopt me an take me away from it all! Don't we all! I think we just may be kindred spirits!

Alan, wow, your story is wonderful too! I don't let it eat away at me and really genuinely love me life. There are those moments though! Mostly for me it is the fact that I so firmly grasped the belief that I was irritating and unloveable and that no one would accept me if I didn't "go along to get along" as you put it. It is a hard road to let go of those protective walls I put up. They are not protecting me anymore but separating me from people. Knowledge is powerful though and I am chinking away!
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Old 08-12-11, 09:02 PM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

welcome
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Old 08-12-11, 11:28 PM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

Welcome to the Forums!! I can relate to going through all the phases also. After 2 years after diagnosis I finally got to the acceptance stage!! I figure I probably spent too much time of my life in the anger phase(regarding the late in life diagnosis)
It's still a bit depressing to wonder, what if.
Well Welcome to the Forums!!
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Old 08-14-11, 12:25 PM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

Dear Cattail,I was very moved by your experience. I can relate to all of it. I am 51 and am currently doing my masters. I have always new I learnt different, and am perceptive enough to tell teachers/advisors/prof. (people of authority) what I think they want to hear when they ask me about my writing, crazy thought process ect ect. My standard answer is I have dyslexia. As I have never been tested this last prof. said well just saying it is not enough, if you have a disability there is help out there. A 51 this is the first time I had ever heard that. I have been tested and have a writing disorder and ADD. My school experiences all make sense to me now. I have strategies in place and work extra hard to achieve what I have had. I have just started on medication and cannot believe that life did not have to be this hard. I can now study for five hours straight. I do not procrastinate at work, and throw everything that seem complicated or requires focus to my do later pile. As for relationships I have always been known for my brutal honesty. This over the years is hard on people and only a select few can handle it. I am looking forward to not blurting out the first thoughts in my head, now that I am medicated and understand. I am seeing a coach that is helping me with strategies to navigate through life to be the best I can be. Thank you for sharing your journey this far! Best wishes on the rest of it!
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Old 08-15-11, 12:07 AM
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Re: my story, years of no diagnosis

ADDi and Della,

thanks so much for sharing. This forum has really gone a long way in just a few weeks to helping me feel normal. Kinda funny isn't it! It is just really awesome to know that I am just like a whole bunch of other people out there and that we are all part of a spectrum of human behavior. It is extremely liberating to shed the cloak of shame for what I viewed as my laziness. Looking back I realize how ridiculous it was that I ever thought I was lazy! I have worked harder in my life than most people I have ever known. My friends looked at me sideways when I said I was lazy and now I see why!

Life is good!
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