10th February 2018
“Oh, just confirming something I’ve known for a long time.”
I’m sure that’s not what my coworker was expecting to hear as he was making conversation, but I couldn’t really think of anything other than the webpage I was staring at: An ADHD Symptom Checklist for Women I felt my heart in the pit of my stomach because I knew, in fact, I had known for years that 99% of what I was reading could describe me. And I knew I couldn’t ignore it any longer.
I’m the fourth generation in my family that has been diagnosed with ADHD. Fourth. The stories of my great grandma’s erratic distracted driving are legendary in our family – and scary. Two of my brothers were diagnosed and treated as children, and we have more than a few stories that end with “it’s a miracle he wasn’t killed,” because they would do things like follow ducks in a river and almost drown. My mother’s cousin broke down a door chasing her older brother because they couldn’t get her to stop and think about what she was doing before she broke the door off the hinges.
These are all extreme examples, but they’re all just examples from my immediate family. Looking back it’s almost hard to believe that I never got treated for ADHD as a child like my brothers, but because I never chased ducks into a river, I never did.
Instead, I was spacey and forgetful. School was always overwhelming so I would stare at the front of the classroom memorizing posters, but I was never fully listening. Without fail, even through college, at the beginning of a semester, I would get overwhelmed and have a breakdown because I couldn’t see how I could handle so many things at once. My room, car, desk, etc. were always cluttered and it seemed like the stuff was never manageable. And for as long as I can remember I’ve always been easily emotionally overwhelmed and I would get to a boiling point where I would shut down or lash out.
All of that (and much, much more) all lead me to the conclusion that I probably had ADHD, but I would tell myself that it wasn’t a big deal. I could manage it – if I was able to get my life together enough in Jr. High to be a pretty good student when I graduated, if I was able to find people who understood (or at least tolerated) my emotional breakdowns, if I was able to shame myself into getting my life and house to at least the bare minimum of acceptable then I could handle it without medical help. Maybe I wouldn’t achieve greatness (or much at all), but I’d be fine. And being spacey was just part of who I was.
But then I got pregnant and had a baby. I was more tired and emotionally overwhelmed than I had ever been. Almost every day I would tell myself that that was the day that I would finally get things organized and start getting everything in order. That was the day I’d be a good mom/wife/functional person. But by midafternoon I’d be overwhelmed and I would shut down. Some days were fine, but a little after my son’s first birthday I got to the point where I was overwhelmed more than I wasn’t and I knew that to be the best that I could for my son, my husband, and for myself I needed help. But part of me was still skeptical, so I googled what ADHD looked like in women, and as I read article after article I felt like it was hitting me over and over – of course you had ADHD it’s so obvious. That’s when my coworker found me with the weight of realization hitting me hard. So I called my doctor and set up an appointment the next day.
The day of my appointment my stomach was in knots. I had what was probably the closest thing to a panic attack I’ve had when I was waiting for him to come in. What if he doesn’t believe me? What if he just thinks I’m lazy? What if he judges me about this?
Thankfully none of my worst fears happened. He asked me routine questions and asked how ADHD had impacted my life. It was still difficult to tell him, but he assured me that what I was explaining was normal with women with ADHD. He discussed treatment options, and together we ultimately chose a medication that I would try. It was so simple that I felt ridiculous for waiting so long to get help.
I wish I could say that I took the medication and everything magically changed. But I still had habits and behaviors that I learned from 26 years of ADHD. But the medication helped put me in a place where I could handle the process to fix it. I’ve gotten so much better, and I’m continuing to make progress. I feel like the clutter in my mind has been cleared, and dealing with life isn’t impossible anymore.
I’m not writing this trying to advertise some miracle drug that will make all the problems go away. In fact, I’ve had to switch medications and dosages around to try and find something that works for me, because different medications work for different people. I’m writing this because someone out there might be going through the same thing, and I want them to understand that it doesn’t have to be an uphill battle (an uphill battle where you’re trying to juggle everything you own and do algebra at the same time) all of the time.
Having a good medical provider that I can trust has made the process much manageable, and I know that Alpine Center is full of those good medical providers, who just want to help you get mentally healthy. So if you’re finding yourself in the same boat, I urge you to think about calling Alpine Center. You might think that you’re managing it, but I know from experience that managing to meet the bare minimum of a functional life and actually living life is not the same thing.