Candid Chaos Chronicles: Midlife Diagnosis
Updated: May 10, 2021
"Candid Chaos" is a new collection of blog posts on What in the ADHD? that features real stories from the ADHD community. Whether you're undiagnosed, freshly diagnosed, or have been diagnosed for years - I welcome all of it. Interested in being a part of Candid Chaos? Send me a message! WhatInTheADHD@gmail.com
Part 1 comes from Lisa - a British teacher living in Belgium with her partner and two children. She likes octopuses and clockwork robots.
I have always struggled with feeling different from other people. Despite knowing cerebrally that comparing oneself to others is a very bad idea, emotionally I do little else. I have spent my life watching everyone else knowing what to do in social situations, knowing how to stick to a routine, managing everyday life without totally messing it up.
Me? Not so much.
In fact, not at all.
"But just knowing that I have ADHD has made a lot of difference to how I view myself."
Social stuff is very much a case of watching others and copying what they do. I feel like I’m acting a part most of the time. Routines baffle me. The minor bumps and scrapes of everyday life leave my skin hanging off. The thing I struggle most with is - as bad luck would have it - the thing I need to master most: just getting sh*t done.
My house is as big a mess as my head, and don’t even get me started on the
garden (no, really. Don’t. Because I literally can’t start on the garden). Most of my life feels like I’m jumping from one disaster to the other and the floor is lava; I’m most frequently to be found in panic mode. The bizarre thing is that no one knows. Most people think I’m funny, maybe a bit eccentric. After 52 years, I’m turning in Oscar-winning performances of regular behaviour every day.
God, I’m tired.
Of course, in the midst of being thoroughly disorganised and forgetful, I chose a career which really needs a person to be the opposite: teaching. It’s a place where my restless energy and acting skills are put to good use. My students like being in my class and so do I. Even though I suck at doing marking [grading] for any length of time, and I sometimes I forget which class comes next, and I’m
always exhausted - I survive. Sometimes I even have a little thrive.
"The results told me that I have pretty severe Combined Type ADHD. I cried."
I got my diagnosis just after my 50th birthday. My eldest child (who is trans, so I’ll use they/them) had been diagnosed with autism at age 11, and I was working with their psychologist to try to get them on track with their learning and personal hygiene. All the strategies that she [psychologist] put in place
went horribly wrong because I could not stick to the plans. Eventually, I had to confess to the psychologist that I was a complete failure at parenting and could not support my child, who really needed me to give them structure. The psychologist told me she had been thinking for a while that I might be ADHD and suggested I get tested.
So, I got tested as a 50th birthday present to myself.
The results told me that I have pretty severe Combined Type ADHD. I cried. My inability to do things with the graceful ease that everyone else seems to have made sense. My awkwardness. Making strange noises when I'm stressed. The
impossibility of listening for long periods. Interrupting others because I have an idea and I’ll forget it if I don’t blurt it out. It all had a name: ADHD.
The lifelong clinical depression had a foundation. I wasn’t the clumsy child my mother always told me I was. It felt like I finally had a me-shaped hole for that for-so-long-wrong peg to fit in. Despite that, I don’t know how open I should be about my ADHD. A couple of close colleagues know, but management and my students don’t. I know the students will be supportive, but I fear the parents’ reactions. The friends I've told have responded with either “Oh, I think I have that
too” or “Well, you can’t have much of it, you’re normal.” My mother *gasp* doesn’t believe in it.
I consulted a psychiatrist for a while, but he wasn’t a good fit, so I don’t have professional help now. I like to figure things out by myself, quietly. And I find appointments very stressful anyway. They bring out the avoidance in me.
"I don't see ADHD as either disability or a superpower; it's in me, part of me, like a bone."
I was given Concerta when I was first diagnosed and found I needed a high dose to make a difference. It does help me, but I don’t like the ‘crash’ when it wears off. And, in all honesty, I rarely remember to take it. Clearly, self-care is a bit of a disaster zone for me, but just knowing that I have ADHD has made a lot of difference to how I view myself.
I still do compare myself to others. I still struggle to get into that much-needed routine with food and exercise. I still make my husband and kids crazy from time to time (ok, daily). But I’m still here.
I don’t see ADHD as either disability or a superpower; it’s in me, part of me, like a bone. I can’t change who I am, but I can understand her better. And I kind of like her now. --