Running Backwards: ADHD at 52.

“Mom, can we play now?”

Lack of focus is a constant issue for me. I drop things, trip over objects, forget what I just walked into the room for and cannot find the leftover quiche in the fridge that my wife just directed me to. “It’s in the round tupperware with the red lid on the second shelf down, left side under the butter dish” she explains. “It’s not here” I say and I’m looking right at it. This drives her bonkers. I tackle work and school assignments that I have already completed and then cannot locate them. I hyper-focus on minute tasks like fruitlessly weeding the driveway (recently my 8 year-old had to redirect me to our game of badminton). I turn glossy-eyed while someone is talking and miss critical information during work meetings. I tell my students that I’ll put a nickel in a jar for each mistake I make on the board. They always let me know.

I’m painting our 1,000 square-foot house bright yellow. I dreaded the task initially, then fell oddly in love with scraping the siding to perfection until a house painter friend told me exactly how to back off. I soon doubled my work speed and halved my stress.

I was probably this way as a child, but no one noticed because “kids will be kids” and ironically, no one was really paying attention. Last year my kind and devoted therapist gently suggested that I get tested for ADHD and I just scoffed. She persisted abd eventually I said “what the heck, it’s covered and it might be an interesting life experience.” When I returned to the testing center for my results, I announced to my practitioner that I had not only deciphered the true meaning of each task on the test, but had aced every single one of them. There was simply no way I had ADHD, but thank you for your time anyway. She smiled, patiently closed my chart on her lap and asked me to say more. After my diatribe, she reported that I unequivocally had ADHD. I was genuinely shocked.

Eventually it all made sense – my impulsivity, forgetfulness, impatience, hyperreactivity and constant procrastination. I soon spread the word. My boss, wife, twin brother, cousin and a couple of friends all reacted pretty much the same: “Yep, that doesn’t surprise me at all”, “I could have told you that”, “Uh huh, what else is new?” and “You’re just learning this now?” I actually felt validated, but my negative self-talk crept back in no time at all. For months I tried to convince myself that I was just selfish and undisciplined and refused to cut myself a little slack. Again, my therapist stepped in by lending me the book “You mean I’m not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!” by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. After skimming a few parts, I promptly misplaced, and soon after forgot I ever had it until she asked how it was going. It’s still on my shelf somewhere; at least I think it is.

Now I acknowledge my ADHD as a challenge, but not a shortcoming and I am giving myself a well-deserved break from my own self-judgement. I teach myself new habits that may seem petty to the onlooker, but feel really big for me (like leaving a huge unpainted spot on the side of the house and observing my response to, rather than judging it).

I do not know what ADHD feels and looks  like for others, including those of us first diagnosed well into adulthood. But I do know this: my other qualities make sense too, my adventurousness, spontaneity, quick wit, athleticism, creativity  and natural connection to children.

Alas, I’m becoming impatient. I’m going to stop here so I can play badminton with my daughter.

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