Lee’s Story

I am a 55-year-old single mom who was just diagnosed a year ago. I never would have pegged myself as an ADD’er, mainly because I am the non-hyper kind. That just shows how little I understood about it. Now, to my dismay, I am finding that people who have known me all my life are equally unaware. When I tell them about it, they either don’t believe me or just don’t “get it.” I am starting to think it is probably smarter to just indicate my needs, or my boundaries, and then just leave it at that, without mentioning the ADD (unless, of course, I am talking to an ADD person).

Like many bright ADD’ers, for the past 55 years, I was able to cover up enough so that it didn’t seem like I had too many problems. Yet, on the inside, I knew. I knew in spades. And most unfortunately, I always figured that somehow, I lacked strength of will, or I worried that I somehow had a defective personality.

To go through the diagnostic process, I needed to reflect on my whole life to see if the pattern was always there. When I did that, I wept over all the lost opportunities in my life which I could now see for the first time as ADD-sabotaged. I also grieved the unnecessary suffering I subjected myself to. If I had known about the diagnosis, perhaps I would not have compared myself to others so much who had magical abilities to focus that I did not have. Moreover, I would have known it was OK (!) to get help

After spending years in self-recrimination, it is still hard to get help, but I am getting better. For example, right now, I am preparing for a move after living in one place for 15 y ears. This feels overwhelming. But still, it took me weeks to hire someone for $10/hour to help me pack. I came close to canceling her help at the last minute, too (because all my guilt bells and whistles were going off). But luckily, I didn’t, and it was some of the best money I have spent in my entire life. Seriously. Next time, I won’t be so horribly hesitant to go ahead and get a little help.

Medication makes a big difference, too. My private therapist suggested that I might have ADD, so I did a lot of reading on it., and she and I both felt I had it. So then I went to my HMO physician for a referral. Unfortunately, she sort of freaked out and acted like I wanted the medication for the wrong reasons when I have zero history of that, and am a professional person. But at least she referred me to the PhD therapist the HMO uses. The therapist interviewed me for several weeks, and confirmed my own private therapist’s diagnosis. The HMO psychiatrist was suspicious, however—even though the HMO therapist had cleared me. I was very uncomfortable with that, but I would guess it is an HMO protocol. Now, a year later, he is just fine with me. I do hate that I had to go through that, however, and hope others with ADD don’t. My shame over “not being like other people” (despite having two Master’s degrees) was bad enough without him adding to it by his suspicious attitude. At any rate, I wish more medical people understood ADD better than they do.

My advice to any ADD’er is to not let anyone shame you in the process of being evaluated. Also, make learning about ADD a lifelong quest. Remember, you will always have to be your own advocate in setting limits and structuring your environment. For all of us grappling with this, knowledge is power.