Do you have adult ADHD? I do!

The term ADHD for many people will spark immediate thoughts of primary school kids disrupting classmates, teachers at their wits’ end, and the medication Ritalin. For much of my own life that was my reaction to any mention of the subject, too.

Until about 15 years ago when, in my early 40s, I was diagnosed with ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. My instant response was twofold – I felt a simultaneous sense of shock and relief.

For my entire life, I had struggled with various aspects of life. I could complete short, sharp tasks with ease but struggled with those that had a longer time span or a distant deadline.

Rather than tackle these longer-term challenges head on, I will build a mental wall between the task and me and distract myself with other things.

That invisible wall allowed me to focus on other things of more immediate interest, but I was unable to deceive myself completely. Anxiety, dread and guilt would build up until I was forced by circumstance to finally face up to the task, or tell the task-setter I hadn’t done it.

When asked why I hadn’t done it, I would come up with some sort of lame excuse, which would often incorporate completely fabricated elements.

This was not because I am a natural liar. It was because I didn’t know the answer to that question myself.

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In about 2006, I suffered an episode of severe depression coupled with anxiety levels higher than anything I’d experienced previously. I sought the help of a psychiatrist, who helped me gradually untangle the knots in my brain.

The depression had been triggered by several family events, including the suicide of a close relative, but I knew my brain had other issues I’d never been able to quite understand.

My own son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the time, and I thought that I, too, was probably on the spectrum. I would often become hyper-focused on one activity to the exclusion of others.

But my psychiatrist disagreed, and that’s when, for the first time in my life I heard the term ADHD used to describe me.

In the 16 or so years since, diagnoses of ADHD have become far more common. Cynics might say that this is nothing more than the latest mental health fad. For me, though, the diagnosis has been life-changing ­– for the better.

I had hoped that change would be instant, but in reality, it has taken far longer, and that change is still taking place today.

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My psychiatrist recommended a book – 4 Weeks to an Organised Life with ADHD. Four weeks? The thought of ‘fixing’ myself in the space of a month sounded wonderful.

It didn’t quite pan out that way. One of the symptoms of my ADHD for much of my life had been an inability to get more than a few pages into a book.

Despite what the title promised me, this book joined a large pile of others that sat in various locations of my house, destined to be forever dog-eared at around the page 20 mark.

Other life events then got in the way. My marriage dissolved in 2009 and I spent years recovering from that, emotionally and financially.

Throughout the next decade I stumbled through life. Ridiculously, I did not get around to reading 4 Weeks to an Organised Life with ADHD until 2021, despite reading the first couple of chapters many times.

The book was a revelation, so many of the situations described resonating strongly with me, probably helped by the fact that the authors, Jeffrey Freed and Joan Shapiro are themselves adults with ADHD.

The book helped me to understand myself and also become more efficient. But I felt I could still be more productive in life. Some of my old habits, such as putting off larger tasks, remained.

In the years after my marriage ended, I lost contact with my psychiatrist. Last month, I renewed our relationship. In the past decade, he told me, much has changed in terms of treating ADHD medically.

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He prescribed me a drug known as Dexamphetamine. I started taking it in early January. In the short time since, I have been productive to a degree never seen in my lifetime. My ability to focus on the right things for long periods is remarkable.

I have found myself getting to the end of day having achieved all my aims with no nagging feeling of “I still haven’t done this job”, or “I’ll try and get this finished by midnight”.

My reaction to this new (for me) world has been more or less, “Oh, so this is what it feels like to be normal.” It’s like I’ve finally found the last puzzle piece, and have put it in its place.

I can’t categorically claim that the Dexamphetamine has been the greatest factor in what might be my positive life change. There’s always a chance that a placebo effect is in play.

But I trust the science, and my psychiatrist.

ADHD is a lifelong neurological disorder. It’s not just a childhood condition. And as a society, we are only just coming to accept this. Many people who are in their 50s, like me, or even older, are discovering for the first time that the struggle they have with organising life has a name, and is treatable.

If the issues described here sound familiar to you, a chat with your GP might be worthwhile. And it may even be life changing, as it has been for me.

Have you been diagnosed with ADHD? Or do you think you might have undiagnosed ADHD? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


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