A Mother Diagnosed with ADHD at 29
I have ADHD
And now that I know, I can better understand my brain and myself.
I know there is a negative stigma with ADHD, so let me explain it to you.
I want to start off saying I’m not ashamed of my diagnosis. I was never afraid that the test results would say yes. I’m actually happy. No that’s an understatement! I’m elated and feel empowered!
Why? Because I have an answer. I have reflected as an adult on my childhood struggles in school. As a young adult, I wondered If I had more going on than anxiety. As a young teen, I always thought my struggle was anxiety. In fact, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder; however, in college I started wondering if there was more to my struggles. I was introduced to a better understanding of ADHD in young children. I wondered if that was what I had dealt with as a child. But then I thought, “Don’t diagnose yourself” or “Nah, I don’t have ADHD.”
I often found myself saying, “I’m just overwhelmed with work, being a mother and handling day to day tasks.” -Eryka
I apparently had created little strategies throughout my life that helped me to “fit in” with the society norms and what was expected of me. ADHD can cause a lot of emotional issues, because regulating our emotions is tough. We also deal with something called flooding. This is, in a nutshell, when we feel an emotion and our body can’t regulate to send out a small amount of chemicals to the brain and over sends. This can cause someone with ADHD to go from okay to really sad, really mad, or really happy.
Being a new mom was a lot. Being a mom who was also working from home with a demanding job was even more. I felt often like I was hardly keeping my head above the water. It’s like I was treading and hardly keeping my head above water, then I was handed a baby. So naturally you get pushed deeper under water trying to keep that precious being above.
Long story short..I met up with a girlfriend for lunch and as we were catching up, she told me about her ADHD diagnosis. I hadn’t seen her in years and she was telling me how much better she had been. She explained her symptoms. I remember thinking, “Really those are ADHD symptoms?” As we spoke, I checked everything she listed off in my head. I talked to her about myself and how I had felt. She encouraged me to reach out to my Dr and move forward with an evaluation for ADHD. So I made an appointment with my Dr and was referred to a psychiatrist. I filled out paper work, answering many questions about thoughts and feelings. I then took a TOVA test and had an oral conversation/eval. The verdict, ADHD! I went home and started researching more. EVERYTHING made since! School struggles, emotional struggles, difficulty sleeping… EVERYTHING. It was empowering because I was able to now learn about my brain and work on myself.
ADHD affects people in many ways! The first one I’ll explain my thoughts, feelings and findings on is distractibility.
A simple task for you can become daunting and overwhelming for me. -Eryka
You see, school was always hard for me. Things I loved I could learn because I could hold focus, and studying was fun because I was enjoying the learning. Things I didn’t have interest in such as math I really struggled with because I often lost focus. You see, from everything I’ve been reading about, people with ADHD have a VERY difficult time learning about things they have no interest in. Even if we KNOW that the consequences can be bad if we don’t. Such as getting a bad grade. I cried a lot at night doing homework and classes such as math… ha! My mom (a math major) would have to sit down with me and re teach what I was meant to have learned in class.
But you know what, I worked my ass off and got great grades. I even graduated from college Magna Cum Laude. Keep in mine though, in college I picked my major and excelled in those classes because… I enjoyed them. Remember it’s easier for people with ADHD to focus on things they enjoy.
Did you know people with ADHD are less likely to chose a task that requires sustained mental effort. The struggle is real guys, focusing can be very difficult and I’ve had to teach myself so many skills for studying and life in general.
This has to do with my impulsivity. People with ADHD often struggle with turn taking, blurting out answers or comments and interrupting others. For example when talking to people I often interject (interrupt) and add a comment I think fits in with what they are saying. I know I do it, I know I need to work on it, yet it keeps happening. When I do find the will power to hold back, I forget what was going to say because forgetfulness is a big part of ADHD as well.
Restlessness… another part of Hyperactivity
I’m always an on the go kind of gal, moving from one thing to the next. I struggle to nap during the day, because my mind races about all the things I could be doing. Many who meet or know me say I’m full of energy. My mind also fills with anxiety and worries …another set of symptoms that often go hand in hand with ADHD. These have reduced significantly since I started medication.
And my husband says I’m an acquired taste. lol
There are negatives to my impulsivity, but I want to look at the good.
I’m creative because of it.
I think of something at the strangest time and just have to jot it all down. An educational activity and idea for a recipe or even this very blog post I writing right now. I also use to just get the urge to paint something and prior to having a child, when I had the time, I would do just that.
Added Edit, Current Medication: I stopped taking Straterra after a few weeks, it no longer seemed to help. After lots of trial and error (trying a bunch of stimulants with the support of a psychiatrist). I found that Vyvanse works best for me. To give you an idea of timing, Vyvanse is a 12hr time release medication. If I take Vyvanse at 9, it doesn’t kick in until 10/10:30. Then I feel it working very well until about 5:00pm. So I get about 7ish hours from it. The psychiatrist said that I metabolize the medication quicker than most. I have also found that taking Adderal later in the day helps my focus last longer if needed. I also have seen that if I cut my 5 mg in half and take 2.5 at 5:00pm and the other 2.5 right before bed it helps me sleep. Weird I know, but remember stimulants actually affect someone with ADHD differently than someone with a neurotypical brain. The 2.5 is just enough to relax and calm my brain so I can get sleepy and go to bed. I was always a night owl, this has been life changing.
The first medication I started is called Straterra and I actually really liked it. It was the first thing I took that helped me a bit. Although it made me yawn a lot and feel a bit tired. Also, now being on a stimulant I do see that my current medication works much much better. Straterra is not a stimulant like most ADHD medications such as Adderall, but it works. You are probably thinking, “why would someone with ADHD need a stimulant anyway? They are hyperactive!” We need help with the connections in our brain. There is still a lot of studies going on and a lot of controversy around what actually causes ADHD and how to diagnoses it beyond a TOVA test (which I took) or questioning. There is a pretty decent consensus that the need for dopamine is a factor in those with ADHD. Increasing dopamine in the brain by targeting dopamine transporters helps to stimulate focus. Some say a stimulant such as Adderall can be dangerously addictive and can have negative long term usage effects. But I mean it’s been around for years and Adderall is currently approved for long-term therapeutic use by the USFDA.
So what does Straterra do?
In complex terms… It’s a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor which means it increases the dopaminergic release in the frontal cortex. This is because the norepinephrine receptors are also sensitive to dopamine. From what I have read and my Dr explained to me, by drawing a photo because I’m a visual learner (helps me stay focused), means it basically allows your brain to create more connections therefore process information better and improve symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention.
On Straterra I felt calmer, like my daily anxiety that was lingering in my chest. The feeling of a heavy weight is gone. Yes I can still get anxious, but I’m at zero anxiety regularly vs before I was at a 4 or 5 on a 0-10 scale. People with ADHD often suffer from anxiety and are often misdiagnosed with anxiety… like I was. Not saying I don’t also have anxiety. I very well may, but since taking medication I have to say I have felt much better. Through my research I’ve found ADHD does cause those with it to suffer from anxiety, worry and stress.
Here is a short article I really enjoyed reading about ADHD and anxiety.
“Most worriers are creative and smart. It takes a lot of creativity and smarts to dream up all those things to worry about. I should know. I have ADHD and I am a worrier.
We also tend to be creative, original, and come up with new ideas out of nowhere. I have come to believe we were born this way. Our genetic endowment gives us the reward of original thinking and the pain that comes when that thinking goes awry, as it sometimes does.
Worry and anxiety have an upside for the person who has ADHD. We are always searching for mental focus. The most riveting stimulus is physical pain. Put your finger near a flame, and you will pay attention to the flame. Worry and anxiety are the mental equivalent of physical pain. The person with ADHD may wake up and find that life is good. However, contentment is not riveting. So he scans the horizon looking for something to worry about. Once he finds an object of worry, it pierces his mind like a dagger. It becomes a source of focus throughout the day.” -Dr. Ned Hallowell
Back to Straterra…my head felt less foggy. I use to feel a bit dazed and confused during the day. I would forget things constantly and this was all day, EVERYDAY! If one thing distracted me, kiss that task I was working on goodbye. Now I have a clearer mind, which also has reduced my stress because I can think! I really don’t know how to explain how amazing it is to just think clearly. I’ve only been on medication for less than a week so I’m continuing to jot down how I feel vs how I felt and take note of changes. Overall I’m feeling more in charge and focused! I know medication isn’t for everyone however my whole life I have been working on strategies to work on my weaknesses which I now have a diagnosis for. I felt trying medication was something I needed to do before ruling it out.
I don’t just take medication for my ADHD, I also work out and have actually been going 5 days a week since getting my diagnosis. Working out is very important and so is drinking plenty of water. I also have been doing at home meditation and taking yoga classes via my nike app. It’s a free app and honestly really awesome. My husband also found an article that states those with ADHD are more likely to have food allergies… check! And they should stay away from gluten, which I already found heightens my anxiety and messes with my digestion. So anther reason to keep gluten out of my diet as much as possible.
Here is a list of symptoms for ADHD:
- Easily Distracted
- Regularly loses things
- Trouble focusing or following through on tasks
- Becomes easily side tracked
- “On the go” unable to relax
- Feels restless or unable to sit still
- Interrupts others
- Talks excessively
- Avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort
- Difficulty organizing or Initiating work
- Difficulty listening, even when directly spoken to
- Careless mistakes or lack of attention to detail
- Has trouble waiting for turn
- Fidgets or squirms
- Struggle with worry and anxiety
I hope this was informative for those who may know someone with ADHD and maybe helps someone else who doesn’t know yet they have it. Keep in mind this is not a full list of symptoms. If you have some of these symptoms that does not mean you necessarily have ADHD. If you think you may have ADHD go to your Dr. and see if they suggest a referral to a psychiatrist for testing.
Did I miss anything? If you have questions feel free to ask away!