The best way to Let Issues Go After a Late ADHD Analysis
I found out about my ADHD by chance.
I was going through a difficult period and called my therapist’s office to make an appointment. I had just turned 49 and was filled with existential fear when I knew what was coming. I had also recently moved to a new neighborhood – 30 miles from my familiar surroundings. Then, just as I was acclimatizing, the pandemic struck.
The line to the therapist’s office rang and rang, but I couldn’t reach anyone. Finally, after some back and forth, the receptionist revealed that my therapist was on leave and asked if I would be open to see someone else.
I usually do a lot of research when choosing a doctor, but I reluctantly said yes.
The new therapist went through my files and asked superficial questions on the day of the appointment. I kept talking about my recent experiences and feelings of fear. I said almost casually: “I just feel restless.”
I was surprised that the therapist wanted me to share this revelation. “Tell me more about the feeling of unrest.” “When did you start feeling this way?” “How long have you felt like this in life?”
[Take This Self-Test: ADHD Symptoms in Adults]
With every question I fought against a flood of tears. I replied as if I was meeting myself for the first time. After numerous follow-up questions, my new therapist diagnosed me with ADHD.
Getting to know my brain
I couldn’t imagine how successful I was in my current job – office administration – with ADHD. I have to keep track of my own things, but I also have the job of organizing others: leaders, presidents, board members, etc.
At first I was more embarrassed than surprised by the diagnosis. I have an MA in Psychology, but I knew next to nothing about ADHD. I remember it was only briefly discussed in my psychopharmacology class. I didn’t know how forward-looking this discussion would be!
The first thing my doctor “prescribed” after my diagnosis was Dr. Russell Barkley’s talk, “ADHD: Essential Ideas for Parents”. On my own, I read numerous articles, heard podcasts from Dr. Samuel Dismond and Sandra Coral and bought Dr. Barkley’s Taking Charge of Adult ADHD (#Commissions Earned).
[Read: I Think I Have ADHD: Adult Symptom & Diagnosis Guide]
After doing this in-depth research, I was fortunate to even know I had ADHD, as many adults were misdiagnosed and so many black children went underdiagnosed and untreated. Although I was also one of those black children who were “left behind,” I was grateful to know even when it was late.
Still, in the months after my diagnosis, I experienced intense grief, an emotional depth that was only compounded when my mother died and I learned that she also had ADHD. A treasure trove of what-ifs, discoveries, and regrets flooded my mind. I gained clarity on many of my lifelong struggles that brought more fear than graduation.
Learning to forgive my unique chemistry
I also learned about Repulsive Dysphoria (RSD), which could explain why I often felt like I was on a tightrope in my acting career (another aspect of my life). Despite the joy it brings, acting has always been psychologically demanding, especially after auditions and acting classes. Even after performing on stage, I would sneak out of the theater to avoid the audience. This intense fear of negative, constructive, or even positive criticism also made it difficult to develop both professional and personal relationships.
While I wasn’t to blame for every breakdown or breakup, there have been many times when my emotional impulsiveness resulted in me making mountains of molehills – the biting accusatory message I sent to a friend who was slow to respond to my message responded; the defiantly confrontational email I sent to a boss (and copied his bosses) after they criticized me for being home sick; or when I ruthlessly broke off contact with a long-time friend after they beat up a bar-goer during a blackout feast.
While this post-diagnosis introspection was instructive, I knew it was best not to get stuck in a rabbit hole of regret. I found a great doctor to help me determine the best treatment options. I also have a wonderful therapist who can work through my RSD and other difficulties. (I’m grateful for the wealth of behavioral changes in my toolbox.)
I’ve learned that ADHD has many positive aspects. I’ve also developed a sense of humor. The other day my best friend Tonye texted me to ask what I was doing. I replied, “Clean up the house, take out the trash, watch Dateline episodes, and shop on Amazon. Typical ADHD stuff! “
A close friend of mine with ADHD told me about her recent therapy session that stayed with me. The therapist explained to my friend that her fear is triggered by the fact that her brain is in constant “fight or flight” mode, as if she were a deer fleeing from a tiger. The therapist’s advice? Do your best to remember that there is no tiger.
How to Let Go of Things: The Next Steps
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Updated July 13, 2021