Yep. That’s me – diagnosed with ADHD at age 36. Within the neurodivergent world, there are MANY adults receiving a diagnosis of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) right now. Have you seen the news reports of the nationwide Adderall shortage? Why is this? I think it comes from a few factors.
First, definitions, detections, and diagnostic criteria have expanded SO much since we were in school in the ’80s and ’90s. Doctors know so much more about ADHD now, which leads to easier diagnoses.
Secondly, many of us have children who have ADHD. Being the mama bears we are, we have entrenched ourselves in learning every single thing we can about how our child’s brain operates. We are their advocate, protector, and cheerleader.
So it makes sense that while parenting in the neurodivergent sphere, some of us saw characteristics of ourselves. What we thought was normal, might not have been as normal as we thought.
My ADHD Symptoms
Keep in mind, this is my personal experience. No two people have the same story. But here are some things I saw in myself that are characteristics of ADHD:
- Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. This is an overwhelming emotional (and sometimes physical) sensation someone experiences due to actual or perceived rejection or criticism. I have a really difficult time when I think someone doesn’t like me, and I have to pep talk my way out of these intense feelings.
- Difficulty with Task Initiation. It can be INCREDIBLY difficult for me to start something. It’s an odd feeling; I’m not going to lie. I know in my head I need to do the thing (folding the laundry for example). I know it’s important, easy, and won’t take a lot of time. But if I don’t want to do the task, then my brain cannot make my body do the task. I know. I don’t get it either, but it’s real.
- Task Switching. This easily looks like multitasking. I do this during things my brain considers “work”. The task is not interesting/novel/exciting enough to hold my attention. Do you know anyone who has multiple projects going on at one time? Ha, I do. It also happens on a smaller scale. For example, I might be in the middle of meal planning, then all of a sudden switch to lesson planning. When I’m writing, I write a little, then search for images, write a little more, then to make a pin, and so on.
- Hyperfocus. This is a more common characteristic of ADHD. If there is something I want to learn or a task I am excited about, then I can spend hours on it. Easily. Need help with breastfeeding? I can give you some great pointers. Want to know random facts about homeless orphans in North Korea, I got you. Interested in the historical context of some of the more controversial verses in the Bible? Let’s chat. I could go on, haha!
So, What Happened?
I operated well in my daily life. I used planners and organizers to keep things moving efficiently from day to day, and I accomplished my daily tasks well enough. Sure, some days/seasons were hard. But that’s life, right? That’s adulting.
Then the pandemic happened. I suffered from long-haul covid, and it changed me. I experienced neurological symptoms like brain fog, insomnia, depression, and memory loss. Covid changed my brain. I really believe covid tipped the scale for me. Systems in my life that worked well before no longer worked.
All of the symptoms listed above became more pronounced and problematic in my everyday life. I couldn’t plan or organize my brain out of the struggle I was feeling. My days became harder and harder. I was moving through mud. Everything took so much effort, and I was oh so very tired each and every day. Finally, I decided to talk to my doctor, and he diagnosed me right then and there.
Keep In Mind
Many things I listed above are not “official” ADHD symptoms. They aren’t listed in the DSM-5. However, they are all characteristics many people with ADHD have in common. Many doctors agree these are unique to ADHD and other neurodivergent diagnoses and take them into consideration.
Additionally, these characteristics are easily masked, or they can be overlooked if someone is functioning well in their day-to-day life. They can look like anxiety and/or depression as well. So many women were given an original diagnosis of anxiety, then were later diagnosed with ADHD. Fun fact about me: I had panic attacks in college and was on anxiety medication for about five years.
Treating My ADHD
After being diagnosed with ADHD, I knew I wanted to try medication. My ADHD children have had great experiences on medication. After a discussion with my doctor, we decided on the non-stimulant Wellbutrin.
Now, I know many people have strong opinions on Wellbutrin. I know some have experienced horrible side effects. Yet, for me, it has been WONDERFUL. It is hard to describe, but my days are just easier. I am back to cooking dinner for my family most nights because I am not as tired at the end of the day. I can maintain my home the way that I prefer. Most importantly, I don’t feel like I am moving through mud.
How’s It Going?
There have been two occasions where I have unintentionally missed a day of medication. Both times, I didn’t realize it until the end of the day, but it was definitely a hard day.
The first time was a day that I had a long to-do list. I started multiple tasks all at the same time, and I kept bouncing from one thing to another. I felt extremely frazzled, but I couldn’t slow my pace down to concentrate on one thing at a time.
The second time I missed a medication dose was a normal day filled with normal responsibilities. Yet I was EXHAUSTED. I could barely speak at the end of the day because I was so tired. I realized how much harder my brain had to work.
Final Thoughts Getting Diagnosed with ADHD at Age 36
My overarching thought on my ADHD journey is I am so glad I sought help. I have what would be considered mild ADHD, yet my medication has been extremely beneficial. Even though most would look at me and think I was functioning in life just fine, things were harder for me than that of a neurotypical person. My brain had to do more than others to maintain the same baseline if that makes sense.
I hope you found my journey helpful and enlightening. Do you know anyone who has been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult? I’d love to hear about it! Make sure to share this post with your friends if you found it helpful.
5 thoughts on “I Can’t Believe I Was Diagnosed with ADHD at Age 36”
I can so relate to what you have written.
I am 26 and have just recently come to terms with the fact that I most likely have ADHD as well, and am in the process of seeking out a diagnosis. If you don’t mind me asking, where do you live? I live in Canada and the process of seeking a diagnosis here is quite lengthy and in-depth. Our health program covers the cost if you are diagnosed, but if you go through the process and aren’t diagnosed you have to foot the bill. Yikes! This was such a great read. Thank you so much for sharing your story!
I am in the US. Most of the time, the process of getting a diagnosis is more in-depth, especially for children. I think my doctor was quicker to diagnose me, because I was ok with taking a non-stimulant medication (stimulants are heavily regulated). If I ever want/need to switch to a stimulant, I will have to go through the whole process with a specialist. That route is quite expensive, and we have to pay regardless of the results.
Thanks for your vulnerability and for sharing your ADHD story. It is very inspirational, especially for this living with the same medical condition.
ADHD adult here, I’ve been diagnosed since childhood. Some books that helped me a ton as an adult were https://amzn.to/3OVfyBO this helped me understand how to break some of the negative aspects of ADD. Hope this helps!