Diagnosed with ADHD at Age 36

Diagnosed with ADHD at Age 36

Yes, I was diagnosed withe ADHD at age 36. If you are in the neurodivergent world, you may have noticed that there are MANY adults being diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) right now. 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. Much more is known about ADHD, which leads to easier diagnoses. Secondly, many of us have children who have been diagnosed with ADHD. Being the mama bears we are, we have entrenched ourselves in learning every thing we can about how our child’s brain operates. We are their advocate, protector, and cheerleader. While parenting in the neurodivergent sphere, some of us began to see characteristics of ourselves. What we thought was typical, might not have been as normal as we thought.

My ADHD Symptoms

I am here to share my own personal experience. Keep that in mind. No two people have the same story. But here are some things I learned are actually characteristics of ADHD, and that I saw in myself:

  • Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. This is an overwhelming emotional sensation that someone experiences due to actual or even perceived rejection or criticism. I have a really difficult time when I think someone might not like me, misunderstands something I’ve said, or critiques my work. 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 know in my head that xyz task is important, not hard, won’t take a lot of time, and/or really important. But if I don’t want to do the task, then my brain cannot make my body do the task. I know it sounds insane, but this can be a real struggle in daily life.
  • Task Switching. This looks like multitasking, but task switching is moving rapidly from one task to another. I do this often, especially in things that my brain considers “work”. This can occur on a bigger scale, where it is obvious because a person has multiple projects going on at one time. Or it can happen on a smaller scale, which is how task switching manifests for me.
  • 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.
Accurate image of me trying to make sense of my brain. Image Credit: Womanlog

Seeking a Diagnosis

One important thing I want to point out is many of the 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, and many practitioners agree these are unique to ADHD and other neurodivergent diagnoses. Additionally, these characteristics are easily masked, and they can be easily overlooked if someone is functioning well in their day to day life.

I operated well in my daily life. I used planners and organizers to keep things moving efficiently day to day. Furthermore, I accomplished my daily tasks well enough. Yes, 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. It is almost like 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 daily life. I couldn’t plan or organize my brain out of them. My days became harder and harder. It felt like I was moving through mud. Finally, I decided to talk to my doctor, and he diagnosed me right then and there.

Treating My ADHD

I decided I wanted to try 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 in a way that I prefer. Most importantly, I don’t feel like I am moving through mud.

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.

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Final Thoughts on Being 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 as 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.