What it's Like to be Diagnosed with ADHD as an Adult
Hello brains! As most of you know I was diagnosed when I was 12. But a lot of people don't find out about their ADHD until later in life as adults. And that can come with some unique challenges.
Since I don't have experience with that myself, I wanted to give you the opportunity to hear from somebody who does. Bret Thornhill is an ADHD coach and a fellow brain. I asked Brett everything that I could think of about what the process, including the emotional process, of being diagnosed as an adult is like. I think a lot of you might be able to relate. Interview starting in 3,2,1. -ADHD is not a failed version of normal it's just a different way of being. -Thank you so much Bret. Thank you for coming I've been really excited to talk to you for a long time.
Say hi to the brains. -Hi brains uh yeah no I've been looking forward to this. I'm really thrilled to be here. -Well first of all when were you diagnosed? -I was diagnosed when I was 43 which is seven years ago. I am gonna be 50 very,very soon.
-Happy birthday. -Thank you very much. It's funny when you say you're diagnosed at 12, I, you know, the very first thing I thought when I was diagnosed was, "Damn, I wish I was diagnosed when I was 12!" You know, so as it was 43, which is, you know, relatively late. There are people who are getting diagnosed now much later than that. There are senior citizens who are getting diagnosed, yeah and it's becoming, more and more common for adults, to get diagnosed. Typically what happens is that kids get diagnosed and then through that process the parent kind of goes, "wait now, little Junior's exactly like I was." Right, so they end up getting diagnosed that way. Myself and my daughter we did it the other way around. I actually got my diagnosis first, and then we kind of went, "hey she's just like me," and she ended up getting her diagnosis after me.
-So what made you seek a diagnosis? -I had always experienced. You know, what I know now are pretty common, I guess, feelings that are associated with ADHD, you know, the imposter syndrome. I had a great deal of difficulty with academics. It's like I'm channel surfing through 30 different TV stations, but someone else is holding the remote control.
I don't have control over which channel I'm watching and when, and so there was always, there were always things, that kind of didn't feel, it's tough to describe but it's like this inner itch. I was never content, you know, those kinds of things. So I found out afterwards that those are quite common, but really the breaking point was when I received a promotion into management, and I was responsible for a team and by all accounts, you know, my life had been pretty good. Things were going great, outwardly.
Inwardly there was a tremendous amount of anxiety, even mild depression and just dissatisfaction and so that led me to just see a counsellor, just see a therapist. -As an adult once you made it to the psychiatrist office, what was the actual diagnostic process like for you? -It was mainly just a Q&A, she took a lot of notes, she asked me a lot of questions, and it fit like a glove I mean, it was, there was no doubt in her mind after a few visits. But what I give her credit for, is that she took her time and make sure that it was ADHD, that was the primary cause of my issues. I remember telling her, "But I can't have ADHD, because I hold down a job and I have a house, and a family, and, you know, I pay my bills," and that sort of thing. She goes, "Yeah but how hard is it?" I mean it's tough, it's tough, you know. It feels like I'm walking through three feet of water most of the time. -Did you feel like you were lazy? -Yeah. Yeah I did.
-Why is that? I think because, so many of my contemporaries so many people that I knew, so many people I grew up with were able to do things that, I wasn't able to do and I always put it to work ethic. I know now that it was interest. I spent most of my life feeling like I was either lazy or I had to be the stupidest person in the room, because when you're surrounded by people who think differently than you, and this is the thing about ADHD, is I try to get my clients to embrace their divergent thinking, because it can be really lonely, if you're a divergent thinker, you know.
It can be very isolating, you know. We don't grow up wanting to be different than everybody else and if you don't fit in with everything else, then automatically there's an assumption that well there's something wrong. So it was actually quite relieving to know that there was something that I have, that explains all of the crap, that I never had an explanation for.
And there's a real roller coaster of emotions, that I've since found out, are very similar to the same sort of emotions that you experience, when you're going through a mourning process you know where you have that shock, you have that disbelief, you have acceptance, you have anger, you have all of those sorts of things. And, what I equated it to afterwards was I realized that I was kind of mourning the person that I thought, I might have been, had I known earlier, so I was a little ticked off that I'm 43 years old. And you know there there's always two ways to look at something, and on the one hand it was like, "Yeah I had a family that loved me, I had good friends, I had a good career, life had been pretty good." But how much better could it have been if I had only known, right? That's a bad place to go. That's not a good place to go. But you go there and you start wondering, you have all these questions, and you, you really start to imagine this other life that doesn't exist, but you start imagining this other life, and how it might have been. That was tough. It was hard not to look back.
So I did a lot of research, and I found out a lot about ADHD, and I found out a lot about the strengths that are attached to ADHD as well, and eventually I just got tired. I got tired of looking back wondering about what might have been. I thought, "Okay you've gained all this great new insight about yourself, there's got to be a way you can use this. Maybe it's time to look forward. Maybe this is your opportunity to take chances you've never taken before.
Maybe now you, you know you have reasons to take leaps of faith that. You never would have taken before. -Did you get treatment right away? Pretty much. My psychiatrist was, was pretty good in that she sent me a way to kind of digest, you know. It's really easy to kind of go, "Okay fix it, you know. Whatever it is now you know what it is. Fix it." And as of course, as you know I mean, medication is not about fixing and ADHD treatment is not about fixing, but in short order, I did, I went the medication route, I was quite open to that, and it made a huge difference in my life. You know the very first day I took my medication, I completed a project that had been sitting on my desk for a month and a half.
I was in a meeting and had sat through an hour and a half meeting and realized as I walked out, I listened to everything that was happening in that meeting. I didn't get lost my mind didn't wander. I'm not walking out of that meeting going, "What the hell just happened?" Which is how I felt most of the time when I walk out of meetings. So the changes were profound but subtle, if that makes sense.
Like it wasn't like, take the pill then suddenly, you know, you're wearing a red cape, it was more you know take the pill and just you're no longer walking in 3 feet of water. -How did you tell people and how did you decide who to tell and how did they respond? -Yeah so that was interesting. When you're diagnosed it's really profound for you, but you don't change in the eyes of others and if they don't have an understanding of ADHD and you make this announcement, you suddenly you feel like you've rediscovered yourself. You better be content with that internally, because externally it's not going to make a whole lot of difference, to other people.
It feels like it should. "I've made this huge discovery about myself and I know myself now, and I'm you know, I know so much more about why I am the way I am," and everybody else is just like, "Yeah you're the same person, though you're the same as you always were." And, because they didn't have all the internal thoughts going on in the first place, right, there was that, there was a lot of disbelief, misunderstanding. People don't understand what it is. I shared with my family with some of my family some of whom, decided to try to convince me that I was wrong.
(Chuckles). And I remember having this one conversation where, I'm like, "I'm informing you that I have ADHD. I'm not here to debate this I have ADHD." -Did you attempt to educate the people who, didn't believe you? -Yes I still try to educate them. I used to get pissed off.
It used to irritate me. And I would engage in arguments. The American Psychiatric Association calls ADHD, the most well researched psychiatric condition in existence. It's also one of the most treatable. It's also one of the most ignored. It's also one of the most denied, but it's an opportunity so for every misunderstanding or misconception that they throw at you, bust down the myth. Do some myth-busting If you engage in someone by saying, "Yeah I used to think the same thing but you know here's what I know now." "ADHD is not genetic." "Well yeah and I didn't even think it was either. I had no idea.
But you know what. ADHD is as genetic as height and they've actually isolated this gene, that's, that's associated with ADHD." Now so if you can engage people in those conversations, then I think that's a great opportunity. So now I do that more. I don't get upset with people anymore. I tend to get irritated more by people who allow their ignorance to impact the lives of others. So parents of kids who will not accept their ADHD bothers me, and what I say to those parents is, "Look you know what I have a very clear memory, and appreciation for life before ADHD, and I don't consider ADHD, in and of itself a gift. It comes with tremendous challenges, and it can cause tremendous difficulties. But I absolutely consider the diagnosis a gift." Brett actually had a lot more insights to share.
What the coaching process is like? How to find the coach that works for you? His three pillars for ADHD success. He had so much in fact, that we decided to do a bonus episode with him next week. If you can't wait till next week, check out his website, 'Embrace your ADHD.ca.' Link in the description, and of course, interviews like this would not be possible without the help of my patreon supporters, like these brains. Thank you so much for believing in me. We've got a lot of exciting things coming for the channel, and none of this would be happening without you. Let us know what getting diagnosed was like for you. Leave a comment below.
Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and in the meantime, I'll be researching the next topic. See you next week. Bye brains! -I think we start out life as individuals, and I think that sometimes I think we're, we're taught how to kind of, fit in with everything else, and as we get older, I think as we get more comfortable with ourselves, and I guess a little more confident. Um then that difference is something that we can embrace again, you know.
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