I am sitting in my office watching the birds eat the bread, cheese and seeds I put out for them as I look back on the past 9 years.
What a roller coaster ride it has been. For the first time in my life my feet are not itchy and I am at peace with who I am.
It is 9 years since I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 51 a condition I had never even heard of.
Having lurched through a dozen plus careers, a failed marriage, constantly moving house, and turbulent work and personal relationships, I am proud to say that I have found my purpose and passion which is to write and inspire others to unlock their potential.
I now have goals, I have learned how to make decsions, how to be less impulsive (not every idea that whizzes through my brain is a viable business) and how not to give up at the first sign of trouble or difficulty.
The Crazy Working Life of an Un-Managed ADDer
Always in the top 10% academically, I played hockey and swum but was never quite good enough for a first team in anything. I was a diligent student who had learned mostly by rote. An average matric because I got an "F" for Maths. I had no understanding of the purpose of maths and when I panicked and went blank in the Geometry Paper I had no idea what to do. A big fat zero was the result.
My ADHD affected many of my career decisions and this is why I am including my career history in this series.
If truth be told I never actually made decisions as I was either told what to do or I did whatever came up ... typical of many ADDers. All I knew was that I was too squeamish to be a nurse, too shy to teach and I had unfortunately never done typing and shorthand as we were an "academic family" according to my Mother.
Here is my working life between 1974 and 2006 in a nutshell.
My ADHD Diagnosis
Can you imagine plucking up the courage at the age of 50 going to a Career Counselling Psychologist, spending 2 days doing numerous tests, in an effort to find how you should be earning your daily crust and being told that you are capable of doing anything you want but not for longer than 3 months at a time? This was a tough blow as my family had been urging me to pull myself together and "get a proper job".
The psychologist also sent me to a psychiatrist who prescribed me 2 different anit-depressants as I was deeply depressed.
Yes, this is what happened to me a couple of weeks before meeting Dave. Ironically Dave and I had our first date at a restaurant on Blaauwberg Beach in Cape Town on April Fools Day 2006. We had met on the internet a couple of weeks before.
The Living ADDventure® ADHD Impairments Assessment
It was with some trepidation that I agreed to do this assessment. Would I have to answer questions that I was uncomfortable talking about? I had never been someone who talked about deeply personal stuff.
So why is it important to do this assessment?
Everyone is impacted differently by their ADHD. The type of ADHD (inattentive day-dreamer to climbing the walls hyperactive and everything in between), your family history, the environment you live in, various co-occurring conditions that you may have, are all factors that need to be looked at in order to find an ADHD Coaching Programme that will work for you and help you to live a contented and productive life.
Living ADDventure® ADHD Coaching is very directive and focuses on your current issues. You can't change the past so you need to focus on how you deal with today and tomorrow.
I had committed to changing my life so I decided that there were to be no secrets, no half truths. It was time to face the truth, uncomfortable as it might be.
Change Must Be Managed
Treating ADHD as a family condition is one of the key differences in the way Living ADDventure® runs its Coaching Programme compared with Executive, Business and Life Coaching. Most Coaching programmes work with the individual.
When someone with ADHD starts the Living ADDventure® ADHD Coaching Programme it can be extremely difficult for the non-ADHD partner, spouse, children, work colleagues and friends.
Things will inevitably get worse before they start to get better. If the ADDer is newly diagnosed there is a mixture of relief at understanding their own behaviour a bit better but also a lot of humiliation and sadness as they start to "peel the onion". The prospect of possibly having to take medication which has such a bad reputation, the ridicule of friends and family who do not believe there is anything wrong can all leave the ADDer confused and unsure.
For the benefit of the whole family working as a team is essential and that is when the best results are obtained.
Change is very difficult and when ADDers sign up for the ADHD Coaching Programme they are often already broken and fragile. Relationships are fraught, money is frequently an issue, they may have lost their jobs and are self medicating with smoking, drugs and alcohol. Suppressed rage and anger is common.
I DON'T NEED OR WANT ADHD MEDICATION!!
We were sitting in a coffee shop for my first Living ADDventure® ADHD Coaching session. Not the best place to be when you are constantly crying but because we had agreed to put our personal relationship on hold for the duration of the Coaching doing the sessions at my home was not an option and Dave's office was 50kms away. A coffee shop halfway between was our agreed compromise.
I had seen my psychiatrist and told him I didn't want Ritalin or Concerta at this stage and told Dave that for the first time in my life I was enjoying being the "real whacky me" and I didn't want to take meds that would control my mind. If you have been down this ADHD road you have no doubt said or heard the same thing from ADDers in your life.
For most of my life I had lived in fear - fear of getting into trouble, fear of making mistakes, fear of looking stupid but now I was single again supposedly enjoying my midlife madness where I could do what I want without anyone telling me what to do.
My ADHD journey started 6 or 7 years before I met Dave. I did not know I had ADHD and neither I nor my family had the tools to understand and deal with the issues and changes I was going through.
At 45 I was declared peri-menopausal and put onto Hormone Replacement Therapy and anti-depressants for the first time. I have since learned that the mid 40s is one of the "crash points" for people with ADHD. Grade 11, early 20s, late 20s are other significant times when ADDers go all fall down.
I had been a workaholic and I was totally co-dependent on my (ex)husband and children. I had spent my life desperately trying to "do it all". I was exhausted and angry. There must be more to life than this. A few close friends and family were ill or had died. I felt like an animal trapped in a cage. We lived on a large plot with a vast expanse of lawn in the front where I would sit cross-legged watching my dog chase the Lapwings and plan my escape.
I hated who I had become. From having been compliant and a total people pleaser I had changed into a woman who fought with everyone and then sobbed when no-one was looking. Typical hormonal behaviour you might say. Yes, that is what I thought too and to a degree that is right. However looking back over my life this was the culmination of years of undiagnosed and unmanaged ADHD with co-dependency a common close companion.