Sometimes, a diagnosis of ADHD does not come easily. Sometimes there are years of pain before a diagnosis. So it was for Stardust. At the age of 52 she was diagnosed with ADHD and has said, “Suddenly, everything made sense.”
It was not as if Stardust was not familiar with mental illness or had not been in therapy before. She was diagnosed with depression almost 20 years ago and a few years ago, that diagnosis was changed from major depression to bipolar disorder. Stardust received treatment for both of these, but it was her diagnosis of ADHD, last year, that allowed her to make sense of some of her behaviors. For example, Stardust couldn’t understand why she couldn’t keep her house cleaned, even though she tried. After a few months on medication for ADHD, she has managed to clean the house (with the help of an online support group) and keep it that way. This, to Stardust, has been a major change and accomplishment.
Stardust did well in school. She was an “A” student but ran her parents ragged. In some ways, her undiagnosed ADHD helped her. She always needed to stay busy and felt a need to always “hurry up.” She would finish one book and quickly find another to read. Even though no one gave it a name, her hyperactivity gave her the drive she needed to complete school.
It was between the end of high school and her 30s that Stardust found it difficult to cope. She turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to escape, to make herself feel better and to get relief. Finally, she went to AA meetings and began the long road to sobriety and recovery. She began to see a counselor and it was in counseling that her depression was first discovered. After receiving treatment for depression, she found she didn’t need the drugs and alcohol.
Many years later, Stardust was re-diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Since that time, she has tried a number of different medications to try to stabilize the mood swings associated with bipolar. According to Stardust, her bipolar is “pretty much” stabilized. Even so, she has spent much of her life as a loner, preferring to stay away from other people and feeling uncomfortable talking in groups. Since 2004, Stardust has been receiving Social Security disability as she continues to receive treatment for bipolar disorder.
Last summer, however, Stardust received her diagnosis of ADHD and life took a turn for the better. Although her doctor did not really provide much information on adult ADD, she began to search out information on ADHD both through the Internet and books. Many of the typical behaviors of ADHD, she recognized as behaviors she had had for most of her life. She has felt alone and felt “different.” She has had major self-esteem issues, feeling as if she could not do anything right. Reading information about ADHD was an eye-opener, teaching her that many of the very traits she did not like were not character flaws but were actually symptoms of ADHD.
Stardust currently takes medication for ADHD and it has helped her to be more focused and accomplish tasks (like cleaning the house). She still sometimes struggles with symptoms and impulsively spent a great deal of money in the past several months, not being able to walk away when she saw something she wanted, although looking back it was hard for her to figure out exactly what it was she bought.
Her future, however, seems brighter than it did just a year ago. She has made some friends, spends time with her sister and continues to learn about ADHD. Her dreams have been resurrected, with the knowledge of ADHD and knowing there is help, treatment and support for many symptoms. One of the ways Stardust finds support is through the internet and has found the support here at HealthCentral.com to be invaluable.
Stardust is also looking toward her future. She is thinking about going back to school, maybe to study psychology or to become an ADD Coach. Whatever she does, she would like to find a career where she can help other people. She wants to use her experiences to let other people know there is help available. By understanding her triggers and what external factors help to cause her downswings, Stardust is sure she will be able to move forward.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.