Sometimes I try to imagine how different my life would be if I was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. From the perspective of age 52, a “younger age” would be 36. The changes that have occurred in my life during the past few years — improvements in memory; ability to meet deadlines (well…sometimes); ability to visualize the future (this is improving in leaps and bounds) — would already be woven into the personal fabric of my life. They would be another set of processes that are akin to my daily rituals. (I don’t have to think about my morning shave…I just have to get the process started). Further, I would not have spent many years misdiagnosed, assuming that I suffered from Jewish nomadism (the modern equivalent of roaming the desert) [note 1] or perhaps a mild form of multiple personality disorder (yet another “diagnosis” by a “professional”).
Despite all the help from the “professionals,” the true explanation came at the age of 46 when I diagnosed myself as ADHD. It was a bittersweet moment or, to put it more bluntly, it was an “oh shit“ moment. There was the “oh shit“ explanation of my life, the reason why so many things had gone wrong. But this was quickly followed by the other “oh shit” moment when I realized that knowing the cause of my problems did not mean I could eliminate that cause.
There is a part of me that wonders what my life would be like right now if I was never diagnosed as ADHD. Would I be happier? (Remember…ignorance is bliss.) Would I be even more depressed than I was at that time? I know I would be divorced. Would I have quickly remarried? Would I have stayed single? Would I have moved to another part of the country?
My life would be radically different if only the “professionals” had read the “label” that was affixed to the patient, the label that had all the signs of ADHD written all over it and which was staring them in the face. My life would be radically different if they tried to understand reality as-it-is instead of through the lens of some neo-Freudian existentialist gestalt preconception. Perhaps, if I were properly diagnosed and treated, I would have stayed in graduate school. Perhaps I would not have left a good paying job that was, literally, ten minutes from my home. Perhaps I would not have been on the brink of divorce. If only the “professionals” had tried to really understand instead of just playing the part of a “professional” who “understands.”
The “professionals” have failed 2.5 million adults [note 2] in the United States by failing to read the label and take the words seriously. That’s the only conclusion I can come to. For the most part, anyone who is now 45 years old or older and has “the gift” was probably never diagnosed with ADHD during the first forty-four (or more) years of their life. A sizable number may STILL NOT KNOW they have ADHD. How different their lives would now be if they knew that deep inside them was ADHD, the silent killer of hopes and dreams. How different their lives would now be if the professionals they may have turned to for help had bothered to read the “label of evidence” that was affixed to the patient package that arrived at their office each week. How much easier their lives would now be if they knew about this silent killer and had spent their earlier years learning how to accept it, how to live with it, how to thrive despite it.
- This was the explanation for my many careers and interests according to a psychiatrist I saw twenty years ago.↩
- As of 2009 there were about 63,316,000 adults aged 45 or older. If 4% have ADHD that gives us 2,520,000 million adults with ADHD. Population data is from the U.S. Census. Adult ADHD did not exist, as far as psychiatry was concerned, until the early 1990′s. Prior to that, they did not know of its existence. Perhaps Adult ADHD “appeared” during a solar eclipse of the sun, like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.↩