Date: March 7, 2021

So You Just Got Diagnosed with ADHD Later in Life - Pro-Tips

People feel a range of emotions on discovering, later in life, that they have ADHD. Some people sink into a deep depression at the thought of all the missed opportunities and endless failures. Some people are elated to finally know what's been up with them the whole time. Most people fall somewhere in between these two states.

If you have recently been diagnosed then here are some tips from someone who got diagnosed at the age of 53.

Actually, the drugs do work

ADHD is one of the most treatable neurodevelopmental disorders there is. Over many decades and countless studies, stimulants have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the dopamine-deprived brains of people with ADHD. These are not new drugs - they were around long before people dreamt up the conspiracy-obsession with 'big pharma'. Amphetamines were first discovered in 1920 and Ritalin was invented in 1944 and first approved for use in 1950.

So don't feel embarrassed, shy or like you're doing something dodgy by taking prescribed stimulant medication. The drugs won't fix every aspect of ADHD, but it'll raise your brain's neurotransmitter levels to a point where they're similar to a neurotypical brain. That means you can concentrate better, be less distracted and have the willpower to both begin and finish tasks you set yourself.

But the drugs aren't magic

So yes - Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Vivance, Dexedrine - whichever drug you take - they can make a big difference, but they are not magic pills that instantly fix your head. One of the biggest problems is that if you were diagnosed later in life, you've become used to (and accepting of) not starting or finishing tasks. This in itself is a big roadblock and such learned behaviour takes a lot of unlearning.

The key is to cut yourself some slack, take it slowly and test the limits of your newly motivated brain. Instead of suddenly deciding to write your life story, perhaps begin with a memory or two and pick things up from there. Instead of deciding to build that yacht in your backyard, perhaps try a few sailing lessons first. Just don't be afraid to begin.

Point the drugs in the right direction

When I first took Ritalin I honestly didn't know what to expect. Unicorns flying out of my butt? Choirs of heavenly angels serenading me? An instant and persistent hard-on? World-peace? The discovery of interstellar warp drives? Drooling from my mouth? I had no idea. And if you've never taken it before either then the results after that big build-up can be ... disappointing? You see, while Ritalin is stimulant, but all it does is get our dopamine levels up to neurotypical levels and that feels 'normal' - it's not some high like you just snorted a line off a mirror.

So here's my drill which might work for you too. First I get myself a coffee - tea works too but I don't like tea so it's coffee for me. Then I find out what the fuck I'm supposed to be doing - which task needs completing. Then I take my two morning Ritalin pills with my coffee, I give it about 10 minutes to kick in and then I start working. I'm on regular Ritalin, not the slow-release stuff and I found that 20mg morning dose fizzes out after about three hours and then I take 20mg more. That gets me through to early afternoon when I take another 20mg and that finishes off the working day for me.

I found that I needed to point the Ritalin in the right direction - just sucking the pills back with nothing in particular in mind is going to accomplish nothing - you need to have a task in mind and only then pop the pills.

Focus on the good stuff

I wouldn't change anything about my brain and the way it works. It's fucked up so many things for me over the years, lost me jobs, ruined relationships, got me in trouble with the law, caused me serious physical harm and damn near killed me, but it's all been anything but ordinary! Now I know more about the executive functions that ADHD impairs and understand the affect it has had on my life, I've learned to appreciate the good things.

We're the ones who take a path for the first time, who swim in that water for the first time, who push the limits further than anyone else and the latest scientific evidence suggests we evolved for precisely this purpose. We're life's path-finders.

Hyper-focus is a potent tool when used productively. I had the idea for this website, registered the domain name, designed the branding, built and populated the website, created the online store and populated it with 120 products and registered and populated the social media pages - in four days flat. I'm sure you've had similar experiences when you're enthused by something working on it is effortless. That's a hell of useful ability to have!

We ADHDers also tend to be more creative, more energetic and more spontaneous than neurotypical people. It can be a heady mixture and, pointed in the right direction, a useful one too.

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we are adhd

Trail-blazing, hyper-focusing, risk-taking, fun-loving, fast-thinking, quick-talking, level-headed, time-wasting, dopamine-deficient
Raising Adult ADHD Awareness
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