First Person: ADHD Diagnosis Ends Years

May 10 [Fri], 2013, 2:23

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) will be released in May. Yahoo is featuring first-person stories from Americans who are diagnosed with some of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Here's one story.

FIRST PERSON | When I was 16, smoking pot and drinking cases of beer were my medication for ADHD -- although I didn't know that's what I had at the time. From what I could tell, ADHD diagnostics didn't commonly exist when I was in high school.

All my friends drank beer and smoked pot. Here in the desert of Midland, Texas, there's practically nothing to do but drink and hit house parties. In school, I could not sit in class and could not understand my assignments, and when there was too much distraction, my mind floated away. I was a straight-A student until I started missing class, and I had high anxiety after that. Throughout my early 20s and 30s, this chaos impacted my work, friends and relationships.

I attended treatment facilities and psychiatric hospitals. Each would make a fresh diagnosis: alcoholism, substance abuse, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. I was baffled as to my condition and in turmoil over what would be diagnosed next. When I was 35, after three stints in mental institutions and four in drug rehabilitation centers, I was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD.

I went to a neurologist in Midland, and he asked several questions and included my drug problem and alcohol abuse. He asked if I heard of ADHD. I thought this was a child's problem, I informed him. He gave me a new prescription of Adderall. Finally, at 44, I was sober and taking my medication as prescribed. Since then, I haven't drank or done drugs.

Now at 50, my whole view of life is different. I had to start my life anew, but now, financially and mentally, I'm OK, and I think my life will remain stable. I had to learn how to cope with my new life. I am able to collect my thoughts, and my anxieties are few. My religious belief is strong. My faith in God and prayer is a daily habit for me. (My religious beliefs in God have been with me since childhood, but faith alone in the early years was unlikely to overcome addiction.)

I do understand that I am taking chances with Adderall, which is addictive. But my spiritual recovery is how I live. The medicine is just an aid to help.



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