Suddenly, I Couldn’t Get My Shit Together – ADHD & Menopause

I found myself staring right into the computer screen without knowing what I was doing. I had no idea how long I had been sitting there. Five minutes, half an hour, or several hours? I looked at the screen and saw that I had an email open and realized that I had been about to open my calendar to schedule something.

I became really scared. But things like this continued to happen. I was fighting a massive brain fog. Suddenly, my brain didn’t cooperate anymore.

Oh no, I don’t want to run into that infamous wall. I’ve already done that journey together with a loved one. It was terrible. Is it my turn now? I listed my symptoms; brain fog, problems concentrating, forgetfulness, easily stressed, feeling low, constantly on the verge of tears, difficulty sleeping, tired, and hot flushes. Hot flushes!? Surely that’s not a criterion for burnout? Doesn’t that sound more like menopause?

I started googling and found that my symptoms resembled menopause much more than it did burnout. After all, I was 52, so I wasn’t completely surprised. But I hadn’t even thought about it or talked to any of my friends about it. To be fair, they had probably talked to me about it, but since I tend to zoom out when people talk about things that doesn’t engage me and tune in only when I become interested in them.

What scared me was that I recognized my behavior from my earlier years. My mood, feelings and behavior strongly reminded me about how I felt in high school. For example, it was totally impossible for me to focus on things I wasn’t interested in at school. No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t make it work. I could read the same page in the history book at least 35 times without understanding what I had read. Once home, I could devour a detective novel in an evening and write a review of it without any problems. I read fast, have no problem with reading comprehension, but the text from the history book just wouldn’t sink in.

So, when the next girls’ nights out went off, menopause was the first thing I started to babble about. How is this for you? How are you dealing with this? Emotions, hot flushes, hormones, and libido? We’ve probably never had such wonderful laughs and tears around a dinner as that time. What lives we live! What fighters we are! Not only do we carry and give birth to children. Now we are in for dry mucosa’s, disappearing libido, increased libido, tender breasts and crying over cute cats. Or how about all the exercise, and nice food we should cook, the weight we shouldn’t gain, the house that should be tidy, and the damn cardigan that must go on and off in concert with the hot flushes. Our menopause cardigans;)

After this revitalizing dinner, I realized that this was not just menopause storming on, it was something more than that. After both my daughters were diagnosed with ADHD, I sought my own assessment because I recognized myself so much in their struggles. I underwent a thorough examination, and the psychologist eventually concluded, “You likely have ADHD, but you have so many adaptive strategies that you don’t fulfill the criteria for a full diagnosis. However, if your life changes significantly, you are entitled to try out medication.” I was taken aback, but since I’m not used to asking for help, I closed that door and moved on. Many years later, I understood that my two most important strategies, was my husband and my project manager at work. They actually functioned as case managers, coaches and occupational therapists. Exactly the support that people with ADHD often need.

Now I reached out to the psychiatry care giver again and got an appointment quite quickly, because someone canceled in the middle of the holiday. Before the meeting, I had to fill out a lot of papers about how I’m doing right now—and interview my 80-year-old parents. I booked a Zoom meeting with them, and then we started.

There was a lot of laughter that evening. And I was excited about the meeting the next day. Nervous, expectant, and jittery, I walked into the psychologist’s room. I met the world’s most wonderful psychologist. One of those people you feel safe with right away. And after a few minutes of talking, she summarized:

Now I’ve read your entire assessment from 2013, your personal letter, which was incredibly strong, and your parents’ answers to all the current questions, and I really can’t understand why you didn’t get the diagnosis 10 years ago.

I was completely taken aback. What did she say? That I have ADHD?

So, you’re saying I have ADHD? I squeezed out and felt quite stupid.

With a calm voice, she continued:

Yep, you have it. And you’ve fought tremendously, entirely unnecessarily. I will recommend that you can try out medication. You shouldn’t have to compensate as much as you have done.

With papers, diagnoses, joy, sorrow, information, education, prescriptions, and confusion, I walked out of the room, and for the first time, there weren’t a thousand thoughts buzzing in my head. There was only one. I have ADHD.

I left the psychiatry and went to 1177 to see my medical record. There it was in black and white—I have ADHD. I sat in the car and recorded a message that I thought I would post on my social media. The message became so fragile that I needed to wait before I could post it. I didn’t really want to share it yet; I wanted to keep it to myself for a while.

Earlier in the spring, I had received estrogen for my menopausal symptoms, and it really helped, but only against my menopausal symptoms. Now I’m trying ADHD medication and experiencing small progress, hoping for more. Love, peace, and ADHD will change the world.

Check out Mrs Hyper here

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