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If Only I’d Known Sooner

Getting a diagnosis of ADHD later in life brings extra challenges: Anger, Regret, Sadness, More Anger, and Even More Regrets. “What might I have accomplished or avoided if only I’d known sooner…”

In this video I talk about my own experiences with this common but profound question, and offer a suggestion on how to move past, “What might have been,” and on to “What might be next?”

Hi I’m Rick Green, I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 47 shortly after my son was diagnosed. My first reaction after the “what?!” was well why didn’t somebody tell me sooner? Why didn’t somebody notice? I’ve been seeing my regular doctor regularly, I’ve gotten some therapy at certain points, and no one considered the possibility? Plus I work in showbiz so I am hanging out with a lot of people who have…

When I got a proper diagnosis I was taken aback especially as I learned what the actual symptoms of ADHD were and recognized all the ways that it had affected me, sabotaging me, it was suddenly all so obvious.

So why didn’t I, or someone close to me get to this to this long ago? Two reasons; One, either nobody knew what ADHD actually looks like because it’s a fairly new diagnosis and nobody was aware of the myriad ways that it manifests in everyday life, I certainly didn’t, I knew as much or as little as the next person. Reason two, people joked about it “you should get tested” and I laughed at the possibility perhaps even a minute “yeah I probably have a bit of that but I’m fine, I’m really succeeding, I’m hanging in there… barely.

This is a pretty universal reaction among adults, I’m 53, I got this far I’m doing okay, okay being fired six times, divorced, broke and then wealthy, and then broke again, drinking too much, smoking too much, and not cigarettes. A thousand projects unfinished, finances incomplete and a nagging sense of underachieving, no matter how much you’ve achieved.

Now if you’re lucky enough to get the diagnosis before you totally crash and burn that’s great, either way at some point you’re going to be confronted by this thought “If only I had known back then about

ADHD what might my life look like now” what disasters could I have prevented if I’d known?” Those unexplained setbacks and screw-ups didn’t make me stronger or wiser there was no lesson to learn in those failures.

The problem was neurology, ADHD and nobody saw it, of course you only tend to come to that “if only” after you’ve been taking on and experimenting with various ADHD friendly tools and strategies and supports and you’ve discovered ones that make a difference for you, sometimes a huge difference, it’s tricky. If only I’d known sooner is a fascinating prospect, it’s a what if, but what if and it can be an engaging flight of fancy that if you pursue, it can lead you along a pathway to impotent rage, an unbearable sadness and profound regret, if only, that’s the big danger of finally getting the diagnosis later in life, depression, it’s too late for me. It’s maybe too late to pursue your dream of becoming a world acclaimed opera star sure, but too late to forgive? To learn to heal? To move forward? Not at all.

I mentioned that people who may have suggested I had ADHD but I didn’t take it seriously, well some people have a different experience.

Linda Roggli the ADD Diva told me “I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 45 and we were going to marriage counseling at the time and I have a solo encounter with that marriage counselor at the very end of it. I was just talking and he was kind of funny, and we were chatting and laughing and all of a sudden he stops and looks at me and says did anyone ever tell you that you might have ADD?

I laughed, you must be kidding, boys got ADHD, little fidgety boys, I was far too focused, I had my own company, I had a marriage thank you very much. I almost had the white picket fence, maybe not quite it was a little crooked particularly, but I swore to him that oh yes of course I’ll check this out. I flew to the bookstore to look at the book he recommended, which was Driven to Distraction (Amazon), determined to prove him wrong and when I did not prove him wrong I raced to the checkout counter, read the book at every stoplight on the way home… it was in the middle of the night actually by that time and realized that I probably did have ADD. I had to have three or four more diagnoses from different doctors including Dr. Hallowell before I really believed that I had ADHD.”

That reaction is actually pretty universal especially if you think ADHD is a disease or mental illness. I know I thought a state of chaos was normal, it was normal for everybody and then I found out no that’s my normal. So to get me to consider the possibility that most people don’t have a three ring circus going on all day in their head, you only have to look at the state of the world today to see how hard it is to change anyone’s mind about anything, especially changing their mind about their mind.

It’s difficult to have someone change what they’re thinking, right?

It’s even harder to get them to consider the possibility that how they’re thinking may be a problem, how they perceive the world, how their beliefs and their behaviors may be due to neurology, not morality, not character. Would I have listened if someone had seriously suggested you might have ADHD? I don’t know, did you listen, would you have listened? How long before you got tested?

Talk to doctors about how stubborn adults, teens, or parents can be, denying there’s a problem. Oh she’s just fine, she’s creative, I actually made a video about avoiding being labeled because you can avoid being labeled and instead society will label you as dumb, lazy, weak willed, problem child, failure, dropout.

So you and I might not have listened to other people but would we have listened to ourselves? Would you trust your own advice if you could go back? If you could call and talk to yourself at age 20 what would you say? If you could open a portal to your past what would you tell yourself? How much would you reveal, how much would you have explained in a way that it got through to the younger you?

Here’s a suggestion, sit down and actually write it out, actually write it out longhand if you can and read it through several times and be prepared to be touched and moved and even have some admiration for yourself for what you’ve been through because you didn’t know.

In part two of this video I’m going to call myself, my younger self, my 20 year old self and explain some things that I wish I’d known about ADHD, things that would have made my life so much better, where to begin.



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  • One Comment

    1. whiterabbit January 31, 2021 at 7:47 am

      About 10 years before I was diagnosed, I posited to a therapist friend that I might have ADD. She dismissed the idea quickly, and I trusted her judgement. Clearly I was doing a pretty good job keeping up appearances, but there is still the temptation to be angry/disappointed that she (and everyone else) missed it.

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