Live long enough and you will get to experience many unexpected things, some unpleasant and others positively mind expanding - in a good way. An example of the former was living almost four decades with ADHD before it was diagnosed. As a result, I received about ten lifetimes of lessons in humility. But hey, I'm one of the lucky ones; I did find out. And in the course of writing a book about business leaders with ADHD, I've gotten to study learn at the feet of many people that I admire. What I never expected was that one of the most powerful insights would come from Matt Morgan: professional wrestler, American Gladiator and - in my opinion - a master of the human psyche.
Before I wax rhapsodic about Matt, let me set the stage. Almost two years ago, my good friend and co-author Stephen Josephson diagnosed my condition for the first time; the diagnosis was re-confirmed by Dr. Roy Boorady who was introduced me to the brave new world of stimulants. For at least some of us with ADHD, this class of medication is like water in the desert: it simply changes everything.
And for a while, it did. I was able to concentrate for the first time on a daily basis. If you've never struggled with inattention and inconsistency, it's hard to describe how profound the change can be. I got more done at work, felt like a more attentive husband and went to bed without the awful feeling that I hadn't gotten anything done that day, again.
Unfortunately, I also committed the classic mistake of confusing better with cured. For those of us 'lucky' enough to retain ADHD into adulthood, it never goes away. I knew this intellectually, but I was still caught off guard when that many of the problems that I had experienced prior to my diagnosis persisted. Though they were often less pronounced, they were still there. They were often less pronounced, but they were no doubt there. This made me, for lack of a better word, profoundly sad for a time. (I hesitate to use the word depressed, but I was probably in the neighborhood.)
What arrested my downward spiral is what I learned from Matt Morgan, fellow ADHD traveler. He has known about his condition since he was six years old, and his parents deserve ridiculous credit for making certain that he dealt with it head on. Over the years this has made him successful in many walks of life, including NCAA athlete, businessman and professional wrestler. It his also made him wise.
It was Matt who told me that no matter how much better my life is now, a late diagnosis requires reassessing the vast majority of life in a new context. Two years is 1/20th of the time that I've been alive and not a lot of time to digest the 95% of my life lived with an unrecognized monkey on my back. Put into that context, a little sadness seems justified.
I bring this up because there must be many other people just coming to grips with what 'ails' them. Most, like me, were likely relieved to learn that there was some rhyme and reason to what seemed incomprehensible. And some of them must have made the mistake, in the midst of early acceptance and life improvements, of feeling 'cured', as I did. If so, please know that you're not alone in feeling the blues: it must happen to most adults coming to grips with ADHD. Just remember: it takes time to digest and make sense of what's come before; and wisdom comes from many places, some of which are seven feet tall and weigh 300 pounds.
Follow Michael B. Laskoff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mlaskoff