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Newly diagnosed, scared, need encouragement

courtm187 profile image
courtm187

Hi everyone. I was just diagnosed with ADHD, and I'm feeling a lot of things right now.

In some ways, it was a relief - something I've known my whole life and was finally validated. But it's also bringing up a lot of feelings. Making me remember all the times I've struggled and felt different and tried to adapt but felt that something was wrong with me. Feeling like I'm faking it to fit in. Working twice as had to get the same grades in school, being unable to focus and wondering if I'm dumb, even though I knew I wasn't. Getting a math tutor, having to apply for extra time for math exams, still getting a D. Feeling bad at my job, wishing I could "just focus," feeling so unsatisfied because I want to take on more work challenges but I'm not sure if I can pay attention.

I have just started taking Adderal XR - 10mg. My psychiatrist wants to see how I do. I feel very scared so far - it's not what I was expecting. I don't feel increased focus, instead I just feel high and sleepy. Does it get better? I want so much to finally find an answer to my lifelong struggle with what I now know is ADHD. I know it's not simple and takes time, but I want so much to believe it will get better. With medication, support, anything.

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About me: I'm a Project Manager and live in Denver and love to hike and swim with my Great Pyrenees, Moose. I started having panic attacks in 2017, was diagnosed with anxiety, went on Prozac (20mg), felt a lot better. About the anxiety, at least. I'm in counseling and love my therapist. But I've been talking with my PCP about some ongoing issues - extreme tiredness (sleep 10 hours every day, still take a nap, never wake up rested), depression, weight gain. We did blood work to see if it was anemia or thyroid or anything else. I even got tested for Lyme. She told me the next step was to see a psychiatrist, so I did. I had my 1.5 hour appoint where she asked me so many questions, as well as my and my family's health history. At the end she said, "I think you're going to be surprises at your diagnosis, but I strongly believe you have ADHD."

I've thought I had ADHD my whole life, but people told me that wasn't possible because I got good grades and I was good at planning and organizing logistics (project manager here after all). But I've always had to work extra hard to do well in school and have had a lot of trouble paying attention. I also have major impulsivity about spending and shopping that has gotten me into debt, and have been very bad at keeping my finances in order. Food impulses too - I can NOT deal with having to wait in line at a buffet, and I always need to be snacking just to occupy myself. I'm incapable of keeping my house clean and organized, and I think my calendar is only organized because I hyperfocus (I can spend hours researching activities tiny little details, and plan things out months in advance and people have always told me that's weird).

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What I'm really wanting to hear right now is that other people have gone through this too, and it's going to be ok, because right now I just feel a little helpless, lost, and overwhelmed.

25 Replies

"Feeling like I'm faking it to fit in."--The term for this is masking, or "compensatory strategies" in scholarly contexts. While more commonly discussed in the context of autism (e.g., see: molecularautism.biomedcentr... ), it is also something that us ADHDers deal with as well, where we'll use various ways of passing for neurotypical. Masking is often necessary for self protection in contexts that are not ADHD friendly, but it can be stressful and draining. Here are a couple good videos on ADHD masking:

youtu.be/jUvvC7lVsp8

youtu.be/n16dwW9B5qU

"I have just started taking Adderal XR - 10mg. My psychiatrist wants to see how I do. I feel very scared so far - it's not what I was expecting. I don't feel increased focus, instead I just feel high and sleepy. Does it get better? "

--You could try increasing the dosage, or switching to the other major category of stimulant medication (see: psychiatrictimes.com/view/h... ). See what your psychiatrist recommends, but just know for now that you have options.

"What I'm really wanting to hear right now is that other people have gone through this too, and it's going to be ok, because right now I just feel a little helpless, lost, and overwhelmed."

--Welcome to the forum, by the way. I don't have a crystal ball so I don't know for sure it's going to be okay. But I can say that others here have posted about many of these same issues. You may still struggle, but you don't have to struggle alone. Someone else almost certainly has gone through the same thing, and can at least commiserate if not offer useful information/advice.

thank you so much for your helpful response! I will definitely check out those videos

If you're interested in learning even more, here are a couple articles on ADHD "compensatory strategies" (AKA masking) I found that look interesting:

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articl...

researchgate.net/publicatio...

I'm including two charts/tables below from them that show the major categories of compensatory strategies/masking that each study identified. They're similar to each other, though not exactly the same. You said in your post that you: "want so much to believe it will get better. With medication, support, anything," so these may actually give you some ideas for what else you could try to help compensate for your ADHD. But, at the same time, keep in mind what implementing each strategy will cost you in terms of time, money, and the especially the stress/emotional toll. Some might be worth it, and some may not. (At the most extreme end, one article mentions "Psychopharmacological strategies" that were "were perceived to have a beneficial effect on ADHD symptoms and were regularly used for this purpose," which included: Nicotine [71.88%], Heroin [6.25%], and Crack [3.13%]. Hopefully it goes without saying that using this stuff to mask your ADHD is a terrible idea! 🙂 )

Compensatory strategies; DOI:10.1007/s12402-016-0205-6 & doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184964

Hi courtm187, thanks for your post.

You are not alone! I was diagnosed with ADHD at 28 years old after years of knowing I was capable and smart but struggling to meet the demands of daily life and feeling totally unmanageable.

I am now 30 and 2 years into meds and adjusting. It has been such an emotional rollercoaster, though not all negative.

Give yourself time to grieve and process, accept and understand yourself and your diagnosis. Also remember that you are not just your diagnosis and that you are still you!

Learn as much as you can about ADHD and listen to other people and their suggestions. Everyone is unique and you will find your own ways of doing things and moving forward.

I’d like to suggest listening to some podcasts or reading some books on the matter.

It’s hard knowing we have struggled for so long. For me, I internalised a lot of the negative feedback over the years and have lots of work to do unravelling this.

The good news is that you now have a diagnosis and can begin to heal and understand yourself more.

Thanks again for sharing - it helps me too to listen to others who feel the same.

Lots of love x

courtm187 profile image
courtm187 in reply to Flamingo30

thank you! I'm definitely looking forward to exploring all the different media out there on this. My ADHD brain says, oh! a new thing to google for hours!

Jbrown20 profile image
Jbrown20 in reply to courtm187

Facts, went through this phase too😂

Oh my goodness! I am 57 y/o and was just diagnosed 7 months ago. I so understand every single word you said and more! You are not alone! You are not alone! And just keep asking questions it’s the only thing keeping me sane right now! Happy to talk about it any time! I think there is a private message feature here! Let me know if you’d like to! Keep on keepin on! It is painfully slow but I do believe I will be better some day.... not my ADHD better but my coping skills and my internalized self loathing. Wow that running self talk loop is insane! Lots of unraveling! There is light at the end of the tunnel!!!Jan

courtm187 profile image
courtm187 in reply to Lotsanew

thank you! it is so nice to hear I'm not alone!

First of all I applaud you for the courage to come here and share with us. You gave me the courage to share you my story.

I also just got diagnosed 4 days ago and I was prescribed Adderall RX 10mg. I echo most of your symptoms such as anxiety, but I have PTSD and depression on top of that. So I was prescribed Zoloft a while ago. It didn't help much.

Since there are a lot of Adderall videos out there, I studied most of them and it made me terrified to take it.

3 days ago I decided to atleast try it out. You know what happened? Nothing. I didn't feel high, or frenetic/energetic. There was no heightened sense or depth perception, no improved listening skill, or comprehension skill. no decrease in appetite, no withdrawal or crash in the evening. No zombifying, or feeling like superman. I. was. the. same. me.

That gave me such a huge relief but disappointed because it wasn't working. I decided to sit down to do my overdue taxes. And that's when I realized the difference. I worked on for 7 hours. Sure I'm human and took bathroom breaks and ate, but it was all short. I could sit in a chair despite my hyperactivity and be FOCUSED.

Yes I had the monkey brain wanting music or checking youtube, but when I played it my brain kept the attention to the task. In fact I could go online and look for exactly what I need and come out of it fast. I became a tad calmer, less impulsive, hyper, and just got the job done.

The next day, I worked for 11.5 hours. The next day 11.75 hours. It makes me happy that I'm finally producing and staying on track. I stopped Zoloft last night and I slept even better. It was causing me insomnia. Oh also I can wake up earlier and feel refreshed.

Please, try for 1-2 weeks and talk(message) with your psychiatrist about it not working. It could be like others suggested you need a lesser dosage or switch to some other meds. I'm sorry you are feeling the effects of Adderall negatively.

Here is a concise video about ADHD explained logically.

youtube.com/watch?v=sPFmKu2...

I'm glad you've had a good experience with adderall so far! it's been comforting to email my psychiatrist and have her tell me it's ok, there are a lot of doses, strategies, meds to try, we just need to take some time and we will figure this out. good luck in your journey!

Hi courtm187! I was concerned about your worries, so I did some more research through out my spare time. This video youtu.be/SCAGc-rkIfo?t=2547 explains different types of ADHD and it seems like you maybe a different subtype. (Don't worry I time stamped it) It explains that for these types stimulants don't work well and non stimulants like strattera works better. He talks about the subtype for about 5 to 10 minutes and it may shed light for you. Please keep us updated on how you are doing. You are giving us hope, and relief that we are not alone in the struggles. Best wishes.

As for me after 8 days of 10mg Adderall XR, the benefits were waning, so per my psychiatrist, I am taking 20mg starting today. I'm still freaking out about it but after talking with my therapist usually people who have anxiety and insomnia will not get addiction problems. So far I feel much calmer. Less noise in my brain. And slower but more methodical thinking. Other than that not much difference.

Hi Courtney,

You’re definitely not alone. I figured out I’ve had ADHD undiagnosed my entire life at 33 during a pandemic, and on top of that PMDD (apparently this is common with women who have adhd).

Everything that you wrote I have felt. Masking you’re entire life and not knowing why you feel different, why life seems so much harder makes all the sense in the world once you figure out the why. It’s nice knowing what the root cause is, but it’s overwhelming and full of emotions. I’ve struggled with questioning my entire life after finding out. Would my life be different had I known years earlier? We can’t go backwards, we can only keep learning how to combat ADHD. boy it’s exhausting! But we’re out here and you are not alone abs you’re doing great. Better than you think you are :)

courtm187 profile image
courtm187 in reply to 0Marta0

wow I had no idea so many others were diagnosed as adults - I figured everyone else was diagnosed as a kid and grew up being used to it. it is full of emotions for sure.

Hi Courtm187! I can find your story very relatable. I was diagnosed with ADHD last year (almost 20 years old) and that was indeed a huge relief for me. I needed quite some time realize and accept it, but once I did it felt so much better.

I also experienced multiple panic attacks at school and also a burn out when I was at university. Before I went to university, I never thought I would be diagnosed cause I used to get good grades too for all the courses I was interested in. The rest of the courses that I almost never payed attention to , I would just blame the teacher or the boring subject ;p

After I went to study abroad, I used to compare myself a lot with other people with ''normal'' lives and schedules and always felt horrible. I have a lot of trouble with regulating my sleep schedule which in the end interferes a lot with the amount of work I can do. However, one thing that my therapist said was that it is very important not to only adapt yourself in the environment but adapt the environment to suit you. After that I decided to extend my studies for a year more. A lot of times I feel weak for taking longer, however that is not the case! I believe that adapting the environment is a powerful thing to do that prioritizes your mental health and wellbeing.

I haven't taken meds for it even though I seriously considered. However I would say working on coping mechanisms is crucial for you to deal with your struggles. For example take breaks quite often and try to make your working environment more interesting for you. There a dozen tricks you can try to increase your attention, do your research and see what's best for you.

And finally I want to highlight all the bright aspects of ADHD, that if focus on them it will definitely help on your confidence. Having ADHD is like you experience the world differently than others. Some people just see a simple path and only one way to reach the destination but you see a tunnel with multiple doors that lead to different possibilities of achieving your goal. You are more creative, you think outside the box you take the different route.

It is priceless being able to walk outside and distract yourself from all your everyday problems and simply focus on details in the environment around you. Embrace nature and focus on what you see smell or hear. I know I sound like a total hippie but for me that's a huge part of our disorder and it helps us enjoy life. You are an amazing being and whatever you achieve is a big milestone for you and should be celebrated. Please have that in mind and I hope one day you can accept it and manage to deal with your struggles more smoothly.

you're right, having ADHD makes us see the world differently and that can be a really cool thing! I love how much random knowledge I have and the weird things that excite me. I now know that all my struggles in college probably had something to do with this, and I developed so many different coping mechanisms, but it was exhausting for sure, and made me have such low self esteem. even though I knew I was smart! I wish you luck in your journey!

33 yo female, just diagnosed with inattentive type in January, just starting medications, Project Manager, sleep lots always tired, afraid to take on more at work because I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up with it, depression, weight gain 🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️

Twinsies!!!! lol.

A very big welcome! I hope you have found the other responses helpful and just want to say that you are for sure not alone!! Hope you find this forum helpful 😊

courtm187 profile image
courtm187 in reply to BatWoman87

wow......at first I thought you were just summarizing my post! that's so crazy! have you noticed a big difference with the medications?

Hey, they haven't really started working for me. Starting at a low dose and working my way up. I just started medications at the beginning of May and with 2 weeks per dose it takes time to figure out. Just at the second dose level of the first med I've tried. So I don't feel in a position to be able to say really! Fingers crossed though.

courtm187 profile image
courtm187 in reply to BatWoman87

oh yeah......I think I'm just a few weeks behind you then. I feel really impatient for the meds to work, and hanging out at the low dose where I don't really feel anything has me so antsy. but I guess this is the process you have to go through to find the right med/dose

Hi! I’ve been working with a psychiatrist for several years and have switched between a few therapists as well. After years of hating myself and comparing my grades and work ethic to others, I’ve finally just been diagnosed with ADHD inattentive type. I agree with you that it is both scary and a relief, knowing there is an actual reason for why I have always struggled more that my peers. While I’m happy to finally have an answer, I’m also disappointed that in all the years of counselling and seeing doctors about my mental health concerns, nobody put the pieces together to really understand me. From what I understand, it can take a little while to adjust to new stimulant medication, I started on a low dose of Vyvanse a little while ago and felt it made me more confused and gave me awful headaches, but that has passed and now I feel I’m actually seeing better results. Adderal may also not be the right medication for you, I have a friend who had a lot of trouble adjusting to it by Vyvanse worked much better for them. For me, I’m not sure Vyvanse is the right fit and I will continue to work with my mental health supports to figure out what works best for me.

My psychologist basically told me that I have to unlearn and replace my inaccurate self-beliefs, like that I’m just lazy or stupid, In order to move forward and accept the help I need. I’m signing myself up for webinars on different ADHD topics and listing to podcasts and YouTube videos to learn more about why I am the way I am and how Adhd effects me, but also hearing these people with similar stories and struggles really helps me to feel safe and understood, so these are the things I would recommend you try out as well as you’re learning to accept yourself and love that Adhd makes you you!

wow yeah.....I have a lot to unlearn myself. I wish I could just go back and tell my younger self when I was in college, it's ok!!! You're not dumber than your peers, you're just different! I don't know how exactly you heal past trauma like that but I am optimistic about trying to address it in therapy and on my own.

interesting to hear about your experience with Vyvanse. I have to say, I do find myself liking the adderall a little more than when I started (it's only been a week though so I definitely don't have much data under my belt yet). I think it took a couple days to notice any difference in my focus, and I still do feel a little.....shaky? like I have a higher heart rate even though my RHR is only like 1 bpm higher. anyway, I'm preparing myself for the long haul with medication

good luck to you in your journey!!

Hi. You are far from being alone! A couple of things. When you take the Adderall and feel sleepy, that happened to me. The Dr warned me it might. When I got the Rx and read about it, I thought "This is Speed. It's not going to make me sleepy". The sleepiness will subside. You MIGHT be able to take a low dose at bedtime and actually sleep better (our minds can still run 100mph while we're asleep).When you say you feel "High", could it be that your mind has slowed down, and not running 100mph? They say Adderall helps with concentration, which is true. But for me, at times, it can act like an anti anxiety (That's the best help I've gotten from it), a mood lifter (I've never felt High, but the feeling of relaxation, lowered anxiety, and a sense of calm, where all fantastic).

Struggling, felling like you have to work harder than most people-Yes, I get that!

You said you are"Feeling like I'm faking it to fit in". That's a survival technique. I get that also.

When you said "I was good at planning and organizing logistics (project manager here after all)"; Structure and planning can be 2 of the best things for me (until I get bored with it and find another way to make it work.

Nothing you mentioned sounded like a Red Flag.

I'm guessing you're doing ok at work, but would like a little more challenge? Finding the right balance of being challenged vs over whelmed is difficult.

You'll still struggle at times, as we all do. Try not to let it get to you.

Above all else, Never Give Up. You'll feel beat up at times and you may have to take things easier (retreat) while you take time to 'Heal'. You've already been beat up for how many years? Try to spend more time with people who 'Get' you. They may get a chuckle at some things you say or do, but they won't make you feel bad about it. Never Give Up.

thanks for sharing your experience with Adderall - that definitely sounds a little familiar. It's been a week now and I definitely haven't felt like I'm on speed, still sleepy, once in a while I have a period of focus. I hope some of the less fun side effects fade after time.

oh my god STRUCTURE yes I need it. There's nothing worse than feeling like I'm the only person who has to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing, because I just can't cope with that!

your words of encouragement are so meaningful, you are right - I need to go through this period of healing. My step siblings were all diagnosed with ADHD at a very young age and have spent their whole lives knowing this, now they aren't even on medication because they don't like it. I feel the opposite - a little bit traumatized from the past, relieved I'm now figuring this out, desperate for medication to "fix" because of all the beating up on myself and the depression that comes with that. My stepsister pointed out that there's no way I can compare myself to her, because she's had so many years to figure it out

Reading these all of these replies brings tears to my eyes. I read it and think “That’s me!” I’m 39 years old and was just recently diagnosed with predominantly inattentive ADHD. I’m a successful career woman who took a really long time in college, but got goods grades. I’ve moved up in the companies I’ve worked for with increases in responsibility, either in projects or people management. I keep waiting for people to call me out as fake and discover all of these masks or coping mechanisms, which I didn’t even realize I was implementing as something related to a bigger issue, but just thought I needed to figure it out.

I don’t know how to ask for help for anything including help from my partner because I’m ashamed that I can’t figure it out myself. I feel like I have had to figure so much out on my own because no one else knows what I’m dealing with and it’s embarrassing that I can’t “just do it”. I talk in bullet points because it keeps my brain a bit more focused, but when I do this at home with emotions I come off as a robot or unemotional. I don’t speak my mind without a lot of filtering because when I do I confuse people and say things that are totally off topic. I never start “projects” because I’m afraid they will never be good enough and that I won’t be able to complete them. I CANNOT make a decision when other peoples emotions or feelings are involved or I make the wrong one, grasping for the first idea that I can hold onto so that it looks like I’m capable. I’m writing this now and seeing how all over the place my mind is, but pushing through to reply anyway, hoping someone can relate.

My marriage is on the brink of ending because of so many things I wasn’t aware of as being related to ADHD. It helps that we are aware now, but I’m not on medication and I haven’t found a therapist that specializes in what I’m dealing with. I know that understanding what it is and learning about it may help us, but it’s not a solve, so all we can do is move forward. I feel like he (and I0 don’t know who I am or who I might be with the realization.

Not sure if any of this is relevant or helpful, but thank you for letting me piggy back on this conversation and letting my brain dumb. I’m scared, frustrated and exhausted for so many of the same reasons that other people have mentioned. I just felt compelled to chime in, which is actually pretty rare for me when I don’t feel like I present myself in a well written, “perfect” way.

Thank you so much for reaching out. I'm so sorry to hear about the challenges you've been experiencing in your marriage. I am so glad you "piggybacked"! I relate to so much of what you've said - especially the part of filtering what you say. I spend so much time observing other friends and how they interact with people, and overanalyzing characters in movies and books, thinking - ok, I just need to copy what they are doing, because when I just act myself unfiltered people don't know how to respond. People would probably say I have a high social IQ, but it's because I'm studying and mimicking, not because it comes naturally! Which is really exhausting and definitely leads to other issues.

as someone who was also just diagnosed, I understand how much processing there is to do now that you have this information - I feel like I need to comb through EVERYTHING from my past, and think, "ohhhh so that might explain that..." it's a lot. My heart goes out to you!

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