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Midlife Madness

Pat BackpackingMy ADHD journey started 6 or 7 years before I met Dave. I did not know I had ADHD and neither I nor my family had the tools to understand and deal with the issues and changes I was going through.

At 45 I was declared peri-menopausal and put onto Hormone Replacement Therapy and anti-depressants for the first time. I have since learned that the mid 40s is one of the "crash points" for people with ADHD. Grade 11, early 20s, late 20s are other significant times when ADDers go all fall down.

I had been a workaholic and I was totally co-dependent on my (ex)husband and children. I had spent my life desperately trying to "do it all". I was exhausted and angry. There must be more to life than this. A few close friends and family were ill or had died. I felt like an animal trapped in a cage. We lived on a large plot with a vast expanse of lawn in the front where I would sit cross-legged watching my dog chase the Lapwings and plan my escape.

I hated who I had become. From having been compliant and a total people pleaser I had changed into a woman who fought with everyone and then sobbed when no-one was looking. Typical hormonal behaviour you might say. Yes, that is what I thought too and to a degree that is right. However looking back over my life this was the culmination of years of undiagnosed and unmanaged ADHD with co-dependency a common close companion.

One day I came across a book by Joan Anderson, A Year by the sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman.  It was quite uncanny. Joan could have been describing me. She took a year off and went and lived very simply in a seaside village far from home to discover who she was.

Friends I confided in suggested I go to a retreat for a weekend to sort myself out. This was not long enough. I needed to get far away, I needed to confront my fears and start to find the real me. For years I had been like a chameleon changing my work, my lifestyle, my beliefs to fit in with those around me.

When my younger son finished matric I took off for Europe with a back pack and very few plans. I was amazed to see how many women of my age were doing the same thing. Family and friends were astounded that our 24 year marriage had come apart and that I who had been so firmly in control for so many years had run away.

I spent hours sitting on rocks staring out to sea and my preferred mode of transport between countries were ferries. I would hang over the side searching the horizon and watching the people as we came into dock at the different coastal towns and islands. The only poem that I remember from school was John Masefield's - Sea Fever and it became my mantra. Pat sailing

The first test of confronting my fears was when I got lost in Madrid. I couldn't speak Spanish and didn't know which way to hold the map. I gritted my teeth, took a deep breath and decided that I would not let this get the better of me. It sounds silly but it was a huge step for me. I am strong. I am capable. I will survive.

Another first for me was to keep a daily journal and discovering that I could write and express my emotions.

Knowing I had made up my mind to get divorced when I got back, I foolishly got involved with the first love of my life whom I had not seen for nearly 30 years. Suffice to say it did not end well and like many other things I did it is not something I am proud of.

Having lived in Gauteng for more than 20 years I hankered to be near the sea and moved to Cape Town. I had no job, no friends and temporary accommodation.

Slowly I started to pick up the pieces of my life. I got yet another 2 qualifications, a job and then started my Tourist Guiding business. Continuing my journey of self discovery, I joined Philosophy School which opened up a whole new world for me. I learned to meditate, to start to accept life for what it was and I gradually started to make peace with myself and make tentative efforts to re-build the badly broken relationships with my sons.

But I still did not have the tools to take my life forward. I functioned on auto-pilot. I needed to learn how to set goals, how to think, how to plan and how to make decisions about the rest of my life.

Before I went overseas I had several sessions with a psychologist. I found the process reactive. She listened to me as I whined about everything that was wrong in my life but asked very few questions. My (ex)husband also attended a couple of sessions with me and it was more of the same. I was consumed with guilt about what I was doing to my family but I felt helpless. If I didn't escape I would explode. I am not knocking psychology or psychologists, it just was not right for me at that time.

ADHD Coaching by contrast is very directive. The past does not exist other than as flawed memories and is not important. You have to focus on what you are going to do today and tomorrow. I needed someone who was not going to sit and listen to me whining but to call my bluff and force me out of my misery pit. I had to own my life and my failures and make the choice to become who I was born to be.

Sadly having not received the help I really needed at the time meant that I had destroyed my family relationships and no longer had their support when I started the ADHD Coaching Programme. But I was lucky in that Dave loved me through the process and kept me going as I have slowly rebuilt a new life.

Treating ADHD as a family condition is one of the key differences in the way Living ADDventure® runs its pdfLiving ADDventure® ADHD Coaching Programme compared with Executive, Business and Life Coaching.

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