Embracing the Unexpected: My Journey to an ADHD Diagnosis at 53 by David

07/06/2023
CADDAC Team

David Martin (he/him) is a risk and cyber leader with a passion for writing about humanity, neurodiversity, and, more recently, generative ai.
David holds a degree in arts from the University of Toronto and is happily married with two children. He enjoys listening to music, playing guitar and piano and sharing insights and experiences through his writing. David also publishes his ai-generated art daily on
https://instagram.com/papercutscafe.


At age 53, I received a diagnosis that would change my life: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This revelation was surprising and transformative, shedding light on a lifetime of misunderstood experiences and behaviours.

Before my diagnosis, I went through life like a novel with missing pages, attempting to comprehend a story that seemed to leap over vital information to the storyline. I was often lost in my thoughts, and impulsivity was my frequent struggle. There are many stories I can tell that upon reflection were symptoms of my undiagnosed ADHD. I’ll share a few of these in my story below.

As a teenager, I fell behind on a project in Computer Science - writing a short program in BASIC. Instead of owning up my failure to complete the project to the teacher, I copied a friend's floppy disc (it was the 80s). The teacher caught me, and we were both held accountable for my actions.

My actions, often regrettable in hindsight, were even a mystery to me. This impulsivity, coupled with an inability to communicate my feelings effectively, strained my relationships and led to bouts of binge drinking in my youth.

In University, I had a big crush on a friend. When she showed affection for another guy, I ended the friendship altogether. The last time we spoke, she called to ask if I wanted to get together sometime,

I simply said, "No, I'm bored with that." I still don't know how I could have said something so hurtful, yet for years afterward, I thought we had just drifted apart, having forgotten the conversation entirely.

Professionally, my ADHD manifested as missed deadlines and forgotten deliverables. Despite my friendly demeanour and eagerness to please, my performance suffered. I was a serial starter, always excited about new projects but rarely seeing them through to completion. Financially, my impulsivity led to spontaneous purchases and unused memberships, further complicating my life.

For example, I must have signed up for new gym memberships at least 5 times between 30 and 45. In most cases, I signed up and visited the gym once and never returned until cancellation.

At work, I consistently received average to above-average scores on my performance. My ratings were often negatively influenced by the tasks and projects I forgot to complete. And yet, I still found myself promoted occasionally, eventually achieving the level of Director where I work today.

These achievements may have been due to my inherent abilities and willingness to work hard to solve problems. It may also have been my ability to successfully mask many of my symptoms of an ADHD diagnosis of which I had no knowledge.

The turning point came when my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD. She struggled in school, and as early as age 7, she often forgot to record assignments on the blackboard at school. She struggled to succeed in middle and high school and was highly anxious about homework and projects. While she found some relief, like me, through psychotherapy, it was not enough. She researched ADHD symptoms on her own, perhaps inspired by posts on social media about the condition.

Initially skeptical, I began recognizing my symptoms as I delved into my own research about the disorder. Through many books and online tests, this realization led me to seek a professional diagnosis.

To receive the assessment, I needed a referral from my family doctor and an initial investment of $500 of the $2500 fees from the clinic she recommended. I wasn't provided with an initial interview or intake for nearly 3 months and was at risk of losing my place and deposit if I wasn't available for that first interview.

The assessment process took nearly eight months and involved a series of appointments with psychologists, psychometry, and psychiatrists. Except for the initial interview and final diagnosis, each meeting was with someone different at the clinic.

I had to complete offline questionnaires, and my partner was also given questions to answer. The clinic asked for my school records to check for early signs of ADHD, but this paperwork was lost to time (and perhaps to ADHD). All of this work happened at the tail end of the height of the pandemic.

I was already suffering anxiety from the experience of COVID19, let alone the ADHD assessment process. But I made it through the assessment and in the end, was diagnosed with ADHD 'combined type.' I understand this classification has fallen out of favour in some circles, but I suppose it remains somewhat relevant.

My ADHD diagnosis was a relief, but it was also the beginning of a new journey. Treatment options included medication, management techniques, and psychotherapy. Having already explored psychotherapy and various management tools, I opted for medication. I started on a low dose of Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine), gradually increasing it until I found the right balance.

The impact of the treatment was profound. The constant 'noise' in my head quieted, and I became more focused and attentive. I had the energy to pursue a healthier lifestyle, resulting in significant weight loss and increased physical fitness.

Creatively, I was able to set and achieve goals, and my career began to flourish as my improved focus and productivity were noticed at work.

Since my diagnosis and treatment, my life has transformed in several significant ways.

  1. My improved fitness has given me more energy to enjoy life. I lost 30 pounds and gained significant energy to do more things I appreciated, like going on nature hikes at the parks and forests around Ontario. I'm on track for my target fitness level and feel empowered to achieve much more than I did before diagnosis.
  2. I've been able to pursue and complete personal projects that interest me. This includes a daily art post on Instagram that I have sustained since early January 2023. I have also finished many household projects and learned to do many new things around my property to beautify and improve it. And I have found inspiration in learning new things about technology, especially in AI and Automation.
  3. I've found a new sense of happiness and gratitude daily. I was depressed throughout the pandemic and even before. Despite many attempts to deal with these feelings through therapy, self-help exercises and books, it wasn't until my diagnosis and treatment that the depression subsided and eventually dissipated.
  4. My professional life has improved dramatically, with less stress and more accomplishments. I have an eagerness at work that was not present before diagnosis. I applied the knowledge I gained in Technology, AI and Automation to my job and was recognized for it. My professional network grew, and I found greater success in the position I was already in.
  5. My relationships have transformed. I'm more open to socializing, which has enriched my personal and professional life. My relationship with my partner and kids improved. I made new friends and acquaintances in my neighbourhood and at work. Being shy did not stop me from developing these relationships through my interest in other people and their own stories.

My journey to an ADHD diagnosis was a long time coming. I feel like I missed out quite a bit in life. Still, on the other hand, the experiences I had with undiagnosed ADHD were unique and impactful to the direction my life has taken. Ultimately, it has led me to a place of understanding and acceptance. I've learned that it's never too late to seek help and that a diagnosis can be the first step towards a happier, more fulfilling life.

Having been through the assessment and diagnosis process, I encourage others to seek their diagnosis through professional channels. I also advocate at my workplace and personal life for those with this condition and seek new ways to live a happy and successful life with ADHD.

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