How did I survive 53 years of undiagnosed ADHD? I definitely didn’t survive unscathed. One of my saving graces was that I had a ferocious appetite for books. The structured classroom environment, with the teacher lecturing for a week, homework, and then the dreaded test never worked for me. Much of the time my brain translated the lectures into the voices of the parents from Charlie Brown.

I did learn to draw however. I got great grades in Art, Music, and Creative Writing. Had this been an art school, I would graduated with honors. This was public school, however, and that meant preparing students for “real” jobs.

Most of my early education was in the 1970s. I had never heard of ADHD and I'm pretty sure neither did any of my teachers. Instead of being screened for ADHD, my symptoms/traits were taken as lack of interest or in some cases, outright rebellion. Eventually, boy did I rebel. I realized early on, that if I was going to make anything of myself, it wasn’t going to be on their terms. Maybe some people can pull off the whole quote “me against the world” thing without the negative baggage that usually accompanies that attitude. I started to take on a boat load of that baggage. Anger, low self-esteem, drug abuse, anxiety, and the list goes on and on. Welcome to the world of co-morbidity with undiagnosed ADHD.

My parents confessed to me once that they did not expect me to live past 20 due to my drug abuse and reckless behaviour.  I basically was experimenting with anything and everything and probably should’ve died a few times over. Deep down I was losing the battle for my self-worth. The way I saw it, the educational system was the antagonist. It was the end of the second act, and I was getting my butt kicked.

But all was not lost. Without knowing it, I had been learning coping skills for my ADHD. Some of them were mere bandages, while others proved to be useful, and I still use them today. It was a very hit and miss process and it took years to pull myself off the floor. 

In my early 20s I met the woman who I would marry, and start a family with. Shortly before we married, I went cold turkey from all drugs and alcohol. I never went back. Amazing what love and prayer can do. I didn’t even drink so much as a beer for a couple decades. Now I can enjoy an occasional beer (one of the seven wonders of the world) without ending up binging until I pass out, or doing something incredibly stupid.

I went from working in minimum wage jobs for decades to making a six figure income (although that didn't last). I now love furthering my education and constantly take courses in all kinds of subjects from art to quantum physics.

Now 56, I have five children and three grandchildren. I was only diagnosed a few years ago and believe the best part of my life is just beginning. So, although not unscathed, I did survive. Not just survived, but thrived.  I took the hard road, but you don't have to. Get diagnosed now and save a few decades of struggling.