EDUCATION: Finding Me at 63 – A Journey in Self-Discovery | ShesIt

My Brain, Past and Present 

 

Anyone who knows me can figure out that I see the forest, but miss some of the trees.

 

Seeing the forest but not the trees is often associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. To be transparent, I have never been officially diagnosed. But it is obvious. Everyone sees this. It’s tremendously gratifying that my friends and family see my strengths within the forest.

 

Woman are under-diagnosed because they are not physically hyper active, albeit a hyper brain. I struggled in some ways throughout school and college, especially with anything mathematical. History, art history, psychology and liberal arts were where I excelled, though I ended up working way too hard with time wasted, no doubt, due to my lack of focus. This applied to some jobs as well, when it came down to “painful” details.

 

Time passed, and I then worried about adequately parenting my children. I needed to be a model for them for organization, study skills and focus.

 

I learned along with them and did teach some organizational skills. No surprise that my husband is a “trees” (details) person. Thankfully, we were a team. I was loving, I read to them, I knew their strengths, I offered them religion, culture and hopefully more.

 

Here is a list of symptoms that have been identified for adult women who may have ADHD:

 

Symptoms of ADHD in Adult Women

 

  • Feeling overwhelmed in stores, at the office or at parties
  • Difficulty with money, paper, or “stuff” hampering your ability to achieve tasks
  • Shutting down in the middle of the day, “witching hour”
  • Having trouble balancing your checkbook
  • Experiencing lethargy
  • Feeling that you have better ideas than other people but are unable to organize them or act on them
  • Watching others of equal intelligence and education pass you by
  • Worrying about fulfilling your potential and meeting your goals
  • Thought of as selfish because you don’t write thank-you notes or send birthday cards

 

In my earlier years, I tried several medications to support me when I was truly feeling down, and/or needed some help with focus. Much research led me to understand the brain’s two primary neurotransmitters; Serotonin and Dopamine. I learned that Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important. Lethargy and depression are present when Serotonin levels are low.

 

Since the birth of my daughter, 1989, I experimented with medications that worked to increase Serotonin. And much as I coped and produced, I still worked overtime to feel good.

 

Dopamine has been associated with the pleasure transmitter. However, new research says that Dopamine motivates you to act toward your goals and gives you a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them. Procrastination, self-doubt and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of Dopamine. Some addictions reflect low Dopamine. I tried medication that increased Dopamine and it was energizing to a fault. Also, headaches came with it.

 

So here I was still in my lower 60s, with an emptier nest, a smaller home, and by far less details. With less on my plate, I felt clearer and more entitled to explore yet again my brain.  

 

Then I found a new Facebook friend this past year. We bonded over several interests, politics and mental health. She told me of someone she knows who had success with the combination of two kinds of medications that jointly treat the symptoms of ADHD.

 

It dawned on me that I had to treat both transmitters. For the first time in a long time, I had hope. I went to my astute fly on my wall shrink and we discussed trying to attack the two transmitters together.  

 

And voila, it works. The biggest difference is I feel the where-with-all to act on behalf of myself and solve problems. That along with my less complex life has me in a content place.

 

I found a test online that asks all the right questions. The questions have to do with the lack of concentration, focus and ability to listen fully. This test is not professional. It is only to minimally learn about yourself.

 

But I did take this test and the result scored me with a moderate ADHD diagnosis. If I took this test a few years ago, or any time before, the score would be higher. I am very sure of this. As I said, life has gotten easier, I have gotten professional help. I am sharing my own experience but I am not giving professional advice. Nevertheless, here is the test.

 

At least with me, as someone who can easily see a big picture, the forest, I am finally starting to some trees. This is much like the Scarecrow in the “Wizard of Oz” who wanted a brain but really always had one. I so relate.

 

I suspect there will be some who understand this subject, especially women. We all deserve to be more of the good humans we are born as.

 

I think many of us middle-agers start to unlearn habitual thinking. We are more aware of certain negative assumptions, have less concern about being liked; less concern about being right; less concern about what the Jones are doing.

 

We are freer to be “us.”   

 

This unlearning leads to learning. Learning has always been my life. Perhaps it is the job of humans to learn about everything, from survival to what love is. There is no day where I am not learning.

 

I work with children, what a gold mine for learning names, making new little friends and applying what I know about childhood development. Then there are more “go-to’s”—meaning so much to savor, from good foods to music, the arts, writing, the humans in my life and of course Netflix. Even more so the sheer ability to focus, finish what I start and solve problems is innately satisfying.

 

I leave the rest of it to our creator.

 

Beth

Beth grew up in Camden, New Jersey and majored in Education and History at Rutgers University and later obtained a Masters in Family Therapy at Drexel University. She’s married to her husband of 41 years with two young adult children—a daughter and son—who both work in NYC. She loves movies, Netflix, books, history, linguistics and exploring the human condition. From her extensive background, she’s accumulated many stories and lessons and looks forward to shaping the conversation.