late diagnosis

I Found Out I Have ADHD At 39

My husband and two sons have it, so I thought I knew the signs. Turns out I was wrong.

I am a mom and found out I had ADHD at 39 years old.
AleksandarNakic/E+/Getty Images

My husband was diagnosed with ADHD in middle school, and both of my sons followed in his footsteps with diagnoses in kindergarten. As their wife and mother, I consider myself well-versed in everything ADHD. I know the signs and symptoms, available accommodations, medication options, you name it. I even created a loving little stand-up comedy routine to perform in appropriate situations about being the neurotypical matriarch in the household: I was the organized, balanced leader of these impulsive guys. And then I found out that I also have ADHD.

It started with TikTok. I found myself often watching clips of women talking about their recent ADHD diagnosis. They spoke of hyperfixation, bursts of productive energy, and anxious feelings. They described it so differently than what I experienced with the male members of my family. And it sounded... familiar. I decided to dig a little deeper.

I googled and read various articles, both scientific and opinion. And then I stumbled on a Mel Robbins Podcast and it stopped me dead in my tracks. She shared her own experience as someone with an early life anxiety diagnosis much like mine, who struggled throughout life to solve her issues with the typical anxiety medications and therapies. She went on to share “six surprising signs of adult ADHD,” which includes things like hyperfocusing and excessive shopping — things I have struggled with my whole life. And she spoke at length about the difference in ADHD presentation for men and women and how that often leads to miss or late diagnosis, since the male symptoms are the ones that are so broadly known.

I texted my psychiatrist immediately to set up an appointment. And after a few sessions of deep discussion and a deep dive into my parents’ recollection of my childhood behaviors at home and in school, I was given my very own ADHD diagnosis. How ironic.

It’s been almost a year, and I’ve now got many months of therapy and Concerta (a medication used to treat ADHD) under my belt. And the diagnosis has been life-changing. The medication has been life-changing. And figuring it out at almost 40 was most definitely not too late.

For the past ten months, the noise in my head has been so much quieter. My legs feel less bouncy and I have been less irritated at the end of the day. I scheduled and made it to a dentist appointment for myself and for my kids. And there were even some nights that I was able fall asleep before obsessing about the following day’s to-do list.

I would not say the diagnosis has solved all of my “problems” — it’s not magic — but it has given me a new lens to look at them, and new and helpful tools to use to deal with them. And once I was able to move past the grief I experienced over missing this potentially helpful link for the past almost 40 years, it was empowering.

So, here’s to officially adding a new label to my ever-growing and changing identity in my 40th year. It’s never too late to find out new information about yourself, particularly when the mental health industry is making such great (and late) strides in recent years. Who knows, you might uncover something mind-blowing and life changing — I certainly did.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.