Updated: Jun 13, 2022
I am ADHD. I spent a long time in my life not knowing that fact, and that lead to a lot of troubles in my world. But being diagnosed at the tender age of 44, and getting on the right medication has led me to a career change, a better marriage and a life that I was supposed to live.
In July 2020, I was prescribed 60 mg of Atomoxetine. Its commercial name is "Straterra" and for me, it has changed my life. Before Atamoxetine I was an asshole, after it, I am not.
Let me explain.
I was married in December 2017 to a lovely lady named "Jennifer". The year before, I buried my mother from lung cancer and four years before that, I lost my life's work as the founder of a non-profit called Connecticut Community Boating. I was not in the best emotional shape to get into a life commitment, but I did anyway.
Jennifer and I lived in a tiny little house in Beaufort, NC. We had access to the sea, a pair of the best damn dogs anyone could ever want, and a marriage on the rocks.
Jen's biggest beef with me was that I never listened. She would be talking to me and I would look at my phone and drift off to some other subject, in some other land, in some other dimension, never once letting her know that I was leaving planet earth.
At first, I think she just chalked it up to me being a male. My listening skills were epicly underwhelming. You could be talking right to my face and I would check out.
In college, my buddy Ryan noticed it too. He would be talking, and I would just get and walk out of the room. He asked me about it a few times, and I told him I hadn't even noticed he was talking.
Jennifer did not take it as well as Ryan did. It got so bad that she started accusing me of ignoring her and the arguments ensued. This is how it would typically go:
Jennifer: I had a rough day at work today. The doctor yelled at me and I got into a fight with Heather.
Me: Really? I am sorry what happened.
Jennifer: Well, the doctor said I misfiled this chart and actually Heather had it on her desk...
(My phone chimes and I look at it)
30 mins pass and look up from my phone.
Me: Why did you stop talking? What happened with the doctor and Heather?
Jennifer: I stopped talking to you 20 minutes ago when I noticed you weren't listening to me.
Me: That's not possible. Why do you set these traps for me? Great Job, Jen, you got me again.
(coffee cup flies off the table and smashes inches from my head)
That is a dramatization, of course, but it is based on actual events.
I felt she was setting traps for me, and she felt I was ignoring her. I pleaded with her to try and get her to understand that I didn't know I was doing it, so I couldn't in fact be ignoring her. (Ignoring by my definition is the willful disregard of another human being, and I wasn't doing it willfully) Whether it was willful or not was not her biggest concern, and the resentment grew.
Resentment is a lot like raw sewage. It takes a natural disaster to truly bring out the full bouquet. And while we had the resentment, we lacked the natural disaster. That was until Hurricane Florence came to town.
That year, I had inherited a bundle of money from a dead uncle and I had just started a sailing business. The cash infusion was exactly what I needed. I went out and bought the biggest damn boat I could find and lovingly sailed it back to Beaufort, so that I could offer sailing charters.
A month after I got the boat back to Beaufort, however, Hurricane Flo came to town. She placed my boat five miles inside a marsh, up against a stand of trees. My business was ruined, and my life was going down the toilet.
Add the stress of having no power, the second collapse of a sailing business in my life and a marriage that was pock marked with coffee cup holes in the walls, and things looked pretty bad.
Having no way to make a living, I took the money that insurance paid for the boat and started The Charted Life TV. It wasn't a completely nuts idea, I did have a master’s degree in broadcasting and I had always wanted to own a TV station, but while the mind was willing, the body was not.
The stress of the TV station combined with all the other stuff and gave me shingles.
The fireworks in my marriage thankfully never got that bad during these times, but the resentments still grew. And it was with the ultimate failure of the TV station that Jennifer finally sat me down one day and suggested that I might have Asperger syndrome.
She read me an article about a DJ who had Asperger's who loved talking on the radio, but couldn't carry on a conversation with his wife. The similarities were self-evident to both of us.
The next day, I went to my doctor and asked him to order me an appointment for Neuro testing to see what the hell was wrong with me. It took a little convincing, but he agreed.
On October 31, 2019 I drove down to Jacksonville, NC to get tested for an assortment of neurodivergent syndromes.
Two weeks later, the test came back. I was ADHD with severe Executive Functioning disorder. I was so bad they ordered me to get a cat scan to see if I had ever had a stroke. The cat scan came back clean. I was just twisted up in the head in a big way, and no one ever taught me how to live with it.
When the doctor read the results, he looked up and said, "You're not real good at video games, are you?"
I am not, and never had been, but how did he know that from looking at my test results?
He ordered a prescription for Adderall and sent me on my way.
The Adderall sent me into seven levels of hell and caused me to twitch uncontrollably. My anxiety level went through the roof and my heart rate exploded.
After about three days of this, I called my doctor again and told him what was going on. He changed my prescription to 20 mg Atomoxetine and prescribed me a sedative and said fare thee well.
By this time it was spring, and I was looking for another job as a captain. I had read that I needed a doctor to prescribe me meds, a therapist to teach me how to live with ADHD and a life coach to change my behaviors. All this while I was unemployed and unable to pay for anything.
I started researching the meds the doctor put me on and realized, he didn't know what he was doing. The Atomoxetine is supposed to be gradually increased with time. He gave me 20 mg and said good luck. I knew I needed a therapist, and now I needed a doctor who knew how to handle ADHD as well.
Thankfully, I got a job which got us out of Beaufort, NC. We piled our life into a 31' travel trailer and headed out west to Utah. As it happened, by moving to another state, I had to change insurance and lost all the care I was getting for my ADHD in North Carolina. I thought it was a curse, but it was actually a blessing.
I called the nearest family clinic (250 miles away in Moab) and told them my quandary. I was immediately given an appointment with a doctor in Moab. We drove out there, and I shared my testing results with the doctor, who upped my meds to a proper level and made an appointment for me with a therapist who specialized in ADHD.
I began weekly remote sessions with a therapist due to the fact that we were in a pandemic, and hired my wife to be my life coach. It took driving three thousand miles across the US and 44 years of screwing up, to finally get my life in order.
My life has completely changed with Atamoxetine. My marriage is better than it has ever been, and my career as a journalist is taking off. I wouldn't have been able to do it if I stayed in Beaufort, and I wouldn't have been able to do it if I never left Connecticut.
It broke my heart to lose that boat, and in some ways I will never be normal. That is just the cost of ADHD. It's not something I am ashamed of, but I just wish someone had told me about it a long time ago. But then again, normalcy is for neurotypicals and if God hadn't taken that boat from me, and I hadn't lost everything, I wouldn't be who I am today.
Follow my progress at www.facebook.com/ImThatsailingguy