So long stress!

For decades, Toya Haynes, 43, was bogged down by fa­tigue, fog and anx­i­ety—but then a sur­pris­ing di­ag­no­sis brought her out of the dark­ness and helped her re­claim her life

First For Women - - Contents -

Rem­edy for the 50% of women feel­ing tense and cranky

You’ve got to be kidding! I triplechecked that email be­fore I sent it,” Toya Haynes grum­bled to her­self af­ter learn­ing the mes­sage she sent to the en­tire com­pany con­tained a bad typo. “No mat­ter how hard I tried in my job as an event plan­ner, I al­ways missed some­thing. I couldn’t win.

Wired and tired

“Since child­hood, I’d had trou­ble fo­cus­ing. Peo­ple com­plained I was spacey and al­ways day­dream­ing. I even dropped out of col­lege, find­ing it dif­fi­cult to muster the en­ergy to com­plete projects. My short-term mem­ory seemed shot—I couldn’t re­call sim­ple things like driv­ing direc­tions or din­ner reser­va­tions. Deep down, I worried I was lazy or just not smart.

“Fo­cus­ing on spread­sheets at my job felt like hell on earth. I was con­stantly afraid of be­ing ridiculed for miss­ing im­por­tant de­tails. I ac­tu­ally took a thumb­tack to staff meet­ings and con­tin­u­ously pricked my fin­ger un­der the table to stay alert so my mind wouldn’t wan­der. It helped, but I knew, This isn’t nor­mal.

“At home, even the thought of clean­ing left me feel­ing com­pletely worn out. If I had dishes to wash, I would also no­tice that the floor needed sweep­ing, the fridge needed clean­ing and the win­dows needed wash­ing—then I’d be too over­whelmed to even start on any­thing. Be­ing me was phys­i­cally and men­tally ex­haust­ing.

“Un­for­tu­nately, I couldn’t rest at night with a carousel of thoughts spin­ning in my head. Be­ing tired yet wired all night left me drag­ging the next day. From the out­side, I ap­peared to be func­tion­ing, but on the in­side, I felt like a total mess. Other peo­ple’s lives moved for­ward, but I kept bump­ing up against some sort of in­vis­i­ble wall. Stuck.

“Things got worse as I ap­proached my 40th birth­day. I be­came fear­ful of suc­cess, figuring fail­ure and em­bar­rass­ment were around every corner. My self-es­teem tanked, my mood grew dark and I started hav­ing panic at­tacks. My doc­tor couldn’t ex­plain why my brain was back­fir­ing and my body was so tired.

“There were big things I wanted to do in life, but I was un­able to ac­com­plish any­thing. Feel­ing de­feated, I made the tough de­ci­sion to move back in with my par­ents, jok­ing that their home was ‘The Haynes Half­way

House.’ The one thing I knew: Some­thing is re­ally wrong with me.

Cul­prit re­vealed!

“One day, a friend men­tioned that her sig­nif­i­cant other was di­ag­nosed with ADHD—at­ten­tion deficit hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der. I thought, Isn’t that what ram­bunc­tious kids have? I was stunned when she listed the adult symp­toms: fa­tigue, brain fog and trou­ble fo­cus­ing.

“I rushed home to do some re­search and was in tears as I saw my­self in all the on­line de­scrip­tions. This ex­plains my en­tire life! I started keep­ing a diary, de­tail­ing my daily en­ergy and at­ten­tion level. Then, armed with those notes, I vis­ited my doc­tor.

“‘Looks like you have text­book ADHD,’ she said, and re­ferred me to a psy­chi­a­trist, who con­firmed our sus­pi­cions. That was ac­tu­ally the hap­pi­est day of my life: I fi­nally had the an­swer to why I’d felt bro­ken all those years.

“To help me re­gain my foot­ing, my doc­tor pre­scribed an an­tide­pres­sant. Days later, while driv­ing, I no­ticed how calm my head was. No rac­ing thoughts. Oh my gosh, this must be what it feels like to have a nor­mal mind.

“I also adopted a high-pro­tein, low­sugar diet. And I started sleep­ing with white noise, like the whirring of a fan. As my in­som­nia eased, I no longer crashed each af­ter­noon.

“Un­der­stand­ing how my brain works has been life-trans­form­ing. I bought a wrist­watch, a big wall cal­en­dar and col­or­ful notepads to help me stay or­ga­nized and on task. I also use an app called the Po­modoro Timer that helps me fo­cus on do­ing projects in 25-minute bursts. The sense of ac­com­plish­ment I get from clean­ing my house or fin­ish­ing work tasks is a great mood booster.

“I also started to con­nect with other women who have adult ADHD through a sup­port group as well as the com­mu­nity on Kalei­do­scopeSo­ci­ See­ing their suc­cess gives me con­fi­dence.

“All of my fam­ily and friends have seen a big change in me. I even started my own busi­ness— some­thing that seemed im­pos­si­ble be­fore. To think: Now I love those spread­sheets I used to hate!

“It’s nat­u­ral af­ter an adult

ADHD di­ag­no­sis to go through a griev­ing pe­riod, won­der­ing how life could have been. But there’s joy in know­ing it’s not too late to live my best life. My best days are ahead of me!” —as told to Lisa Maxbauer

Toya Haynes, 43, Somerdale, NJ

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