when hormones moan out, “ADHD and what else?”

When I worked in advertising and attended a creative briefing, I’d usually have what she’s having. That is, if, say, we were briefed on a new drug launch, we’d hear about all the symptoms and how the new drug helped the target audience, then we’d scamper off to brainstorm and search for relevant art (insert photos of optimistic faces and active bodies). My upper lip would prickle, then the sweat, and irregular shallow breathing, because whatever chronic illness or disease they described, man, did I have it, too.

One better is if you look up the definition of mental problems, major social disorders, and you’re like, “Oh, that’s me.” But, it never actually is.

Learning disabilities is another “I’ll have what she’s having” category. Give me the definition of a handful of these, and I’m the first to raise my hand. “Oh, that’s so totally me.” When I was in school, actually, I was tested and found that I was correct, though they didn’t have a name for the disability then. Now, we know it as ADHD (inattentive type), or ADD. Many people with this, however, tend to outgrow it come adulthood. Again, there was no name for what I had; I was just “other health impairment.” A vague disability, the catchall. So, I never identified myself as ADHD or ADD.

Then, many years later, post-college (where I received disability services, like text books on tape and extra scrap paper and a private room for testing), in a Couples Therapy session in Texas, our therapist brought it up. Based on everything she heard from Phil (many complaints about my disorganization, my inability to remember certain important tasks, leaving random things all over the house–my cell phone on a closet shelf as I reorganized toddler clothing, to open kitchen cabinets, to little half-finished activities left “open” all over the house), she suggested that I had ADHD.

“Why can’t you put things back where they belong?” Because I get distracted! Someone calls my name, and I forget to return to what I was doing. What was I doing? It’s the same today. The therapist asked if I was in the habit of staying up late. Oh, yes. Then she dug out that once I start something (like writing on a single project), I can’t stop! Do not stop me! I am in this. I hear nothing else. No alarms, no one calling my name. I am hyper-focused. But to start something new, oh the drag and avoidance. It takes me forever to ramp up, and once I’m in it, you can’t stop me, or forget it, it will take me forever again to refocus and catch up to where I was. She said, “It sounds like you have Adult ADHD, especially if you had problems learning in school.” Oh, yes, so me. And that certainly explains why I’m prone to tangents and can’t seem to outline anything.  Definitely me.

Fast forward to today. I’m not on any ADHD meds, but maybe I should be. Or maybe it’s ADHD combined with my latest blood test results from the gynecologist, which ain’t too pretty…

I want to cry, but no tears come out. I am super depressed. I had blood drawn last Monday and kept calling the doctor’s office for the results. It’s a new doctor, and no one would give me the results. I phoned twice today, and the nurse said, “The doctor hasn’t reviewed these yet. She probably won’t get to these until tomorrow.” WHAT? Okay, so no news is always good news, right? You figure if they saw something alarming, they’d phone you right away. Wrong.

The only things she tested were my thyroid, my progesterone level, estradiol level, progesterone level, testosterone (serum & free). The results have me in a panic, thanks to all the drugs I have to take (a drop of testosterone gel, progesterone 10 days a month, estradiol once daily). These are the results I received when I asked the nurse for something. Anything!

Thyroid 1.5
Estradiol 91
Progesterone 0.1
Serum Testosterone 4.7
Free Testosterone 25.3

My free testosterone is abnormally high and my progesterone is at the level of a woman who’s over 60 years old. HOW DO YOU NOT TOTALLY FREAK OUT AT THIS NEWS? You cry, but no tears come out. Instead, you vent on your blog and write about your ADHD (totally unrelated) and google progesterone levels and what the hell free testosterone is, versus total. You do all kinds of panic research on a testosterone supplements review just to inform yourself further on how you are not normal and then you want to throw up, but you don’t because you have to take your daughter to a Girl Scout event, where she learns about First Aid.

Progesterone Deficiency:
A progesterone deficiency (which leads to an estrogen dominance) can result in hair loss, memory loss, weight gain, and water retention.

Absence of menstruation
Loss of libido
Mood swings
Increased risk of endometrial cancer
Night sweats and hot flashes
Breast tenderness
Gum disease (i.e., gingivitis)
Infertility or not ovulating
Early miscarriage
Carbohydrate cravings
Irregular periods
Ovarian cysts
Menstrual cramps
Puffiness or bloating
Water retention
Lower body temperature

Um, yeah, that’s totally me. And how do all of these symptoms factor in compared to the symptoms of an elevated Free Testosterone of 4.7?



  1. i relate to the ADD part (and the partner who suffers/gets frustrated because of it). writing is a bitch because of it. ah well…

    i’m so sorry you’re going through everything else.


  2. Dear Stephanie,
    You don’t have to publish this. I cannot believe no one has said “I hope you feel better soon”, or “hang in there and things will be better”, or anything. I am sorry and I hope you find good answers and better health soon.

  3. And, as always, support from me too! I read this whilst sitting on a white, sandy Florida beach with my honey. I was all poised to respond when (drum roll please)…


    My phone gave into its basest desires and went swimming in the beer/wine cooler. At first it was one of those ‘oh shit’ moments…but then I took another sip of white wine and realized that all was well. In retrospect, it was a happy thing to witness…little phone doing backflips, making off-color jokes and performing goofy dances.

    Truthfully, however, I am happier now that my new one is up and running.

    Nonetheless – you WILL find the answers you need – you WILL be healthy and strong. Believe it, babe – you’re a super star.

  4. I’m so sorry you’re going through ALL OF THIS. As far as your health – Did your doctor check for PCOS?

    I completely agree that when you start reading symptoms it seems you have everything under the sun.. and I know I’m not a doctor, but I’m still curious if they excluded this?

    1. Author

      Women with PCOS reach menopause later than women without the syndrome. I’m in full blown menopause, starting at age 36.

      The doctor returned my call today, finally. And she said she wasn’t concerned, since we know my ovaries aren’t doing anything (hence the low progesterone). “Still,” I said, “what about how I feel? What about all the symptoms of having a progesterone deficiency?” She said that if I was concerned I could take my progesterone pills for 14 days instead of 10. WTF?

      I’ve decided that I need to be monitored more regularly. Who knows if this generic progesterone is even working? Maybe I need the brand name. Hello? She’s all, oh, we can check your levels in 3 months.

      So, I’m now on the hunt for an endocrinologist. Joy. Add it to my list.

  5. I have ADD-PI (diagnosed at age 33) and am also not on meds specifically for it, but a combo of Zoloft & Wellbutrin has totally changed my life. I had all the same symptoms you describe, but these meds enabled me to focus & write a dissertation & now a book while parenting two little ones. The Wellbutrin is apparently commonly prescribed for ADD in folks with a lot of anxiety, because it’s not a good idea to give amphetamines to a highly anxious person! Just wanted you to know that there are multiple options out there.

  6. Stephanie- Just wanted to say Ive read you for many years and love the books. Im 31 now and found your blog again (yay!), I have PCOS/anxiety and want to tell you your honesty in talking about what ails you or stresses you is a blessing for me. I appreciate your honesty and that you put yourself out there–thank you for that.

  7. OMG. Once you get a little bit in control of your ADD/ADHD your life will completely change. First things first, read anything you can find by Dr. Ned Hallowell. Start there. I was once where you are and I promise it will get better. If you need suggestions on what resources to follow – seriously – email me. I have been through it all:) Meds, coaching, therapy, and the awful fights with the husband. It can get better.

  8. I just wanted to suggest, if it hasn’t already been suggested,that you speak to your doctor about Graves Disease, a type of hyperthyroidism. I was diagnosed with it and when I did some research it explained a whole lot of what I had been going through.


    Of course I have almost all the symptoms except weight loss, which my doctor said can happen (lucky me) but it is very common in women and is hereditary. Since I was diagnosed I urged both of my sisters to get tested and they also have Graves Disease. My mother had been diagnosed many years ago with hyperthyroidism which was never successfully treated and I am now wondering if she actually had Graves and her doctor just wasn’t aware of it.

    Anyway, just wanted to send that along. I hope you feel better soon. Take care.

  9. Stephanie, You are seeing the wrong doctor. I am in the same boat, and I started seeing Dr Edgerton in Austin. I don’t know if you ever get back here, but it is totally worth the trip. Check him out. Very very good.

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