Some people throw a big party when they turn 50. Donna Beckmann boarded a jet to Africa and hiked to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Her ADHD made her do it.
"I booked the trip without giving it a lot of thought, other than knowing it would be tough," she says. "Sometimes I don't think things through. I signed up for the trip at a very difficult time in my already-complicated life."
That fall, Beckmann had returned to college to finish her bachelor's degree, and her youngest son, who has Down syndrome, was moving to a new middle school, 25 miles from the Beckmann's country home. And she was researching high schools for her oldest son. She did a lot of it alone, because her husband was often out of town on business trips. As if all of that wasn't enough, Beckmann came down with a serious case of pneumonia.
"I was sick, and it took a long time for me to recover," she says. "I wasn't sure I could complete the 12-week training program for the climb in February," she says. Beckmann almost canceled the trip, but, by Thanksgiving, she felt well enough to begin working out and hiking. The regimented program put her attention deficit to the test.
"I was diagnosed late in life, at 48, so I have learned that I need structure to cope with my ADHD," she says. "I have to be neat and organized on the outside to calm all of the chaos on the inside. In my crazy ADHD world, the training threw something different at me every day."
The planning, training, and scheduling paid off when she reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, on February 26, 2013, six days after she started the hike with a group of 10 other women. It reaffirmed Beckmann's growing faith in God and in herself.
"Life is short. You need to live your dreams," she says. "Like everything else in our ADHD lives, we can break it up and take a little piece at a time. That's really all you can do. That's the way I will finish my degree."
Her post-graduate plans include working as an advocate for individuals with special needs, especially those with Down syndrome. As she faces challenges in her new career, she'll undoubtedly repeat the mantra that kept her climbing Kilimanjaro: "Trust and thankfulness will get you through this day."