I’m pretty vocal about the fact that I have ADHD. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 29 years old, so have lived with it all of my life (and most of it without realizing that was what made me so different). I find that depending on the circumstances it can be an incredibly creative and positive quality to have. Left unchecked and without ways of recognizing and managing it, it can also be a burden both to those who have it, and friends or family who are trying to support and help someone with (diagnosed or undiagnosed) ADHD.
After a long journey which involved a lot of self management and digging around to find out what works for me, I’m in a place now where 95% of the time it does not affect me negatively. When it does, I recognize it and can make changes to sort it out quickly. A big part of having ADHD for me is impulsivity. And I always know when something has gone a bit skewy for me because that’s always the first thing that crops up – I start making super impulsive (and compulsive) decisions and it’s almost like someone else has taken over and is driving my actions – I have no control over what I am doing.
What was ADHD like for me?
In school, I was not a hyperactive or bothersome person. I was extremely shy, and very self conscious about it. Apparently some people thought I was snobby because of my shyness. I never ever EVER wanted to get in trouble, and that was a big driving force for going unnoticed. In class, I used to write notes to friends, and was distracting in that manner, without attracting the attention of a teacher. At home, instead of doing school work I’d literally sit at my desk and stare at the wall for 2 hours, or I’d write endlessly in my diary.
Because of this “not wanting to get in trouble” driving force, I would ALWAYS make sure stuff got handed in on time. But for me that meant rushing to get it done the morning of, the recess or lunch before it was due. If I realized I wasn’t able to get it done before it was due, I’d pretend to be sick to stay home so that I could finish it. Plus the fact that I was able to get fairly good grades (mostly As and Bs with the odd C here or there and that darn D in Physics tarnishing my record!!) meant that there was really no reason for anyone to suspect that there was anything going on with me. I was excellent at pretending. Unfortunately, this does not translate well into the real world and the work force. Eventually, something has got to give.
Fast forward to the start of my 20s, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking “it’s okay, I’ll grow out of it……. surely……” Mid 20s come around and I still can’t focus on anything, I am distracted at work, and by now the hyperactive of ADHD has started coming out the more comfortable I get around people. In the work place I’m “that person” who is going up to everyone and poking them and saying “hey… hey… hey… what you doin? what you doin?..” *poke poke poke*
Throughout this time I am trying new things like business schemes or MLM'y type ventures, usually to help my money situation (which due to my unchecked impulsivity is becoming more and more dire). But of course I get excited about things, start them, get bored, stop….. Rinse, repeat. People would say "set goals, that's the only way you will succeed". So I did, and I never reached them because - you got it- I got bored. "Write lists! Check them off!". Excellent at writing lists, list are amazing! Getting through them? Nope. There were always new lists to be made. I kept coming back to square one where I was once again starting something new, or doing a New Years Resolution, or deciding yet again "TODAY I'LL FINALLY DO THIS AND FOLLOW IT THROUGH". But nope.
This leads to my self confidence becoming more and more eroded. As I head into my late 20s and start to realize that no, in fact this laziness and procrastination and never following through with anything is not going to way I hit this point at almost 30 years old where my point of view of myself was this:
“There is no point me trying anything new, or to do anything, because no matter what happens I always fail, I never achieve any goals so I may as well not bother trying anything”
Failure. Lazy. Procrastinator. Always gives up. Can’t finish anything. Useless. Never going to achieve anything in life. What’s the point.
At 29 years old, I felt broken, my life was a complete mess – both personally and in particular financially – I had no sense of self worth, I was struggling with depression, and punishing myself in many different ways.
To emphasise this, what led me down a path to my eventual diagnosis was me at this time in my life sitting at a computer crying and typing in things to Google like “why am I such a lazy person” and “why do I fail at everything”.
I was surprised to somehow end up on pages about ADHD, which I thought I could never have, and I started doing online quizzes and scoring 90% ++ on every single one. I started reading other stories about ADHD (which at that point my perception of it was “hyperactive boys in the classroom” and that was it) and relating to so many of them, that I started to think that actually maybe there was nothing wrong with me and I wasn’t a loser but this was something I could actually change.
Now can I just make a point here, that if you have a loved one who in a place of vulnerability says to you “I think I might have x, y or z”, please do not laugh in their face. This was what happened to me, and it automatically made me shut down and continue on for a number of months without pursuing it. However after this particular person was no longer circulating in my life and I decided that it was worth getting checked out. I figured if I have it, then I can do something about it. If I don’t, at least I can cross it off the list and keep looking.
I went to my doctor, who I had been seeing since I was about 10 years old, and VERY nervously I managed to rush out the words “I THINK I HAVE ADHD BUT I WANT TO GET CHECKED AND MAYBE I DON’T BUT I AT LEAST WANT TO EXPLORE IT PLEASE CAN YOU HELP”
And thankfully he is a wonderful doctor and simply said “Yep, I can refer you, here’s the letter off you go”.
So I did. And I scored off the charts for all the tests.
My life has changed a LOT since that initial diagnosis 8 years ago, and the journey wasn’t all easy. I do not want this post to go on for too long, so the next post I write will talk about what options are available for helping with ADHD.
The reason I wrote this today was because if you recognize any of this, or you have ADHD but struggle with it, or you have kids who you think might have ADHD, just know that you are not alone and there is actually nothing wrong with you.