Finding out I have ADHD at the age of 37 was a big shock for me. After repeated trips to the doctor and leaving with yet more antidpressants or being told to try meditation for my anxiety, I finally discovered what was going on with me. But that was the tip of the iceberg. Not only does it take enormous courage to keep pushing through and advocating for yourself to get a diagnosis, there is so much that comes after. Including rewriting your entire life story with the new information. Luckily I have come through that and 15 months on from my diagnosis I am now happier, healthier and really feel able to achieve my potential this time. One thing with all this self reflection is that it’s helped me to recognise is the many areas of my life ADHD had held me back in. Here are just a few, and some examples
How my ADHD affected my education
Executive dysfunction; I was always revising at the very last minute. Or spending more time making my notes look pretty than reading them. I couldn’t get started on projects and I definitely couldn’t order them and follow them through. All the ideas and none of the self motivation to see them to completion.
Self doubt. Years of being told I wasn’t achieving my potential, that I could do so well if I just applied myself, struggling to concentrate, comparing myself to others and having an inner narrative that would rival Regina George for unkindness meant that my self esteem and self worth were on the floor. I believed I’d never amount to anything so what was the point!
Which leads us to the ‘don’t try, can’t fail’ way of thinking. If no-one realises that you care about doing well, you won’t look stupid when you inevitably fail! There were lots of ways I went about sabotaging myself, including getting kicked out of class for messing around, (a lot of which was trying to win friends!), playing the fool and bunking off lessons altogether. Which stressed out my rule abiding side no end!
Friendships and ADHD
Having friends with ADHD is so so hard. I always found it easy to make but trickier to keep.The irony is, I wanted them so badly but found it really difficult to sustain and so would pretend I didn’t care and liked my own company so much I didn’t want anyone else.
Some of the things that didn’t help when trying to keep friendships included;
’Copying’ others to try and be like them. I would emulate the popular girl and try and be like her because obviously she was doing something right. But then it would get noticed and I’d get teased for that too, and because emotional regulation is an issue, the embarrassment would make me blow up!
Hyperfocus, when I liked someone and they liked me back, it was such a great feeling that I could be very intense and even get jealous of their other friends.
Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria; I was always taking things far too personally, blowing them up in my head into much bigger things than they were. Obsessing about exchanges that the other person would literally have forgotten about minutes later, if they’d registered it at all! These little incidents would weigh on me and not knowing how to tackle them would leave me so tied up that it could result in me abandoning the friendship.
Disappearing; sometimes social overwhelm would mean that I’d need to retreat for a while, or I’d slide into one of my regular bouts of deep depression resulting in me not replying to messages for weeks or months. That could also happen because I’d genuinely just forget. Or keeping going to do it, then getting distracted and once it would get past a certain point, I’d be unable to reply as it had been so long!
Work issues with ADHD
Time blindness was a big factor, you think you can do a 40 minute job in 10 minutes. I’d also self sabotage by starting to do something that really wasn’t necessary as I was heading out the door. The result? Being late!
Executive Dysfunction; This is a huge one, and very very debilitating. Despite the million planners, diaries and calendars I bought, not being able to organise myself was a big issue. I’d often have to wait for the anxiety of a looming deadline to start. Ot until someone emailed me for a second time to chase me up. It’s very stressful to be unable to reply to emails or return phone calls when you know someone is waiting for a reply. Or to have the ironic situation of bombarding someone else with them when you have a great idea and want to know what they think right away!
Hyperfocus; getting incredibly into a project, living and breathing it until my brain is bored and drops it. This is the most frustrating thing. An ADHD brain just will not be forced to carry on when it’s decided it’s had enough. It’s like dragging a reluctant donkey through a treacle pit!
Not believing in myself was another huge factor. Years of being told I wasn’t achieving my potential, not doing as well in school as I knew I could and that horrible inner voice meant that I just assumed I wouldn’t be able to do something.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg! To be honest, it’s a miracle that I managed to build a successful blog business and start a membership for bloggers! Luckily, the medication has helped me a lot. It’s definitely not perfect but it is a vast improvement on how things were before. And I also really rate learning as much as you can about ADHD because then you can start employing some of the techniques to make it better and also be kinder to yourself. I always say that I’m not sad I have ADHD just that I didn’t know for so long. Because I think once you know what’s going on with yourself, you can work with it. It’s the not knowing that causes so many issues.
For further reading about ADHD I have a post about the signs of ADHD in girls and women and a detailed guide to approaching your doctor if you are in the UK. (Fab photos by the amazing Charlie Brown of Be You Photoshoots.)