ADHD and Me

It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog post. Apologies if I am a little rusty.

The last time I wrote about my life was just before I myself was diagnosed with ADHD, for me that was the final piece of my puzzle in its rightful place. ADHD always has been perhaps in many ways my biggest enemy it just wasn’t recognised, it was misdiagnosed as other conditions. My ADHD diagnosis was the rest of the explanation that along with my previous ASD diagnosis gives a very clear picture of all my challenges, quirks and talents in glorious technicolour.

I have written before about ADHD…. when my child received their diagnosis, having again read that post today I see very clearly all their challenges have been my life long challenges too. It was their diagnosis that caused me to ask for my own assessment. For there are truly times when it feels like our lives are mirrored images of each other’s.

It has been almost two years of ups and downs since my ASD diagnosis was joined by ADHD. Statistically it is believed up to 50% of those with ASD also have ADHD symptoms. Duel diagnosis isn’t uncommon, I do find it puzzling though why we don’t just have a one stop neuro developmental assessment system in place instead of having to repeatedly submit to a long drawn out process to get the full picture.

Maybe you are wondering why it mattered for me to have an ADHD diagnosis in place?

For me there were three major reasons. One was I wanted my child to understand I really did know what it feels like to live with ADHD. Secondly I wanted to explore treatment options, I have spent my adult life exhausting anti depressants, anti anxiety and sleeping medications with limited success, I have required mental health support since my teenage years on and off and all that has ever been achieved was more unanswered questions!! There was this burning desire to know if ADHD medication might be the one thing that would make the difference that would give me the quality of life I longed for. Thirdly I needed to properly understand me. I wanted others to properly understand me. It was the need to have an explanation for the struggles in my life that others have no difficulties with at all.

In the early days with medication what struck me most was all the difficulties I didn’t know I had until they weren’t there anymore.

Unless you have ADHD too you can’t really understand what it’s like to have a mind that races all the time. My mind was trying to focus on so many things at once it is a miracle I ever managed to do anything!!! All those thoughts racing around in my head, yes I do see cars whizzing about when I think of it now! Me trying hopelessly to keep up or focus on just one thing at a time and failing because I would get distracted by yet another new thought that would make me forget again what I was trying to do!!!

Adult ADHD is……..

Struggling to focus, being highly distractible, finding it extremely challenging to complete tasks, losing track in conversations with others and in certain situation coming across as careless and insensitive.

Disorganisation, struggling to know what to prioritise, struggling to be organised or stay organised!

The ability to hyper focus, this can be both a gift and a curse. Hyper focus is when something is so engaging and engrossing that the world could literally be falling appart all around us and a person with ADHD wouldn’t notice! All sense of time is lost in these moments. It can be impossible to concentrate on anything or anyone else when hyper focused.

Finding it a challenge to manage time. Those with ADHD are champion procrastinators. It is being often late for everything. It’s leaving any task found boring until the last possible second.

It’s living in the now, meaning it is very hard to recall from past experiences or predict for the future the consequences of ones actions! I often find myself saying “why did I do that again?” “When will I ever learn?” “How could I not see that’s what would happen?”

It’s living with constant forgetfulness, never being able to remember where you left keys, wallets, bags etc. Forgetting appointments, important dates, to return calls….

It’s being impulsive, doing things without considering the consequences, interrupting conversations, behaving in a way that comes across as being rude and inappropriate, rushing through things.

One of the biggest red flags for adults with ADHD is impulse buying. That is buying things you don’t need and or can’t afford! Since diagnosis and treatment my bank balance is surprisingly better and I didn’t think I had a problem before!

It’s being hyper critical of oneself. Negative self image is a common result of all the challenges ADHD brings, many struggle with the belief that the challenges are the result of personal failings.

It’s having huge emotions! Emotional responses that are often overwhelming in comparison to the situation they relate to. A minor upset to someone without ADHD may seem like the end of the world to someone with it. Huge emotions are associated also with moods that fluctuate and an increased risk of depression.

It’s struggling to get and stay motivated! Be it because of procrastination, disorganisation, distract-ability, even when willing or intending to do something finding and maintaining motivation can be impossible!

It’s living a life constantly on edge and constantly struggling with anxiety. It’s having a mind that rarely shuts off! It’s having a constant need to be doing something and when it isn’t possible to be doing what is felt necessary, restlessness and frustration creep in leading to feelings of anxiety. A mind that replays worries and fears over and over, only drives the anxiety more. I picture an old fashioned steam train the fireman shovelling coal (my thoughts) into the furnace keeping that engine (my brain) ever running! It’s fidgeting and squirming to try and shake the feelings off.

It’s having or having had addiction(s). Evidence suggests this is possibly in an attempt to gain confidence, relieve anxiety, improve sleep, and or improve focus through self medication. I have faced my own challenges with alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and painkillers over the years. I am currently addiction free.

It’s living with the physical effects that ADHD attributes to, stemming from unbalanced eating, weight struggles, struggling to find the motivation to exercise, remembering to take all necessary medications, the additional stress and anxiety have a physical impact too. Many adults with ADHD have other health complications that are made worse as a result of ADHD challenges.

It’s finding it a constant challenge to maintain relationships, be it professional, friendships, family or relationships of a romantic variety. Even those with ADHD themselves can find it exhausting being around others with ADHD! Unintentionally those with ADHD will talk over others, become easily bored, distracted , appear inattentive, leading to the misconception that those with ADHD are uncaring, reckless and insensitive. ADHD is often being incredibly lonely. It becomes easier to be alone than to constantly mess up relationships with others.

Being so fatigued at the end of a day you don’t have any emotional or physical strength left. Or not having the strength to get out of bed in the morning. It may seem surprising that fatigue is a major challenge. It is one I am all too familiar with, it’s one aspect of ADHD I struggle to even get those closest to me to understand. ADHD fatigue is caused from all of the challenges it presents, the sleep issues, the hyperactive mind, the overwhelming emotions……..

Are you surprised at just how colossal an impact ADHD has on the lives of those living with it?

ADHD is hugely misunderstood, over the last ten years I have fought to raise awareness of ASD after my then youngest child was diagnosed but in all honesty ASD awareness and understanding is light years ahead in comparison to the general population’s understanding of ADHD.

Something I have become acutely aware of is ADHD is still perceived to be a behavioural issue as opposed to the neuro developmental condition it actually is. I was born with ADHD. As is everyone else with it. The science suggests there are structural and chemical differences within ADHD brains. ADHD is recognised as being genetic.

The stigma surrounding ADHD is as widespread today as it was when I first heard of it in the 1990’s . The taboo surrounding medication still exists too.

I will leave this post with perhaps the most shocking and frustrating misunderstanding of all I have encountered myself around my own ADHD.

The first psyc doctor I ever saw back in 1996 recorded in my notes all my symptoms backed up with evidence, as I was female ADHD wasn’t even considered. I was denied a diagnosis or treatment, instead I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. The specialist who finally did diagnose me 22 years later had tracked down all my notes. The evidence was all there so much so the consult prescribed medication immediately before completing my assessment.

How many others are living with mental health difficulties as a result of the wrong treatment and diagnosis?

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