By Anonymous, submitted 22 April 2021
I was diagnosed in April of this year. I am 25 years old. I went through school, a bachelor’s and now my master’s without ever knowing I had ADHD. I suspected it, and brought it up with family, counsellors and teachers, but it was always dismissed. I wasn’t failing classes, I wasn’t disruptive and I could hand in assignments on time.
Which is all true. I rarely miss a deadline. But I have the twin demons of anxiety and ADHD. The anxiety makes me finish on time, the ADHD makes it a tough journey to get there.
What are my symptoms? How does it present itself? I hate those questions because I don’t know the answer. I have had ADHD my whole life, but I never knew until now, everything I am experiencing is just a part of me. I look to what makes me different to everyone else. I struggle with impulse control, impulse eating, impulse buying, impulse decisions! My working memory is pretty woeful these days, but my long term memory is great. I remember names and birthdays very quickly, which really comes in handy when you’re a teacher like I am. I forget where I put things when I put them down, I have lost my keys more times than I can count, I have sat looking at the end of a YouTube video wondering what it was about and, as I’m writing this, I realised I forgot to upload lesson plans for an assessment last night. I overcompensate for this by having lists for everything, and writing them out again and again.
Socially, I struggle. I struggle to realise when I’ve been talking too much. I talk about myself, a lot, and I hate it. My way of acknowledging empathy was to tell a similar tale of what happened to me, and people did not like it. I’m now too aware of my social deficits, I try and stop myself talking about work, because I know it sets me off. I have grown to hate taking about myself and try and make it as short as possible. I don’t pick up when I’ve annoyed someone, and it has lost me friends. I have my partner plagued by the question “am I being annoying?” because I pick up those cues too late, or I misinterpret cues and think I must be annoying someone.
The best way I can describe my ADHD, is that I’ve always felt different. I always felt like everyone else in the world knows something I don’t. They went to some secret class or workshop that lets them not daydream, to sit still and not have to fidget to listen, to pick up on these social cues I miss, to follow diets and be consistent in exercise and self care. It really affected, and still affects, my self esteem. I feel like I’m constantly playing a game of catch up.
But it has also made me who I am. I don’t see it as a disability, my brain is just wired to think differently, and this can result in some real struggles. But there are many positives to my ADHD. I see things others don’t, I pick up on life’s little mannerisms and funny coicendences, I am creative, and my years of daydreaming have left me with the most vivid imagination. I am caring and kind, I hate to see people sad and I want to help. I am great with kids, because I’m not afraid to act silly or goody in front of them.
But that’s not to say that this isn’t a serious condition to have. We’re not just hyperactive scatterbrains. There are real struggles and real consequences to these struggles. Substance abuse, failed relationships and careers struggles are rampant among those with ADHD. Obesity, anxiety and depression are common, self esteem issues are a common comorbidity. It’s not enough to just say people with ADHD just think a little differently, there are real risks and struggles that we need help with, and the consequences of not doing so are severe.
And ADHD is so misunderstood in girls. I went 25 years without a diagnosis, because I wasn’t disruptive or hyper. A lot of girls with ADHD aren’t. We are daydreamers, more often looking out the window in our own world than getting out of our chairs to move around. My first thought when I got my diagnosis, was that I am going to be open about this. My ADHD is a part of me, it’s not going anywhere and I want people to know that it can look like this; a teacher, with a master’s degree, living on their own, being able to drive, has friends and seems very intelligent. I don’t want more girls to fall under the radar because our understanding of this condition is so poor.
That’s why I’m sharing my story, and thank you all for reading it.