by Katrina, submitted 23 November 2021,
What is wrong with me?
Katrina doesn’t apply herself; Katrina
doesn’t stop chatting, Katrina is so able, but doesn’t focus, Katrina gets
easily distracted. Why don’t you work hard? If you worked as hard as you did at
sports and music, you’d really succeed. You don’t apply yourself. Katrina has
so much potential, Katrina isn’t reaching her full potential. Why don’t you
understand? Why can’t you focus. How is it that you excel at somethings and
simply can’t do others? Why are you so forgetful? You only do things that you want to do? Why
are you so noisy and hyper? What’s the matter?
I don’t know, I don’t know, I DON’T
What do you mean you don’t know?!
Now I do know.
My name is Kit and I have ADHD. I’m also in active addiction recovery.
These are the messages and the narrative that I grew up with. I was comfortable in my skin running wild in the woods, climbing trees, riding my bike, swimming, getting muddy, being part of every single extracurricular activity that was available at school, outside of school clubs, training before school, training after school, weekend matches and concerts. So much structure. Whenever in fear or wanting to hide from the world, I had my Cat who was my best friend. Her love was consistent and non-judgemental. I’d cry into her fur and feel better. Peace.
At university there was very little
structure. Studying music meant it was my responsibility to schedule my
rehearsal time around my lectures, seminars, and tutorials. No parental
guidance. I was over 18 after all. There was alcohol, drugs, and sex; what I
considered to be freedom. Freedom from rules. Freedom from emotional pain. An
opportunity to play and live how I wanted to play.
dropped out of university and started flying the world, working for a global
airline. This was to be my false reality for the next 12 ½ years. I was in
control of being out of control. I developed such an amazing mask of living and
thriving that I soon began to believe it myself. I was exuberant, enthusiastic,
chasing highs (illegal and natural), my glass was always half full (unless I was
drinking quicker than it could be refilled) and there was always a silver
lining. I was so good at convincing others that I was FINE. The night I spent
in a cell after drink driving, my cat disappeared, I never saw her again. She
had been my safety blanket for 14 years and she was gone. Not until 15 years
later did I allow myself to fully grieve for her. I can feel sadness and
My plan was to save money for my commercial
pilot’s licence. As the fear of failure gripped me, I convinced myself it
wasn’t what I really wanted anyway. I had applied for scholarships, cadetships,
been knocked back and didn’t feel myself getting back up again. I completed all
the training and coursework as a personal trainer. I failed one exam. NEXT! Oh
I want to be a nurse. NEXT. I’ll take 3 months unpaid leave and train to be a
plumber. Then I can drive around in a van all day with my dog. That will make
everything ok. Ill join a triathlon club and start training 15 hours a week as
it makes me feel good and I don’t have to be part of a team, no one needs to
rely on me for anything. Maybe I’ll take up music again. Maybe I’ll join the
forces. Why don’t I fly short haul or get a job on the ground? I’ll put my name
on the list for a promotion. I just want something to take away this crippling
pain of fear of life and that I was the biggest piece of shit on earth and the
biggest faker. Why did everyone new I met think I was fab? Why couldn’t I just
do life? Why wouldn’t my partner propose to me? I mean things got difficult at
times and I’d run off and move out but that’s freedom, right?! I didn’t know
how to do intimate, and I didn’t know how to have an intimate relationship. I
didn’t know how to balance my feelings or communicate what I needed. My stone
brick wall would come up, my heart would turn to stone, and I ran.
On the outside I was resilient, on the
inside I was getting blacker, darker, sadder, my inner critic crueller. Why
couldn’t I ever finish something I started. Commit. Do what everyone else does,
live on the treadmill of life, just
My sickness record with work increased. I
was always late. I couldn’t “do” life. I was diagnosed with depression in 2012.
As the years went by, my drinking increased. My unmanageability increased. My long-term
relationship came to an end. I started acting out in ways that made me question
my sanity, my purpose in life as well as my morals and my soul. I repulsed
myself. I was sacked in 2017. My life as I had known it, was over. There was
nowhere to hide. I couldn’t just get on a jet and hide in San Francisco, Cape
town, Argentina or Hong Kong. I was
accountable. I had to look after myself, fend for myself. Take responsibility.
Jobless and having been thrown out of my flat, I moved to the beach, surfed,
worked in a pub 16 hours a day and smoked weed. This is better and calmer I
thought. How great that I didn’t have to numb my life with alcohol anymore. No
time changes, no uncertainty. My life, my plan.
I worked hard with my therapist on
adjusting to “normal life”. Allowing myself to feel a tiny bit. Living in one
time zone, being in my own bed each night and started training doggies! By this
stage I was pretty much always stoned. My head felt calmer, but my confidence
was shot.” I can’t even”…. (a familiar
narrative)…… stand in front of 6 old ladies and their dogs and ask them to do a
simple “sit” command. I was disappearing into nothingness of self.
God only knows how, I managed to secure a
job in the learning and development sector due to my “unique skill set” which
if course I had no belief in. I had a split role in two different departments. I put my best performance pants on, masked up
and delivered. I was travelling around the country delivering workshops to a
plethora of companies, later being requested by companies. The airline I had been
sacked from became one of my biggest clients. My strategy was to leave the house with no
makeup. This allowed me to cry all the way to work. Get out all the
self-loathing, fear of failure, doubt, confusion, shame and guilt of not
reaching my impossible expectations of perfectionism. And then put my best performance on. I was
facilitating growth and development in others, as a coach and a trainer,
personally and professionally. Inside I was screaming. I was able to gain
qualifications in this sector and slowly my self-belief started to return. My
cannabis and alcohol usage had hugely decreased so at least I had that under
control (denial!). I was getting a daily structure. Maximising my sleep.
Exercising and eating well. Exercise and eating well thankfully had always been
a constant for me. My professional performance continued to increase. I was
feeling content, that I was achieving something. I was in my element on a
Friday, shedding my work mode self, filling up a flask with Gin and tonic, rolling
a joint and heading out into the woods with my doggy to watch the sun set.
HEAVEN. I was working harder than I ever had before, sober-ish earning less and
as happy as I could remember being.
I met someone in 2018 and within 5 months
we had moved in together and were engaged. My beloved doggy suddenly had to be
put down. He was my best friend and my confident. This was crippling (writing
this now I feel a surge of emotion. Today I allow myself to feel my feelings) I
had totally stopped drinking and was tee total. My professional life continued
to grow and my performance was high. Personally, I was suffocating. I was back
to self-medicating with cannabis. I couldn’t voice my needs or boundaries
within my relationship. I had a breakdown. I could barely move for 3 weeks. My
company needed to pull in 3 people to cover my work calendar. I just thought I
was working hard. Not insanely. I went
back on anti-depressants. I broke off the engagement, I went back to the
engagement. This old, repeated behaviour of not knowing what I wanted or what I
There began some murmurings and jokes of
“mate, do you think you have ADHD”?
I was head hunted for a job, which I felt
was way above my capabilities, in operational people management as well as
learning and development management. Once
again, I was the lady that had a unique skill set and I straddled these two
different departments. I’d spend most lunch
times in the toilet crying, then find the strength to put on the mask and
COVID meant I was furloughed and later in
the year made redundant. During his period, I dove deeper and deeper into
active addiction. I had started drinking secretly and cannabis was for
breakfast lunch and supper. A family member with knowledge and experience of
ADHD, offered me an opportunity to tutor her dyslexic English GCSE students. It
was after a shadowing session with her that she urged me to get tested for ADHD
and that maybe I could work with her in the future. I felt hopeless, fearful,
useless, and desperate.
I couldn’t see, feel or use my way out of
the suffocating, sludge of darkness that had consumed me. I was on my knees. In
November 2020 I took an overdose. As my puppy watched I said “don’t look at
mummy darling”. I didn’t want to live, I
didn’t want to die. I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up.
For the first time in my life, I asked for
help. With the support of my family, I checked myself in to rehab on 9th
December 2020. I was to be reborn, given a new life and finally, to get to know
I was diagnosed with ADHD on 24Th January 2021, having been referred by my rehab Psychiatrist, to her colleague who specialised in adult ADHD. I can remember the feelings the moment he confirmed I did indeed have ADHD. I logged off the call, sat in the therapy room and wept. Big heavy shoulder shaking weeps. I felt release. Here was clarity. Gratitude. Answers to so many questions. The start of a grieving process for my inner child and now the present adult. I had always found life so difficult and lived in a world so different from what I was told I was supposed to be, feel, see, hear and do. I allowed myself the space to grieve for the little girl within. Today I continue to forgive myself for all the acts of impulsivity that had caused me so much shame and pain; for pushing and shoving down all the uncomfortable feelings which stunted my self-awareness, self-belief and growth. For always having just missed the brief, never quite getting it, what ever getting it was supposed to mean. I understood why I struggled so much with conformity, why I was always so uncomfortable inside. Why I felt so different and was always pushing against what I perceived to be normal living. Diagnosis for me felt like an emotional, spiritual, mental and physical signpost. A signpost towards learning to live and thrive with the acknowledgement and acceptance of having a neurodevelopment disorder. It was now time to get in the solution. HOW?
How can I maintain and manage my ADHD, while
prioritising my addiction recovery, keeping myself as safe as possible and being
able to connect, learn and grow?
So which came first, ADHD or my active
addiction. Today, it isn’t important. What is important is that I am
accountable. I am responsible. I feel my feelings, I reach out for support. I
read, learn, stay always teachable. I attended ADHD webinars, seminars and the
knowing me knowing you workshop. I ask for help. I don’t blame. I accept who I
am, how I feel and sit with myself.
Reaching out and accepting support has been
paramount to my recovery. After sacking and then reinstating my psychiatrist (what
does he know? Oh wait, he is the expert on adult ADHD) and shouting at my
addiction therapist in the fight against the prospect of medication, I accepted
and surrendered to the process and started the medication in February. This
involved collaboration with my GP, my rehab, my psychiatrist, trust, responsibility,
and organisation. Being prescribed a
controlled medication so early into sobriety it had to be locked away. I
changed my morning routine (which involved a near melt down) so that I had time
to locate a member of staff, have the meds unlocked, do my yoga, meditation,
have breakfast and shower before group therapy. I recall one morning, which
happened to be my 36th birthday, not being able to locate a member
of staff in time, cue full meltdown. Any element of losing control, I lost
control of my emotions. Like a child, screaming, crying, needing reassurance, punching
and kicking the air, anger, blaming, fear, regret, shame, lashing out. Feeling
my feelings. 2 months after leaving rehab in March, I found myself homeless. Today
I am living in a sober house in London.
Over the past 11 months and 14 days I have
learnt to sit with my feelings. Sit with discomfort. Sit with frustration.
Practise compassion, nurture, kindness, tolerance and patience, to myself, my
inner child and to others. Any point I feel any discomfort within, I look
within. I ask myself; what does Kit need. Sometimes I have no idea. Sometimes I
may be hungry, lonely, angry or tired. Sometimes I may be on the brink of a
shame spiral. Gone are the days where screaming
at myself “you spasticated c**t” enters my mind. My inner critic has become so
quite that in times of discomfort, I acknowledge that in the past, I would have
been very unkind to myself. PROGRESS. There’s no such thing as perfection
(apart from puppies and kittens!) Today I listen and feel my feelings. Every
feeling I feel is valid. The difference today is that I don’t bury them. I
don’t act out on them. I don’t ignore them by doing a punishing work out,
drinking, using drugs, smashing up my room, throwing furniture, punching a wall
or (as my therapist says) “f**king” them away. I am working on inner child and
trauma with my amazing therapist. A relationship that I can be vulnerable in,
allow myself to be held in, laugh, cry, throw a paddy. TRUST.
I have a morning discipline. I surrender to
a power greater than myself. I let go of the insanity of needing to be in
control. Yes, I can control my actions but today I have no control over the
outcome. I can just do the next right thing and trust and have faith in the
greater design. I read my daily readings. I acknowledge what I am grateful for.
I give thanks for my day. I journal. I meditate. I connect with my 12 step
fellowship sponsor. Here is a woman who has trodden my path, with years and
years of sobriety behind her. Always keeping it in the day. Another
relationship where I let myself be vulnerable, be held. It is non-judgemental,
compassionate and a consistent, unconditional loving, honest, openminded
relationship. She has however specified
that I’m not allowed to call her mum! Oh how we laugh….and cry!
practise yoga. I take my medication as prescribed by my Psychiatrist and we
check in every 10-12 weeks. The shared care agreement with my GP had its
challenges but I overcame them. Accepting the process. I connect with people who understand. I attend 12 step fellowship meetings. I have
service positions. I don’t make excuses. I show up, for myself and for others.
I am learning how to put in boundaries and connect to balance. Two “B” words
which I had no idea about until I came into recovery. I always return to my
breath if in times of fear or worry, grounding me in the moment.
My relationships with my family have
transformed. Trust and compassion are building. Last year I said to my sister
my greatest fear is that you won’t let me see the girls. She said it was
heading that way. 2 weeks ago, I collected my nieces from preschool and nursery
school, gave them supper, bathed them, and read them a bedtime story. I have
also accepted the invitation of looking after them over night by myself. My sister-in-law has only ever known me in
active addiction. Today we have a new narrative. My mum invites me over for lunch and supper
and to stay the night. We have a new way of being with each other. My brother says
and believes he no longer needs to worry about me. My Dad has told me how proud
he is of me. My granny sometimes forgets that I am in recovery. Each time I see
her I remind her I am sober, that I have a neurodevelopmental disorder which
means I have a beautiful brain. That I am really living and really taking care
of myself. I have detached with love
from those who were toxic in my life. This has been extremely challenging.
Today I choose who I spend my time with, who I trust and who I really connect
with on an honest, vulnerable, no mask wearing level.
Just for today and one day at a time I am getting to know me. Acceptance and gratitude. Sometimes I can only manage one minute at a time. But that is ok. I am ok. Today I am living.
ADHD Europe's focus on the ADHD Women Project
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