Christine, Wondering

Random Musings of a Human Becoming

Friday, May 13, 2016

Adventures in ADHD

A few months ago, a couple of articles on ADHD crossed my Facebook feed. One of them was this one, and it changed my life.

The odd thing is, I already had a diagnosis. I'd just never considered that it might still be relevant.

I was diagnosed with ADD (they made a distinction in those days) when I was about 10, I don't remember the year precisely. It was only picked up because my younger brother was your classic hyperactive white boy, and the diagnosing psychiatrist figured he might as well take a look at the daydreamy big sister as well.

I took ritalin for four years, but as I grew into teenagehood I began to resent it as one of the many things - strong working mum, gyprock kit home, avant garde childrearing, not using the titles Mum and Dad and, as I entered my mid-teens, now-divorced parents - that made me not normal. I wanted to be normal, and I didn't want to see the psychiatrist any more, so I stopped taking ritalin. I can remember that my Dad kind of shrugged; I don't even remember a conversation about it with my Mum.

When my grades collapsed throughout year 10, people blamed my parents' divorce and the disruption of changing homes and schools.

When I had to repeat year 12, people blamed me for not studying, with slight concession to the fact that I was being frequently woken by my baby sister.

When I moved out at 18 and almost immediately descended into housekeeping chaos, people couldn't understand why I was such a slob.

When I pulled high distinction essays out of my hat at 3am on the day before they were due, people asked me again and again why I didn't do things in advance, and it was like they were speaking Klingon.

When I entered the professional workforce and just could not cope with staying on task, I hid what was going on so carefully that everyone except my one archaeology boss and colleagues thought I'd genuinely had a change of heart about my career path, rather than having destroyed my dream career through misuse of work time, disorganisation, and the inability to deal with workplace behaviour.

When I racked up debt in my mid-20s people shook their heads and adjured me to be more careful.

When my housekeeping never got any better, people were embarrassed for me.

When I couldn't stay on top of things as a teacher, I covered it up again and again and loathed my disorganisation and laziness.

When I blurted things out or spoke too loud or babbled too much I thought I was socially awkward, and blamed myself for not being more restrained.

When I dropped and trod on and walked into and wrong-footed and couldn't organise my body in order to get things done, I thought I was clumsy, careless and hasty, and hated my body.

When I couldn't stop the endless desire to eat, I thought I was a glutton and despised my weakness.

That was the litany of who I was: careless, lazy, gauche, greedy, clumsy, hasty, incompetent, slob.

Not once, in all this time, did I ever ask, "Is this ADHD?"

Not once, in all this time, did anyone who knew I'd had the diagnosis ever ask, "Is this ADHD?"

I am angry occasionally, but mostly what I feel is bewilderment. Looking back, it's so obvious; I have no idea why I didn't figure it out. I just can't fathom it. I'm smart. I'm educated. I have access to a world of research at my fingertips and have done for nearly two decades. I knew I'd had the diagnosis as a kid. Why did it never occur to me to ask whether my complete failure to "adult" was simply a logical extension of the 10-year-old daydreamer with the messy desk tray and habit of staring through her classmates?

When I read the article I linked above, something finally clicked.

Then came a ten minute consultation with my GP.

An hour with a mental health nurse in which I sobbed over wounds whose pain I hadn't ever acknowledged.

Half an hour with a sweet, gentle mental health doctor, and a screening test in which my 'impairments' were laid bare in dozens of tick-boxes.

Two ECGs (the first one wasn't plugged in properly).

One blood test.

And then I was in the pharmacy holding a small green piece of paper with my sweet mental health doctor's instructions laid out in neat capital letters.


I've been on it for just over two weeks now. At first, I was taking a dose in the morning and a dose at midday, necessitating the carrying of it in a miniature combi-lock safe during my work day. Now I'm taking the full dose in the morning, and in two weeks the dose will go up again. So far, concentration is a little better at work, housework has become astonishingly trivial, I've actually been to the gym, and I just don't care that much about food. Suddenly I'm cooking dinner every night (or organising one of the others to cook it) and taking lunch every day. Chocolate has sat uneaten in the cupboard and I don't even care. I can cook a whole meal without getting bored and wandering off.

It's weird.


Is this how normal people experience life?

It's, um, pretty cool.


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