What first made you suspect you have ADHD and what led you to your diagnosis?
Growing up I felt I always knew there was something that made me different. Physically at least I am an idiopathic toe walker, so that made me stand out from other kids as it was. But I had always had this deeper sense of “there is something everyone else knows that I don’t” some kind of missing link or hidden rule I didn’t quite get socially.
I always struggled with school work, home work and many other tasks at home. Something I also thought maybe I was just a lazy type of person. Or maybe not very smart, which I found challenging. Especially with Math. I was definitely not one of the “gifted kids”.
I used to get in trouble a lot compared to others for Talking. I always felt I got in trouble for being myself.
It wasn’t really until my early twenties that I really noticed I was struggling, that there might be more to all my experiences but still no idea what. I had to leave a career of 3 years because of my performance and social anxiety. That’s when I started living with someone who is on the spectrum whom I related to greatly. And another friend of mine from high school was diagnosed with Inattentive type ADHD and was absolutely convinced she thought I was too and that the struggles I had articulated to her was the same and why she sought help. Neither of us knew it could had been ADHD.
So I mentioned Aspergers (what it was called at the time) to my Dr or that maybe it’s ADHD but I felt that I fit that and that I was desperate because I didn’t have “reasons” to be depressed or anxious. Despite any bullying and life experiences, I just felt they didn’t fit to a bigger problem I’ve had all my life.
That’s when I was referred for a psychological assessment. I think I talked in that appointment for a solid 5 minutes without breathing and the psychiatrist said he suspects ADHD and wanted to trial me on medication and see how I responded to it while I went on for further investigation.
What are some things in the past that now make you think “Of course that was ADHD!”
The talking. I’m a prolific talker, I liken it to an oral stim, and thinking out in a way to others helps me navigate my thought process too. So at school I think I used talking as a way to concentrate or regulate myself. It was also because it’s stimulating too I am sure. Especially when things were underwhelming and boring for me (which was often because I was struggling to keep up too). This followed me all my life of course even in to my working life, it was exhausting to mask I think, and repress these things. Doodling helped me a lot in places where it was learned to be “inappropriate to talk”.
What do you love most about your ADHD?
My outside the box neurodivergent thinking has been really useful skill in my life especially as I pursued to study art. But also that drive for new and interesting things has certainly made my life colourful of life experiences, good and bad.
How has diagnosis changed your life? Do you do anything differently now you are professionally diagnosed?
Diagnosis was really validating because it was nice to know all these things weren’t necessarily personality or behavioral issues, but that I was literally dancing around many mental obstacles with only a few tools I had developed to cope over my life. It kinda took the edge off it all and I was able to love myself in a way I didn’t before. I could forgive my shortcomings where I believed was my being stupid or lazy or uncaring and knowing I really wasn’t any of those things was all I ever wanted.
My life has changed a lot because of medication especially. It’s made so many things I struggle with so much easier, it’s not bullet proof but it was one of the easiest tools I have to use for my ADHD because it’s just a matter of taking my medication. So i thought right I need to do something that fits with my ADHD, art as one of my hyper-fixations, it was the green light I needed to see the value in pursuing this study as I felt it was something I could never get bored of like so many other career choices.
And then ultimately it has led me to advocacy as even with better life choices and therapy and change of environment etc. The stigma and misunderstandings remained. No matter how much I worked on myself, the world I lived in hadn’t changed. My view on those matters definitely changed a lot after diagnosis.