ADHD Awareness Month – October 2022
This is the first time I am sharing something personal for ADHD awareness month because I have only just received my diagnosis for combined ADHD in October 2022 at the age of 33. However, this is something I’ve been trying to get for the last eighteen months now and it’s felt like a bit of a battle. Not every person will feel like they can, need to or should be diagnosed with ADHD but it’s something I really wanted to get for myself. I fully understand and appreciate just how daunting the diagnosis assessment and following treatment can be and so champion that neurodivergent self diagnosis is valid.
ADHD awareness is all about talking about ADHD and sharing that it’s not just being a bit restless, fidgetting and getting distracted. It’s actually something that has dramatically affected my mental health, physical health, self confidence and, self esteem. It’s something that can negatively impact my day to day life. ADHD isn’t just noisy, hyperactive boys that won’t sit still in a classroom as was often the stereotype during my days at school which is probably why no one ever thought that I might need a diagnosis. For all intents and purposes I was a fairly introverted, quiet, well behaved child at school. So ADHD awareness is about breaking down those harmful stereotypes to allow more adults and more children to get access to the help and support they not only need but fully deserve so they can embrace the positives of their own way of thinking.
Getting diagnosed with combined ADHD by Solutions4Diagnostics
I filmed this shortly after receiving my diagnosis. It’s about 30 minutes long but if you’d rather watch me not look at the camera, say ‘um’ a lot and talk about it rather than read you can do so here.
How ADHD presents itself in my personality
For most of my life I have felt overwhelmed by the smallest of things and wondered why I couldn’t seem to cope with life the same way as my peers do. This has become an increasing struggle and more noticeable as I’ve gotten older. I have always been diagnosed with anxiety or depression but felt that it was never that simple. It didn’t explain why I felt constantly restless, why I struggled to fall asleep, how I was constantly moving parts of my body when I had to stay still, my lack of focus, willpower for anything, constant daydreaming and zoning out. I’ve started so many hobbies and wanted to do and be so many things but never really been able to finish them without the pressure of a strict deadline. I’ve struggled in workplaces to stay focused on a task especially if I’ve found the job to be boring or during quiet periods. I am someone that thrives on routine yet gets bored with mundane things so very quickly. It didn’t occur to me until I saw a friend talk about being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult female and how relateable I found her story to be that this could have been the answer all along.
Friendships and Relationships
I am the friend that will leave you on read, because I’ve read the message and thought about replying then got distracted and forgotten until weeks have passed and I’m too ashamed to reply at that point. I struggle with tidying but once a month I will get the urge to completely rearrange a room or if I know someone is coming to visit I will speed clean the flat. It’s honestly like a super power. I have paid ADHD tax for so many things that I’ve forgotten to cancel, bills I’ve forgotten to pay, items I’ve not returned, impulse purchases because I’ve wanted a dopamine quick fix.
I have been met so often with ‘everyone does that once in a while’ and yes, they do, I know that getting distracted or forgetting to do something is not exactly uncommon so it’s hard to try and explain just how negatively this kind of living affects my day to day life. Writing it down all makes it seem so small and superficial when it’s actually magnified 100 times over. If I’m not being productive it’s not because I’m being lazy or simply don’t want to – something I was always told I was as a child – but its because half of my brain is telling me to ‘do the thing’ and the other half is going ‘what if you fail? what if it’s boring? you can’t do this, you’re not good enough’ and that stops me in my tracks because that voice is so hard to shut out.
Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria
The thing I struggle the most is how sensitive I can be which, honestly has lead to me avoiding friendships as I’ve grown up. I was always told I was too emotional and too sensitive as a child and in my teenage years. I didn’t realise until after speaking with other people who had been diagnosed with ADHD that this was a common thing amongst them. That my reaction of conflict, which is to cry usually, was manipulative. That I needed to learn how to control myself because I was being pathetic. That my ‘tears won’t work this time’. Now I’ve learned about rejection sensitivity dysphoria which is where you feel intense emotional pain and anquish at being rejected, because of failure, any small form of criticism or being let down doesn’t become about the other person or the action but instead becomes completely self destructive. It doesn’t even have to be that critical a rejection for me, someone simply saying ‘no thank you’ can very quickly become ‘that person hates me now, I am so cringe, this is embarrassing, why did I ever ask in the first place because they’ve never liked me and never will, you’re a disaster’.
Now, when it is actual rejection, or when someone sort of stops talking to me for some reason, a friendship or a relationship breaks down that reaction is really hard to deal with. I can not even begin to describe how painful it is for me when someone I have opened up to in some way discards me. That may seem kind of a harsh way of describing it but that is exactly how it feels. Recent occasions where someone has decided to sort of cut me off, avoid me, or not talk to me anymore have lead to me stopping doing anything, where I’ve just continuously cried, not been able to eat and my thoughts are full of negative self talk and trying to figure out what I did wrong, where I went wrong, how I could possibly try to fix it and doing anything I can to try and gain their approval again. It’s a part of me that I actively struggle with on a daily basis because I can’t just take someone’s no for what it is. It always becomes about how much they no longer like me anymore and it is stupid and destructive to think and feel like that. It would be bliss to not sit and justify all the reasons why I might receive a ‘no’ to something because ‘no’ is important. Setting boundaries is important. I know all of this but right there in the moment that all goes completely out the window.
If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist
I struggle with object permanence and time blindness. This means if I can’t see it it doesn’t exist. I forget I have things a lot of the time which sometimes leads to duplicate purchases. I can often lose track of time or get so caught up in an appointment I need to keep that I enter waiting mode and face an inability to do anything productive. I can hyperfocus on something and suddenly six hours have gone by where I haven’t moved, eaten or drank anything which then often leads to binge eating – another issue I’ve had which potentially has been a result of my ADHD brain. I am the person that fears being late I will turn up half an hour early, which equally doesn’t look all that great depending on the situation either, but being just a few minutes late for anything makes me anxious and fills me with dread.
Getting diagnosed with ADHD has felt huge as I finally feel like I can start moving on with my life. I am currently going through the process of titration which is where you have regular appointments with a psychiatrist to find the right type and dosage of medication. I am about to start a daily 30mg dose of Elvanse for the next three weeks. I need to monitor my blood pressure, pulse and weight on a daily basis whilst taking this to make sure my body accepts the medication and to monitor any side effects. I have been told to do the measurements and take the medication in the morning. Whilst I do this I am hoping to be able to do short video diaries to try and help me remember, reflect and make note of any changes, adverse side effects and if I find the medication is working for me. When I began writing this I was also waiting for the final appointment for an autism diagnosis which I have now had and been diagnosed with so some of these things contradict each other a little where the ADHD part of my brain and the Autistic part of my brain are sort of at war with each other. However, there have absolutely been times where they have combined and magic has happened – if I find a special interest hyperfocus that benefits my life such as blogging here and being able to freelance as a writer – that is just something that has been a real blessing.