Residing with ADHD Obscured: A Secret Analysis Revealed
I only recently learned that I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. You read that right.
The tell-tale ADHD symptoms that had been with me all my life – hyperactivity, distractibility, impulsiveness, inattention, insomnia, restlessness, and hyperfocus (to the point of obsession) – actually led to a diagnosis of ADHD at some point in my childhood. But my diagnosis was withheld from me for many, many years.
Because of this, even though I had obvious signs of ADHD, I never suspected I had the disease. I thought it was just “who I was”. Until I grew up – when the consequences of not knowing almost destroyed me.
My ADHD: A Secret That Is Kept
The philosophy of adults and teachers during my childhood was to exacerbate and punish a child’s symptoms negatively – or at least that is how it felt. Regardless of my ADHD diagnosis, this approach only left me more confused, alienated, and insecure. It eventually destroyed my confidence and my ability to be a happy kid. By the age of 10, I was often sad and began to isolate myself from others.
Even though I got through elementary school, university presented a whole new challenge that I wasn’t prepared for. Within a year, I fell behind, couldn’t concentrate, and felt unmotivated. In the second year I had significantly reduced my course load. And in the third year, I dropped out of college because I felt disaffected with higher education.
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My student years were characterized by sadness, shame and poor performance. I often walked around town feeling completely lost and unsure of my future. Why couldn’t I do my job? Why wasn’t I motivated? Why would my brain never shut down? Why did I feel like I was being pulled in a million different directions all the time?
Even though I eventually went back to school and even went to college, I still struggled to get through. I found myself getting too involved in everything as my stress built up – school, work, parental expectations, relationships, “growing up.” When you live with ADHD (known or unknown) it is easy to get overwhelmed by the complexities of life. For me, this excessive demand turned into anxiety and panic attacks.
The ADHD truth is coming to light
After a severe depressive phase in graduate school, I finally decided to get help. I ended up having an open discussion with my family about my struggles over the years. Then they revealed the news that would change my life: At 32, I learned that I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child.
I started connecting the dots in my life of all the things that made me at odds with the world. I looked at old certificates and sent a few emails to specialists. I had to know. I needed confirmation – was that really it?
[Read: Was ADHD to Blame All Along?]
To the ADHD naysayers
Do I wish I had found out about my ADHD sooner? Absolutely. Have I done my best to mask the symptoms of my condition over the years so that they appear “more normal” or “neurotypical”? Yes – almost every day of my life. And in my 30s, I’m just starting to get into the treatment and therapy of ADHD.
But with my belated revelation, I can also wholeheartedly say – especially to those who don’t consider ADHD a real condition – that it is absolutely real and not a joke.
Before I found out about my ADHD diagnosis, much of my life felt like I was running a race with concrete blocks around my waist. This is what life feels like for many people with ADHD, and this is where treatments like medication and therapy come in that can save us tons of anger and suffering. But not everyone needs these interventions. In the end, it is a personal decision that is best made under the guidance of a doctor.
For the naysayers out there who continue to neglect decades of evidence and research, you’re only helping trivialize a fairly serious condition. By doing this, you reduce the likelihood that people (like me) will be properly diagnosed and informed about treatment options. Speak to anyone who has a late or missed diagnosis of ADHD and they will tell you that knowing and having a choice is much better than living with no knowledge and no choice.
Living With ADHD: The Next Steps
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