I have ADHD

For most of my life, I’ve felt like an outsider. Bullied in elementary and high school. Having trouble connecting with my peers. Having trouble with most classes in school. Dropping out of university. Pursuing entrepreneurship as a way to set my own rules, work on new projects and take back some control.

When I first read about ADHD, almost ten years ago, I shrugged it off because I wasn’t especially hyperactive. I wouldn’t be running around each day with endless energy. That’s how I understood what it meant. I didn’t dig deeper. I probably should’ve.

About five years ago, I was in a bad place, mentally. I still thought this is how everyone else feels, just that other people can handle it better than I did. I didn’t seek help. I probably should’ve.

Another year passed and I read someone sharing their experience as an undiagnosed adult with ADHD, who finally got a diagnosis at a late age. Their experience matched mine so closely, I decided to look into it more. However, I was still afraid I’m just lazy and trying to come up with an excuse for myself. Thankfully my yearly checkup was coming up. At the end of it, my GP asked if I had anything else ailing me. Somehow I was able to overcome my anxiety and I voiced my concern that I might have ADHD. I didn’t plan on telling my GP that, I wasn’t prepared, it all happened at that moment. When they asked what symptoms I have that led me to that concern, I blanked. The only “symptoms” I could remember, were the feelings I was experiencing right at the moment. Of course, I mentioned I’m forgetful, and I can’t remember the symptoms. But the main feeling I did explain was anxiety. Unfortunately “being forgetful” wasn’t enough and I was only prescribed anxiety medicine. My GP explained that forgetfulness often goes hand in hand with anxiety and reducing it will probably help with it.

I didn’t press more on it, I took the anxiety medicine and hoped for the best. And it did help with my anxiety. I was finally able to go to a counter and order food without crushing anxiety. Without needing to prepare all possible ways the conversation (ordering fast food) could go. It was freeing, it made me more patient, and it was easier to handle stress at work. It didn’t help with my ADHD symptoms and I told my GP that. They advised me to keep track of the symptoms and if I still feel strongly about it, they could try helping me find a specialist. They warned me that even when diagnosed, there wasn’t much to be done because a stimulant medication isn’t legal in Europe. Their tone was also dismissive and it made me more afraid and anxious about seeking out a specialist.

I’ve been putting it off for more than three years. Mainly being scared of hearing “you’re just lazy”, “you just have to try harder” or “you just want to score some meds”. But also scared of finding a burnt-out specialist who might be mean and wouldn’t want to help. Thankfully I met many wonderful people at Droidcon conferences, who shared their experiences and listened to mine. They helped alleviate a lot of those fears and I’m forever thankful to them.

It’s been a month since I got my formal ADHD diagnosis. I’ve been taking stimulant medication and wondering if it works or if it’s just a placebo. After a month, I hope it’s not a placebo, I hope I just didn’t have a “good month”. I hope I got lucky and the medication works for me. If it works, it’s not a miracle cure though. It helps lower the mental effort required to do menial tasks, the mental effort required to switch from one state to another (like putting on clothes and going out). I’m still forgetful, and I still drop the ball way too much. “Out of sight, out of mind” is still going strong. All the little things I came up with to help before being diagnosed, I still need them and I still need to look out for more. And that’s okay.

Before I wrap this up, I wanted to share the feelings I expected to have, the feelings I had, and how they evolved during this first month. I’m not kidding myself, I know I’m writing this post mainly for myself. But if you stumbled upon this post and you’re seeking a diagnosis, or recently got one, you might feel similarly. And it’s important to know, you’re not alone. I had my friends with whom I could share it and hear what they felt. Let me be one of those friends to you.

All the years when I wanted to seek a specialist, I expected to feel relief if they tell me I have it. I thought I’d feel some of the overall guilt be washed away by the revelation. If I’m honest with myself, deep down I also hoped for some vindication for all the berating, teacher’s notes, and bad grades.

I couldn’t be farther from the truth though. The first two feelings after hearing that I do have ADHD were guilt and regret. I felt very conflicted. On one hand, the feeling of guilt, because I must’ve misrepresented something, surely I’d manipulated the specialist to give me the diagnosis. There’s definitely something obvious that I’ve omitted during the process. Something lurking just behind the corner that’d made the specialist see what a fraud I really am. The other feeling is a regret of not overcoming all the fears and anxieties sooner. If the specialist is right, and I’m not just a fraud, I could’ve known sooner. I could’ve felt safe accessing resources meant for people with ADHD without feeling like an imposter.

I’m glad I shared these feelings with my friends. They made me see it’s common to feel this way after the diagnosis. It’s one of the many things to work on. To try and accept it without sliding into using ADHD as an excuse. Realizing that the symptoms and experiences are real and they have a negative effect on your life. It might be small, or it might be huge, but the negative effect is there. Just because other people have more severe symptoms, it doesn’t make your struggles any less valid. I’m still at the beginning of my journey to acceptance. I don’t know what my brain and body have in store for me. Previously, when I struggled with something, I’d try and think of a solution or a workaround that’d help my case and move on. Now I try to pause and make sure I know it’s a symptom of ADHD, before finding a solution and moving on. It helps to use it to show yourself that maybe, just maybe, you’re not the imposter you think you are.

Tadeas Kriz @Tadeas