adventures in adhd
On Hallowe'en 2020, the most accursed day in this most accursed year, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The news was a shock, but not a surprise. With a lifetime of being told off for not keeping still, speaking too fast, and reading about coal seam fires for six-hour stretches at the expense of doing chores behind me, it was easy for me to come to terms with the idea there was something "going on". I wasn't prepared for the post-diagnosis euphoria ('Finally, an answer!!!') and I certainly wasn't prepared for the post-diagnosis-euphoria slump ('I am irreparably damaged forever!!!'). I've been doing my best to make sense of what this diagnosis means in real money and the only solid answers I can come up with are:
- I need more help than the average person to organise myself and my thoughts, and to stay on task.
- Most people don't know how to give me that help.
- Some wouldn't if they could because there's a lot of misinformation about ADHD out there, also some people are just terrible and say things like 'hr hr hr akshully it's made up' despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
- Actually, I don't even know what to ask for. Where does me being generally incapable end and ADHD begin?
Everyone reading this knows what it's like to procrastinate and get distracted. I know what it's like to be sad sometimes, but that doesn't mean I can understand depression from the inside. The degree of the 'impairment' is key, and I am nothing if not impaired at the moment. You can pull it out of the bag when you have to, I fall into the fucking bag and don't come out again until I've picked up 19 new hobbies, had a panic attack, signed up to three new Zoom language classes and changed career. The mildest criticism feels like the end of the world to me. This is a shame because I am criticised regularly for a variety of reasons, all stemming from my brain chemistry being a bit light on the dopamine.
So I have a disorder that leads me to behave in ways that elicit frequent critiques from people while also making it next to impossible to handle any criticism. It's not exactly what you'd call 'fair'.
With this new diagnosis, I now have to advocate for myself as a person with ADHD. I hate the idea of having to ask for help, I HATE having to lay out in detail how that help should look to unsuspecting members of the public who have their own troubles to deal with, and I really hate that I've been lumbered with a brain that is locked in an endless struggle while also giving the impression that it's doing absolutely fuck all. I am as yet unmedicated and, I can tell you now, my memory is a myth. I cannot recall facts, figures, gossip or directions. If I don't reply to a message then and there it might as well not exist. Trying hard, while valiant, doesn't work. If mere effort could solve my problems, I wouldn't be forgetting basic instructions and finding myself increasingly subject to talking about my brain as if it's utterly separate from my body, which is how it feels most days. "My brain is playing up today" or "I just can't seem to get through to my brain today" are things I say often. It probably looks baffling. It certainly feels baffling to me.
I start medication in a few days, pending some test results. If anyone has tips for handling that, do give me a shout using the email in the 'about' section or on Twitter. If you're wondering about getting an ADHD diagnosis and want to speak to me about how I handled mine, don't be shy. Please don't expect a very timely response, for obvious reasons. I will get around to it eventually.
Here are some resources that are helping me to find my place on this new, twitchy plane.
How to ADHD
ADHD: Essential Ideas for Parents
ADD/ADHD | What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder
Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood
Job Accommodation Network
Access to Work