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Staff sharing their take on: having ADHD

This Mental Health Awareness Week, one of our team shares their experience of having ADHD. Here’s what they said.

In 2021, I was diagnosed with ADHD… And I was relieved.

I don’t remember much about growing up, but apparently I was hard work. I was loud, I could never sit still, I was badly behaved and I was permanently distracted. Well, I remember being told I was all of the above by parents and teachers, at least. “Georgia, pack it in. Stop fidgeting. Pay attention. Sit still. You’re being too loud. It’s not hard to understand. What are you doing?” And my personal favourite, “what’s wrong with you?!” Not to mention that I HATED change, so doing anything different resulted in a temper tantrum. I’d never go over to my friend’s house for dinner, I didn’t like going to different shops, I would be furious if things in my room were moved, and if my regular tv shows weren’t on? Well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

I struggled mentally too. I could read, but it was difficult; I knew what the words said, but my brain wasn’t processing what they meant. Life always felt loud as well, as though my ability to hear had been turned up to 100 and I could hear everything all at once. I could hear dogs panting, people eating, knives and forks scraping, and the tv sounded as though it would burst an ear drum. It would all get too much. My whole body would tense, like my veins were slowly turning to stone. Eventually, I’d burst into a fit of rage or I’d cry. I developed comorbid obsessive compulsive behaviours too; I’d constantly wash my hands until they were red raw, I’d turn light switches on and off for a certain number of times, I couldn’t have food touching on my plate, I’d never walk on cracks in pavements – the list goes on. On top of that, I had quite severe emotional dysregulation; my emotions were just SO disproportionate to the situation in front of me. It was EXHAUSTING.

As I got older, I really began to notice that my brain didn’t function the same as my peers. It was as though the neurons were firing but not making the same pathways. I’d struggle to form sentences, like my brain was too busy skipping to the next thing to finish what it just started. I couldn’t watch TV without subtitles because I’d struggle to process what I’d just watched. I realised I didn’t like starting new series or films because I’d struggle adjusting to new characters. I’d be permanently on at my friends to do something because I had this incessant need to do a fun activity. I had no sense of responsibility or repercussions either. I ended up with credit card debt from careless spending, broken bones from reckless decisions, and losing friendships because I struggled to maintain them.

I was known for starting things and never finishing them, so much so that it became a long-running joke in my family. Friends would dismiss my panicked ‘I can’t find my phone’ because they knew it would always turn up. It might sound trivial, but it felt like I was permanently being dismissed and not listened to. I began to feel useless, like I wasn’t capable of doing or achieving anything. I started to feel like everyone was right. I’d lost count of how many times I said I’d do something and didn’t, how many times I started something but never finished it, all the times I forgot birthdays, deadlines and appointments or turned up late to things, even my exams.

Every day was exhausting. Processing the world was difficult and every day I just felt more and more broken. I began to give up on myself because what was the point? Nobody believed I could do anything anyway, so why even try? I ended up becoming this person that I didn’t really know, someone that didn’t feel like me. I was full of self-doubt, self-loathing and permanently confused. Why did I struggle so much?

I ended up going to my GP because I was fed up with feeling ‘wrong’, like I was broken and useless. I knew there was something wrong, I just didn’t know what. I tried to verbalise how I was feeling and what I was experiencing, and my GP suggested that I was struggling with depression. This didn’t sit right with me though; I’ve seen first-hand the impact that depression can have on people and that wasn’t happening to me. Eventually, I was referred to a psychologist who I worked with for 16 weeks. This experience was an absolute whirlwind, but the main thing that came out of it was her suggestion to undergo an assessment for ADHD. This is something that I went on to do and haven’t regretted since.

The process itself was difficult; it felt like a character assassination. I had to openly talk about all of my struggles and all the things that made me feel ‘wrong’. My family and friends were involved in the process too, and it just felt as though they were criticizing me, pinpointing all my flaws.

But after that, I was formally diagnosed with ADHD by a psychiatrist… and I was relieved. Suddenly, everything started to make sense. I had a reason I was the way I was; I wasn’t broken at all. After processing this, I began to understand myself more and that feeling of self-loathing started to dissipate. I wasn’t useless – I’d just spent my entire life navigating a world that wasn’t designed for me.

Don’t get me wrong, none of my ‘symptoms’ have ever really gone away. I just think I’ve gotten better at recognising them and dealing with them. Yes, I wish I’d gotten a diagnosis sooner, but I’m grateful to have it now. I’ve seen a vast improvement in my mental health because life finally makes sense. I’ve been able to identify and address triggers, ultimately helping me curb some of my self-sabotaging behaviours. I also think there’s more awareness around different disorders now and that feels like a giant leap forward. Having people in your life, whether that’s family, friends or colleagues, that understand makes a massive difference, and I’m grateful that I’ve received nothing but support. I have a new sense of clarity now because I no longer feel broken or useless. I’ve been able to really think about my life, create new goals and stick to them. I’ve found that having ADHD doesn’t define who I am, its helped me to understand.

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