Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult
I have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and I really don’t mind admitting it.
How did I come to know I had ADHD you ask? Well, I guess I had always known I had it, atleast from the time I learnt about this disorder. But it took me all these years to actually accept it and decide it was high time I reached out for help. Before that:
I’d like to call ADHD an inconvenience rather than a disorder, because you know…who likes to have a mental disorder?
Back to the story
After the dark year in my life that was 2015, it was all downhill for me for a very long time. I was flung hard into depression, and the depression slowly started messing with my head more and more. Generally, I am a girl of determination and great resolve (I’d like to think so!). But after this incident it was getting harder and harder to get back to my normal self.
So I looked up a psychologist who could help with adult ADHD. Once I found one (a really good one!) I went right to her and got myself tested. Even befor ethe test was administered, she said she could see the signs of ADHD in me. And sure enough, after the test, she confirmes it.
When I told her I was a doctoral student in quantitative methods, she said and I quote, “I am surprised you’ve made it this far without help!”
Because, even if ADHD is not a “disease” per se, it can still meddle with your life in many ways, such as:
1.Makes you an absolute disaster at planning schedules: For the life of me, I have never been able to plan well. I do better when I’m spontaneous. However, I know also that it cannot work all the time. So I started using numerous alarms. I have also been embarrassed by them many a time. 😅
2. Being another big disaster at managing time: This is another aspect of life that I have never been able to get better at. I guess everyone says this has happened to them many times. But this happens to me every sngle time! I “plan” to spend my time in a certain way, and then I get carried away, so much that sometimes I even forget what I had planned to do! But my OCD for punctuality has helped me here. Whenever I get homework or projects or assignments with deadlines, I impose personal deadlines that are one day before the official deadline. I keep multiple reminders with my personal deadline on them. Sometimes I end up believing my personal dealdines are official! But that never hurt me. Without this, my life would be a downward spiral in the punctuality/reliability area.
3. Poor attention: To put it in other words, I read three to four books at the same time. I sometimes wonder how I even keep track of the plots and characters. Each day of my life involves making silly mistakes (be it in my tests, in planning my day, or making commitments with people) and overwhelming myself with too much to do and too little time. One big reason for this is Forgetfulness. I can hardly sit through a class that stretches beyond 45 minutes. And 45 minutes is only possible if I absolutely love the subject/topic.
And let me tell you when I am most troubled by poor attention: When I have an argument with someone, and somewhere down the line I forget what I was arguing about! I simply forget my point! 😒 I need to find sentences to stall the other person until I recollect my argument!!! Winning such arguments is nothing less than a feat!
4.Forgetfulness: In my head, very few people have their names and faces matched. I hardly remember people, names, numbers, tasks, meetings, anything. I have countless alarms on my phone, one for each task. I live by them. But there is one place where alarms fail - in conversations.
When I am in a conversation, and have something to say, I need to say it at the moment it occurs to me. Otherwise I forget it. And if the point I need to make is worth it, I cut people in (I know, very very rude!), and make my point. I apologise for it after making the point, but I still feel bad about it. The price you pay for forgetfulness! 😕
5.Impulsiveness: Another problematic aspect of ADHD. This one is worse than the forgetfulness. It could be dangerous to not just the people having ADHD, but also to the people around them. Implulsiveness in this context involves:
- interrupting others during a conversation
- being socially inappropriate
- rushing through tasks
- acting without much consideration to the consequences
Most of the signs that manifest in me relate to the first and the third. Sometimes I also bottle up all my emotions and then for a reason totally irrelevant I burst out and take things to the extreme. Then things get super weird between me and those people. I know it is unfair, and I am sorry, but I don’t know how to turn it off. Some people who believe I have my heart in the right place, still like me after the incident. Grateful!! 🙏
But it is hard to explain these things to people who are not sensitive about mental or neurological disorders/inconveniences.
6. Hopeless in prioritising things in life: self explanatory 😛
I had, many times, to choose among reading a book by Murakami, finishing a blog, attending a video lecture, and… I forget what else! I simply postpone the decision of prioritising, or forget what I had prioritised. I end up missing out on what I HAD to do, and instead, I do what I could have done later. I miss the video lecture, which is probably very important, and instead, sit with Murakami (❤️).
7.Lack of focus: this is actually the reason for point 3. People with ADHD have the hardest time concentrating, and often perform poorly at school/university/wherever concentration becomes necessary. This might come across to others as being uninterested in the task at hand, or as being unintelligent.
It also becomes very difficult for these people to follow through instructions. Hence doing anything that involves an algorithm or a “how to do” becomes very difficult for us to do. It has been a real struggle for me, specially while coding programs for my coursework and thesis. Also, when my laptop crashes or something like that, I almost always find the website which says what to do, but can never finish doing what needs to be done. 😦
This is precisely why after years of training in Indian classical music, I really can’t recognise ragas, or even remember them in the first place. The same with yoga, with all the instructions, and steps and the breathing! I hate it!!
8.This one is super ironic — Hyperfocus (when it comes to a few things). Also, this is true in my case. The more effortless something seems to me, the more interesting it becomes. Also, the more freedom I have in learning something, the more I can focus on learning it. It is easier for me to play a certain sport when I try figuring out as I play, than me going to a coach and experience all the fun being sucked out of it.
Another reason for Hyperfocus could be fascination. Because that is my explanation for doing well when it comes to learning languages. Well, these are partly my explanations for the hyperfocus. I dare not ask my psychologist, for I might end up with another disorder! 😛
9. Short temper: Everyone who knows me is well acquainted with this problem I have. I have a short temper. And sometimes I don’t even know why it works up. It screws me over at times. And after these bouts of rage, I try to explain to myself why I am such a pathetic person. It is very unpredictable what and who might piss me off…even for me. I have been trying for a very long time to consciously control my temper, but it is still a long way to go.
10.Restlessness and anxiety: This will be the death of me. Every person who has met me has had pinned me down to be a restless person. This includes my parents. Even they think I am a restless, impatient person.
I agree. I seem impatient from my behaviour, but actually I am not. I just don’t enjoy waiting. That does not mean I am impatient. I am just scared I would lose interest in my work if I take too long in completing it. I hate leaving anything unfinished, and I cannot do something that I have no interest in.
And anxiety! It is ever existent. Anxious about everything-exams especially. Nothing freaks me out more than someone telling me a particular test counts. I swear, everytime I have convinced myself that a test I am about to take doesn’t matter one bit, I have done really, really well. But the problem is, I can’t successfully convince myself of the insignificance of a test as frequently as I have to write them! 😦
Fear of failure is a strong trigger to anxiety. Be it exams, sports, a challenge (silly, I know, still!), or even life.
Anxiety is also commonplace when I have to travel. I need to keep checking each ten minutes to see if my ID cards, my purse (and the money and cards that have to be in it), my ticket, and my bottle of water are with me. If I happen to search for more than five seconds without successfully reaching my purse, I will have an equivalent of a mini heart attack!
I keep wondering if this is how I will die. Worrying about a missing something. Sigh!
11.Poor Self Image: Considering all the above problems associated with ADHD, a lower self image is almost inevitable. Always in self doubt, always trying to find a reason to blame myself for all that went wrong with me/my friends/family. It is a harrowing feeling.
So, my psychologist has started working on this bit first- adjusting my attitude towards myself. I am hoping it helps though (you see, I am very sceptical about these things. It is hard for me to believe that listening to a person’s problems can help change the person for the better).
12. Emotional problems: Don’t even get me started on them. People with ADHD generally experience depression. Getting bored with things makes them chase a lot of things looking for something to pique their interest.
Even the smallest frustration can cause huge outrages and violent mood swings. And stress is the close cousin of emotional problems. I am sure the ill effects of stress need not be spelt out.
The biggest bummer in such cases is that people with ADHD have problems managing stress. Is there any respite at all!?
Anyway, after this long list and pouring my heart out about the whole craziness going on in my head, I want to make one thing clear. Having this problem is not something I enjoy. But it isn’t something I expect a quick fix for. I just want some consideration from those people in my life who have passed premature judgements on me. I want some empathy from those people who love me, but have been hurt by me or have had difficulties getting their word across.
I didn’t really know what to do about the way I was before. But now that I am mindful of my behaviour, I will try my best to work on them- making sure it doesn’t bother me, or the ones around me.