I was about 18 or 19. I had got heavily into clubbing culture and substances to escape the horror of my high school days, general reality, and to not deal with the fact I was becoming a worst case scenario in terms of what I wanted my life to be like.
During this time I had someone suggest to me when amphetamines and cocaine didn’t seem to work for me like they did for other people that perhaps I was “ADHD”. All I knew about ADHD at this point (being around 2001/2002) was that it was a hyperactive boys condition that they grew out of, as this was the dominant perspective at the time. I wasn’t that hyperactive at all. I still barely am except for stimming due to AutisticADHD combo.
Wait… this sounds like me?
In 2009 I attended University and studied Psychology. During one of the introduction courses there is a section on ADHD. I read a lot more into it. I become convinced this is me. I start researching using my freely accessible academic library. The descriptions are TOO accurate – I say that instead I am trying to make excuses for why my life has been so hard.
Maybe I should do something about it…
In 2010, after six months to a year of deliberation I decide to do something, as ‘treating’ my depression isn’t doing anything. I get up the courage to ask my doctor. They tell me it’s unlikely after a few sessions I get enough confidence to tell them to refer me to the public health system to get a diagnosis.
I gathered up all my evidence. My school reports all read like a stereotypical ADHD child – “potential”, “needs to focus”, “would be a good student if they could apply themselves”. I had a lot to reinforce to me that I was a lazy piece of trash with no willpower. What they didn’t know is that masking was taking up all my willpower – just to appear “present” in class. I was also being bullied, and being hypervigilant as a defence meant that I rarely could focus in class.
I took more evidence than anyone would ever need. On the day of my appointment approximately six months later, the psychiatrist doesn’t even look at my notes. They tell me it’s my existing depression and put me on Venlafaxine. A drug that destroyed my life for six weeks by:
a) causing me to traumatise myself during a period of dissociation
b) giving me full central nervous system zaps everytime I moved
c) giving me relentless suicide ideation from the moment I woke up
d) making me have a ton of gastric distress
e) making me so lightheaded I couldn’t think at all
I reported all these side effects to my doctor, and was told to persist. It took about 2-3 months to finally get the drug out of my system. I know now I had serotonin shock syndrome – one of the least known conditions in the medical field. I was lucky I didn’t die.
This also had a compounding effect of making me internalise everything bad I believed about myself. I was a lazy, stupid, crazy piece of trash. I did have no willpower. I did want to hurt people by forgetting things. I did deserve to fail in life due to this. I was a broken person. This ultimately led to massive complications with Crohn’s Disease which meant I had to drop out of University multiple times with no refund.
2013 – Hyperfocus isn’t working
In 2013 I am in a Software Engineering degree – I am doing well generally but for some things I just cannot focus no matter how much I try and will myself to. I have a new doctor and I tell them I want to be assessed for ADHD again. There’s one doctor in the whole Auckland region who is able to diagnose and prescribe medication for Adult ADHD. I book an appointment, only after my doctor tells me that it’s likely they will just say I have it, as they do it too frequently in their opinion.
I take all my evidence, have a 3 hour assessment that involves a TOVA test, interview with my wife, myself, and looking at my academic, work, and life history. At the end of the session I am diagnosed with ‘moderate’ ADHD-C. They prescribe Ritalin and give me a pamphlet on the Christian faith to help. I feel a brief moment of relief, before the doubt comes back and I doubt I have it.
The first time I fill my script for Ritalin – the pharmacist asks me whether I need it as “this doctor just prescribes it to anyone”. This absolutely destroyed my confidence in my diagnosis. I have moral scrupulosity OCD – so I thought I had lied somehow to get treatment and I was drug seeker.
2013-2019 – Constant Doubt / Ineffective Meds
Due to the doubt sown by the medical profession – I don’t truly believe I have it. What compounds this is that the chemical in Ritalin and the various other mechanisms they prescribe Methylphenidate isn’t working. I try so many different release mechanisms, brands, for 6 years I am trying desperately to ‘cure’ my ADHD. It’s not working.
On top of this there is a ‘superpower’ narrative that is the mainstream pro-ADHD help advice at this time. I don’t feel like I have a superpower, most days I hate myself for being an ADHDer. I hate this about me.
In 2019 – I am advised that my current prescribing doctor can no longer see me. I have to get reassessed. I am diagnosed again with ADHD-C. I discuss trying the alternative – Dexamfetamine. The result is instantaneous – I have to adjust my meds to get the dosage right but I can finally overcome a lot of ADHD challenges.
I see an @ADHD_Alien Twitter comic one day and realise that there’s a lot more ways that ADHD influences me that I do not know about, not only that, but struggling is ok too! I have a community that understands me. I start to advocate about the fact I have it – I start to actually accept this is who I am – my life improves a lot.
SELF-IDENTIFICATION IS VALID. I wouldn’t have a diagnosis without it. With correct medication and self-acceptance my life has become far better.
Daily blog challenge
October is here usually known as ‘ADHD Awareness Month’ – but IMO we ADHDers deserve more than that – we deserve acceptance. We need to be listened to, we need realistic accommodations, and help. We need to start moving toward ADHD Pride Month. People should be able to feel proud of being ADHDers, because the alternative is shame.
For the next 31 days I will be writing every day on being an ADHDer using this list of prompts:
- Day 1: Introduction
- Day 2: What I love about being an ADHDer is…
- Day 3: My Identification/Discovery Story
- Day 4: Reactions to Identification
- Day 5: Hobby Graveyard
- Day 6: Supports and Appreciation
- Day 7: The ADHDer Community
- Day 8: Favourite ADHDer Blogs/Comics
- Day 9: Favourite ADHD Owned Business
- Day 10: Sensory Seeking/Aversion
- Day 11: Fidgets and Stims
- Day 12: Favourite ADHD Charity
- Day 13: Family
- Day 14: Order from Chaos
- Day 15: Everyone Should Know
- Day 16: Work/School
- Day 17: ADHD People I Admire
- Day 18: Someday…
- Day 19: I Love it When…
- Day 20: Communication Style
- Day 21: One thing other people don’t understand…
- Day 22: Dispel a myth
- Day 23: Can’t Live without…
- Day 24: ADHD Political Issue
- Day 25: Symbols
- Day 26: Favourite ADHD Book
- Day 27: Identity Language
- Day 28: Dealing with Boredom
- Day 29: Favourite Memes
- Day 30: Hyperfocus
- Day 31: Acceptance Means…