Adult ADHD: Breaking The Stereotype
“ADHD is all in your head” Well you’re not technically wrong my friend, my dude, my pal. You see ADHD is a MENTAL disorder and as such with all MENTAL disorders its stands that they are in fact IN MY HEAD. You ignorant soggy carrot.” – Riley
Recently I was diagnosed with the adult form of attention deficit hyperactive disorder a.k.a. ADHD. At first I was in denial because I have always associated ADHD with undisciplined, impulsive children who have trouble paying attention however I also believed that ADHD was something that one grows out of by adulthood. So to say the least, being diagnosed at almost 20 years old seemed a little incredulous.
Over the past few weeks I have been working out what being ADHD means for myself and breaking my own stereotypes about it. I have been prescribed Concerta (36 mg) to take in the mornings and Ritalin (10 mg) for the evenings to manage the ‘Concerta Crash‘. It was a really interesting step for me to decide to medicate this disorder as I have always thought of ADHD medication as a cop-out for naughty kids. When I was in junior school more than half my class was on ADHD medication so you could say that I am rather cynical.
I have grown up with the understanding that exercise, lots of water & sleep and healthy eating are the cure to almost everything (which they are), especially in managing how you feel. But in the last three years I have found that even when I am most dedicated to being healthy I still display the symptoms. Even exercise, which used to get rid of all my anxiety, now simply exhausts me and often leaves me feeling irritable instead of pumped after a good gym session.
After some consultation, in fact many months of help, the hints of depression and bipolar seemed to be only another symptom and not the cause of my increasing social anxiety and crippling self consciousness. I was having frequent periods of what I now refer to as ‘casual existential despair’ which always end with me crying my eyes out, continuously and awkwardly apologising to those around me and then ending with a sadness nap. However after expressing my emotions I either feel much better (but guilty for making a scene) or incredibly raw, vulnerable and pessimistic.
These ‘casual existential despair’ episodes can come out of nowhere or build for weeks. The reason I initially sought the help of a psychologist was because the periods in between each episode were getting smaller and smaller until I was expecting to have one every day.
I now know that the anxiety that I have dealt with my entire life is a symptom of unmanaged ADHD and funnily enough, I am now in recovery from burnout. “Burnout you say?”. Yes, in fact my coping skills while at school were pretty efficient as I had the security of my family and the routine of school life. However, when I came to university all of my safety nets fell away and the crazies started to show. The coping skills I developed were actually just evasion as I was avoiding dealing with the issue at hand. I had dogmatically labeled myself as a drama queen and a highly sensitive person and tried to ignore the guilt of needing lots of attention and feeling like I had no backbone or perseverance. Luckily though, I have an incredibly supportive network of friends and, with some external help, I am learning how to develop life-long coping mechanisms.
However it’s not all doom and gloom! Having ADHD comes with many benefits…
People who suffer from ADHD are scientifically proven to have better taste in music and an incredibly well developed sense of humour 😉 . But despite those, there are many other useful advantages…
Although it may seem to be a contradiction, people with ADHD have the ability to zero in intensely on an interesting project or activity for hours on end.
We feel deeply, very f*cking deeply.
“It is both a blessing And a curse To feel everything So very deeply.” – David Jones
Because of our impulsive natures, we are known to often go on spontaneous adventures. Even if it means driving down the road to get food, that’s an adventure right?
Let’s not get into how ADHD “inspires” OCD…
Overwhelming enthusiasm and motivation
ADHDers have a lot of motivation and drive which often inspires others to get involved – our energy is contagious.
Because ADHD people make seemingly obscure connections between things, it allows us to harness our creative side in strange and wonderful ways. Linda Roggli enlightens us by saying, “The associations in my head are one-of-a-kind. If my brain thinks of life insurance policies and bicycle warranties the same way, that’s how I file them. When I return to that folder, I’ll find them both. Whatever works for us, right?”
A Sparkling Personality
Well, this really does go without saying 😉 According to ADDitude, “ADHDers are bright, creative, and funny”.
|| Change of topic, how appropriate while discussing ADHD ||
Tumblr is hilarious
One of the strangest places that I have found meaningful ADHD support is on Tumblr. If you are able to sift through the many ramblings there are some very funny posts that accurately describe how it feels to have ADHD. Although, one has to make sure not to fall into the trap of self pity…
Here are 3 posts that I have found that resonate with me:
If you want to see more of my silly Tumblr posts (including the occasion raunchy photo and tons of art) follow my Tumblr blog here: http://oliviaearth.tumblr.com/.
So, where to now? Management and Plans for the Future
I have decided not to talk about my ADHD in public any more as it is very tiring constantly having to defend myself. This is because when I discuss my symptoms and the seemingly small things which overwhelm me, most people can relate on a certain level. This trivialises my feelings and ends up reducing my condition to me simply looking ‘sensitive’. “Oh no way dude, I also feel like that sometimes”, exactly, SOMETIMES. Not ALL the time. That’s what sets us apart…(okay, the rant is over).
Much to my surprise, I am not in any rush to stop taking my meds. They are incredibly helpful in allowing me to engage in conversation without getting distracted or becoming self conscious. And, they enable me to get the boring and menial tasks done – I actually can’t describe to you how terrifying the concept of boredom is to me. FYI, there are many adults who have ADHD that do not need or take medication for it – this may still be a way off for me.
Unfortunately I am battling to put into words what my current strategies are for managing my ADHD. However, recently I have found that when I am working, if I keep a notebook or sticky notes near me then every time I have a new idea, question or epiphany I can write it down and be disciplined about only engaging with it later. This helps me not to get completely and utterly side tracked.
**If you are concerned that you have ADHD, you should reach out to a clinical psychiatrist**
To conclude, I want to express that I am a long way from being comfortable in my own skin. And that is okay. I am learning new things about myself everyday and it is exciting to see how I am developing. I still have bad days, really bad days, but I am now able to identify that these pass and each morning when I wake up after an episode, I feel stronger.
Please share you ADHD stories with me! What are YOUR coping mechanisms?