Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which executive function is disrupted and/or poorly regulated causing behavioural and emotional control issues. This can present as:
- Difficulty with appropriately applying their attention. “Deficit” is a misnomer that suggests people with ADHD cannot pay attention at all, but it’s more of an inability to shift or divide attention when necessary. People with ADHD can sometimes pay SO MUCH attention that they hyperfocus. Distractability, forgetfulness, disorganisation, finding it difficult to follow instructions or conversations, making “careless” mistakes, and being a daydreamer are also symptoms of inattentiveness.
- Physical & mental hyperactivity. It’s fairly well-known that ADHD causes physical hyperactivity as exhibited by the stereotype of fidgety little boys bouncing off walls, but thoughts that just won’t quit are also a feature of ADHD, especially in women. Fidgeting, excessive talking, difficulty staying on task, always needing to be doing something, and sensory overwhelm are also symptoms of hyperactivity.
- Impulsivity. Being unable to adequately control attention and hyperactivity means those with ADHD are often impulsive, making rash decisions that someone without the brain zoomies would be able to take some time to think about first. Interrupting others, inappropriate emotional reactions, acting without prior thought, impatience and risk-taking behaviours are also symptoms of impulsivity.
There are three types of ADHD, based on these groups of symptoms. You can be diagnosed as predominately inattentive, predominately hyperactive-impulsive or combined, which has symptoms of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive. I have the combined type, although my hyperactive-impulsive symptoms are more prominent and more of a ~problem~ than my inattentive ones.
Because of society’s expectations that everyone can effectively implement the executive functioning skills we’re taught as we grow up, ADHD can be quite the disabling experience in all areas of life. Eventually, the inability to meet expectations can lead to burnout and in some cases, the development of chronic illness. That’s where I live. I feel as though my undiagnosed ADHD put so much strain on my body that my immune system decided to just give up on me.
Below is a ~quick~ timeline of my ADHD journey, including events that I believe were tied to my ADHD before diagnosis. If you’re interested in my full story in detail, please see the My Story series of blog entries.
My ADHD Timeline
Because ADHD is most likely genetic, the very act of being born was likely how I ended up with ADHD. 🙃
I watch my grandmother pass away, and it is assumed I develop depression from this event.
I start school. I do extremely well academically, but I develop behavioural problems. I am tested for various things, but never ADHD.
I spend my primary school years emotionally dysregulated with no real help, but I compensate with my intelligence.
I am now old enough to medication to ~control~ my “depression”. It doesn’t really help, but I have unconciously learnt to mask by this point.
I let my mask slip at a new school and get bullied so severely for being “weird” that I have to leave. I start Correspondence School.
Without the structure of regular school, I struggled to give a shit and end up not finishing my final year of school. I start working to save up for special admission to university.
After getting a year of CBT, I am told I no longer have depression, but the process makes me question whether I ever had it to begin with.
After a year of chronic illness, I have to stop working. I have spent all of my university money on my health.
I go to university. I rack up a lot of debt and it takes me 2.5 years longer than it should have, but I gain three qualifications.
I move to the Netherlands, which provides a tremendous amount of dopamine and my health improves.
The Netherlands royally fucks up the pandemic and all of the progress I made is lost.
I have a complete breakdown in the wee hours of New Year’s Day because I could hear how much my neighbours didn’t care about people like me.
I started seeing a psychologist post-breakdown, and after only a few sessions, she is fairly confident that I have undiagnosed ADHD.
I get my diagnosis and everything starts to click into place. But I can’t start treatment until I get clearance from my neurologist re: my epilepsy.