If you follow me elsewhere on the internet, you may have seen that I was diagnosed with ADHD on October 6th 2021. It has been a long journey, I gave a brief summary in my first video discussing my ADHD Graveyard of how I got here but I wanted to give further details of the full journey I have been on.
My initial self reflection began with questioning if I am Autistic. It seems like a lot of people are usually the reverse, they were diagnosed ADHD and then started to wonder if they we also Autistic. I’ve had numerous friends in my life diagnosed Autistic and they were some of the first people I ever really went “damn, you get me,” about anyone. And the one person I knew had ADHD, we had a rocky friendship that ended up in a pretty solid understanding of each other. Reflecting on these friendships I had (but also all my other interactions I remember) made me see more and more traits and gave me more clarity on why some circumstances even happened. It was because people could see my neurodivergent traits and didn’t like them.
I’ve made many friends online since graduating in 2018, and I realised most of them are Autistic. I started wondering why that was and began asking questions and doing my own research. I thought I’d cracked it. I really thought I was done, and I had worked it all out. My tiktok was showing me so many relatable videos on living life as an Autistic… and then something else started creeping in. ADHD. Lots of videos started off talking about autism but ended with “haha! Got you! This is ADHD!” and vice versa. Videos that started talking about ADHD ended talking about autism. I didn’t think anything of it to begin, but the tiktok algorithm is powerful. I’ve genuinely never seen anything like it. It genuinely gets to know each user and delivers you exactly what you respond to.
So, my ADHD research began. A lot of things coming up felt familiar and sounded accurate to my experiences. But now I was getting overwhelmed with all of these overlapping and similar but different traits between ADHD and Autism, but also within my current (at the time) diagnosed conditions: anxiety, depression, hyper-mobility syndrome, fibromyalgia, BPD… what if… combining all these diagnoses I have… just equal ADHD and Autism?
This is all my personal experience, living in my brain and my body. I’ve struggled to really believe I have BPD or Fibro because my Fibro symptoms can be explained by other diagnoses I have (including ADHD and Autism, they are encompassed in my hyper-mobility syndrome, both my autoimmune conditions…) and much of my Mental Illness and fatigue could actually be explained by ADHD and Autism. My fatigue could be a result of 20-odd years of masking until burnout and having to try harder to get half as much done due to my irregular attention and focusing abilities. My anxiety can come directly from my struggles to keep up with ADHD and the idea of fast moving thoughts… my thoughts are never slow so am I anxious 24/7 (answer: no) or are my thoughts hyperactive? Feelings of depression (I was originally diagnosed in my teens) stemmed directly from feeling lonely/alone, misunderstood, like I come from another planet, and being treated poorly by most people.
Now, at 27, I feel much more alive mentally and emotionally, loved and free than I can ever recall. I don’t feel depressed or anxious unless triggered. I haven’t had a BPD spiral, or experienced any other traits of BPD, in years… and it’s because I feel like I have finally seen things for what they are. I feel like I’ve stepped out a long, hot shower and wiped the mirror of condensation. I can see all the times I didn’t understand why someone was angry at me, because I didn’t interpret or understand the social expectations. I can see I struggled in school and never got my homework done on time, because my ADHD made starting a monotonous task feel impossible (the Autism made the questions on my homework appear very vague and unclear to me as well) and my inability to focus on doing work at home, with no one around who could really help me, meant my homework wouldn’t be done and I would cry the night before it was due, sobbing to my mum “I’ve done it again, I don’t know what to do I’m going to get in so much trouble…”
I’m still in this stage, grieving. I’m grieving the me I could have been from day one, from the days I was being assessed for Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. I’m grieving the support I could have received. I’m grieving the way the school system and kids treated me. But I also like to look at it this way, as both can be true. I’m thankful for my mum and her family for all the support they gave me to get ne through school. I am thankful I wasn’t diagnosed in the early 2000s, I could have been put in ABA therapy, it could have been sold to my mum as a cure and the only way to help me. I’m glad that was never possible. I’m glad the kids in school never had a name to put to my difference. They could pick on me for being fat or being an emo all they liked, but at least they didn’t throw viciously ableist slurs at me as well. I grieve the me I could have been from the start, never needing to mask and never needing to feel so painfully sad. That wouldn’t be the me I turned out to be though. So, whilst I grieve the could haves and should haves, I am also so happy I got to where I am. I’m so happy I got to be the person I am now. I might not have been. I like this me, and I’m proud of this me.
Allowing to see this new perspective on my life has lead to a lot of healing and even more self compassion. I started looking into the possibilities of diagnosis, where I should go, how long was the wait or how much was the cost. Everyone was going through Psychiatry UK at that time and being diagnosed within three weeks from referral. I thought I wanted to go private, get both done in one go, but the cost wracked up to over a grand for both, separate diagnosis processes, and more for ADHD medication. That was swiftly off the table again. I looked into Psychiatry UK and decided to finally talk to my GP about it. I dropped off my letter with the Right To Choose details and how to contact Psychiatry UK and hope they had a service set up within the area. (The name is misleading, UK my arse, most of England maybe) My GP decided to ring me and ask me more, I basically blacked out, I don’t remember what I said, and didn’t really look at my notes I had in front of me. I remember sort of finishing, feeling like I hadn’t even touched the surface but he agreed that it seems like I have a lot of reason to be wondering about this. I said I wanted to pursue ADHD first as this service has a shorter waitlist right now and is still free for me to access if he can refer me. He agreed the NHS wait time for these assessments was “pretty epic” and said he would sent a referral for ADHD to Psych UK and just see if we had a service set up. Luckily we did.
I continued researching, preparing to fill in my ADHD forms and what I was going to say to my assessor. For literal months. I made ADHDer friends on twitter (lovely Eli and Sydni) and continued talking through this new perspective I have on my life with my Therapist. My therapist isn’t an expert by any means on Neurodivergence and has said that she has found my self-awareness, self-exploration, and research really admiring and she is pleased I’ve felt able to talk to her about this and she has learned a lot through me. And whilst that’s true for her, I never felt like at any point I was teaching her, like I’ve had to teach past counsellors or therapists. No burden was ever placed on me, I was just allowed to talk through my thoughts and feelings, and discuss where I think these things not only connect to things that happened to me when I was younger but also how I responded to it. It’s been really enlightening for me and I talk at the end of my video this week about how I feel in myself and my life has really just shifted within the last few months.
ADHD for me has just been constantly racing thoughts of all kinds: chores, creative ideas, things to tell people, doctor’s appointments, special interests, self care, learning, fun… my thoughts are loud and race though my head all the time and it is really hard to quiet them. It’s feeling overwhelmed all the time, all the things other people just do every day are a long list of things to do and remember for me because I barely remember to brush my teeth, how do people manage all their life needs and society pressure? My head is barely above water, how would I manage if I had to waste energy on a job I hate? It feels like not being able to read fast enough to keep up with a teleprompter (thank you tiktok for giving me this experience to compare it to) before all the text is gone, but the text is things to do and things people have asked you to do for them. It is living in constant mess, never getting tidy or the tidy lasts for a day (maybe) it’s hating deadlines but not being able to do anything if there isn’t a deadline. It’s not know what is the most important thing to accomplish or how long anything is going to take so you’re always late or anxiously hours early. It’s having a random thought that won’t leave you alone until you research it, and then it’s 25 browser tabs open, four hours, and a 3,000 word essay later… I just wanted to know what actually happened on Guy Fawkes night, yanno? It’s having 2,000 hobbies every year since you were young enough to have hobbies, and any small reason to no longer be interested in them anymore. Jack of all trades, master of none (but oftentimes better than master of one) kind of feeling. It’s biting your nails and smoking cigarettes, suddenly quitting one day and never looking back. It’s binge eating and sugar cravings for dopamine hits. It’s serotonin medications not helping when you feel so sad and hopeless because serotonin wasn’t the problem. It’s struggling to sleep on a schedule until you don’t have a schedule to stick to anymore. It’s feeling so fatigued and foggy brained for trying to compensate and keep up all the time, always being on edge, always being aware… but nothing comes back wrong on your blood tests. It’s having hyper fixations with people in your life and struggling to deal when they aren’t around or available all the time, and then it’s working really hard to not hyper focus on anyone… and remember you have other friends. Forgetting that you have other friends than the top 5 most recent IG DMs conversations.
I hope I have been able to show you some of what ADHD looks like in an adult. I wish I’d have seen so many of the thing’s I’d mentioned sooner, especially the binge eating/boredom eating of high sugar foods. I have been made to feel weak willed (yay diet culture) and like I was a disappointment, but there was always a reason and now I can be kinder to myself. I wish wish I could have seen this earlier, maybe gone for assessments during my time at uni… been able to speak to the people I knew in my daily life about this. Whilst there is now so much happiness and pride in finding myself (at least finding myself MORE now than ever) there’s going to be a lot of sadness at the things that have happened to me and taken from me. Those moments are rare, but they come. I’ve been learning to grieve my life over and over for years, this is just another part.
Now before you think you have gotten away from this before I get political, you are incorrect. I wanted to talk about if ADHD should be considered a disability. Short answer: YES. Long answer: In a society that makes living as an ADHDer really hard, with limited support, limited public knowledge, that refuses to listen to humans with ADHD and refuses to adjust… that is disabling. This is how I see all my conditions. All of them, separately and combined, make me disabled because of the society we live in. Many people really struggle. I have done nothing but struggle my whole life, without adjustments, and with minimal and misguided adjustments. So if this is a question you are dealing with, ADHD is often diagnosed because it affects your ability to function in a society that does not care for disabled or neurodivergent people.
ADHD where to start:
I wanted to leave this post off with some basic tips for where and how to get started.
I followed a few simple informative IG accounts which came in helpful for filling in my ADHD forms pre-diagnosis. Search @the_mini_ADHD_coach and @ADHD_couple. My friend Sydni from above conducts community research as well as more in-depth science things and makes youtube videos, find her on twitter: @WhatTheADHD
More on youtube who are helpful are How To ADHD and I personally found Stuart Anderson‘s videos particularly helpful to make my first list of traits to speak to my GP about.
Tiktok Connor Dewolfe (@connordewolfe) has been one I’ve found helpful, although I think as he’s been on tiktok, he has discovered he is also Autistic and mixed some autistic traits in as ADHD ones on his platform and isn’t always totally informed. @Jodi.ADHD makes really helpful videos based on personal experience. @ThePsychDoctorMD is a doctor with ADHD who works with ADHDers. @Burritos_and_ADHD is a personal trainer with ADHD and ASD who specialises with working with ND clients especially those that experience hyper mobility. And I have just spent forever trying to find this creator and it was incredibly difficult to remain on task I almost completely forgot, but @CatieOSaurus makes a lot of helpful and educational content!
I don’t follow a lot of blogs, but I do follow René Brooks (@BlackGirlLostKeys) on twitter who makes loads of regular blog posts around living as an ADHDer.
And the main people I follow and find helpful on twitter besides Sydni and René are: @RoryReckons who is an ADHDer, Autistic with OCD, their experiences and research are really fascinating and regularly sharing medical research, they are based in New Zealand. @MyKola is another person I follow on twitter, he is Autistic and ADHD too, I find his discussions on twitter helpful. My brain is struggling to find the accounts of people I specifically remember being very helpful to me so that’s where we are at right now.
I would also suggest you take a look at who I am following on twitter, IG, and tiktok if you’d like to see more accounts who are more diverse. I make an effort to follow people with my experiences/diagnoses from different backgrounds, genders, sexualities, races/ethnicities, religions, and career paths. So whilst the people I have listed have been especially helpful for me in my own journey, I think it is important to diversify your feed to keep aware of the differences of experiences. I hope that everyone can find someone that helps reflect their personal experiences. My friend Eli @lilacnonsense is just a funny and relatable shit poster for you to enjoy tbh.
Also, if you would like me to create a post with all of the accounts and people and posts I found helpful/follow: let me know and I will get started on that and link it here.
2. Self Reflection
A lot of questions asked (on paper and vocally) will ask you about your childhood. My form specified age 16 and under, which was helpful for me as I don’t remember a lot of my childhood for mixture of ADHD and trauma. We looked through old documents my mum has kept. I briefly saw a therapist after my parents divorced between 4 and 7, lots of things they have written and things my mum wrote for them about me scream ADHD and Autistic and I’m really glad we have this as well as teacher feedback forms that called me ‘lazy’, said it took me a long time to begin tasks, and that I was disinterested in lessons and learning. Even my dyslexia reports show signs of ADHD and Autism. I’m lucky to have this much physical evidence from being a child because my mum worked really hard to get the support I needed.
I also did a lot of self reflecting in general on my youth, especially as I am in trauma therapy we have finally creeped back into my teenage years and younger in more detail, so with her help I have been able to remember more things as I peel back layers of trauma and slowly heal from some of them.
3. Start Changing Your Perspective
This process will make you question everything that ever happened to you and every reaction you have ever had. It’s really daunting, can be really painful, but try to keep in mind: you didn’t know and people around you didn’t have a label to know. You did your best with what you had.
Sydni said: “Trust your gut. No one knows that weird brain of yours better than you do.”
Try not to let your past and people’s previous experiences brushing off your concerns, affect how you see and believe your own experiences. It is hard and takes practice, but generally Neurotypical people don’t ever really have such a life altering crisis with the idea that they may be Neurodivergent. If ADHD isn’t right for you, that’s okay, there’s probably something there for you to continue exploring and I believe in you! I’m still working through self-gaslighting from years of being gaslit by people I trusted, whilst I’ve gotten better at it, it’s still a struggle and takes active work. Also, don’t forget to question and combat your internalised ableism!!! I have unfortunately found a lot of the ADHD community can be quite viciously ableist, and that is something everyone needs to work on within themselves.
Being diagnosed and even just being aware of my ADHD and Autism has changed my life and my self-esteem dramatically. I can be kinder and softer to myself. All the life inconveniences I’ve been through and still go through (like struggling to keep on top of my medications) now make sense and I have a better basis for what may actually help me or why traditional treatments and advice DON’T help me. It has made me feel so much better about myself, and I feel like as I learn and start applying these things to my life, the more joyful I can be.
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