My Rocky Road to an Adult ADHD Diagnosis

Overgrown path


This is the general structure of my Adult ADHD talk. Hopefully this will help you understand adult ADHD better, and understand some of the symptoms, and how things change over time as we try to adapt etc.

I will be expanding on all of this information, adding more detail and hopefully making things clearer, as time goes on, so please check back here later if you find I haven’t provided enough information below. I will also try to focus on clear ADHD symptoms (as far as I can figure out), while giving some context.

My life Pre-ADHD – Growing Up

Early Life

  • Born in the 1970s
  • Very curious, always asking questions, especially “why”
  • One of my first memories was about empathy – pulling our cat’s tail and I remember mum telling me “don’t do that, how would you like it if someone did that to you?”, and that’s when I first realised that others experienced what I do, and that its possible to hurt others
  • I started school early (4 years old). Mum had been taking me to kindergarten, but said I was often bored and found it easy.
  • I experienced my first bullying in grade 1, with a few other kids taking things off me, being mean
  • I dreaded the idea of being bored. Looking back, its mostly because my mind hated not having enough to keep my attention
    • I always wanted toys, paper and pencils, book, or something like that when watching TV, or other sedentary activities
    • on a drive I would play games, read (until car sickness took over), and even made “spot the thing” bingo cards for my brother and myself
  • Brother
    • dyslexic, impulsive, socially smart, more how I understood how ADHD presented
    • intelligent but was bored and disruptive in class
    • often got into trouble
    • I tried not to be like him, and to please our parents
  • I was disruptive at primary school
    • wanted to be liked by other students, and tried to make them laugh at the wrong times, sometimes inappropriately
    • had been called in to principals’ offices at a few different schools because of disruptive behaviour
    • one teacher got very angry at me, and picked me up by the head and threatened to stick me in the ceiling fan when telling me off
    • he liked to “mess with me” when he was bored, and would pick at me, tease me, etc
  • One fight with my brother
    • I got so angry at him and the constant niggling, I started punching him in the body as he balled up – me in a rage.
    • I was extremely embarrassed and shocked at my outburst
  • Generally, I freaked out a bit at my own bad behaviour, and peoples reactions, and veered more to people pleasing
  • Shifted a lot
    • kept parents/mum more happy – a new challenge
  • Lots of schools
    • always new, had to learn to read people better
    • always felt different to other kids
    • played down smarts – made others unhappy and pick on me
  • Very black and white thinking
  • High school
    • very melancholy and sentimental moments
    • music, movies, etc, but had good friends
    • family teased me for keeping “trivial” mementos from gifts
  • Smart
    • teacher “you are thinking too much about it”
    • learned to do things to keep myself from getting too distracted – drawing, reading
  • perfectionist
    • very high standards for myself, so I wouldn’t disappoint
    • artwork – not know when to stop
  • Rejected when I tried to kiss first date – didn’t try again for 3 years
  • Repeated grade 12 – reading in class, bored
  • Drinking
    • binge / parties
    • relaxed me, reduced inhibitions
    • helped with meeting women, able to be more confident and notice subtleties in girls and able to pick up signals better
  • Uni
    • did well, but did not excel
    • lots of different subjects
    • romance – a few longer relationships, serial monogamist
  • Good work career
    • sacrificed happiness in jobs for experience
    • customer awards
    • multitasking problems
    • easily bored with dull jobs
    • liked helping people
    • variety of tasks was good
  • long term relationship with Jen
    • tough – I avoided confrontation because I was overly aware of consequences – arguments, cold shoulder
  • Drugs
    • experimented
    • liked anything that relaxed me or slowed down my mind
    • Used cannabis for pain, appetite (too well!), relaxation
    • LSD, codeine, etc – was careful, kept in control because I knew I would want to “go crazy” with things that worked well
  • Break down at Work
    • depression and anxiety diagnosis
  • Loss of support
    • Friends + dad moved away
    • lost most support and friendship
    • declining health
    • masking and hiding problems – trying to avoid losing more friends
    • constant rehearsing conversations in head
  • Couldn’t relax, muscle tensions getting worse
  • started noticing more of sense of time running out
  • clocks everywhere
  • also to stop forgetting appointments etc too
  • Moved to Tasmania for a fresh start
    • thought change of environ would help, it did not
    • my problems followed me (as they do)
    • then back to North Queensland with a good friend when I ran out of money
    • No longer working
  • health issues tally:
    • migraines, muscle tension + restless legs, nerve issues, depression / anxiety, immune, fibro, heart AF, bowel bleeds + stomach + diet, sleep apnoea, lost smell taste
  • Moved to Adelaide with Mum
    • mum was volatile sometimes, and felt I had to walk on eggshells
    • other times very loving and kind
    • Different to when I visited or called
    • would be difficult for anyone (acknowledge)
    • bad timing with moods, butted heads
    • I misread and overreacted sometimes, afraid of rejection and confrontation
    • Skin problems developed
  • Had to keep trying to get help
    • Very dark place
    • 15 psychological support people
    • was on my “last chance” with psychology
  • Mum passed away
    • cancer diagnosis
    • very hard for anyone
    • but more so for me as she was my best friend and confidant
    • thought with less problems with mum, but wasn’t getting easier over time as expected
    • Grief was becoming very painful,
    • spiralling bleeding into general sense of loss and loneliness
  • Ryan sent me article on emotional dysregulation, OMG!!
  • Still dubious, I tried an energy drink…

Then I learned about

  • Rejection Sensitivity
  • History of ADHD
    • known since late 1800s,
    • 1960s saw the introduction of stimulant medications
    • 80s definitions refined in DSM
  • It is usually genetic
  • What ADHD is
    • It’s not “all in your head.” It’s all in your brain—literally
    • have you heard that ADHD is a made-up disorder? caused by laziness, a lack of willpower, or ineffective parenting, you’re not alone
    • Neurotransmitters and Brain Chemistry keep your brain working well, and balanced – executive functioning
    • When not working correctly, this may affect your ability to organize, prioritize, plan, focus, remember instructions, and work toward your goals
  • Understanding the Components
    • Impulsivity/Hyperactivity – push the button!
    • Inattentiveness – lose track of conversations, distracted
    • Emotional Dysregulation – not in DSM
  • most of my health issues can be linked to ADHD
    • low water, fibre, diet

My diagnosis experience

  • video chat with registrar
    • i was more relaxed
    • went badly but they were understanding
    • not invasive or harsh
  • second video chat with psychiatrist
  • explained it, medications, diet, get psychiatrist

Treatment and Management

a. Good GP + Medication

b. Psychological support and social worker

c. Psychiatry – important, but hard to get

Post Diagnosis

  • Challenges for Adults
    • Faulty Thought Patterns
    • Risk-Taking Behaviour
    • Relationship Difficulties
    • Low Self-Esteem / confidence
    • Substance Abuse
    • Work and Academic Challenges
    • Financial Instability
    • Chronic Stress
    • Social Isolation
  • Impacts on Daily Life
    • more understanding and forgiving to myself and others
    • able to make better decisions for myself
    • less sense of “go go go” “time is running out”
    • better moods
    • productive periods
    • more energy
    • better diet – weight loss
    • Friends notice I’m happier
    • pets respond to me better
    • less tired after social interactions
    • less hyperfocus
    • less emotional extremes – high and low
  • Changing medication
    • not a silver bullet like I thought, its a process
  • It does takes MORE work
    • dealing with bad habits
    • relearning things from a new perspective
    • working with it instead of against it
    • rebuilding fitness and health
  • Benefits: Its not all bad, some people with ADHD
    • high levels of creativity
    • periods of intense concentration known as hyperfocus
    • abundant energy and enthusiasm
    • ADHD requires individuals to develop resilience and adaptability
    • ADHD often excel at managing multiple tasks simultaneously

Conclusion & video segment

Note: This is far from finished… its a rather difficult process emotionally, as well as practically

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