People don’t tend to believe me when I say I have ADHD.
I don’t fit the stereotype at first glance. I’m a grown woman in her 30s. I have a first class honours degree. I hold down a challenging job. I was a smart bookworm at school. I was a Good Kid.
But then, when you read about adult ADHD in women, and you know a bit more than the basics about me, it becomes more apparent.
I’m impulsive. I want to do what you just suggested – right now! Are we shopping? Buy it! Buy it in every colour! You want to stage that play one day? Let’s do it! Quick!
I’m disorganised. My teaching desk was always stacked with paper. I got frazzled when I couldn’t find things. It earned Comments from my superiors. I would tidy it up occasionally, and within a day it would be stacked again.
I have problems prioritising. I start one task, then drift to another before the first task is done, then switch again. Or I lie on the couch unable to move. All while avoiding the biggest and most imminent tasks.
My time management sucks. I have half an hour to finish marking? Well, I’m going to spend at least half of that going through my sticker collection and choosing stickers for my students based on what ones suit their personality.
I have trouble multitasking. If you’ve hung out with me while I’m doing something you’ll be familiar with the traditional tune-out – when I stop talking mid-sentence and literally can’t hear what you’re saying.
Restlessness. Yep. When I’m resting I want to be doing something. But when I’m doing something I want to be resting.
Problems focusing on a task? Heck yes. That’s why this blog exists. To actually give me something to attempt to concentrate on. It’s not working, but every now and then I get a burst of hyperfocus.
Poor planning. Yep. Just ask all my mentor teachers why I can’t submit my planning on time. Every. Single. Week.
Frequent mood swings and hot temper? Temper yes, mood swings not as much. But those might be hormonal anyway.
I have low frustration tolerance. I work better in groups when I have to do stuff I don’t like, because I can talk out issues and I can’t skip out.
Problems following through and completing tasks. Hello, giant google drive full of half-finished play notes and random scenes. Hello, screeds of teaching ideas. Hello, this half-assed blog that I barely contribute to. Hello, Leo’s baby book that I was supposed to fill with letters to my beloved son.
Trouble coping with stress. Ooh! I have a whole chronic illness that is exacerbated by my inability to process stress. I can handle any stressful situation at the time, but then crumple with a migraine in the days following. I’m good in a crisis. But give me some standard university forms or creative arts funding paperwork? Hahahahaha I will sit on that for months, completely unable to do it, even if it’s for a scholarship or grant that will literally give me free money.
I hope no future bosses read this. I’ll never get hired.
But I’m a good teacher. I really am. I can improv on the spot, I explain things well, I’m flexible with interruptions or changes, and I build amazing relationships with students and parents, especially the quirky ones. I’m just sucky at the paperwork side.
It’s the same when you know me in a non-work capacity. I’m a good friend, I swear. I will help you with whatever you need. My love languages are words and gifts. I don’t know how else to show people I love them, because I’m basically useless at the “acts of service” love language.
When you tell me things about yourself, I chime in with “me too!” It probably sounds like I’m trying to one-up your story, but I’m not. I’m just trying to tell you that I can empathise because I have experienced something similar. Except sometimes I’m excited to tell you and scared I’ll forget, so I’ll cut you off. Sorry about that.
My main trouble here is that I struggle to keep in contact with people. The fun side effect of ADHD is it comes with extreme rejection-sensitivity. This is worsened in my case with a shitty first-half-of-high-school experience that has left me with fun trauma scars that take the form of me thinking people don’t actually like me. It’s incredibly self-indulgent and stupid, but I tend to not contact people first because I think I’m unwanted. So I don’t always want to offer to video chat or meet up, or drop by, because my default mode is thinking that people don’t want to hang out with me. I’m aware that this is absolutely cooked, but I can’t really help it. My biggest fear is being a burden to others. So I hide away, but then I get sad and miss people and cry to my partner and he pushes me to contact people.
Maybe that’s why I’m writing this. So you know why I am the way I am. At least social media comments offer me a way of telling people I love them without feeling like I’m horning in on their personal time.
One way to treat ADHD is through routine. Intense, regular routine. Something that’s really hard with a baby. Another way to treat it is with meds. Which I can’t currently take, because I’m breastfeeding my baby. So I don’t know what to do, and I just muddle through with the help of my husband, who is also ADHD. Another way is with therapy, which I suck at.
It’s funny, my husband and I bonded originally because we had so much in common, and really felt like we “got” each other. In hindsight, it was probably the ADHD commonalities. It might be why it took us both so long to get diagnosed – because both of us had the same traits, we thought they were normal. We didn’t realise we might both be broken in the same way.
Several of our friends have been diagnosed as adults with ADHD. Maybe that’s why we’re all friends. Like attracts like.
The tough thing with diagnosing ADHD is how many traits are just traits of being human. Everyone’s restless sometimes. Everyone hates boring tasks. But the executive dysfunction is really tough. When I figure out how to overcome it, I’ll let you know.