[Please note: This post is VERY long. I don't expect anybody to read it, but I wanted it to be public because it's who I am. I've been more detailed than I needed to be for my own peace of mind; I needed to see it all written down so I could make a decision about seeing my GP for a referral. I'm still sitting on the fence. And no, I haven't spoken to anybody about it, except Blokey. I fear rejection.]
I’ve spent most of my teenage and adult life attempting to classify myself in some way. In the past I’ve been diagnosed with depression, but I’ve never really been convinced that was the whole shebangles. Autism crossed my mind for a while but I didn’t really fit into any symptoms I read about online or saw in students I work with.
And then I stumbled upon a list of symptoms on a website which made me (quite literally and unashamedly) sob my heart out.
“OMG!! This is me!!”
It wasn’t something I’d seriously considered before, although I had briefly played around with the idea of it and then put it to one side because I was never a hyperactive child. And ADHD is all about the naughty hyperactivity, isn’t it?
This is the list (it’s not the NHS one which is short and less detailed) but an American one.
1. Easily distracted; forgetful; daydreaming
I can be having a conversation with a loved one, watching a football match with a bunch of screaming fans, reading a book I love, watching my favourite soap, enjoying a film I’ve been dying to see on the big screen … and I’ll drift. I won’t even be aware that I’ve drifted until I suddenly ‘wake up’ and notice that they’re waiting for a response, the ball is now in the goal, I’ve turned two pages and have no idea what that sentence is referring to, my favourite character’s mouth is moving but I don’t know what they’re actually talking about, something happened in that scene and it was probably really important, but … In the meantime I’ll have been thinking of something else, and maybe even something else after that something else.
If something needs straightening, I’m your girl. Crumbs on the floor? I can’t go to bed till they’re gone. Blokey enquires as to whether I’m coming upstairs. Of course, but it might be another fifteen minutes; there’s always something else that needs doing.
I have a mind which flits easily from one subject to another. I’ll go to do Something and an hour later I’ll suddenly remember I was going to do Something, but Something Else came along, followed by Something Else, and then there was the link I had to follow and now it’s an hour later and I’m in the car and have no way of doing Something. It will have to wait till Tomorrow and Tomorrow will inevitably become Next Week.
At work I support students in an educational establishment. I write notes. I don’t write notes because the students might need to borrow them. I write notes because if I don’t my mind drifts and I have no idea what the students I’m supporting need to be doing. I have found that doodling helps me to focus on words too.
When people talk to me I drift. They can be talking about the most interesting thing in the world, ever, and I’ll still start thinking about something else. Anything else. I have learnt to nod and occasionally say, ‘oh’ and, ‘good’.
Sometimes my mind literally stops. It just goes blank.
2. Procrastination; inability to complete things
I am actually itching to make a cup of tea, run the bath, play with my pussy (-cats), play Candy Crush, read some kidney forums, search for random images on Google to add to my Pinterest account, check my emails … staying focused on this blog post is excruciating for me, but I intend to give it my best shot despite my mind feeling blurry and fuzzy.
3. Disorganisation; messiness; clutter
This box doesn’t really get ticked; I’m ridiculously obsessive about having things straight and tidy and neat. Not necessarily in their correct place though – it just has to look neat. Do NOT open the cupboard; the cupboard is Clutter City and something will fall on your toes.
4. Difficulty with making decisions
I’m that one friend you have who always says, ‘I don’t mind!’ or, ‘I don’t care!’ and you roll your eyes at me and tell me to make a decision. This panics me and makes me flustered. This makes me angry and I get snappy. I REALLY DON’T KNOW!
5. Behavioural or verbal impulsiveness
This one is slightly weird for me. It’s as though I’ve learnt that some places are okay for impulsive behaviour and some aren’t. Working in a supportive role has probably helped, but even at work I can say or do something that maybe I shouldn’t. Being a thoroughly saracastic soul tends to be my downfall there. However, away from work I can be more reckless. I will make rude comments at people in queues or in the street (when they annoy me). I have made rude gestures to people. I have even been incredibly mean to people I know (family) when I’ve felt they’re putting me on the spot and my only way out of those situations is to behave aggressively, and rarely do I even think about it until after I’ve said or behaved impulsively. Looking back now, I can remember so many times when I did this as a teenager. It makes me so sad for who I was and what I’ve had to learn to cope with.
6. Difficulty with expressing thoughts in speech or in writing
I have no difficulty with the written word. Speech is a completely different kettle of fish though. I hate talking to people so I try not to talk to people. I know that they’re thinking I’m standoffish and rude, but I honestly can’t help that. I hate that they’re thinking that, but when I talk my brain is spinning by at an extortionate rate and this makes me stumble over my words. I forget words. My thoughts whizz by so fast that I genuinely forget what I’m talking about. Sometimes it’s best not to talk. Incidentally, even when writing I have been known to suddenly stop and spend three or four minutes twiddling my fingers frustratingly as I try to remember the word on the tip of my tongue.
7. Significant periods of depression; low self-esteem
Often. I don’t react well to compliments and will cry for no apparent reason. Being me is exhausting and there have been occasions where I have thought about leaving everything behind, and that is so hard to admit to … but it’s true. I feel trapped in my own foggily-fuzzy head.
8. A sense of failure; not living up to one’s potential
This is connected to 7 in a vague way. I’ve always felt the odd one out in my family. I’m not clever, I don’t have ambition and drive, and I feel as though my own thoughts are holding me back. But I feel safe with those thoughts; I’m used to them. I could be doing so much more than I’m doing, but I can’t. I scraped through my GCSEs and my A’Levels, I gave up on one uni course, somehow muddled through an honours degree (gaining a good class despite my whole amazingly torrid and upside-down student days) and then managed to gain a teaching qualification. I should be teaching. I can’t. I – perhaps stupidly – thought that donating my kidney would make me feel purposeful. It just seems like a dream. I don’t even have visible scars to prove I did it. I think much the same about having a baby. I’d like a baby, but I know that it won’t make me feel whole. I’ll just get bored with a baby.
9. A sense of being different, unconventional
I used to feel unique. Now I just feel that the world has some big secret and I’m the only one who doesn’t know it.
10. A sense of internal restlessness; constantly active
My mind is constantly active. There are always thoughts overlayed with other thoughts and these other thoughts are fighting for space with yet more thoughts. I fidget a lot (fingers and feet) and have noticed that this is more so when my mind is tumbling over itself.
11. Difficulty with falling asleep or waking up alert
I used to have difficulty falling asleep; now I just play Candy Crush and it sends me to sleep. Who needs sleeping tablets or sheep? I’m constantly tired and on edge.
12. Very sensitive to being told to do something, teasing, criticism, rejection or anger
I was brought up with three brothers, two older and one younger. My whole childhood was one big mess of teasing and arguments. I tend to get angry very quickly (which brings out the impulsive verbal side of me) and still want to stomp off like a teenager. I don’t, but sometimes I think it would be an easier and quicker release to let it out instead of internalising it like I do now. I am hyper-senstive to the things that people say, both bad and good. I obsess about the bad things and when people are laughing I automatically assume they’re laughing at me.
13. A sense that your mind is always active; thoughts jumping from one topic to the next
I think it’s fair to say that this has been covered above.
14. Easily bored; intense need for excitement
I’m not convinced it’s an intense need for excitement, but I do get easily bored, which is why I think I flit from one thing to another without necessarily waiting for the first thing to be finished. I assume it accounts for the drifting and the finding of distractions as well.
15. Difficulty with following rules
This only really applies to me if I haven’t heard the rule. Social etiquette rules are probably the most difficult for me, but I like to try to follow the rules.
16. Very impatient; low frustration tolerance
Ha ha! Definitely. I’m very quick to anger and very impatient. If I want to do it then it should be done now, unless I find something else to do in the meantime. I can stomp around at home like a big thing making lots of noise.
17. Emotionally sensitive; easily upset, depressed, hurt or angered
I think I’ve covered this above as well. I’ve always been this way inclined and assumed it was a by-product of my childhood. But perhaps in reality the feelings I had in childhood were a by-product of something already deep inside me. I can still remember my stepmum telling me that she had a bone to pick with me. I was six. I was fucking scared! Another adult (a social worker, but not mine, just a friend of mumsy’s) told me I had to stop bottling everything up inside when I was nine. I have shouted at teachers in the past when I was young, but because I was so quiet and such a hard little worker at school nobody seemed to care. ‘Oh, she’s allowed to have the occasional tantrum!’ I imagine them saying to each other.
18. Difficulty with personal or work relationships
I’m not a good person to have as a friend. If you exist in my little bubble then that’s fabulous. We’re friends. If you leave my little bubble (through my doing or yours) then you just don’t exist anymore. I find being friends with people to be exhausting. I try so hard to act conventionally around people and it’s a real struggle. I don’t tell people things about me. I’m happy to let you talk, but please don’t expect me to talk back, or listen. You fit into a little category I’ve decided upon and I’ll do my best to keep you there, but sometimes I’ll have to let certain folk go. I actually find virtual friendships easier to cope with (even with people I know in reality!)
19. Frequently late or rushed
I live by routines; my morning routine is only spoilt when I have to do something unexpected (sweep the floor, wipe the counter-top, read the metre because I really need to do that right now and it really can’t wait … ) so I don’t feel rushed. Blokey complains because I’ll say, ‘Let’s go out at so-and-so o’clock!’ and he’ll be ready at so-and-so o’clock whilst I’ll still be faffing around (making the bed, putting the clothes away, straightening the towels, checking the doors are locked …)
20. Difficulty in estimating how much time something will take
Not usually, and only if I’ve become distracted by something else.
21. Impulsive spending and money management problems
Impulsive spending, yes. Money management problems, no. Not since I gained a Blokey who could help me with my finances. When we met I was in lots of debt (overdrawn and a ridiculous amount on a store card) but he sorted me out and has kept me on the straight and narrow ever since. Although I spend impulsively I do try to keep an eye on it because I don’t want to be a disappointment to him.
22. Personal or family history of substance abuse, depression or anxiety
I don’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t suffer from anxiety, to the extent that I live with a tight little ball in my chest. It’s always there, and never goes away to give me a break. I am one of life’s worriers and I will worry on your behalf if I run out of my own things to worry about (which is rare).
23. Difficulty with reading comprehension or retention
Surprisingly, yes. I only passed my GCSEs because they were mostly modular rather than exam based. I don’t take things in and need to read something more than once and/or aloud and/or take notes on what I’m reading before it will filter in and actually stay in my mind. I LOVE reading but don’t always remember what I read, except I know I really liked it and you should therefore like it too.
24. Frequently changing jobs, interests or activities
Since graduating in 1997 I’ve had four positions in three secondary schools, two positions in a PRU, and a ten month stint in a female clothing store as a retail assistant. I’ve had my current position for nearly two years. I don’t think this is excessive, but in comparison Blokey’s been with the same company since 2001.
I’ve completed three modules through the Open University for no real reason, just because I could.
I have periods where I’ll intensely research my family tree, or someone else’s tree and then leave it in a drawer for a year. I have two drawers full of craft materials which I’ve never used, but bought because I had every intention of making my own Christmas cards in 2008 and 2009 and 2010 and …
I started knitting. Knitted one thing. Haven’t knitted since, but have a big bag of wool and other knitting accessories sitting here, by my desk.
25. Frequently losing or misplacing things
Last year I lost a roll of brown paper. It still hasn’t turned up and all I did was put it on the desk in front of me. I don’t usually tend to lose things, I do misplace though. I assume this is to do with being forgetful. Today’s big kerfuffle was brought on by my work ID card not being in my bag, although it lives in my bag when it isn’t around my neck at work. It was in my coat pocket.
26. Perfectionistic tendencies
I want to be perfect. I want my home to be perfect, my work to be perfect and my life to be perfect. But they are only perfectionistic tendancies. Being perfect is beyond my reach however much I strive for it.
27. Strong need to control or have things your way
I get stroppy when I’m doing something and Blokey is just sitting there. When he offers to help I snarl at him. He doesn’t know how to clean and tidy! I don’t even want him to know! I need that control, to know that it’s done how I want it to be done. It’s a scary thought that someone else may do it and do it wrong. I don’t like people making decisions on my behalf (even though I can find it hard to make my own!). If family need organising, I’ll be the instigator because I’d like it done my way; I like to know what’s going on and what sort of situation I’m getting myself into.
Other things I haven’t mentioned and should
I’m really (really) shy, even around people I’ve known my entire life. I’ll happily cut somebody up mid-flow in a conversation and start talking about something else (Blokey usually). When I do actually talk to somebody I might over-share, say too much. Ramble, I suppose. When I think of ADHD I think of little boys running around and being naughty; if I do have ADHD my hyperactivity manifests itself in the form of moving swiftly from one task to another (regardless of ability to finish) and feeling that I can’t stop. Most evenings when I get in from work I’ll keep myself busy for at least an hour before I can relax. Noises hurt me, mostly those noises made by lots of people talking. This is to the extent that I want to either get up and shout at people or just simply cry. I’m constantly moving my fingers, and to a lesser extent my feet.
Why not get diagnosed?
Because I’m worried that my GP will look at me like I’m an imbecile. I don’t think I could face that. More importantly, I’m used to being me. I worry that a diagnosis will lead to medication and medication will stop me being me. I’m familiar with how my mind works and I don’t want to become unfamiliar with a big aspect of who I am. I can’t imagine a life without all those thoughts fighting for attention, a life where I’m not constantly trying to find something else to do. However, it would be nice to know I’m not otherwise mentally challenged.
My next job is to ask Mumsy for my old school reports. Apparently they might be useful …