Longread – How getting the ADHD diagnosis changed my life

Almost everyone knows the Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,The courage to change the things I can,And the wisdom to know the difference.

You’d think I wouldn’t like it, being an atheist and all, but my values are pretty much the same values of any major religion. I do like it. Sometimes, you don’t need a God to grant you serenity. Sometimes something earthly like a diagnosis will do. In my case, my ADHD diagnosis in January (has it only been 4 months?…). Here’s how it helped.

I learned when to say to myself “f*ck it” and when to think “screw you”

The meds help, they’re a blessing. That hiddeous jolt of bad adrenaline that made my heart race and my hands jitter at just the slightest insinuation that I was doing something poorly is simply not there if I took my pill in the previous 5-6 hours. Today a colleague tried to pin a mistake on me. I know she is one stubborn piece of work and when she didn’t listen to my explanation of my actions, I said “ok” out loud and thought “well f*ck you very much, b*tch”. And I didn’t even smirk when a couple of hours later the turn of events showed loud and clear that mistake had been entirely hers. I learned to identify with which people it’s worth explaining what looks like my fault and is actually not. I learned that if these “trigger-people” are always going to assume the worst anyway, I’m better off doing things my way and with the least effort possible. I also learned with which coleagues I have to take my second pill sooner (with some, it’s enough if I take it when the shift ends. With others…. eeeeeh…. I’m gonna be taking the next one 6 hours after I took the first)

A propos “my way”

I learned that, some things, I just can’t do like the others

It was a strain my whole life, trying to do things like others. I knew something was different and I tried to minimize that by copying exactly other people’s methods. Which is disastrous. In my current job I have to juggle MANY different things at the same time – (I never could multi-task properly, typical ADHD) – two ovens, one of them with 5 slots; several different kinds of pastries: one tray puff-pasty, one tray another sort of puff-pastry; croissants of two different sizes; this cake is to be reheated and put on a wagon, this cake is to be reheated and be put on that table over there…. It probably sounds overwhelming for a layman but it’s not for a professional. Unless you’re me, of course. It took long enough, but when my colleagues now push me to organize all this the way they would do it, I learned to say “Yeah, that doesn’t work for me”. And if they insist, I insist “I have to do it like this, if I don’t, I screw up.”. I still get the job properly done and they still point out a bunch of stuff that I supposedly did wrong. I have yet to hear a complaint from the boss or the customers, and until I do I’m going to refer to my “screw you” thinking technique.

I learned when not to say “f*ck it”

ADHDers are unorganized and always late. Well, kind of. I always hated being stood-up so much that I obsess about time and always plan one half-hour more than I think I will need for a particular trip – this will rarely get me to my destination earlier. I also had some bad experience with being unable to find certain documents, so ever since I moved out of my parents’ house, I bought a big file where I keep all the important stuff, and that file is always near the computer (because you can do so much of paperwork online). This is something I’ve been doing way longer than I know about my ADHD. BUT: My place is a mess. I was always very messy. The cleanliness of my house is…. non-existent, for the most part. I’m working on it by not saying “f*ck it” when a sport I tidied up starts getting cluttered again. Even if I don’t progress in my organizing and cleaning, the stuff I’ve decluttered since my diagnosis has to stay decluttered. It might sound stupid, but before the diagnosis, I actually managed to delude myself into thinking that one day, I’d be all “growed” up and would finally snap out of it and clean everything and everything would be fine the rest of my life, oooooooh it’s just a 20 year old phase (started when I was 13). I now know it’s something I need to work at a bit harder than others, I can’t just wait-and-see.

It strained some relationships

It was, sadly, not all good. But such is life. And having it rough with people certainly made this aspect of the diagnosis understandable, but sadly not bearable.

The first person I told, a sister, was way too overjoyed. She had been telling me for years that “you had ADHD when you were a kid! You bet on it!” and her only proof was that at 11pm I sometimes didn’t want to go to bed because “I still have to play some more!”. The fact that she thinks I had ADHD and that she was actually completely unaware of what the symptoms are on an adult doesn’t matter – we’re an I-told-you-so-family. Now she feels she can psychoanalyze me that much more and some of our conversations are that much harder.

The second person was a friend of 10 years. She smirked in my face and said she doesn’t believe in ADHD, it’s a fake. I don’t know what I was expecting, she doesn’t believe in cholesterol either. Yeah, you heard me. I have to admit, knowing her, I have to admire how this otherwise rough-edged woman tried to spare me and said “The important thing is you are on some kind of medication that you feel helps you.” but I still have to live with the fact that one of my dearest friends now believes that I’m some sort of blind idiot who is being fooled by a doctor and subject to a placebo effect.

Another one actually used the word “placebo effect”, she doesn’t believe in psychiatry. She believes firmly, because of a bad experience in her family, that psychiatrists will ruin people’s lives by leading people to think there’s something wrong with them. I actually should have seen this one coming, I knew about her issues…

I stopped telling people. Most of my family doesn’t know. One day, the meds had worn off, and I confided (blurted, more like) in my big sister (16 years my senior and practically my mother) that I was diagnosed with ADHD. She flipped! She accused my psychiatrist of being an incompetent fool and misdiagnosing me, that you can’t just see someone once and decide they have ADHD, that it takes months of testing. She too insinuated that I’m under placebo effect. I think this one actually hurt the most. She wouldn’t even listen to me – it’s typical for my family – she wouldn’t hear that I wasn’t diagnosed in one single session and she won’t acknowledge that diagnosing a child (as she would know as a teacher) and an adult are VERY different things (ask a child if they have trouble focusing and they won’t even know what the hell you’re talking about).

It’s too much of a hassle. I’m thankful that my best friend accepted it from the start. As a bonus, she knows the deal: her 14 year old cousin has ADHD so she’s well informed about the condition. I’ll always remember how happy I was when she said “Ha! First thing that came to my mind when you told me was our train-talks. How I’d be talking when we were riding the train and you’d go “I’m sorry, can you repeat that? I totally zoned out!” although you’d been staring at me the whole time“.

And because I have to have some sort of statement on my blog posts: This is NOT a journey! It’s just life. It’s a learning process.

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7 thoughts on “Longread – How getting the ADHD diagnosis changed my life

  1. tired – great post, good testimonial and good lessons.
    the meds really are extremely helpful to some people. sometimes it isn’t hard to diagnose ADD ADHD – it certainly doesn’t take months, although sometimes it has taken me months to realize I should evaluate someone for it.
    and it is wise to minimize contact with toxic people, surround yourself with people who are loving and supportive. And be loving and supportive to yourself.
    I will link to this post unless you object.
    Thanks
    Doug

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  2. Jeff says:

    I enjoyed your blog post Rosaleen! I found it as a link on Doug’s blog. I believe your comments are helping others as well as yourself.

    Unfortunately, I was forced to diagnose myself with having ADD. When I did it was as though all of the pieces for a jigsaw puzzle were coming together to create a complete picture. Eureka!

    Keep on ramblin’… Jeff

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    • Thanks for the comment! I’ll eventually share with the blogosphere how my diagnosis came (it wasn’t as swift as my sister thinks) but I didn’t even know there was such thing as adult ADHD/ADD. Doug’s blog is like a rock to me! I comment on his blog under a different alias. “He da man” :)

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  3. shannonell says:

    Just read this from the link on Doug’s blog. Great post, thank you!!! I self-diagnosed after my docs and psychiatrist missing it for decades, and after almost a year am finally getting the help I need – the right meds and therapy. Strategies from Doug’s book and blog, other books I’ve read, my live support group – all so helpful…priceless really. It’s awesome, but the next stage is figuring exactly this kind of stuff out. Who am I with all of this great help? How do I live with the new me? What’s “me” and what’s my ADHD? And hugely – how to deal with family and friends and colleagues. This was really helpful. thank you.

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