How I Learned I Have ADHD
One night not long ago, I was curled up in bed wide awake. My mind was racing. I had been on one of my "late-night-binge-read-lots-of-random-articles" kicks and I stumbled across one about ADHD. I skimmed it and was ready to move on but something jumped out at me. It mentioned how this person was finally able to listen to podcasts after being treated for ADHD. It seems so small, but I've never been able to listen to podcasts. In fact, I can't even watch TV without the subtitles on. No matter how hard I try, I cannot pay attention to those things. I lose focus easily. It takes me a long time to realize I've lost focus and then I try to find the place I most recently remember paying attention, and sometimes I forget to pay attention while I'm doing that. So trying to pay attention often feels like a lost cause. I went back and read the full article. I felt like the writer was describing me. It was the strangest feeling.
Of course I had wondered whether I had ADHD throughout various times in my life. I often daydreamed at school as a child. I would get in trouble for tapping my foot and my pen, which I used to concentrate. I would get in trouble for asking a question the teacher literally just answered. School came relatively easy to me, however, and minus a few corrections, I behaved myself well, so no red flags were raised. I was called flighty and boisterous, and I figured that's just who I was.
I remember one day in high school realizing that my entire desk at home was filled with paper, my locker was filled with paper, my car was filled with paper--even my gym locker was filled with paper. While I needed the visual reminder of seeing the papers to remember what was due, etc, I frequently lost papers, assignments, permission trips, checks. I calculated it once and almost all my B's in high school would have been A's if it weren't for my habit of losing my homework. I preferred my room to be clean but I could never remember to make my bed in the morning. If I put my clothes away in drawers, I forget that they are there, so most of my clothes end up on the floor. Much to the horror of my "clean" roommates, my room was always a mess. So I called myself messy and disorganized and moved on with it.
I have always suffered from a sense of social shame. I very often, no matter how important someone is to me, daydream by accident while they are talking, forget to listen and then I'm stuck nodding my head like an idiot when they're done talking. I feel awful. They know I didn't listen. If I know them well enough, I may ask that they repeat what they've said, but I usually try to ask a different question entirely and move on with it. I also get distracted easily, so I sometimes look away from the people I'm talking to and at other people instead. Sometimes I get so excited about what I'm about to say or I've thought of something I know I won't remember to say, so I interrupt. I fidget to be able to concentrate better on what people are saying. All of these behaviors can make friendships difficult. My silence is misconstrued as disinterest. My lack of nonverbal feedback (because my mind wanders) makes people think I hate them. I've known these things about myself but I just thought "Wow. I guess I'm kind of rude and full of myself" and moved on.
I am the most forgetful person that I know. Any of my friends can tell you this. I forget about texts, emails and invites. I misplace my keys so many times, I weekly have to use my GPS tracker to find them (and how I reached the level of needing a GPS tracker on them is a whole other story). I got locked out of my dorm so many times people started assuming I did it on purpose. I spent $400 getting replacement IDs my freshman year of college, and close to the same when it comes to my drivers license. I don't use a wallet because if I carry all my cards separately, there's a higher chance I'll only lose one as opposed to all. One time when I went to Wells Fargo for a replacement debit card, the banker laughed and called over the Assistant Manager because I had PAGES of reported missing debit cards--the most they had ever seen. I forget checks to the point where I once had a paycheck go to state funds to be claimed. But at the same time, I can remember random facts, dates, anniversaries and birthdays better than anyone I know. So I thought I just must be selectively forgetful and, again, full of myself.
After I read the article it struck me how often I had been able to change other character flaws of mine through self-awareness, determination to change and some grace. These attributes were somehow different. They impacted my life an self-esteem greatly. Yet, no matter how hard I tried to change--no matter what pickle I got myself into or how angry I made someone or even how much I hated these qualities about me--I simply couldn't change them.
As I lay there, mind racing, I told my husband, "Lovey, I think maybe I have ADHD." I said it without any confidence. I was thinking that most people can be forgetful and daydream and fidget and be rude, but they can just handle it better than I can.
"I thought you had ADHD within the first five minutes of talking to you." He replied, much to my surprise.
I wasn't even sure I fully believed in ADHD. I had heard misinformed voices talk about how it's a product of our culture, and skyrocketing numbers of children diagnosed pointed to a need for less sugar in diet, and less screen time. But as I learned more, I realized none of this stigma is true.
I quickly recalled all the times throughout my life other people had mentioned the possibility of it. Friends and classmates mentioned it mainly as jokes. An old youth minister had suggested it to me. I even was pretty convinced myself I had it in high school, especially when a teacher taught me about hyper focus. But when I brought up my concerns, they were all quickly dismissed... until now.
Ryan and I had a long conversation. We both started reading more about ADHD. It was amazing the quirks about me that we started to see in a new context. I started thinking about getting evaluated for it. Maybe my life could get better, I thought, maybe one day I could listen to a podcast.
The final straw came when I took my dad out to dessert one day when he was visiting. He had said something I found interesting and I started thinking about it on my own while he kept talking. A few minutes later he stopped talking and I realized I hadn't paid attention to any of it. "Oh yeah, cool" I said sheepishly. He knew I didn't listen. I knew he knew I didn't listen. Tears filled my eyes because I could see the disappointment in his. He deserved to be listened to. I had failed him again. I was tired of doing this to people I loved.
The next morning I kept thinking that maybe I wasn't lazy, rude, selfish, forgetful and flighty. Maybe these negative attributes that I have been assigning myself are actually results of very real challenges in my life. These driving thoughts led me to booking an appointment to be evaluated for ADHD.
Spoiler alert: I did get diagnosed with ADHD, more on that later.