Coping with a late ADHD diagnosis

Growing up, I always knew there was something a little ‘off’ with me.

I was always in trouble, I couldn’t control my hyperactivity, I felt like I had no control over myself at all 99% of the time. People around me just thought I was a weirdo, or a bad kid who couldn’t behave, or stupid.

Unfortunately, back when I was a child, there wasn’t much awareness for learning difficulties or disorders. Not like there is now anyway. So I went through schools and colleges with a disorder I hadn’t been made aware of yet.

I was officially diagnosed with ADHD when I was 24.

I went to the doctors off my own back, mainly because a lot of people I worked with kept telling me they were convinced something wasn’t right with my behaviour and I should look into it. At the time, I was a little angry at them for saying it, whereas now I’m grateful they did because my diagnosis meant so much to me.

It cleared up so much confusion and heartache over the years. I didn’t do very well in my studies because my attention span was non-existent, I never seemed to understand that ‘think before you speak’ thing because I just couldn’t do it. And for years people just mocked me or slagged me off because they thought I was a strange naughty idiot.

People always say ‘well at least you now know’ or ‘that makes so much sense, you must be so happy you know now’, but the truth is, being diagnosed so late creates a lot of negative energy.

Once I had my diagnosis, I spent way too much time thinking back to all my younger days: the friends I fell out with (due to my behaviour), the lessons I kept getting in trouble in because I just couldn’t concentrate, relationships that may or may not have failed because of me..

The late diagnosis was so overwhelming. I don’t think I have ever experienced so many feelings in one time then when I was coming to terms with my diagnosis. I was heartbroken, I felt so much grief. Grief for all the things that could have happened differently if somehow my diagnosis had come in my childhood.

Would I have had better learning support? Would I have been able to achieve something differently? Would my social circles have been different and/or better?

It was a very difficult time in my life, and it still is. One of my constant burdens is that people just think it’s an excuse. A lot of people don’t take ADHD (or any other disorders for that matter) seriously. I even had a work colleague say to me recently when I mentioned I had ADHD ‘that’s just a tag really it doesn’t mean anything’.

It’s also hard when I’ve been around situations where younger children of friends and family are potentially being diagnosed with ADHD, and I see my friends and family members sharing all this stuff on social media about caring about ADHD and awareness etc. But a lot of these people still give me a hard time for my behaviour. Where is the sense in that?

There is always so many unanswered questions and problems when it comes to late diagnosis. It always makes so much sense when you finally get the answers, but yet there is so much confusion, anger and even grief over what could have been, how other people may see you differently, there’s even questioning of your own self like ‘did I fake my assessment? What if someone suddenly comes back later and says actually we got it wrong it’s not ADHD’.

There is so much confusion and progression that comes from a late diagnosis.

ADHD is not a part of my life that comes in here and there, it is literally who I am as a person. It’s part of me, I just didn’t always know it. But ADHD is judged harshly, even by me myself. I hate myself a lot of the time because of how my brain is and how I react to things. The hyperactivity is so difficult.

Returning to full-time office work has also been a very hard step because the distraction levels are literally impossible. I have difficulty having conversations on the phone or in meetings when other people are having conversations around me, my brain goes into anxiety mode and I struggle.

My brain is also so overactive and distracted that I forget things, constantly.

I get myself into all sorts of trouble with ADHD;

– forgetting important things within two seconds

– impulsively reacting to things.. including impulsive purchases, random outbursts of comments/words, hyper behaviour out of nowhere

– stuttering or becoming irritable when I’m interrupted or other people are talking at the same time too close to me

Those are just a few things that spring to mind when it comes to ADHD. It’s also the above things that make me think more about how different it might have been if I had known sooner.

But, we can’t spend our lives on what-if’s can we? All we can do is accept that things happened when they did. And that we can develop from our late diagnosis.

Having anxiety doesn’t help matters either. And it’s a regular vicious circle, but I’m getting there slowly but surely.

“It’s.” a poem I wrote about battling anxiety and ADHD daily.

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