There’s been a lot of discussion and misinformation about what ADHD is, whether it exists and how it’s treated in the press. I’m not attempting to address these arguments, but rather offer my own experience and how I came to seek a diagnosis when I was 46.
A little about the name ADHD. I believe ‘Attention Deficit’ is misleading. I certainly don’t suffer from a deficit of attention – nope! I just find it hard to pay attention to what I’m meant to be paying attention to. Much to the annoyance of almost every teacher, employer and pretty much anyone who has tried to have a conversation with me.
As a girl (the ratio of males to females diagnosed with ADHD is 3:1) I was always either a gobby motormouth that wouldn’t shut up, or I’d be daydreaming with very little perception whatsoever of what was going on around me. Neither of these things were a deficit of attention. In fact, I could cover about 82 topics of conversation (one sided) in only a few minutes with no trouble. And when it came to daydreaming, I was able to focus for hours on the clouds drifting above my classroom window, or the grain in the wood on my desk, or my pencil, or my ornate doodling as my teacher’s boring, monotonous drawl melted away to nothing.
Another thing about the name ADHD is the hyperactivity part. From what I’ve read and know of my own experience, one of the reasons girls sometimes slip through the net is because they don’t necessarily act particularly hyper. They aren’t bouncing off the walls (like my son), or unable to sit still in a chair (like my son). But instead tend to have very little impulse control and maybe have a restlessness that presents differently, inwardly rather than outwardly.
So, it seems, there may be a lot more adult women out there that have struggled since a young age but have managed through, perhaps, good relationships, social networks, their own sheer bloody minded determination to keep going with ADHD but never get diagnosed.
That was me – when the planets aligned and all was calm and good, things were manageable. I have had some exciting and rewarding jobs and several careers. I’m a successful photographer and an author of two books. I have three lovely children, a good marriage, a loving supportive family and a lovely home, great life-long friendships. But these manageable periods are always short-lived.
Then there were the times when things were not alright. When life was extremely hard. The wheels first fell off with the onset of teenage hormones. Then the inevitable relationship breakups and on into my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s – divorce, eviction, post natal depression, redundancy, bankrupcy, professional rejection and lack of success, loss of friendships, bereavement, a child with serious mental health problems, a child with a disability. All these life events can and do happen to anyone and everyone, yet with each of these to a lesser or greater extent, it seemed so much harder than it should have been to recover or just cope. I watched friends and acquaintances deal with far worse, but didn’t go into a total tailspin. All of which just makes me feel even more like a total loser.
It has been the latest one that has finally driven me to seek a diagnosis though. This last one, the femme-fatale of female physiology, mid-life’s biggest shitty stick – the bloody menopause. Since 2015, once a month, my brain has felt like a clown’s car – collapsing, falling apart and disintegrating until it’s just a heap on the floor. I can deal with the night sweats, the acne and the migraines. But not being able to string a sentence together, or organise my housework, or simply work, I can’t put up with.
Clown cars collapsing are amusing. This is not.