A journey into ADHD

This is a deviation from my normal technical babble. Instead, I’m going to dive into mental health for a little bit. Specifically, mine. I don’t think we talk about or care enough about mental health in the United States. And when we do talk about it, there’s a lot of negative stigma around it. So I’m going to share my adventure in having a mental disability.

Disclaimer: this is about my personal journey. I cannot give nor is this post any type of medical advice. If you think you have a medical problem, please consult a licensed doctor.

The lead-up

For a long time, I’ve felt that I’ve had ADHD. Going to school in the 90s and early 2000s, ADHD wasn’t as properly categorized as it is today. I had friends with “90s ADHD”, as in they did act out in class. They were the type that was bouncing off the walls. That was considered ADHD at the time. Science, thankfully, has evolved. Had I been going to school in the 2020s, I probably would have been properly diagnosed.

I wasn’t terrible. It’s just that I got bored with low-energy repetitive tasks. Homework was one of those tasks. I had more fun stuff to do so I’d put homework off. Especially in high school. Programming PHP was more fun. And I could do my homework on the bus. So I did. My programming projects? Never completed. Some homework assignments like papers? I wrote those the day before they were due.

My bedroom was always a mess. My desk was always a mess. Stuff was in piles. I shoved stuff in drawers. I shoved stuff under my bed. I shoved clothes into my dresser.

I was called “lazy” and “unmotivated” and sometimes made to feel dumb by my parents and teachers.

I wish I was diagnosed then so I could have received treatment that could have helped me later on in life.

When I started working, I found myself constantly getting up and going to the kitchen. Or taking a walk down some hallways. Or even through the office building. My employer wanted me to learn something for my job. It wasn’t interesting to me. I put it off. I was almost terminated for it, but by this time, I had grown tired of this job and needed more money. So I got a new job.

My new job let me travel between offices. I had real servers in multiple locations to tend to. I ran cabling. I, of course, started PHP projects… which I never completed. Eventually, I was let go from this job in part because it turned more “corporate”. I was expected to be at a certain location and work from there. I grew short with colleagues when things happened that I didn’t like (like I got pretty pissed off when I found we had a data breach and nothing was done).

For the next few years, I job hopped. My work life was a mess. I cycled through relationships when I got bored with them. My home was a chaotic mess. Then I decided to do something I had been meaning to do for a long time: talk with a medical professional about ADHD.

Oh, forgot to mention. With untreated ADHD, do not take a call center job! I was glued to my seat other than bathroom breaks, 15 minute breaks, and my lunch. I fidgeted like none other. I actually had to buy a fidget cube from Target just so I wasn’t clicking a pen. Plus, the cube has other activities on it so there was variety.

The diagnosis

I had heard a lot of horror stories with some psychologists, and even worse, the ones in my area were limited.  I kept putting it off. Eventually, I found a teleheath (I prefer “virtual healthcare provider” or “virtual health provider” which I’ll be using past this point) provider who specializes in ADHD. I setup an appointment and it went really well.

The FNP-C (Certified Family Nurse Practitioner, a registered nurse who is more advanced than a registered nurse but not at a MD level, essentially) I met with was wonderful! We talked about medical history, family health history, and why I think I might have ADHD. I explained everything. I talked about my experiences, how it affected me, how I constantly forget things. He said I definitely hit the 6 key indicators of ADHD. We lightly talked treatment and next steps. I have a follow up virtual appointment to narrow down which ADHD I have. My first appointment was about 30 minutes and the second one might be a little shorter or about the same.

Why I am sharing

Like I mentioned in my intro, I feel like we have a negative stigma in this country when it comes to mental health. After talking with others with ADHD, I realized how similar of experiences I’ve had.

I specifically mentioned the anger example on purpose. It appears that ADHD does have an effect on emotions, though because emotions are hard to measure (science!) so it’s not included, but those with ADHD do mention lack of emotion control. Not just anger, but all emotions. In my example, I have had outbursts on people because my brain doesn’t know how to stop and think. When I’m happy, I’m excitedly happy. When I am sad, I can be down in the dumps. When something pisses me off, well… you get the picture.

This is a new journey for me and I am happy to share my experience in hopes that if you feel like you might have the issue, you get checked out as well.

Thoughts on the negative stigma

When you have something that cannot be seen, it’s hard to get people who have never experienced what you’re experiencing a look at it. I’ve heard the following metaphors for ADHD:

  • It’s like you’re channel surfing, but someone else is holding the remote.
  • Fireworks of ideas.
  • Having a computer with every window open at once and trying to read them all.
  • Putting together 5 jigsaw puzzles at once, only all the pieces are mixed together and the boxes have no pictures.

Here’s how I describe it:

It’s like you’re watching a ferris wheel. Sometimes it spins really fast, sometimes it spins slowly, sometimes it stops.

If you’ve never actually experienced a brain that never seems to stop, it can be difficult to understand. As science progresses, we learn more about it.

It’s important to keep in mind that what seems like a simple task to you, isn’t necessarily a simple task to us. It might be easy to call in a takeaway order. If you ask us to call, we have to find our phone, then we have to find the phone number – did we type in in correctly? Are all the digits right? Now we have to think of what to tell the person who answers. If they ramble off “today’s chef’s special”, it’s basically game over. Now I have to remember what I wanted. Chances are, I’ve probably forgotten. I have to remember what you want, and chances are I forgot that too. And that’s causing stress and frustration, as well as uncertainty and doubt. Which causes more stress. Let’s see… I’ve managed to blurt out what I wanted (I think), and what you wanted. We wanted some dessert too… but which desert again? Right. We wanted a slice of apple pie and cheesecake. Great. We’ve made a call to order food and it has been the hardest thing and absolutely terrible and the person on the other end probably thinks we’re dumb.

Welcome to life with ADHD. I’m glad I get to share with you.

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