Kristi, diagnosed with ADHD at 31 in South Africa

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South Africa
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1. What made you decide to have your diagnosis?

I thought I was heading toward burning out from the pressure at work. ADHD had always been at the back of my mind since being mentioned by a manager I worked with 9 years ago. It had been dismissed by my psychiatrist back then, who was treating me for depression. I did my research, but remained skeptical. Eventually I just made an appointment because I was heading towards a crash and burn situation.

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2. What do you do for a living?

Financial Controller

3. What is your ADHD presentation?


4. How were your school years?

I did really well at school, but I hardly needed to actually study. And when I actually did study it was because I was deathly afraid of getting bad grades (strict parents), and that all makes sense now. That changed when I went to university and I actually had to study to just pass.

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5. Looking back, what was an obvious ADHD trait in your childhood?

I was always day-dreaming, doodling in class, rushing through tests and being impatient. I was and still am extremely messy and disorganised, I lose things on the regular. Also my mom getting worried because I could read fantasy books for hours on end without moving or eating.

6. Was it difficult to get a diagnosis?

Not at all. I researched ADHD for a good few months and then just googled psychiatrists in my area and made an appointment. I only had to wait three weeks and my doctor diagnosed me in the first session. That was 6 weeks ago.

7. How did you prepare yourself for your diagnosis?

I went in there not even expecting an ADHD diagnosis. But I did read up about it. I told the psychiatrist I believe I’m heading toward burnout but that I have a suspicion that I may have ADHD. She explained then that the burnout is due to the ADHD.

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8. How did you feel right after getting your diagnosis?

It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. But then I went through the five stages of grief. I was wondering if the diagnosis is correct, I was angry that it came so late (especially after trying to broach the subject 9 years ago), I felt depressed about the life that I could have had especially since it took me longer to complete my studies. I’m now accepting it and instead feeling proud of what I’ve achieved, despite my struggles.

9. How do you feel about it now?

I’m embracing it. I am now medicated and it’s made such a difference in my life. I can be so much more forgiving towards myself instead of feeling like a failure of a human being.

10. Do you think you "look like" the ADHD stereotype?

Not at all. Most people find it hard to believe. I think it’s because I’m a quiet introverted person and I’m shy. My hyperactivity present in other ways and I think I mask really well.

11. What are you struggling with because of your ADHD brain?

I am extremely disorganised and forgetful. And my emotions are very intense. I am trying to do better though.

12. What are your ADHD strengths ?

I love my job. So I tend to hyperfocus on it. And I have a lot of compassion.

13. Did your ADHD diagnosis help you?

Most certainly. It led to getting medicated and it has already improved my life so much.

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14. Do you feel your life could have gone the other way if you'd been diagnosed earlier?

Absolutely. I could have been a member of a professional body, but I failed the exams too many times. I’ve decided to pick up studies again.

15. What was your family/friends' reaction to your diagnosis?

I found out that my cousins have ADHD too! Everyone has been very supportive, mostly. Some more than others, as “everyone is getting diagnosed with ADHD these days”. A work friend even printed out a list of symptoms and asked me to explain what they are and how they present in me.

16. Do you have any comorbid disorders or neurological conditions?

Definitely depression. I was treated for depression as mentioned previously, and I do tend to have a bit of a dark cloud hanging over me. I have low self esteem and feel like a bit of an imposter on the regular.

17. Do you deal with anxiety?

Only when I have a deadline I forgot about. But I just take a walk outside, do what I can about it and most times realise the anxiety was for nothing.

18. Did people around you make you doubt yourself during your diagnosis journey?

For sure. I was told that I’m just lazy and could probably do with a sprinkle of ADHD. I also thought how could I have ADHD if I was a top candidate in school!

19. Do you ever doubt your diagnosis now?

No, I went for a second opinion and the impact medication has had just solidifies it for me. Also my mother has a lot of ADHD traits so I believe it runs in our family.

20. How has the diagnosis changed the way you live?

I’m doing extra things like making lists and making extra efforts to organise and then remain organised. My spice drawer has been in shape for over a month now and I’m so proud of that small win.

21. How do you feel about medication?

Fully support it. If the benefits can outweigh the negatives by so much I don’t see the problem. I never enjoyed the antidepressants I was on, I didn’t feel like myself, but I on the ADHD meds I feel like a levelled up version of myself.

22. What was the thing that helped you most in your daily life? 

Lists. Lots and lots of lists. And sticky notes. It needs to be physical too. A list on my phone is useless.

23. What advice would you give someone who is wondering if they have ADHD?

Stop procrastinating and just make the appointment. And don’t doubt yourself. You alone know what’s going on in that head of yours.

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