Madeleine, diagnosed with ADHD at 17 in the United States

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1. What made you decide to have your diagnosis?

I've struggled with mental illness in general since age 11, and growing up my main treatment focuses were depression and anxiety. Enough of my ADHD symptoms overlapped with those of depression and anxiety that it went overlooked. Eventually, years down the road, a doctor was like "Hmmm, maybe there's something more going on..." And that's when I got tested and received my diagnosis.

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2. What do you do for a living?

I just graduated high school, so nothing yet

3. What is your ADHD presentation?


4. How were your school years?

School was absolutely awful! I barely graduated. My reading comprehension has always been an issue, I could read pages upon pages and not recall a thing that I read. This didn't just apply to reading long passages, it was also often difficult to read short one-sentence questions/prompts. It has gotten me to a point where I hate reading and avoid it all costs, I truly am amazed by those who can just read a book.

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

I've always been so off the walls. It takes a lot to kill my social battery, cause I always feel I have time for more. I've always talked so so fast and was filled to the brim with energy. My speech was so fast that it was often incoherent and slurred. Nowadays I still speak fast, but have enough practice to where my voice can be understood.

6. Was it difficult to get a diagnosis?

It wasn't too bad. At that point I had already gotten some scary diagnoses long before, so it didn't feel too crazy to hear I had ADHD. Plus, I had already had suspicion of it before. It felt more like a relief that I could finally get treatment because I finally knew why I was having these issues.

7. How did you prepare yourself for your diagnosis?

Before getting diagnosed, I was already pretty set on the idea that I had ADHD, but it still felt important to remind myself that having ADHD does not equal stupidity or lack of capability.

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

Once diagnosed, I was able to jump right into treat options, which is what I wanted. My psychiatrist gave me a quick rundown of possible symptoms, but I already have done my fair share of research on the basics before hand so I knew most of what he said, if not more. But, I do feel that if I had no prior knowledge I would not have felt informed enough.

9. How do you feel about it now?

Right now, having an ADHD diagnosis feels good so I have a reason to have certain issues, but in every other way it can be overwhelming and overall annoying. When ADHD affects nearly every conceivable part of your life, you find yourself explaining certain habits with "Sorry, it's because of my ADHD." I hate doing that, because as much as I'm just trying to give explanation to behaviors that might not make sense to someone else, it feels like I'm making excuses for anything and everything I do wrong/am unable to do. That's one of my least favorite parts of ADHD, the amount of times I feel I have to bring it up, even with understanding people.

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

I have no clue, it depends. If someone were to see me in real life, they might notice a bouncing leg or a lot of fidgeting, but otherwise I have no clue.

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

Following everyday conversations, keeping up with habits or a hobby, remembering to do "normal" tasks like eating or going to the bathroom, time management, restlessness and hyperfixation are the main ones for me.

12. What are your ADHD strengths ?

I'm a musician and songwriter, and because my brain moves so fast, I am always coming up with new song ideas, spewing out lyrics and mixing things up. With my ADHD comes a lot of random thought processes and connections, which works great for getting innovative in writing.

13. Did your ADHD diagnosis help you?

I really do think my diagnosis has been helpful. Without it, I don't feel I would've been able/confident enough to follow through with treatment.

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

I honestly don't think my life would be much different now if I was diagnosed earlier, but I am only 18. I feel that if I was older I would feel differently, I'm just glad I was able to get through high school despite struggling so much with it.

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

Honestly, not surprised! Haha, maybe I do fit the "stereotype".

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

I also suffer from OCD, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. I'm not sure if they contribute to my ADHD or vise versa, but at times it feels like they are working together against me.

17. Do you deal with anxiety?

Yes, I do! I have struggled with panic attacks for nearly my entire life. I find learning skills to manage anxiety and practicing them when you're not anxious to be helpful.

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

I am lucky enough to be in a supportive family that makes me feel valid, but I know it would be so much harder if I did not have them there for me. It's so important to have people who support you in things like these.

19. Do you ever doubt your diagnosis now?

Not at all. As much as I've gotten used to the downsides, they're still very much noticeable and bothersome. I'm familiar with my symptoms, not desensitized to them.

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

Knowing for sure that I have ADHD has been very validating. I feel less crazy, it's nice to live with something that has a name to it. I've always felt frantic without a certain level of control over myself and my life, so when I'm able to identify why something is going wrong for myself, it is very helpful.

21. How do you feel about medication?

I'm all for medication, I think that it's not for everyone, but definitely worth a try. Medication can be an amazing tool and contribution to someone's treatment.

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

Checklists! Reminders! Alarms! I rely so heavily on my planners, calendars and daily to-do lists.

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

Look into it! Trust yourself and be honest with those that can and want to help you. Even if you don't end up being diagnosed, it can be a great excuse to take a bit to get to know yourself and what you're struggling with. If you do get diagnosed, that simply means a conversation about treatment has been opened up. It's another step closer to getting the right help, in my opinion at least.

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