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1. What made you decide to have your diagnosis?
I was chatting with a friend in late 2019 and she mentioned that she suspected signs of inattentive ADHD in herself. Initially I was bewildered because the symptoms that she listed were all just things that I thought everyone did! I did some more research, consulted a psychiatrist in Jan 2020, and got diagnosed with inattentive type ADHD. I had just turned 20 a few months earlier.
2. What do you do for a living?
3. What is your ADHD presentation?
4. How were your school years?
I was probably the world's worst student! Always forgetting to do or bring my homework, doodling all over my worksheets, chatting with my friends during class, daydreaming...the list goes on. Undiagnosed ADHD student life was very traumatic for me because of everyone saying things like "You're not trying hard enough" or "You can do better than that" or "You don't care enough; if you did, you'd be trying more." I also got picked on a lot because I was very naive.
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5. Looking back, what was an obvious ADHD trait in your childhood?
I daydreamed so much it was ridiculous. People just didn't notice it because I was the quiet kid sitting in the corner getting passed by all the time. I also would refuse to do things I had no interest in. It's funny because I know this one other guy who had these exact same traits and he was diagnosed with ADHD at a very young age, while for me, I just needed to "try harder" or "care more". Hmm...
6. Was it difficult to get a diagnosis?
Not really, I've been lucky in that department. I realise that I had the privilege of parents who were willing to pay for psychiatrist visits, and also the access to a good psychiatrist in the first place. Some of my friends haven't been so lucky.
7. How did you prepare yourself for your diagnosis?
I researched on the symptoms and the more I read, the more I was convinced I had it. Eventually I took a couple of those online tests as a rough gauge (they are NOT diagnostic tools) and both told me to see a psychiatrist because of the high likelihood of having ADHD. On the day of the appointment I brought along whatever old report cards from primary and secondary school that I could find. The psychiatrist leafed through them and said that the teachers' comments about my classroom behaviour were consistent with textbook inattentive ADHD.
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8. How did you feel right after getting your diagnosis?
You know that one scene in Brooklyn 99 where Holt is screaming "VINDICATIOOOONNNN"? Yeah that. That was my entire internal monologue for the whole appointment. A lot of my behaviour in the past suddenly made so much sense to me. And I felt relieved that I wasn't a flawed person who didn't care or didn't try hard enough etc. It was just the way my brain worked. I could also begin the process of finding out what accommodations I needed.
9. How do you feel about it now?
I'm still learning so much about myself and how ADHD affects me. I once saw someone put it this way: it's like getting to know yourself all over again! Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's painful. But it's a long journey with much to learn and I'm excited to see how I can unlock my full potential!
10. Do you think you "look like" the ADHD stereotype?
No. If I did, I would've been diagnosed way earlier in life, like that other guy I mentioned earlier - he fit the stereotype so well. I think also because I've learned to mask certain behaviours, like my grandma would always tell me off for shaking my leg when I'm sitting down, so I don't do it around her. Or when I learned how to perfect the "yes I'm interested in what you're saying" face when my thoughts are a million miles away. (This one came in useful in school. A lot!)
11. What are you struggling with because of your ADHD brain?
Executive dysfunction has to be my worst enemy. Always has been, probably always will be. I also cannot get medicated due to clashes with other medication I am taking for pre-existing health conditions. So I just have to learn to deal with it without meds. It sucks a lot.
12. What are your ADHD strengths ?
I'm super creative! I'm great at writing and music, these are my 2 biggest strengths. I'm great at divergent thinking, unfortunately not convergent thinking though. As Jessica McCabe puts it: When others are saying "Think outside the box!" I'm saying, "...there was a box???"
13. Did your ADHD diagnosis help you?
Yes. I never regret it.
14. Do you feel your life could have gone the other way if you'd been diagnosed earlier?
It would have helped a lot to be sure, I think it would have been better for my self esteem and I would have known why I behaved the way I did. That said, in hindsight, I wouldn't change a thing. Going through the pain has made me the person I am today, it has helped me shape my core beliefs and values, and right now my ambition is to be a counsellor to help people, so that they don't have to suffer unnecessarily like I did.
15. What was your family/friends' reaction to your diagnosis?
I remember on the day of the diagnosis the psychiatrist was asking me questions like "Do you exhibit X behaviour and Y behaviour" and my parents were sitting there going "Hey, Dad does that a lot too!" It turns out that I had inherited it from my dad and neither of us had known the whole time. And I just thought, if you think getting diagnosed at 21 is late, try getting diagnosed only in your 50s! A couple of people on my dad's side - including one of my grandparents - also show some of the same symptoms, although they were never diagnosed. So I think it's pretty clear where I got it from!
16. Do you have any comorbid disorders or neurological conditions?
Yes, I have also been diagnosed with epilepsy, depression and anxiety and PTSD (in that order). Epilepsy meds is the reason why I cannot take ADHD meds.
17. Do you deal with anxiety?
I definitely do. For me, I'm a Christian, so what I do is listen to my favourite worship music playlists and sing along until I feel better. I also pray about it, which gives me huge peace of mind. If it's a particularly bad anxiety attack, then in addition to music and prayer, I will also do deep breathing and some grounding techniques (the 5 4 3 2 1). I also text my close friends for reassurance and get them to send me pictures of their pets - one friend has a really cute dog and pictures/videos of her never fail to calm me down! 12/10 good girl.
18. Did people around you make you doubt yourself during your diagnosis journey?
They tried, but failed. Lol. After a lifetime of invalidation, I wasn't gonna let them stand in the way.
19. Do you ever doubt your diagnosis now?
Nope. It helps a lot when I see my dad going through the same struggles as I did, or when he talks about the problems he faced when he was my age. Then I say to myself, "This is a real thing. It's not exactly the most fun family heirloom in the world, but I have it and he has it and it is real. And I'm not alone."
20. How has the diagnosis changed the way you live?
I know how to explain to people the reason why I behave the way I do. It's also helped me be more compassionate to myself whenever I mess up. And I know that I should ask for accommodations when I need them. Also, most importantly, it made me part of the community and I can be an advocate for those who don't have a voice or are feeling lost about their own diagnosis journeys.
21. How do you feel about medication?
I wish I had it. But I can't.
22. What was the thing that helped you most in your daily life?
My noise cancelling headphones! Best $300 I ever spent. Seriously. Invest in a good pair of those, it will save your life. Whenever I feel myself getting overstimulated, I just pop em on and everything's fine.
23. What advice would you give someone who is wondering if they have ADHD?
Reach out to someone. If you feel like you have no one to talk to, do some research online. There are lots of websites, youtube channels, forums (and instagram comic artists hehe) and you will be able to learn so much. Don't worry, one day I will be officially qualified to help people like you! And remember: you're not alone.
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