ADHD as an adult

For as long as I could remember I have assumed that I procrastinate a lot. On the other hand, if it's something fascinating, I'd find it extremely hard to stop doing it. There was no in-between. I have also known that I get distracted by the slightest stimulus and go in a complete tangent. I'd do well in subjects I like and do pretty poorly in subjects I hate. I've known that I'd space out a lot. Even when I really want to do something I'd struggle to do it unless there's an immediate deadline or a payoff. Surprisingly, I have also been told I'm a good listener - may be because in reality my head's somewhere else. I could learn by listening to my brother read (he had the habit of always reading out aloud) but taking the book and reading it myself was always challenging. And yet somehow, I have done decently well in school. Although, I still remember the look on my Principal's face when I told him I got into a decent college. Every one of my teachers thought I had the "potential" to shine if only I put in my effort.

On the personal and relationships front, I would also say whatever comes to mind without a filter. Since I could never hold a thought for more than a few seconds, I'd blurt it out in fear that I'll forget it - only for it to come across as cutting off someone and being rude. I could also never get social cues as well as others. I almost faced disciplinary action at work as a result of something I blurted out. I have missed out on so many dating opportunities because I didn't understand the social signals well. While I can read people's reaction to what I do and how it affects but could never predict this over an impersonal medium like text/email - resulting in a lifelong list of lost friendships and relationships. The only friendships that lasted are the ones that really tolerated me and overlooked my infractions. I'd instantly react emotionally to any criticism or feedback. I could almost never think on my feet - I distinctly remember this as a kid.

Unfortunately, those with whom you’re interacting don’t necessarily know you have ADHD—or understand its role in causing your behavior— and may see you as immature, self-centered, or egotistical.

Barkley PhD, Russell A. Taking Charge of Adult ADHD

The first time I heard the word ADHD was when I was ~30. And even then I didn't exactly connect with what I understood as ADHD - hyperactivity/distracted. Neither did I understand how complex ADHD is and how it extends to emotional intelligence. While I was trying to read books on Emotional Intelligence and being a better person, I could never apply it in real-life. All this changed a couple of years ago when I found this video on reddit (of all the places) by Dr. Russell Barkely. I almost broke down crying realising how much of my life I have wasted because - academically, professionally & personally. Weirdly, it felt good to know that there was indeed something wrong with me. Trying to fight this all my life had been like a disabled person who doesn't know they're disabled trying to climb a flight of stairs without even a crutch and not understanding how others seem to have no issues walking up and down the stairs.

The essence of it is that one or more executive functions are underdeveloped in people with ADHD .

ADHD appears to be a combination of

  • Poor inhibition
  • Poor self-regulation
  • Problems with executive functions—those mental abilities that allow us to regulate our own behavior

Barkley PhD, Russell A. Taking Charge of Adult ADHD (p.47)

It took me a few months to finally reach out to a psychiatrist and get evaluated professionally. And because ADHD can't really be tested physically, I still continue to doubt I have ADHD. Every time I go back and read the symptoms listed in the above-mentioned book and my notes and highlights from it I tell myself to take it seriously and seek help. That's what I finally did last week. I'm writing this down mostly to remind myself that it's not all in my head and there's nothing wrong in getting treated for it. One can only hope at my age that I'd at least have a semi-normal life going forward.

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