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i’m a few years late, but i have ADHD

As long as I can remember I’ve always shaken my leg(s). It’s not driven by nervousness or any sort of anxiousness, it’s something that just happens as soon as I sit down. Over the years my leg-shaking has grown to needing to have one foot tapping in-tempo during worship and even shaking my foot when my legs are criss-crossed, laying in bed, and even when it’s elevated in any way. When I sit, both of my legs will shake sometimes, and I can’t control it without the thought of it itching my brain until I give in.

I’m also an innovator. After repeating and perfecting a given task, I will ask myself how I can perform with speed but also maintain accuracy. This has become incredibly beneficial to my education and is why I never “struggled” in school, with the exception of elementary and middle school when I lost my sister in 3rd grade and my mother three months into my first year in middle school. As a left-hander, many things I do like playing guitar are done with my right hand because I was afraid of asking for help and learned by watching my classmates who were…yep…right-handed. I’ve gone most of my life without having to ask questions or for help because I would always find a way to get things done.

Contrary to my years of blogging and making friends over the internet, I am a godawful communicator. Throughout the years I’ve heard “you talk too much” and “not everything is about you, Hayley“, I don’t really know how to speak loud enough or talk quietly, I stutter randomly when I talk and/or pronounce my R’s like W’s, and I am horrible with intruding into conversations to contribute to group discussions—(though this usually depends on who’s in the group). In the past I’d often get odd looks and/or responses from others towards things I’d say because it was either wrong/inappropriate or because it had nothing to do with what everyone else was talking about.

The meanings behind these aspects of my life were tarnished after I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

courtesy of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (add.org)

This meant that for the past 18 years I struggled so so much over losing my sister and mother, lost so many friends because of how I’d react to things they did, countless reports in two months by my previous residence hall for my behavior, hurt myself thinking I was crazy, I even believed the world didn’t need someone as dysfunctional as myself...only to find out that these things stemmed from something you’ve had all this time but never knew, something that could’ve been treated a long time ago.

It’s like being introduced to someone you’ve grown up with, comforted, abused, and hated but when you go to introduce yourself there’s nothing to introduce. In an essence, it feels like my entire life was a lie.

This whole time I had known Hayley with ADHD, not Hayley.

So, here we are. You just found out you have ADHD and you’re handed a prescription slip to get your medication filled, expected to go back to your “normal” life as if all of this was no surprise and knowing you have ADHD simply just fills in the gaps of your life you never understood. Because it’s as simple as that, right?

Here’s the thing about ADHD: it’s not a disorder that just makes school hard or makes you hyper/inattentive. My relationships (family, friends, partners), work/money, and personal quality of living are all affected by ADHD. To make matters worse, other comorbidities such as depression and anxiety often co-exist with ADHD and make it difficult for treatment to be effective if not found and treated. This is not to say that those with ADHD and another mental illness have it worse than those with just one, but who would ever want to handle two psychological disorders at once—juggling symptoms of ADHD + another illness is not an easy job.

I never believed anyone when they told me nothing I say makes sense until I started noticing how long I talk for and how pointless most of the things I say are to what I’m supposed to be talking about. It makes it hard to not become frustrated when you’re always focusing on someone’s body language to tell you when to shut up or until they verbally say something. But I don’t have control over the things I get distracted by. I can’t easily separate myself from being distracted by my emotions. Talking about how I feel—and especially about my own frustrations with ADHD—feels like it takes so much longer to explain. And unfortunately, I tend to only hurt myself more than I already am and refuse to talk about it with those who are a part of my inner circle, my “support line”—cause why should someone else listen to what I have to say if I can’t promise I will always be able to follow what they’re talking about?

I may be able to read people and understand their actions and behavior through their emotions and history, but that doesn’t mean I always understand people. Most of how I can control myself from being destructive towards myself and others is by assessing the situation and those in it and asking myself…”What factors could be causing this person to act this way?” It definitely helps me when I begin to overthink and turn everything onto myself. But I’m not always able to assess possible factors, nor is it anywhere close to easy to “force” someone to tell you everything just so you can go on with your everyday life. And because of that and my ADHD, I not only feel trapped in what I’m experiencing, but I also feel trapped in their hurt and their pain. Not because the other person is holding me back, per se, but because I know this kind of behavior is not who I am 80% of the time.

But thanks to my late diagnosis, one thing I noticed about ADHD is how underrated it is in society. All these things I never knew about ADHD that I had to learn through the responses of others and through putting myself through so much hurt could’ve been avoided if I knew the full extent of this disorder…and maybe I could’ve been more accepting, more understanding, and at least a bit more convinced that I have ADHD if these things that I’ve gone through my whole life experiencing were discussed more frequently. Yet, to the rest of the world—my Dad—my future employers—and several others, I am nothing more than some lazy shithole.

But that is not who I am, and to those who also have ADHD, you’re not either. You are just as worthy of being successful as anyone and everyone else. It can be frustrating that you can’t do simple tasks as easily as everyone else, but that’s okay—don’t be discouraged by it. Don’t abandon the projects you’ve always wanted to do or the hobbies you’ve wanted to pursue because you feel incapable of going through with them, because if I had abandoned this post that I’ve had lounged up in my drafts in three different areas on my computer, you’d probably never hear what I am saying to you now. Some may never know they have ADHD for a really long time like myself. Friends and family would probably never know what I know now about ADHD. No one would ever realize and see that ADHD is a psychological disorder that is just as important as every other well-known psychological disorder. And this stupid godawful stigma on ADHD would live on and the full extent of this disorder would continue to be hidden within the shadows. You’re gonna be okay. 

We’re gonna get through this. Together. 

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