October Is ADHD Awareness Month – Day 2

Right, that’s it. I’ve run out of ideas. Two days of finding material – it’s too much!

Only kidding.

Random ADHD Fact No2

Know any ADHDers? No?

You’re wrong. You’re surrounded by us. That person that cut you up in traffic and then shouted abuse at you? Probably an ADHDer. The friend whose finances are a complete train wreck, despite them having a well paid job? Possibly one of us. The chronically late/early person in the office? Being on time is a real struggle for us. The intelligent friend that can’t read a book?

As usual – these are just pointers – taken on their own they mean nothing, but if someone does all of these…..is it you?

When I say surrounded by ADHDers – I’m talking massive under-diagnosis. As an absolute minimum 2% of the world’s population has ADHD, it might be as high as 5%. That’s up to 1 in 20 of everyone you meet – if there’s 20 people in the room with you there’s likely to be one of us, lurking. Are they lurking in the mirror?

Today’s ADHDer Of The Day – Katy B

I’ve known Katy for a couple of years and she’s great. All this *looks around* was her idea.

No, not the interwebs. This awareness month blog.

She’s leading by example – this is her contribution. I’m just copying and pasting – no spellcheck, no editing, nothing. This is naked publishing (hope she hasn’t libelled anyone!). So get yourself a brew and a biscuit and strap in!


From Moody Teen To Grown Woman – The Katy B Story

Katy B – Moody Teen

One of the biggest misconceptions that even professionals have is that you can’t have undiagnosed ADHD and still succeed in school. I hear lots of stories from people who were told by health care professionals like GPs and psychiatrists that their academic success is proof that they don’t have ADHD. But there is ample evidence that this is just untrue. My journey is just one illustrative example of how you can have undiagnosed ADHD and still “succeed” in education.

I was diagnosed with predominantly inattentive ADHD (ADHD-I) when I was 26. I already had 3 A levels and a 2:1 undergraduate degree. If I had ADHD the whole time then how on earth did I manage that? Well, that was the first question I asked myself when I was walking out of the psychiatrist’s office after being given my diagnosis.

The answer: at the expense of my mental health. Let me explain.

I was raised to value education and always wanted to go to uni. My ADHD symptoms didn’t change that. ADHD-I isn’t the stereotype where you’re bouncing off the walls and getting kicked out of class. Although I did get kicked out of French once for reading a book when we were supposed to be watching a serious French film. I was quiet, shy and intelligent. There’s another misconception, although a less popular one – ADHD does not, in fact, affect intelligence. So I never questioned the idea of going to uni when I turned 18. I wanted to and I felt able to.

That doesn’t mean I had no symptoms of ADHD. I almost never did homework. I never listened to what the teachers were saying in class. I had awful insomnia and fell asleep in lessons constantly. I was socially awkward because I found it hard to pay attention or remember what people said, and had trouble stopping myself from saying the first thing that came to mind.

But I had ways of coping. When my teachers gave me detentions for not doing homework, I just didn’t turn up to them. I knew how to get just enough homework done on the bus to school to avoid detentions when I could. When I didn’t, I used every excuse in the book (I don’t remember them exactly but safe to say my poor nan died a few times). And I was still clever, meaning my actual grades were fine, so teachers didn’t mind too much. When I didn’t listen to teachers in class, my friends sitting next to me would tell me what we were supposed to be doing. And I would sometimes catch up on sleep at lunch times and in free periods when I was in sixth form. My sociology teacher was very understanding and never told me off for literally interrupting his teaching with snores. I left school with enough A levels to get into a red brick university. I graduated with a 2:1, having got a distinction in my undergraduate dissertation.

But Katy, if you managed to cope so well, why did you even need a diagnosis?

This is where mental health comes in.

Things were hard as a teenager. Those years are hard for everyone, granted. But being constantly told by teachers that you “have potential but need to try harder” gets to you. Especially when you are already trying as hard as you possibly can. I could not understand why my friends experienced procrastination differently to me. They would moan about doing homework, and then just… do it. I would moan about homework but feel utterly incapable of even starting it. I’d feel bad about it until I went to sleep, and then I’d feel bad about it when I didn’t hand it in. And when I say bad, I mean soul-crushingly guilty and ashamed. “Why am I like this? What’s different about me? What’s wrong with me? If I can’t do this, how am I going to do anything with my life?” Big questions for a 14 year old.

I got depressed. At uni, it got far worse. More free time and personal responsibility? How will I get anything done? But I still valued my education. I desperately wanted to do well because I cared deeply about doing well. So I tried my hardest. But my life just fell apart around me. It got to the point where I was pinning notes to my wall that had horrible insults on them in an attempt to guilt myself into doing more work. Because I thought my problem was laziness. I used all the self-discipline tricks in the book. I told myself I wouldn’t sit down until I’d written 100 words. So I’d be standing up until my legs were sore because I couldn’t organise my thoughts or focus no matter what. I told myself I wouldn’t sleep until I’d done the required reading. So I didn’t sleep at all. I told myself I’d stay in the library until I had finished my assignment. So I stayed there for days at a time, only going home to shower and sleep for a couple of hours. I told myself I wouldn’t eat until I’d done what I needed to. So I didn’t eat. Oh hi, eating disorder! I ended up unable to physically function. I wasn’t looking after myself because I thought that withholding basic care would motivate me to be better. It didn’t work and I ended up needing to take a year out of uni to recover. I went back, used some healthier productivity tips like eating a balanced diet and taking regular breaks (but still pulled regular all-nighters and lived in the library), managed a 2:1, and vowed to never put myself through the ordeal of university again.

The story has a happy ending. I went back to uni and got a Masters degree, with my grades on average 10% higher than in my undergraduate. My mental health is the best it’s ever been. I’m on no anti-depressants whatsoever. I am finally reaching the potential everyone said I had.

That was only possible because of my ADHD diagnosis and treatment. ADHD and mental health go hand in hand. Untreated ADHD can have disastrous effects for some people’s mental health. As I said to someone recently, treating undiagnosed ADHD with antidepressants is like fixing a leaky pipe by putting a bucket underneath it. You might be limiting the damage, but you’re ignoring a blatantly obvious cause which could have a fairly easy long-term fix. At least easier than replacing the bucket every day.

That analogy might not be perfect but whatever. Hopefully you know what I mean. The moral of the story is that so-called “twice-exceptional” students, i.e. those with learning difficulties but good grades, are likely to be at increased risk for mental illness because of what goes on behind the scenes to manage learning difficulties completely alone. Look after your 2e kids. Look after yourself. It’s not your fault.

About admin

admin, Dave, David, planetdave, le grande fromage (LGF) - it's all me. I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2006 and usually take medication. My path to diagnosis was so painful that I swore I'd do whatever I could to make things better for other ADHDers.
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