How finding out why I felt different made me feel more normal
On 19th May 2022, aged 34 and 10 months I found out that I have ADHD.
I don’t really know how to describe how I felt when I first found out, I think I went through every stage of the grief cycle within around 5 hours.
Although I was kind of expecting it (due to the sheer amount of research I had done on the subject in the past month), I was also really shocked. I then went into anger, “why hadn’t someone told me about this sooner” and then onto bargaining “my life could have been so much easier if I had known about this 18 years ago”.
The depression stage was made up of a 15 minute very intensive, hyperventilating crying session and feeling numb for several hours and by the time I went to bed that evening I had moved to acceptance of the fact that I have a different brain and I now need to learn better ways to manage how my brain works.
I didn’t stay in acceptance, I have moved back and forth through all the stages many times over the past few weeks but I think I may be there to stay. In fact, I think I am in a new stage now: excitement. Excitement about what I may be able to achieve once I learn how to work with my brain, rather than trying to make it work in a way that it doesn’t want to.
Over the past few weeks I have learned quite a bit about inattentive ADHD (the type I have) and how it makes certain everyday things that others find easy, very challenging for people with ADHD. I have talked to other people with ADHD about their experiences and coping mechanisms.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how “ditzy” I am, about how hard I find simple things, like cooking, driving and supermarket shopping. I’ve reflected on the many years of anxiety I have gone through and questioned whether perhaps it wasn’t anxiety, maybe it was in fact overwhelm and over-stimulation caused by living in a world that isn’t designed for the way my brain functions.
I remember telling my mum “I feel like it would be quite nice to go to a mental institution for a little holiday so that I don’t have to pretend to be normal for a few weeks”. I didn’t know why it was that I didn’t feel normal, it wasn’t something I thought about a lot and most of the time I felt fine. I couldn’t really describe the feeling. I just knew that I didn’t think this was how everyone experienced life.
Now I know that I was right, this isn’t how everyone experiences life. But it is how millions of people experience life, many of them brilliant people, who are doing brilliant things and living brilliant lives. I went to an ADHD business event around 10 days after I was diagnosed and I think it was the first time in my adult life I had that feeling, of not having to pretend to be normal, that I had craved.
In my current stage- excitement. I am excited about the possibilities ahead. About learning more about the condition, about meeting more people who have ADHD and learning from them, about using my knowledge of psychology and coaching to help myself and others excel, about the fact that I don’t have to force myself to do a lot of the shit that I find hard (Tesco online and microwave meals exist for a reason, people), about the possibility that I may never have anxiety again.
But mainly I feel excited about the fact that I know what I have been feeling for all these years and that, because of how my brain is structured, in fact it was and is completely normal.