My whole life I have had hidden struggles. Sometimes with things that I would not even necessarily notice or understand.
Like mindlessly placing my wallet down on a visible surface during an important task and then completely failing to recollect even setting it down 25 seconds later. Talking to someone about an important subject and then trailing off because I lost my train of thought and “shut down”. Hearing something someone says and then forgetting what they said while I’m trying to formulate a response or bank it in my memory. These are just a few of the symptoms I’ve recently experienced and why I know I have ADHD without an official diagnosis.
When I was a toddler, I would have “fits” where I would work myself up so bad that I’d hold my breath and pass out. My parents associated this with me just being a brat but I often wonder if these freak out episodes were related to something deeper. From my memory, that was the first sign I could have potentially had ADHD.
I had a fairly easy time in elementary school as far as grades went, but I struggled to pay attention in class and was often in trouble for clowning around.
I remember visiting the principals office on more than one occasion for my shenanigans, but I can only recall why one time. I decided to throw a pencil across the room, I don’t remember what motivation I had, I just did it. It hit another kid in the back of the head which I’m fairly sure was unintentional but my crush at the time tattled on me and I got sent away (needless to say she wasn’t my crush anymore after that point).
In middle school is when things started to ramp up. This may be due to the fact I started to get bullied, or maybe it was just my age. I’d find myself fidgeting or constantly moving at my desk. I’d have trouble concentrating in class and be lost when it came time for homework, even if we did it in class right after the lecture.
My favorite time was Gym or Recess, because it was the only time I felt like I could move to my hearts content and not have to pay attention to anything but myself.
Granted I didn’t do TERRIBLE in middle school, but I certainly wasn’t 3.0 GPA material either.
At home, I would hyper-focus on my hobbies. Whether it be Dungeons and Dragons on weekends, or Xbox any other time. I’d forget to eat or drink and often the only time I would is when my Mom reminded me to. The rest of the world got drowned out while I was in the zone, like nothing else existed but what was in front of me. Moments like that continued and still happen to this day when I get invested in something.
High School was awful. I’m not sure if that’s a normal thing for someone to think or not, but I did much worse than I was capable of and I knew it. In particular I struggled in science and math. I flunked math three years in a row and science for two. I remember Algebra. I loved my teacher and his method of teaching and I tried so hard to focus and understand the material but time and time again I would almost completely forget segments of the lecture or see a problem on my homework and think to myself that we never covered it, when we usually did.
My fidgeting had worsened and started to give me anxiety. I would chew through pens and pencils or my lip and nails almost as if it was instinctive. I’d get aggravated because sometimes I felt like I wanted to jump out of my skin with excitability in the middle of class for no reason.
I started dating Sophomore year and in came more problems. It was hard for me to formulate conversations face to face, it was sometimes harder still to not forget important discussions or triggers. I would forget friends names or important dates and I would come across clingy because my excitement or happiness would make me want to constantly talk or be around people.
Around 16 is when my frustration and defensive anger really started to take hold too. I’d get frustrated with my symptoms because I didn’t understand them and take it out on others, or I’d get angry when someone would criticize me for a symptom I felt I had no control over.
None of my relationships in high school lasted past eight months and it was hard for me to maintain friendships unless I really tried. I finished high school with a 2.3 GPA. I hated myself for it. I knew I had the potential to do better and I dropped the ball.
So I went to the Army, because they didn’t care about my GPA, only that I graduated.
Basic Training gave me what I had needed for a long time. Direction, focus, and a sense of purpose. I excelled amongst my peers because I felt in my element. I knew exactly what I had to do and when I needed to do it. I knew exactly what was expected of me everyday and it was always something different. This kept me interested.
After basic though, life became repetitive again. The Army quickly became the same routine everyday, just like most jobs, and this made it hard for me. I excelled at certain skills related to my position and seriously struggled with others. This was enough to keep me going though. I still had no inclination I could have ADHD.I just knew something was off about me and didn’t know what.
Long story short for the rest of my adult life. I got married and had a kid, I struggled to be a good husband, but never struggled to be a good father. I would forget feeding times or out off diaper changes a little too long, but I kept him happy as well as I could and it added variation to my life I sorely needed.
I moved to Hawaii for the Army. Everything went downhill there. I was used and abused by a family friend who lived with us, the marriage ended, I wanted to die for a bit of time, got admitted to inpatient care at a mental hospital, and they STILL didn’t diagnose me. At this point I thought I was just a clinically depressed and anxious train wreck like they told me and that’s why I was having all of these symptoms I described. After escaping all of that bad juju, I came home alive and optimistic.
I met a wonderful woman I’m now married to and she studies Psychology. It wasn’t until a month or so ago when she mentioned to me I could have ADHD that I ever thought it was a possibility. My brother has it after all, he was diagnosed around 12 years of age. I slipped under my parents radar though, or they were too old and tired to notice I had many of the same issues he had.
I can connect a dot to almost every symptom ADHD has to offer someone, some more severe than others, but it all just fit together like a puzzle in my timeline.
So much of my life can be explained with that one simple realization that I may not be just a depressed neurotypical person, maybe I’m inherently different and that’s why I experience the world in a different way. Maybe that’s why I can watch YouTube, play a game, and text all at once sometimes. Maybe that’s why I can listen to two different conversations at the same time on occasion.
Other times it may be difficult for me to even focus on one task or one conversation though. I can make lists and plans and never follow through with them. I can make a mental note about something important and forget five minutes later. I can get angry over something dumb and then be calm about it after thirty seconds. I can hyper focus on a game and forget that my surroundings exist or I need to text my wife back.
I haven’t sought a diagnosis, nor may I ever. It isn’t necessary for me to be evaluated and have it said by a professional and put in some record somewhere. I know deep down what afflicts me and it answered so many questions I never had the explanation for.
Just learning why I do what I do sometimes makes me more at ease, but the struggle is day to day and far from over. All we can continue to do is try, try to be better for ourselves and our loved ones. Acknowledge that we aren’t neurotypical and life is harder for us, take that knowledge, and fight stronger. Fight to find ways to cope or ease our struggles and love ourselves for the way we are, not the way society thinks we ought to be. Ensure those around us understand us and why we do what we do, so they can hopefully accept us as we are.