When you think you’ve got a handle on your life, it throws you the mother of all curve balls.
I was casually scrolling through my Instagram, listening to a podcast, reading a book and having 16 internet tabs open on various things from Etsy to JSTOR when I came across a TikTok video -reposted on IG titled ‘The hidden symptoms of ADHD in women.’ I usually watch 10 seconds of these videos before getting distracted. Still, within that 10 seconds, 3 or 4 of the symptoms that had already popped onto my screen were beginning to describe me as a person. This stopped me from scrolling on; I stayed with the entire video, and by the end, I was balling my eyes out in those big, heaving sobs that you only do as a child.
Once I finished crying, I looked up the symptoms again on the internet, took a free online test, and scored myself in the ADHD zone.
And then I did some more crying, the heaving sobs where you can’t catch your breath, and your face is screwed up so hard it resembles a prune. This time I cried for so long that I think I dehydrated myself.
Tears of relief are the strangest thing because if I had been in the company of anyone other than my concerned dog Ralph (who placed his head on my lap for me to stroke for comfort), it would have looked like I had just received the worst news in the world when in fact this was the best news.
Before I understood the magnitude of my dad’s chronic narcissism, I knew I was different and not in an I’m special sort of way before any of you think, blimey, she’s a bit big for her britches. I mean in an ‘I don’t think my thoughts are like others’ sort of way.
For example, at school, I daydreamed so much that all the other kids in the class and my teacher talked about it; when I was about 12, my mum said she saw me walking up the street in a full-blown conversation with myself.
The worst part is that I didn’t even realise I was doing it.
According to my mum, I was walking by about eight months old and running soon after that. I was nicknamed ‘The Tasmanian devil when I was tiny because when my youngest sister was born, I was running up and down the corridors of the hospital like a small tornado with bird's nest hair.
My childhood memories are patchy at best; my middle sister will often say, ‘Lou do you remember when you….’ And I won’t have the foggiest clue of what she is going on about, yet it was something that I did. Apparently.
I remember being in some classes, trying my hardest to pay attention even in the classes I found interesting, and just zoning out and losing whole chunks of lessons that way.
Whole chunks of my life, for that matter.
I have always had to work twice as hard to get half as far; I struggle even to read books I enjoy; I don’t watch TV or Movies, not because of lack of enjoyment, it’s just that I can neither focus nor sit still long enough. My favourite thing to do is make playlists of podcasts I’ve already listened to. It does not matter when I zone out and back in again because, eventually, I will have heard the entire episode.
I must keep a calendar of everything I’m doing all of the time because if I don’t, I will forget most of it, and even with constant reminders of stuff popping up, I still forget some things.
I’m terrible with directions, and I struggle with following instructions.
When I get into a hobby, I dive into an obsessive level before getting fed up with it and moving on. For instance, crochet, I’m in an on-off relationship with it. When I first told my mum and sisters, they would kindly get me crochet pattern books and instructions and stuff, and I thought, great, I’m never going to open them because I can’t follow instructions. Like cookery books, I’ve got half a dozen of my late nan’s cooking books. I don’t know why I never follow recipes; I look at the ingredients and do my own thing. When I try to follow instructions and try my hardest, I still can’t do it; my mind flips the trip switch on me and suddenly, Lou-Lou-Land.
This also happens with food types. During my sugar detox, I got through a crazy amount of eggs until I yoked myself out, and now I’m vegan.
Anyone who knows me knows I like to talk. A lot. Like too much. Constantly and often, the longer I’ve been left on my own (which, since I live on my own, is a lot of the time), when I talk to someone, regardless of the setting, I speak at them quickly. Whenever I’m about to go into a meeting/seminar/meet up with a friend or family I rehearse in my head how I’m not going to;
1. Talk at high speed
2. Interrupt them
3. Zone out
I always do all three, and I don’t mean to. I try hard not to do any of them, but if they are talking about something and I have a thought on it, I can’t make myself stop, and when I do try to, I end up just bringing on problem number 3 of zoning out. I even zone out when I’m sometimes talking. I just stopped talking.
And then there’s the more bad stuff.
I’m impulsive, I used to think it was a symptom of my childhood trauma and the subsequent booze problem, but having recovered from that and been clear of booze for nearly four years, I’m still impulsive. It manifests in slightly less destructive ways; for instance, I’m not amorous anymore (and for those that are nothing against it, just for me, it severely damages my mental health whenever I casually knock about between the sheets with different lads). I used to self-harm in passive ways, such as hoarding, the inability to keep up with the housework and not eating properly.
The other way the impulse works is by buying stuff. I’m in debt; this is mainly down to having ended up nearly dying of pneumonia whilst on a zero-hour contract and not being able to sort out benefits because I wasn’t eligible and had rent to pay as well as credit card bills that had been responsibly paying off until got sick, then I couldn't pay my bills and had to borrow more just to prevent eviction. But a small part is that I’m terrible with impulse buying.
I’m good at making friends, but I’m rubbish at keeping them. All my romantic relationships have been disasters in one way or another. I get so wrapped up in a relationship that I never consider whether I even like the person I’m with. I’m always so concerned about whether they want me and terrified of rejection, so I get clingy, and I hate being clingy so I hate myself for doing it, yet I can’t make myself stop, and because even now (as in post 28th December 2018, see https://www.revolttoevolve.com/post/and-so-it-began for details), I still find myself getting clingy for no good reason even when I know I'm not really that interested in the guy. Really what it is, is attention.
I always struggle with low self-esteem and imposter syndrome; I can’t tell if people like me romantically or otherwise because I assume they don’t because I’m a nightmare wrapped in an ever-changing hair colour that is easily distracted, often overwhelmed, never stops talking.
Now, all of the above I assumed was related to the acute childhood trauma; I thought my eating disorders, attempts at suicide, insomnia, depression, anxiety, constant switching careers and, on occasion, losing my jobs through poor attention to detail were all somehow linked to my childhood trauma but now, having been out of that hell for nearly four years, having overcome all of it worked through the trauma and the fallout of said trauma thinking I have co-dependency issues, that my difficulties in relationships were because I was broken but fixable.
I thought that the fact that I write essays in a scattered, chaotic manner, that I am so obsessed with my timetable and having everything in it (including walking the dog and going to get groceries) that I have to break down every single task into the tiniest bite sizes so I don't get overwhelmed, knowing that I probably spend thrice as long reading any of the text we are assigned to do weekly for uni because I have to account for unexpected Lou-Lou-Land in progress moments and to counter this I break down my tasks into blocks of 15 minutes with 5 minutes of walking around my flat before returning to the text and repeating until I’ve finished it. The same for lectures, which is the same for classes.
Having Ralph has massively helped in so many ways (which will be explored in a future post), but one important one is the required thrice daily walks. This forces me to take a break from whatever my current Lou-mania is focused on.
I thought it was all because of my childhood, and when I recovered and the same things happened; basically, all of the above was still happening (well, not all, not the boozing, or the eating disorders, depression etc. but all the behaviours), I felt utterly lost, and then I lost Flash. And in the same month started my university journey becoming a mature student and immediately battling imposter syndrome and of course developing countless coping mechanisms to try and prevent the short attention, the daydreaming the difficulty focusing, the fidgeting and so on.
Since then, I have been hiding behind my running and studies, ignoring the nagging feeling that something is wrong. I thought my constant daydreaming was because I hated being in my head, and I still daydreamed when I started enjoying being in my head. It’s, at times, debilitating, and I can’t stop. I feel ashamed because I feel like I’m being rude, especially when it's in seminars and I come back from Lou-Lou-Land having no idea what the tutor has just asked me.
But I got on with it, well I didn’t like I said I hid. And this is why when I say that overwhelming video feeling of ‘it's not just me’ was immediately replaced with ‘I think I have ADHD.’
And now, the journey begins, and I have no idea what to do next other than to chronicle it, publish it and bare my soul to the world. (well, to those who read my blog anyway)
*If anyone has experience with Adult ADHD diagnosis (UK/NHS) any advice would be greatly received.