When My Diagnosis Revealed My Difficulties Were More Than a Matter of ‘Trying Harder’


I was the girl who stared out the window.

I was the girl who cried at the drop of a hat.

I was the kid who had an anxiety attack and nobody knew what it was.

I was the girl with the most black marks on the good kid/bad kid board.

The shame of watching those marks being made by my teacher still sit with me to this day. I still feel like that kid with the most black marks in class.

I didn’t misbehave; I was actually well-behaved, but I was extremely forgetful. I would forget my gym clothes, my musical instrument, my homework and that permission note my mum needed to sign.

The school tested my hearing because they thought I might have hearing loss. Why? Because when my name was called, I didn’t respond. I was away in dreamland.

My teacher said, “She is there in body but not in mind.”

All of this carried on through school. As a teenager, my behavior was monitored with a microscope. I stopped going to school when I was 15.

I couldn’t do my homework at home. I impulsively hit my siblings out of frustration and immediately regretted it. I fidgeted and wriggled in my seat. I didn’t brush my teeth. I didn’t wash myself properly. My mother had never heard of ADD, and her frustration with me equalled to stern discipline and punishments, but they never worked. I was a “problem child” who did whatever she wanted. The kindest thing ever said to me as a teenager was that I “was a free spirit!”

What does it look like now?

On the outside, it might look like I’m a “flaky” friend who just can’t get it together and jumps from one job/project/idea/career choice to another while dropping everything else. On the outside, it might look like I don’t care about my friends or family because I forget their birthdays, and I don’t have any money to buy presents. On the outside, it might look like I am a selfish friend, daughter, sister and girlfriend. That I just don’t care enough.

“Why can’t she just focus and do something with her life?”

“Why can’t she keep her home clean?”

“Why can’t she get a job?”

I stare into space at home and jump from one thought to another.

The place is a mess. I’m afraid to answer my phone. I keep the curtains closed in case somebody calls and I pretend I’m not there.

I can’t hold down a job because I get frustrated so easily. I create enemies where there are none because I can’t handle stress properly. I’m late, I don’t have any clean clothes, I didn’t give myself enough time to shower so my hair is greasy. I forgot to brush my teeth.

I put that utility bill aside and forgot about it, so now I’ve been disconnected and I have to spend the winter washing myself in the sink with a kettle.

I forget to respond to text messages, so my friends assume I don’t care enough about them to respond in a timely manner. They stop calling and texting.

In 2015, I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 35. Everything made sense. I didn’t have to pretend anymore. I could explain my difficulties and be heard. But on the outside, I am still that “flaky” friend, the “messy, moody” co-worker and “inattentive” girlfriend.

I’ve been through a lot in my life because of being undiagnosed, and it had a massive impact on my mental health. I have had depression and anxiety at varying levels of intensity. The anxiety is quite bad now, but at least I know why I am having difficulties. Since diagnosis, it has been a slow road to being easier on myself, trying to create routine and getting the help I need. Medication helps me feel clearer in my mind, and I look forward to therapy, where I can deal with the negative views I have about myself and deal with the low self-esteem. There are only so many times you can get back up and brush it off and start again before your spirit starts to show signs of cracking and breaking.

This is a message for those in my life who still see me as that person who just needs to try harder: I have been, I always have been and I will never stop.

Image via Thinkstock Images

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