Although I have only recently been diagnosed with ADHD, I’ve always felt like something has been inhibiting me since I was young. Only now, at the age of 28, has it been recognised as a real-life condition that requires real-life medication and real-life doctors’ appointments.
Knowing that “my crazy personality” has a name has made a huge difference. Bear in mind, I totally understand why some people prefer to steer clear of medication and that’s great too! After all, everyone is different.
Beginning medication was a massive decision for me (‘What if I lose the impulsiveness that defines me?’ / ‘What if I find out that ADHD is my personality?’ / ‘What if I’m no longer the same Beth?’) Before starting it, I made my husband, Jack, tell me everything different he notices and to tell me if become boring. I'm still on the same medicine, so either he's forgotten to tell me or there haven't been any major personality changes. Phew.
When I began taking it (Concerta XL, if you're interested), I felt as though, for all these years, my real personality had become crushed by severe anxiety. Concerta seems to suppress (almost all of) my anxiety and tells my hyperactive brain to "shut up and listen for a second!" It feels like it's slowly letting the “real Beth” emerge again. I’m happier and less worried about what other people think of me. I've found new confidence in my abilities and have started to focus on doing things that make me happy — why didn’t I do this sooner? Throughout school and university, there was a part of me that was eager to pursue something creative but I never managed to concentrate long enough to do anything about it. Now I am spending real time working on creative endeavours (like this blog, for one) without switching to something new, by that afternoon. That's not to say, I'm going to be an amazing, dedicated blogger. There's a high chance that, by tomorrow, I'll be onto the next new thing. Stay tuned!
Being able to focus on something is kind of awesome, by the way!
Since being diagnosed, I have come to understand so much of my personality. I now understand my impulsivity (“Hey, let’s go live in Mexico for 7 months. Let's quit what I'm doing and fly there in 2 weeks”), my constant focus on the future (“Why should I have to clean up when I can obsess over returning to Mexico for the next 4 days straight, without leaving my room?”) and my life-long inability to read more than the first paragraph of a book without finding something new to do instead (‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a… — I wonder if I should back to Mexico? I’ll go check flights RIGHT NOW’).
Okay, so not everything revolves around Mexico. Although, I did leave on very short notice to live in Puebla, Mexico, just after turning 18. Such short notice, in fact, that I ignored (forgot about?) my crippling homesickness, anxiety, and the fact that I knew no Spanish… apart from ‘Hola’. ‘Buenos dias’. '¿Dónde está la biblioteca?'. ‘Hasta la vista, baby’. I wish this was an exaggeration for storytelling effect. It was not.
I was ridiculously homesick, surrounded by Spanish-speakers for a large part of each day (who were some of the friendliest people I've met, by the way), and sat alone in my room a lot, hoping my family would think to phone me. We were still in the expensive, dial-up internet days of 2004… Our primary communication revolved around letters (yes, real paper letters sent by very slow post) and, much faster group emails on Hotmail.
Fortunately for me, I lived with my wonderful cousin, Jeannie, started taking Spanish lessons, made some amazing (English-speaking!) friends, and volunteered in the English Department of a school in which English language was compulsory — close call, Beth!
Looking back now to my pre-diagnosis/pre-medication days, close calls happened all the time.
Like, the time I quit my full-time job and went to live in Texas for two months with Jack, without much thought as to whether we could both survive on my part-time job from now on (that plan almost worked — or let's just say, we have an awesome family — thanks again, Jeannie!)
Or like that single month in 2009 when I:
- Went to Norway (on a far-too-expensive-but-the-Ryanair-flights-only-cost-£5 holiday: seriously though, what’s up with your £30 pizza, Norway?)
- Received a marriage proposal in Norway
- Said yes
- Quit my job in Scotland
- Moved out of my flat in Glasgow
- Moved to Belfast to live with my parents (without my now-fiancé) to start a master’s in TESOL
- Quit the master’s the following week
- Got a job working as a waitress on a train
- Got tonsillitis so couldn't accept the job on the train
- Moved back to Scotland
To reiterate - all that happened within a single month.
By the following year, I had quit the master’s, gotten married, moved back to Scotland, and had gone through three jobs (and received a further two job offers).
I saw my impulsivity as a gift (and still do). It continually lets me try out new opportunities.
Without my impulsiveness, I doubt I would have lived in Mexico, moved to Scotland, gotten my incredible job which I love, visited China, asked (my now-husband) Jack out, worked on a software diploma, or taken tin whistle lessons.
Yes, my ADHD can drive me crazy, cause me stress, and put me in situations I am desperate to get out off (let’s never mention that master’s again…) but I know I wouldn’t be me if I hadn't been so impulsive.