From Disorder to Strength: ADHD
What is ADHD?
ADHD is an increasingly prevalent mental disorder affecting thousands of children and adults worldwide. The core symptoms of this disorder are that of inattention or the inability to focus on a single task for prolonged periods of time and hyperactivity or impulsivity, that being irrational with decisions or bursts of large amounts of energy. ADHD is naturally an adolescent disorder but its effects are often lifelong and extend into adulthood, and proves in many scientific studies to worsen a child’s social life, academic performance and later life experiences in being able to find steady employment, relationships with other people and a comfortable sense of identity. ADHD is often diagnosed by a psychiatrist during childhood, however if you believe you may have ADHD you can also get an adult assessment. Assessments often involve the psychiatrist first taking a retrospective assessment of your life experiences by interview and questioning and thus developing a conclusion of your symptoms and potential treatment plans, often using medications (by choice of the patient) or psychological interventions (counselling, psychologists’ social workers).
But you probably already knew all of this, so why am I writing?
Because, as an individual with ADHD, I wish to describe the insights of what life is like and hopefully inspire others with the same condition on how I turn this termed “disorder” into my strength as an adult.
How does my ADHD affect me?
I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 7 years old, but I didn’t learn of this until I was 17 years old, right after I graduated high school. Of course, I was absolutely shocked but yet I found comfort knowing that I could relate some of my ongoing social and academic problems to a cause and understand where these may have came from, to which was problematic during high school. Before I had learnt of my diagnosis, retrospectively I was always struggling with maintaining relationships with other people, finding their interests “boring”, “over-exciting” or “not worth anything” and being irrational with my emotions, as a result I often got frustrated with others, wanting to be centre of attention or not wanting to be a part of a specific group. This led to me jumping between friendship groups in high school, and I often found myself to be more alone than with others. Academically, I was more fortunate that I found interest in my work and was able to get things in on time, BUT I was no stranger to being physically unable to sit down at a desk and read something let alone even focussing on what teachers were saying. Within school environments no doubt, fitting in was always something that was a foreign concept to me, and later in life came to be a struggle with identity, based on the fluctuations I came exposed by during my teenage years.
But I’m not writing to vent or grovel on why ADHD is a bad thing. Because of what I have learnt about myself by gaining an adult diagnosis gives a person meaning to understand why they are the way they are and it is not something rather to feel like an outcast over.
How is ADHD my strength?
Even though ADHD is understood as a lack of attention and impulsivity, perhaps simply rather it is misunderstood. For example, I never enjoyed maths, was not good at maths and thus never wanted to be good at maths. But I was passionate about science, was good at science and thus wanted to be better at science. The point here is that finding something you are truly invested in, whether that be a TV show or a sport or a hobby, you invest more time and attention towards it. Thus, whenever I study now as a uni student, I can compartmentalise my inattention by through multiple sources. For example, if I don’t want to read notes I will watch videos, or will complete some practice questions or any sort of stimulus that is still related to my work, 1% is still more than 0% of work being done. Hyperactivity is another concept that is often ignored as simply we do not know how to control it, my answer is simply there is no need to. We cannot change a fundamental part of ourselves, but what we can do is create a space of comfort for ourselves. And through this is by creating a positive relationship with yourself. It will not always be a positive relationship, there will be times where you don’t necessarily like everything about you, but learn to acknowledge it, understand it and negotiate with it. You can start by doing things alone, go for a drive, go out for lunch, even as much as going for a walk. Over time, you will find a sense of comfort in your relationships with other people, and creating a space for you to be yourself within without the social influences of other people. What this also does is allow you to come to understand yourself as a person, a sense of “identity” which through experience is an incredible moment of clarity and for anyone experiencing doubt in their identity through ADHD, know that a small change will make a great difference. All this being said, I discovered these things through experience and trial and error, do not be afraid to try new things, experience new ordeals and challenge yourself in strange ways, it is a fundamental part of what makes you, you and is ultimately the best way for you to grow.
Ultimately, the misconception of ADHD being a “disorder” is something we should all learn to understand that there are things you can also do for yourself to improve and become the best you can be.
James Brown (Youth Reference Group Member)