I’m struggling, and the truth is I have been for as long as I can remember. I’m not writing this to try and sound purposefully attention seeking or negative, just to be honest. It’s a lot easier to be honest with how you are feeling when you know why you are feeling like it, and therefore I have a lot of things to start admitting and acknowledging now I know what is the cause of a lot of it.
But it’s also difficult to suddenly admit all of these things and be believed, because as far as everyone else is aware you were doing ok until a Dr put a label on you. And now you’re just basking in that label’s glory and letting it define you. Well yes, I kind of am, but as I said, it’s because it’s a lot easier to face up to these things when you’re no longer under the impression you’re just a bit crap at being a human. For the past 28 and a half years, I really did think I’d just missed some of the crucial memos and was left to try and figure it out, as such a lot of the things I was finding difficult were not things I wanted to admit, because without a reason, it feels like these things are undesirable and therefore shouldn’t be admitted. They seemed simple and easy, things that everyone around me seemed to be doing as second nature without much hassle.
I struggle with a lot of every day things. Well, what I actually struggle with is persuading myself to undertake them. Usually, once I can get going, I’m ok at doing them. But the problem lies in the getting started and finding the motivation or confidence to do them. It’s very difficult when you don’t know why you’re struggling with undertaking tasks to explain it in a way that doesn’t make you just sound lazy and a bit pathetic. The natural reaction to people not doing things they should do, either because they are required or would be good for them, is that they are either lazy, or don’t care, or both. So let me try and take a second to explain why I am trying my hardest not to be that. Essentially, I can be so acutely aware of how beneficial undertaking something will be, but the part of my brain that actually turns that knowledge into action does not work as it should, that, among other things but most prominently is what ADHD is. It’s not a lack of knowledge, believe me having the knowledge just perpetuates the guilt of not completing the task, it’s the struggle of executing the task. One of the more technical terms for an aspect of ADHD is Executive Function Disorder, the part of our brain that makes things happen, executes the task, is the part that doesn’t function well.
To give you an example I am not very good at actually persuading myself to do cooking. I don’t dislike it once I am started, I actually enjoy it more often that not, and I am fairly competent. I am also aware of the many beneficial of cooking healthy food and eating well. I understand the benefits of having a meal plan so I know what I am meant to be cooking and we do use a meal kit and cook books to help, so whilst I am grateful for people sharing these ideas and advise with me, what it boils down to is that meal plan not jumping down off the wall, taking my hand, leading me to the kitchen and starting to chop onions for me. There is no lack of knowledge, but there s a lack of ‘ability to get started’. I used to think my lack of inclination was because I was tired from working etc, but now, when I’m the least busy I’ve ever been, I am still struggling with this.
The same part of the brain that helps us get going on tasks, is essentially our brain’s ‘reward system’, so again, when you have ADHD it doesn’t function in the same way. I said just above that I quite enjoy cooking and am fairly competent at it, which normally would give me the boost I need to undertake the task. Usually when you enjoy something, you’re more motivated to do the task, but my brain doesn’t seem to be able to link these things up very well. Unless it’s something I ABSOLUTELY LOVE, my brain isn’t that bothered about it and treats anything I don’t absolutely love as completely unimportant and uninspiring. At the moment, I have no way of working out how to forge those missing links.
And where I said about the meal plan not jumping off the wall and taking me by the hand? Well, I feel like I need that to undertake most things in life, someone holding my hand and a) showing me the way, b) helping me along and c) reassuring me that everything is going to be ok. And that’s why I don’t think I struggled quite as much as a child, because there was usually someone there acting either physically or metaphorically as that guiding hand. Life had more outside structure and routine for me, one that was dictated to me and made it easier for me to understand and follow. Now, my guide has gone, I am meant to be my own guide and yes, again, the part of my brain that doesn’t work as it should do, is the bit that usually becomes the guide. My frontal lobe isn’t very good, but it has a big impact on me because the effects are fairly wide ranging. And much as I am grateful for my husband, family and friends helping me, I cannot expect them to do everything for me. I have to take responsibility of things in my life and I want to do this, I Really do, I struggle with actually doing so though.
I also appreciate that when I describe some of these things, that everyone struggles with these a bit. I’ve only been diagnosed for a month and a bit and multiple people have already told me this. And yes, it is very true, but I’m not a bit like that, I’m a lot like that. To be diagnosed with ADHD you have to show you exhibit a certain number of the different traits, over a prolonged period of time and demonstrate where they are having a detrimental impact in two or more different aspects of life (e.g. home life and work life). To put it into a more physical healthcare form that is a bit easier to comprehend, everyone goes to the toilet, but if you’re going 60 times a day there’s a problem…
There’s also the Imposter Syndrome, the feeling of constantly being a fraud, that nothing’s actually wrong when quite clearly it is. Because from time to time, I succeed with the tasks. There are times when I manage to get started and complete whatever task I usually find difficult with no problem, the stars somehow align and everything is fine, and this happens just frequently enough for me to doubt myself and start beating myself up about why I can’t be like that most of the time. I say most, because I have learnt that in the past, I was trying to aim for all of the time and that was unsustainable. I will admit that in the past I was trying to put too much pressure on myself and when people said that before, they were right. But I have lowered my standards, by quite a lot, and I’m still not really meeting them. And also, I think although I was previously being hard on myself, I was achieving what I wanted to do in terms of the day to day things so infrequently it was still an issue even if my standards had been a little lower. Nowadays, I’m not aiming for the unattainable, I’m no longer aiming for all of the things all of the time- I would like to be able to keep on top of a good share of the things a decent amount of the time. Mostly I am managing a few of the things not very much of the time. Usually I am managing them when I absolutely have to and there will be significant consequences if I don’t, which although a good motivator to finally get things done, usually leads to them being done in a panic, after a meltdown which involves tears and/or shouting and lots of stress that could have been avoided if only I had managed to win the constant battle in my brain between knowing the benefits of doing things early and without stress and turning that into action.
And I’m aware that my ADHD is starting to define me, but, well, it always has been, I just didn’t know it had a name. Much as multiple people have already either outright said or alluded to the fact I shouldn’t be letting this define me, I’m afraid it has a significant impact on my day to day life and therefore, it is not the only defining factor about me, but it is a large part of who I am. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, there are some positives to having ADHD, we are usually chatty, bubbly people who can empathise well, work somewhat well under the pressure of a deadline and are usually creative with lots of big ideas. And when the hyperfocus kicks in, we can focus so hard on a task we will spend hours doing it to a really high standard. But there are areas where the ADHD does end up having a big enough impact for us to need to adapt to that, and it’s hard to adapt when the world around you often isn’t that great at allowing you the flexibility to do things slightly differently. There’s quite a few areas where we’re not really given the grace to try and do things in any way other than the one that is prescribed, which can be a struggle. And in terms of defining, although it is more of a temporary thing, when someone badly breaks their leg and spends 6 or so weeks with a plaster cast from hip to toe and on crutches, it doesn’t define their personality but it does somewhat define their life for those 6 weeks whilst they adapt to living with no/limited use of the broken leg. And that’s the same with ADHD, it doesn’t entirely define my personality and I don’t want it to completely take over me as a person, but it has a significant impact on my day to day life and therefore it does somewhat define how I navigate and live my life. And there’s nothing I can do to avoid that, no matter how many people tell me I can’t let it define me. Part of my brain doesn’t function well and there’s not a huge amount I can do to change that, unless those saying I can’t let it define me would like to provide me with an entirely new frontal lobe?
There is hope on the horizon though, because much as I can’t entirely replace my frontal lobe, I am starting therapy soon which will hopefully help me to learn some ways to better manage the parts of ADHD that keep me on the struggle bus. I will hopefully be able to better manage the impacts and live life better equipped to deal with the challenges. Ultimately though, ADHD is here to stay, it’s not going away no matter how much I’m told to not let it be part of me. I am sure that one day it will be less prominent, I will talk about it a little less etc but right now, I am finally understanding why I am the way I am. I am starting to learn so much about myself and most importantly not just what I do, as I already knew that bit, but why I do it, or as is the case most of the time, why I’m not doing it! Whilst I am navigating this period of understanding, acceptance and adaptation to hopefully lead a life that makes me cry less, those four letters, ADHD, will be talked about and typed quite a bit.