In the mental health front, a few weeks ago, I got to play with blocks and rings, an experience I haven’t had since The Sprog was a toddler, and, at the end of that, I had a guy with a bunch of letters at the end of his name tell me I have ADHD.
I know that is a flippant way of presenting this particular bit of information, but I am still wrapping my head around what it means, considering I am now reframing my life up to this point. The methodology behind my neuropsychological exam was sound, and the psychologist did explain how he came to his conclusion quite thoroughly. It makes sense. In summary, the psychologist told me that I used my intelligence to compensate for the fact that I have the attention span of something my cat coughs up. Although, I am pretty sure he didn’t use that particular phrasing. Maybe he did. I don’t know. I have ADHD. Plausible deniability.
Seriously, lots of people picture ADHD as something belonging to hyperactive boys. In fact, the diagnosis criteria was based upon clinical evaluation of hyperactive boys, and girls were, and still are oftentimes, lost in the shuffle. Because, ADHD presents itself differently in girls. They are more likely to exhibit the inattentive part of the ADHD, and it shows up as being forgetful, disorganized, messy, and introverted. She may also have a propensity to daydream a lot and may take longer to do tasks than other children do. The hyperactive part presents as talkative and a tendency to interrupt. And I am only scratching the surface, as far as behavior goes. So, unless a girl is presenting symptoms closer to what the classic ADHD criteria states, or she is fortunate enough to be around experienced professionals who work with girls with ADHD, she can easily fall through the cracks.
What is also important to note is the effect this can have if girls are undiagnosed and not treated. Girls with ADHD are at more risk of developing depression, anxiety, and eating disorders than those without. They are also more prone to self-injury and addiction. A huge part of it is the self-flagellation that comes with the ADHD territory. Why can’t I remember things? What’s wrong with me? Why did I just say that? How can everyone else do these simple things, but I can’t? And if other people are giving them flak on top of it, they are in that cycle of worthlessness that just drives them into the ground like an augur into soil.
I can give an example. Now I’m 42 and graduated from high school in 1991. It was about that point that ADHD was started to be diagnosed more because of more parental and clinical awareness and that was in boys, so my parents, teachers, and other people who were close to me would have had no idea what to look for. And I mastered the art of getting A’s while doing homework for my other classes and taking notes during my lectures. If I had to put extra work for the tough subjects like calculus, I did, but I would pressure myself to the point of tears and panic. Not understanding something meant I was dumb because it just reinforced those shortfalls in those other functions in my brain. I know this now, but when I was a teenager, I couldn’t ask for help because I just expected people to say, “But you are smart. You should be able to figure this out,” like they did with the other things that were easy for them.
I have read that having ADHD is like being a speeding car careening down a hill or being in a Porsche with no headlights. I can relate to the car analogy, but it is not quite that simple.
Imagine my brain is a Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop 2-Door.
And you are thinking, “Well, it’s just a Mini.” Actually, it’s a Mini (2016 model) that can go from naught to 60 in 6.1 seconds on manual and has 228 bhp under its bonnet. It’s a Mini that lots of people underestimate and is pretty badass.
However, several things can happen when I drive my Mini.
- Everything works. I’m motoring on the Nürburgring and putting in impressive lap times. People are saying, “Hey, look at Karen go,” and are asking me to go on tour. I am panicking because I know I can’t drive like this consistently because…
- Sometimes, I think everything works, but I am using my Mini’s onboard, integrated navigation system. I have complete trust in this GPS, but it is sinister. It takes me onto a set of railroad tracks in front of an oncoming train, and I wonder how I got there when I just wanted to go the Loop.
- And then there are the times when I see where I am going, but the steering has cut out. Plenty of times, I can use the brakes or the hand brake. I can get the car into neutral or park, or I can do other things to keep me from falling off the cliff. Once in a blue moon, I fail.
- It feels like I am in the middle of Nebraska on the highway for hundreds of miles with nowhere to turn off, and nothing interesting to do. That’s when the car just drifts into Magic Happy Bunny Land where I can frolic with my furry friends.
- Other times, we are getting into inclement weather. Blizzard conditions. It’s nighttime. The wipers are jacked up on high. The radio is on blast, and I can’t turn it off. Minimal visibility. The car is sliding and slipping everywhere. The only thing I can do is try not to close my eyes, hang on tight, and hope for the best.
- Of course, certain moments, days, whatever, I have no other choice but to park the car. Out of gas.
But notice I haven’t totaled the car.
Because I have to say, as much as I have been negative this post, there is an upside to being a creative weirdo. If that is what ADHD gives me, I’ll take it.
So where do I go from here? I am readapting my lifestyle and looking into treatment options, including medication. The same thing anyone else does when they get a diagnosis, and that is to find a way to manage it when you know there is no cure.
But I am learning to enjoy the drive while I do it.