It was in University counsellor's office where I first took notice of the term ADHD, because this time the label was being attached to me as it left the mouth of the counsellor. As a quiet, well-behaved young man, a perfect reflection on my childhood, at face value it did not seem plausible. It was a moment that shook me, but ultimately, led to enlightenment and the ability to write these words you are reading.
I was attempting to re-sit my second year of university at the time. A year earlier I had been diagnosed with Dyslexia, another shock revelation. I had also been discovering that I had been suffering anxiety and depression. Everything was crumbling around me, and I was doing my very best to juggle and blag my way through everything life was throwing at me as I had done for as long as I could remember.
Social Anxiety was a key factor in the way my ADHD manifested itself. It allowed me to be a quiet, shy and nervous individual which masked the chaos under the surface. It was easy to avoid homework, arrive late, blag exams because I wasn’t causing trouble. This was likely to be a big part of the reason the question of dyslexia or ADHD never arose until I was in my early 20’s.
I set upon a long and complicated path to get a diagnosis and access treatment for ADHD. When you go to the doctor for help via the NHS, you don’t expect to have your case submitted to a panel in a bid to fund your assessment, but that was just one of the many challenges I faced. As a result of moving around, funding mix-ups, being switched over from waiting lists, it took over three years to get the medication I needed.
I used to find myself needing regular naps, unable to focus on TV, sleep well at night and found it impossible to be creative in a way that was fulfilling. It’s not as simple as popping a pill though, ADHD is complex. While it’s not defined as a mental health problem and can’t be cured, it can cause or increase the severity of some mental health problems including depression and anxiety.
I often find it extremely difficult to conform to the norms of society as we know them. It’s difficult to find and stay in employment long term, it can be challenging to maintain healthy relationships, and it can make you question your own existence regularly. It feels like I’m a square trying to fit into a circle and that can be frustrating, upsetting and anxiety-inducing. Society has a lot of work to do to accept and adapt for those who are not neurotypical.
ADHD isn’t a curse, not only can it be managed, but it can also provide you with superpowers, as we like to call them. These are certain ways of thinking, working or seeing things that can make life easier or give us an advantage if harnessed. Things like hyperfocus allow me to write quickly and intensely on a particular subject for example and I am able to see the bigger picture, but also pick out and process certain details quicker than most.
There are many myths out there about ADHD. There is a typical depiction of a small child running around bouncing off the walls and causing absolute chaos, a view I subscribed to before I was aware I have ADHD. Like any mental health problem or neurodiversity, it can take many forms, affect people differently and manifest itself in various ways. ADHD is far from straightforward.
A huge thank you to James for sharing his story with us. We hope it's opened your eyes into ADHD and it's all credit to him for coming through with such style and tenacity. Has your ADHD impacted on your own mental health? Has this blog made you think differently about it? Let us know in the comments below.
You can keep up-to-date with James on Twitter, where he's @jvmeswoods or on Instagram, where he's jvmeswoods. If you want to read more from him then you can do just that over on his own website at furnitureofthemind.co.uk