There’s a strange kind of grief that accompanies a diagnosis of ADHD (and other neurodevelopmental disorders, no doubt). A lot of “a-ha” moments, followed by fear, self-doubt, denial, second-guessing and anger. A realisation that “normal” doesn’t, and never will, exist. Having come to a diagnosis late in life, I’m struggling to see myself as the person that I am, rather than the person I always thought I “should” be.
I’m sensitive, quick-tempered, emotional and stubborn. I know this because I’ve been reminded of it my whole life. I’ve been called “aloof”, “serious” and “too smart for (my) own good”. The smart label is one that has never sat well with me, probably due to a combination of schoolyard bullying and masking my failures to keep up with everyone else. I don’t feel smart. Most of the time I feel stuck, behind, late to the party (and not really welcome anyway, at least not at the “normies” table). Trying to see your goodness when the world points out your badness becomes a losing battle over time.
So, to discover that I have this weird brain wiring was a relief in the beginning: “I have a name for the thing! I can fix the thing! I can overcome the thing!”. But ADHD is not something to be overcome or medicated away. Sure, it’s an absolute pain in the neck at times. But it’s also a part of my identity. An identity I’ve struggled to fully visualise for four decades. Learning to unpick that internalised ableism is teaching me how to come home to myself.
Looking back over my life through an ADHD lens has been incredibly painful. The confusing relationships with family members, the multiple educational false starts, the winding “career” path, financial strain, toxic relationships, broken marriage…and the children I’ll never have. So many of us within the neurodiverse community are dealing with unresolved trauma; it’s heart-breaking to witness.
As a straight, white cisgender woman, I know that many of you are dealing with a multitude of additional traumas connected to culture, race, sexuality, gender identity, mental and physical health, family issues, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. I’m aware of my privilege and grateful for the opportunity to learn from all of you. We will all stumble along the way as we learn. We will interrupt and blurt out insensitive stuff and have the occasional brain-fart moment, but hopefully we can forgive each other, learn to do better and be better together.
Which brings me to this wonderful community. It has only been a couple of months since my diagnosis and I’ve been bowled over by the love, warmth and support I’ve seen and shared with you all, online, in my support group and at Study Group. I started study group thinking, “I can’t be the only one struggling with lack of structure and support, maybe I’ll meet a couple of ADHD study buddies and we can survive lockdown together”. I have made far more than a couple of study buddies. Meeting you all has been a source of joy in an otherwise bleak year. Thank you for being there for me, and for one another.
And thank you to my wonderful, beautiful mother. I know I was more than a handful and we have argued like cats at times, yet she has never not loved me. She’s the reason I could read before I even started school, the person who watched over me when I struggled with my maths equations for hours and the person who has reminded me repeatedly, for decades, that it’s OK to love yourself. She put up with the worst of me; I hope to show her the best of me from now on. Thank you, mother, for always being someone I could come home to. And thank you, Neurodiverse Squad, for making me feel at home too. Big, big love.