Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben
This is still quite raw as I write it, but knowing this blog helps me process my thoughts and guard my integrity, I don’t see the point in waiting.
Since my son’s diagnosis in May (a different diagnosis from mine, a process I wrote about here), I’ve been wondering about how some of my own puzzle pieces fit. There were many things I recognized in his behaviour and way of thinking, and some that were very different. When I ended up in a depression (again), these questions only intensified. Why do some things seem so hard for me? What is causing these depressions at a time when I think I actually feel quite happy? Why is it so difficult to do what I set out to do, time and time again? Why do I struggle with anxiety even at times when my life is relatively stress-free?
My therapist referred me to a centre that tests and diagnoses both children and adults, and in January the tests started. There were interviews, IQ and concentration tests, social assessments, questionnaires on paper, online and in person, personality studies and more. I saw about 5 different therapists. It was a lot, but also very thorough, which gave me a sense of trust in the process.
On Thursday last, I finally sat down with the psychologist overseeing the process to discuss the conclusions the team had come to.
Apart from a rather high IQ, which explains many of the reasons I’ve always felt like I was a bit ‘different’ (I wrote about this here), there was a noticeable inconsistency in my concentration levels. During the tests, these proved rather low compared in connection with my IQ, and from the interviews and questionnaires it became apparent that in my daily life, there are many factors that point to a diagnosis of ADHD.
Now, when I read that acronym, I don’t really see someone like me in my mind’s eye. I see boys running around in the classroom while their teacher gets frustrated. I see hyperactivity on the outside, because that’s the most visible part of ADHD. But I was never a troublemaker in class, nor did I have any trouble sitting still. I still don’t, apart from the fact that I’m usually fidgetting with something in my hand (rubber bands, a pencil, car keys, a twig,…).
As a child, I was more passive than active, very much a dreamer. I had trouble finishing tasks on time or remembering what I had to do. Planning my work effectively has been such a challenge for me throughout my life that I’ve tried a whole series of different methods, planners and schedules, always hoping that maybe this one would finally help me get my life on track. But the desire for structure often quickly turns into an aversion for rules and a desire for freedom, because my mind likes to wander and jump from task to task.
I’ll start a million projects, and finish one or two (if I’m lucky). I also have a very strong compulsive tendency, but I think I might have created that just to try to get a hold of things. If I make myself blog twice a week, no excuses, then maybe that will be the writing project that finally exceeds ten pages.
This diagnosis is not a box I want to fit myself into, rather it feels like the key to a toolbox of information about how my brain works, how I can help it work better and who I can ask to help me in the process.
I now see why I’m always reading multiple books at once, why I can’t get organized for longer than a few weeks on end, why my cabinets are constantly in disarray even though I hate chaos, why I sometimes have to rewind a video, reread a passage or ask someone to repeat what they just said because my mind just spaced out, why I actually find it easier to focus on physical or creative tasks if I feed my mind with something like a podcast, why I can associate so quickly and jump from one topic to another while others have a hard time following, why I sometimes have a hard time following the thread of a conversation, why I am always losing things, why I want to change things up often, why I can completely lose track of time when I dive into a topic, why I sometimes do something impulsively that I don’t really want to do, why I’ve been drinking coffee since I was 12 (stimulants are the classical way to treat ADHD), why I’ve stubbed and broken my toes more than once, why I can drop things, why I enjoy listening to … (why I started writing this sentence and forgot the end because I got distracted), why I have a hard time finishing books even though I’m passionate about reading, why I try to control stuff around me so much, why I get agitated sitting down on the sofa (I should be doing something else right now!), why this paragraph can go on pretty much endlessly and I won’t lose track…
Mostly, I can now see how some of the things I keep running into are not character flaws but just a differerent kind of brain at work, with its own talents and challenges.
My first impulse was to go online and randomly order about 5 books (I sent the links to my partner and then told him the next day to wait on buying them so I could check the library first), so I could learn more. I’m lucky in that I have a wonderful close friend who’s in the same boat and knows what it means to struggle with this, I’m lucky in that I have a great therapist and family doctor, and I’m lucky in that I have a partner who’s always willing to support me and help me figure myself out.
I haven’t become a different person through this diagnosis, I’ve just been able to wipe the mirror clean so I can see myself a bit more clearly, and accept myself more fully.