On Agency, Mob Behaviour, and being Messed Up

Strap in, this be a wild ride.

It starts with a few personal anecdotes.

Anecdote #1: I am out of control

In my late teens and early 20s, I was a hot goddamned mess. I didn’t know I had ADHD, I didn’t know about emotional dysregulation, I didn’t understand trauma. I knew I was depressed. I’d never heard the phrase rejection sensitive dysphoria.

All I knew was that sometimes I would get upset. It would start with this deep pang inside, this sinking feeling, as if the world was twisting and pulling at me. Everything hurt. My skin crawled. I felt myself falling into a deep pit full of jagged edges, and I started to panic. Often it would be set off by the smallest thing, the most innocuous statement or declaration.

I would, in a nutshell, lose my fucking shit.

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ADHD and other letters: on forgiveness

I think one of the hardest things about having ADHD – especially prior to diagnosis – is that you lose faith in yourself. This applies to any condition that includes “executive dysfunction” as a symptom, but throw in the ADHD brain’s inability to perceive or estimate time, and it’s a real doozy.

Because you know what you need to do to change.

You just don’t do it. Continue Reading

ADHD and other letters: “Hyperactive” or “Inattentive” or “Combined” or “oh god just stop”

When it comes to medical situations, we like labels. Clear labels can shortcut explanations, save time, validate challenges that we face, allow us to access the help that we need, provide information to professionals, comfort us, describe parts of us, and ultimately provide all the blessings of naming the beast. There are downsides to labels, for sure, particularly when they are misused, poorly understood, incorrectly applied, or stigmatised; but when you’re searching for answers, sometimes you get hungry for labels.

Sometimes you want more labels, because more detail is better, right? Except sometimes labels are erected for shitty reasons and in half-arsed ways, and they can lead you down the garden path.

The disclaimer on this post is that:

  • I am not a doctor
  • I am definitely not a psychiatrist
  • And whoa, howdy, I am not a psychiatrist specialising in ADHD.

My one appeal to authority is that I did run these ideas past my specialist, because I wanted to know if I was on the right track, or just doing that thing that I do, i.e. “Yes, Kate, you did read a lot but you know a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, right?” and I figured a professional and a specialist was the right person to bounce these ideas off.

She agreed with enthusiasm (frustrated enthusiasm, for reasons that will become clear).

Let’s tell a story about labels. It starts with gender. Continue Reading

ADHD and other letters: The Gift of the Gab

I have always thought of myself as shy.

People who know me online don’t quite believe this. Even people who know me in person don’t believe this.

So I describe myself as a shy person who just hides it well.

I’ve even described it as social anxiety.

Really, it’s none of these things. Looking back, I’m not shy. I’ve never been shy. I’ve always been outgoing, performative, and generally gregarious. As a small child, I did hide behind my mother when strange adults came around, but I’m beginning to suspect that had more to do with weird attachment issues based on my mother’s emotional instability. With kids my own age, I was fearless – often to my detriment, because I did get mocked and bullied at both my primary schools. At my second school, I often didn’t know whether I’d have friends that day, or whether the girls who had been my friends the day before would turn around and start picking on me.

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ADHD and other letters: Adjusting and Unlearning

The first response to an ADHD diagnosis is often relief, excitement, even delight. Having answers, feeling that you might not actually be “lazy, crazy or stupid”, finding out that medication might give you the ability to restructure your life – all that is wonderful. This is especially true for people like me, who are born problem-solvers. We like answers and explanations and solutions.

It’s less clear after that. I’ve read that some experts liken it to a grief process (although I’m not sure where bargaining comes in).

What I did find was that, after the initial excitement and euphoria wore off, I was intensely frustrated and disappointed. Continue Reading

ADHD Coping Mechanisms and “Masking” Behaviour

Getting a diagnosis of ADHD at age 36 with a PhD and two degrees under my belt has thrown me for a loop, and no mistake. Of course, I increased the intensity of my reading, trying to understand what my brain is doing, why it makes life hard, and how the hell I got this far before I fell apart (i.e.: the past three years have been a disaster from an ADHD perspective).

It turns out that there are a lot of ways that people with ADHD can cope with their problems, mask the symptoms (and I’m still ashamed and embarrassed by a bunch of them, which I need to work through), and generally delay diagnosis. Even qualified psychiatrists can be fooled by these coping mechanisms, thinking that a person is coping a lot better than they are. Continue Reading