I’m Tired Of Waking Up To A World On Fire

You know those pictures of cute little raccoons in big fluffy blankets? I feel like that raccoon.

So small, in a world so large.

Only the blanket is on fire and I am in a state of paralyzed distress.

There we go.

I’m finding it hard to write these days. Well, that’s not true, it’s more accurate to say “this year”. I’d been blaming it on personal issues in life, but I no longer think they’re the culprits alone. Yes, work has been hectic, with enough change and uncertainty to make even the most risk-seeking individual take pause. Yes, this means my mental fortitude is shakier than a game of Jenga played by black-out drunks during an earthquake.

But, it definitely doesn’t help that every day I wake up to some new awful thing happening in the world and go to sleep with the same grim outlook.

I’ve been trying to avoid the news, but it feels inescapable. Since the beginning of this year, it looks like we’ve gone from one terrible “once-in-a-lifetime” situation to a few terrible “hmm-maybe-it’ll-actually-be-twice-in-yours” situations. We started off well, with outright war breaking out at only a stone’s throw away. Just when I finally stopped being anxious about that (tuck those thoughts away, lock them up, then swallow the key), and then BAM, hits the news that we’re headed towards the next big recession.

Even if you rarely leave your house, all you have to do is go to the grocery store – previously what I considered a “comfort” activity during Covid lockdowns – to be hit in the face with how bad inflation is. Don’t worry, you will definitely convince yourself this is somehow a you problem, for not budgeting for the inevitable consequences of global instability.

Pair all of that with the difficulties that come with reintegrating into “normality”. Question: was the world always this fast-paced? I don’t want to go places or do things. Beyond the fact that everything’s become exorbitantly expensive, it’s tiring to meet with people and go to the office and do and do and keep on doing. I don’t want to do anymore. Existing is a challenge in its own right, and I was barely succeeding at that.

When I do choose to scroll on my phone aimlessly or engage in any other “mindless” activity to shut off my brain for a little while, I start feeling guilty for not doing. With so many potential problems creeping up on the horizon, it feels selfish to not do anything at all.

But, if I choose to be productive instead, my brain’s firing on all cylinders, with those same problems gnawing at the back of my mind, like a hamster trying to get out of its cage. Plus, am I then not just playing into the late-stage capitalist mindset that I should measure my worth by my productivity? The Catch-22 comes when I start debating with myself that if I don’t work towards making something or working on myself or exploring potential business opportunities, then how will I get through a short-term future of hyperinflation and shortages and and and… Oh, the cognitive dissonance.

Top all of these thoughts off with the knowledge that in the last days, I now know everyone and their goat’s stance on female reproductive rights – and I’m officially exhausted. Always nice to be reminded that a not-insignificant portion of the population doesn’t believe you should have rights over your own body. Plus, now I finally know what Airbnb’s stance is on abortion!

Even LinkedIn’s become an even bigger cesspool of unwanted opinions. A week ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you which of my colleagues – past and present – see women as autonomous beings, and which see us as breeding fodder. How things change in a week’s time. Of course, I’m probably expected to keep this information stored deep in my psyche, never to bring it up in person. I wouldn’t want to come across as unprofessional, even though people are choosing to share their dehumanizing views on female reproduction rights on a professional social network.

All this to say that I don’t know how to not be overwhelmed. It’s a lot. It’s a lot that feels like a lot and I need it to be less.

I am but a sad little raccoon, paralyzed under a big, fluffy, burning blanket, trying to find solace in the fact that at least I’ll be warm at night.

Like what you see? I usually post less dystopian blogs where I talk about… whatever THOUGHT interests me that week. Expect a bit of books, travel, beauty, life lessons, and taking pop culture way too seriously.

Accepting My ADHD Diagnosis: The Good, The Bad, And The Truth

While most people’s association with TikTok are videos of dancing teenagers, I have that dumb app to thank for teaching me that I have ADHD.

TikTok has a powerful algorithm that learns what you like and who you are at a rapid pace, catering to your specific tastes. ADHD-related content starting showing up in between cat videos and fashion hauls, before I even knew I had it.

Before then, the thought of having ADHD hadn’t ever crossed my mind. I knew I had some sort of mental health issue, but since the people I knew with ADHD all fell into the typical association of hyperactive men who talk fast and get distracted all the time, bouncing from one thing to the next, I had rejected the notion.

After binging ADHD TikTok after ADHD TikTok, I made an appointment with my doctor to not only discuss my anxiety issues, but to reassess my previous diagnosis and check if it was ADHD.

Spoiler: it was ADHD. And it turns out, the anxiety part was also because of ADHD.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the truth, of accepting my ADHD diagnosis.

The Good

ANSWERS! ADVICE THAT WORKS! MEDICATION THAT WORKS! MY BRAIN IS NO LONGER (as much of) A BIG QUESTION MARK! WHEN I TALK TO OTHER PEOPLE LIKE ME, THEY UNDERSTAND ME WITHOUT EFFORT!

Pardon my yelling, but there’s no end to the level of peace that I’ve felt since getting the right diagnosis. For what feels like forever, I’ve been trying to put together a five thousand piece jigsaw puzzle without any reference as to what it could be. And somebody finally showed me what it’s supposed to look like. Yeah, I still have to put it together, but at least I’m no longer guessing where each piece goes.

The right treatment has gotten me in a mental place that I thought unachievable a year ago. I’d resigned myself to the idea that just coping was the best I could hope for. The people around me were balancing work, socializing, personal development, education, and hobbies, while being happy and goal-oriented. What felt impossible then, is forming into a reality now. For the first time in my life, I have a semblance of control over the raging tornado of energy whirling inside me.

I’ve also come to understand that my brain is different. It’s not a negative, just neutral. Sure, I’m scatterbrained and impulsive and incapable of sticking to a schedule. But I’m also creative and quick and ready to take action when no one else will.

Life looks more manageable now.

The Bad

As with any psychological diagnosis, the slow realization that the parts that you thought made you unique, turn out to be symptoms, is always disappointing.

Accepting my ADHD has also meant accepting comorbidities. In my case, anxiety has been a big one. There are few things I am sure about in life, but one of them is that I don’t think I have ever chilled one single day in my life.

My mom always said I was a “nervous” child. What was referred to as “nerves” turned out to be anxiety. My anxiety expresses itself as racing thoughts and overthinking, working together to make me the fastest, most overwhelmed person in all the land.

Apart from providing peak cringe material, looking through old journals makes it obvious that there was an internal wasps nest raging inside. When writing while emotionally agitated, these journals read like a Virginia Woolf-style stream of consciousness on speed. It’s just one thought after another and another and another and another and another and who needs punctuation or a moment to breathe? Everything always felt like it was too much.

This “nervousness” – which I now recognize as restlessness – also means that I never feel relaxed. Even when I’m supposed to be resting, I’ll be filled with the sudden urge to jump from task to task or start thinking about all the other things I want to do. When I’m watching YouTube I want to be writing and when I’m writing I want to be drawing and when I’m drawing I’m thinking about all the dishes I still need to clean.

Accepting that these quirks were just symptoms all along, means accepting that what I’d considered an integral part of me can be fixed. Which explains why I’ve gone through three identity crises in the last nine months alone.

The Truth

Being diagnosed and getting the right treatment are just the beginning. I’m still working through accepting that I was misdiagnosed, that regardless of treatment I’ll still have ADHD symptoms, that “catching up” for lost time is impossible, and that I now see much of my life through the lense of having ADHD.

Having lost faith in the field of psychology for myself and then having to go back to get it checked, was a challenge. I grappled with conflicting thoughts of mistrusting professionals while knowing I had to be receptive to the advice given in order to improve. The only way to confirm the suspicion that I’d been misdiagnosed was to go back and get tested. If I wanted to get better, I had to return. And I was right. And they gave me the help I needed. But I’m still angry that they got it wrong the first time around, even if I know the anger won’t solve anything.

Receiving the right treatment of therapy and medication has been a godsend. But, it hasn’t fixed everything. Just because I can identify what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and how I should stop it, doesn’t mean I’m in control of it. My ADHD is still there, there’s just less of it. I won’t be able to eradicate the symptoms and managing it will be a life-long effort. But, I do feel better and more equipped than before.

Because I feel like I’m finally close to being on a level playing field with others, I feel like I’m catching up to do better and do more. The laundry list of areas I want to improve on is infinite. I want to write more, and draw daily, and read more, and get a promotion, and be more social, and, and, and, and, and… Every day is planned like there are 26 hours in the day. While I’m ecstatic that my urge to create and learn is matched by actually creating and learning, when I fail to meet the ridiculous expectations I’ve set for myself, I spiral.

An added perk to getting diagnosed in the midst of a pandemic, is that you don’t remember how it affected you in social situations, until the world starts opening up.

I’m re-learning that I can become overstimulated and overwhelmed in large crowds. Plus, all my social interactions are now viewed through the lense of my ADHD. Had I always been such a terrible listener? Did I talk this much before? Did I overthink my interactions to this degree afterwards? Trying to find out if it’s my rusty social skills from being isolated for almost two years or if it’s been my ADHD all along, is a fun game I’ve taken up.

Acceptance

I have ADHD.

What I decide to do with that piece of information is up to me, but the fact remains.

I have a tendency to share this tidbit with almost everyone I get even slightly comfortable with. It’s not to get a reaction from them or to throw myself a pity party. Partially, it’s because I’m too impulsive to ever leave any shroud of mystery about me.

But mainly it’s because I value being open about what makes us different, instead of treating it as a taboo. By being open about it, I’ve had others share that they’re in the same boat. Or that they know someone who is, who they want to help but don’t know how. Or that they’re doubting if they have it, so what’s it been like to find out if it is.

Labeling the issue doesn’t solve the problem. What it does, is validate what I’ve been aware of: there is an explanation as to why I march to the beat of my own drum and there are ways to make it easier.

For ADHD Awareness Month, I’ve decided to share my journey with ADHD, because ADHD can look different from person to person. So, DISCLAIMER: some of these experiences may resonate. To an extent, a lot of them happen to most people. The biggest difference is the extreme to which these symptoms affect ADHD’ers life adversely. If you think you might have ADHD, please contact your doctor or mental health professional.

Like what you see? I post a new blog every Sunday/Monday where I talk about… whatever THOUGHT interests me that week. Expect a bit of books, travel, beauty, and taking pop culture way too seriously.

I Was Misdiagnosed For Almost A Decade: A Mental Health Journey

Before we begin, a confession: I am an idiot.

When it comes to mental health and wellness, I was a rookie when they first diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder. My parents were vocal in their distrust of psychology, seeing it as an excuse to wallow in your trauma instead of solving it.

Regardless of their prejudices, they encouraged me to go to a psychologist to figure out why I was so hell-bent on self-destruction. Their hope was that I was “normal” but had been derailed because of the zesty combination of hormones and a failure in however the other divorced parent had raised me. The reality was more that I was a teenager with undiagnosed ADHD and unresolved ✨ trauma ✨. Not that we knew at the time.

Because of this, I accepted the diagnosis given to me and dropped out of therapy a couple months in, deciding I could sort it out myself. This was the start of a mental health journey that has erred more on the side of free-climbing the Matterhorn during a snowstorm than a casual stroll through the forest.

The misdiagnosis ended up doing more harm than my ADHD symptoms, even exacerbating them. I was putting a cast on my arm, when it was my leg that was broken. In the end, I ended up with a numb arm and my leg still in pain.

I started therapy and medication for ADHD expecting it not to work. It did work. Almost too well. Because now I’m stuck with an endless conga line of “what-if’s” dancing through my brain.

BPD vs ADHD: how did they get these confused?

Before we begin, let’s answer the big one: how did Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) get confused for one another?

BPD is a cluster B personality disorder that is characterized by an inability to regulate intense emotions. This inability can result in high levels of impulsivity, a propensity towards self-destructive behaviors in an effort to cope, and emotional outbursts. ADHD, on the other hand, is a neurological condition that affects attention regulation, hyperactivity, and executive function. When untreated, ADHD can be expressed as impulsivity, a propensity towards self-destructive behaviors in an effort to cope, and emotional outbursts.

ADHD is genetic and has to be present before the age of 12 to be diagnosed, while BPD can be genetic, environmental, or both.

Gender plays an inadvertent role in diagnosis. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with BPD than men, just as men are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than women. Women tend to receive an ADHD diagnosis much later in life, and to be misdiagnosed in the first place. And yes, BPD is a common misdiagnosis in these cases.

These are the facts.

But the facts don’t fully encompass the frustration of living with the wrong diagnosis for so long, and the amount of doubt it brings. Here are the questions I’ve grappled with, and am still grappling with, because of it.

Am I a fraud? Did they get it right this time?

Being told that it looked like my BPD was ADHD in disguise was a turning point. After months, I’d been validated in my suspicions and could breathe a sigh of relief.

Until I thought about it for too long and convinced myself that I’d been faking every symptom the entire 6-month long process of getting diagnosed.

That fear that they’ve gotten it wrong again is a consistent nag in the back of my mind. Writing about ADHD this month has let me organize my thoughts when it comes to my own experiences in the context of a new(ish) diagnosis. This doesn’t mean that there are no doubts. What if I’m sharing all these thoughts and experiences and it’s something else? Am I misleading people? Am I just trying to convince myself that I actually have it?

When I start thinking that, I run through the same list every time:

  • When I talk to other people with ADHD, I finally feel heard and understood for the first time in my life.
  • Following ADHD-specific advice works, which didn’t happen when I’d follow BPD-specific advice.
  • Caffeine doesn’t make me hyper, it calms me down.
  • My medication does not hype me up and makes my brain much more quiet and subdued, to the point I can relax. Which is nice. And not what happens if you take it without having ADHD.

Still, the level of self-skepticism borders on exhausting and I’d wish my Impostor Syndrome didn’t extend to my mental health, too.

Why did I have to be so stubborn and not believe my close family and friends? Was I dumb in just accepting the diagnosis?

They say that the more someone is entrenched in a belief, the more they will dig in their heels once opposing evidence is presented. I am guilty of this.

In my attempt to get better, I’d shared BPD resources with my close friends and family. I was trying to avoid the unhealthy interpersonal relationship dynamics I’d been warned were inevitable. Disregarding the fact that I’d had no issues whatsoever with these friends and family, I felt they needed to be prepared.

Almost every single one of them were kind enough to take the time to read these resources. They were also kind enough to let me know that they did not see me in what they were reading.

I’d equivocated not believing in my borderline as not believing there was any mental illness. Denying my BPD felt like a denial of my mental struggle. And the struggle was undeniable. Had I listened, I would have heard they were aware I needed help, but that I was looking for it in the wrong places.

Lesson now learned: if the people who know you best are telling you that your perception of self is way off-base, it’s probably (definitely) way off-base.

I kept re-traumatizing myself for nothing?

BPD can be brought upon by trauma. Because of this, trauma is explored when treating Borderline Personality Disorder, to recognize and change negative trauma-related behaviors or attitudes. In my misguided attempt at self-improvement, I gave too much weight to traumatic experiences that did not need constant reliving.

Making judgements on my actions through the lense of trauma was overwhelming. I thought I’d never be able to get over that period in my life because it had affected me to the point of changing my personality. It permeated everything. I saw traces of it in the ways I thought or interacted with people.

It was inescapable.

Aaaaand it was a pointless mental prison I’d built for myself. It turns out that the keys to the prison were in my back pocket this whole time. I just didn’t know where to look.

Did I cause unnecessary damage by trying to control parts of me that were never there?

My interaction with the psychologist who diagnosed me with BPD was not an entirely positive one. After concluding that I had borderline, he admitted that his borderline patients were his most difficult to treat. He also mentioned that a lot of literature I would find would be about how other people deal with people with BPD, because we could be considered toxic and manipulative.

Overall, not a great start.

From there, I started treating myself like I was a menace to be around, self-isolating from people who just wanted to be closer to me. I pushed myself away and tried to make myself invulnerable and independent. My usual route of learning through reading was also not proving fruitful. A lot of what I’d found was confirming that being around someone with BPD was considered worse than suffering from it.

Adding to the loneliness? I felt alienated from both the BPDers and from so-called neurotypicals. If I tried to share experiences with either, neither group found them relatable, driving me deeper into isolation.

Everything I tried to do to make myself better only turned out to push me further into believing I was a scourge to society if I didn’t learn how to control my emotions.

Which made me more emotional.

Even though that wasn’t even the problem in the first place.

When my group therapy sessions for ADHD ended, the clinic offered individual sessions for problems not addressed in therapy. I spent more time in those individual sessions talking about how much damage the misdiagnosis did, than on my ADHD-related symptoms.

The misdiagnosis had twisted the way I viewed my ADHD symptoms into something untreatable and unmanageable. It also added to my low self esteem, because everything I tried to solve it did not work. I’m happy to see the level of improvement in less than a year by getting the right help. Although, I’m still bitter.

I just wish they would have been as thorough with my borderline diagnosis as they had been with my ADHD diagnosis. My ADHD diagnosis took me almost half a year to get, involving multiple interviews, including interviews with parents, questionnaires, and even then, it took some convincing after they almost threw the whole diagnosis out because I didn’t struggle in school. My BPD diagnosis was based on a hunch after just one intake session, where I only introduced myself, plus one questionnaire. It took about two weeks. Max.

At least they got it right this time, right?

For ADHD Awareness Month, I’ve decided to share my personal journey with ADHD, because ADHD can look different from person to person. So, DISCLAIMER: some of these experiences may resonate because to an extent, a lot of them happen to most people. The biggest difference is the extreme to which these symptoms affect ADHD’ers life adversely. If you think you might have ADHD, please contact your doctor or mental health professional.

Like what you see? I post a new blog every Sunday/Monday where I talk about… whatever THOUGHT interests me that week. Expect a bit of books, travel, beauty, and taking pop culture way too seriously.

Biggest Misconceptions About ADHD (That I Had Before I Found Out I Had ADHD)

If I say picture someone with ADHD, there’s a high chance you’re thinking about a young hyper boy, wreaking havoc like a giant monster terrorizing a city. Or you’re thinking about that same boy, but now sedated and in a zombie-like state, pumped with medication. If you are, I don’t blame you. I used to think the same until I got diagnosed with ADHD.

To accept my diagnosis, I had to accept that my idea of someone with ADHD wasn’t congruent with the reality of the disorder. Now that I’ve come to terms with what it means, I’ve put together a list of my biggest misconceptions about ADHD – that I had before I found out I had ADHD.

ADHD only happens in children

As an adult with ADHD, I’m disproving this with the fact that I am an adult with ADHD. But just in case that’s not enough, let me hit you with the facts.

ADHD symptoms have to be present in childhood (before the age of 12) in order to be diagnosed because ADHD doesn’t come out of nowhere. What can happen, is that symptoms can be less evident in childhood for some. For those suffering from mainly inattentive-type ADHD, this can be expressed by being forgetful and spacey, rather than being the human embodiment of the Tasmanian Devil. Think less Dennis the Menace, more Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes, or Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.

How ADHD symptoms present themselves will change over the years, making it more or less evident in adulthood. This means that symptoms can begin interfering more later in life, once you’re expected to structure yourself and your ever-growing mountain of responsibilities.

ADHD is a guy thing

If you look at any list of “characters with ADHD” – as I may have just done for that last section – you’ll find that 99% are male. Boys will be three times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis, despite it affecting men and women in equal parts.

The reason? ADHD presents differently in women than men. Two factors that play a role in this:

  1. Women are more prone to suffering from inattentive-type ADHD, which, as mentioned, goes unnoticed more often.
  2. Women are socialized to internalize their thoughts and feelings, meaning less running around, causing chaos. They’ll mask their symptoms, leading to inner restlessness.

Consequences of untreated ADHD in women can be depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. In a Catch-22, these expressions of untreated ADHD can lead to those being the point of focus for mental health professionals, making it more difficult to get the appropriate treatment and diagnosis.

ADHD is all about being hyper and getting distracted

ADHD can be hyperactive, inattentive, or a combination of both. It’s not only about running around or chatting a lot but can also be about being forgetful or in a world of your own.

A large deterrent I had to get diagnosed was the fact that I could laser-focus on certain tasks I enjoyed, even forgetting to eat or drink or sleep. If I’m reading, playing videogames, or making art, there’s no way you’ll be able to get through to me until I want to stop. I’ve always been incapable of sticking to only one hour of an activity I enjoy – making scheduling daily tasks impossible. If I can’t have unlimited time, don’t even talk to me about doing it.

I petition for ADHD to be renamed because it’s not about an attention deficit but an attention deregulation. This means that hyperfocus, the act of being intensely focused on an activity, blocking out the world, can be a part of it for some ADHDers.

ADHD has nothing to do with emotions

Being over-emotional/expressing rash emotions is not on the official symptom list for ADHD diagnosis. But boy, can those other symptoms lead to it.

My initial misdiagnosis of a personality disorder was heavily based on me expressing that I was over-emotional and overwhelmed. It felt like I’d be going from 0-100 all the time. Now I understand that my executive dysfunction was at the core of it.

Executive function encompasses the cognitive and mental abilities that help people engage in goal-directed action. Executive dysfunction is what happens when these abilities are not up to snuff. Executive dysfunction can contribute to emotional dysregulation, as it can lead to being unprepared for future events, in itself, leading to low self-esteem, and rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD). RSD is about being sensitive to rejection and criticism, to the point of emotional pain.

These very-fun consequences tend to accumulate into a state of overwhelm, where you’re toeing the line between keeping it together and falling apart at the slightest push. It feels like spinning as many plates as you can, while someone points out how you could do it better, or that you’re not holding them right, or that you should add another plate because it can’t be that hard.

Very little wonder how you could become emotional from that.

ADHD medication turns people into unfeeling zombies with no personality

I blame popular culture for making me terrified to start taking medication for my ADHD. Popular culture had told me that it would change my personality and that I’d become addicted to popping pills. What it did was bring some quiet to the incessant monologue in my head.

ADHD medication hasn’t completely eradicated my ADHD symptoms, but it’s made life more manageable. Instead of procrastinating for weeks on a project, I’ll procrastinate several days. I now sit down and finish a task, only getting up 15 times a day to get tea, without also fixing every little thing I see needs fixing around the home. And instead of becoming overwhelmed when something happens that would tip me over the edge, I have an extra second in between thoughts to prevent catastrophizing.

Of course, medication works differently for every person, and there’s the risk that it won’t react well with your body chemistry. But for some of us, it works and takes life from “how-is-anyone-able-to-manage-this” hard mode to “sometimes-things-are-a-bit-much-but-its-mostly-pretty-alright” normal mode.

While still being the same person as without it.

Everybody’s a little ADHD

If I had a euro for the amount of times that I’ve heard the phrase “everybody’s a little ADHD”, I’d have enough for the robot litter box I’ve had my eye on for months.

I get it. Procrastinating, forgetting things, feeling scatterbrained, having different niche interests and hobbies over your life, not being good at time management, getting anxious or overwhelmed, and being prone to distraction are human experiences. What designates if it veers into ADHD territory, is the severity of it.

Procrastination means feeling physically unable to do a task, yelling at yourself to just get the thing done, being incapable of stopping you scrolling on your phone, even if you want and need to. Feeling scatterbrained means not being able to connect with others because you’re finding it impossible to be present in a situation you really want to be present in because there are ten thousand things on your mind. Niche interests can mean messing up your sleep schedule and ignoring the need for a social life for weeks because you can only think about that new interest. Being forgetful could mean repeatedly forgetting the very appointment you made to get your ADHD looked at. And getting overwhelmed can mean a burnout, because your need for stimulation means you always need to take on more than you can handle while simultaneously leaving everything until it’s urgent, to feel like you’re accomplishing anything.

All of these behaviors can have a severe negative impact on my life if I don’t keep them under control. At its worse, I feel burnt out, depressed, and incapable of functioning as a human being. This means a self-esteem so low it’s underground, and turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like excessive drinking or other reckless behaviors.

“A little ADHD” is manageable. The issue is when it’s more “a lot ADHD”. There’s no easy structuring or planning or schedule-ing away “a lot ADHD”.

Had I known what I know now, I would have been able to get the help I needed a lot sooner. But, discourse around ADHD is improving. There are more and more resources online, more openness around mental health, and more awareness around the different ways it can express.

While there’s still a long way to go, let’s keep the ball rolling in sharing neurodivergent experiences in an open, honest, transparent way. The human experience is too vast and colorful to stick to only one.

For ADHD Awareness Month, I’ve decided to share my personal journey with ADHD, because ADHD can look different from person to person. So, DISCLAIMER: some of these experiences may resonate because to an extent, a lot of them happen to most people. The biggest difference is the extreme to which these symptoms affect ADHDers life adversely. If you think you might have ADHD, please contact your doctor or mental health professional.

Like what you see? I post a new blog every Sunday/Monday where I talk about… whatever THOUGHT interests me that week. Expect a bit of books, travel, beauty, and taking pop culture way too seriously.

Not Quirky, Just Undiagnosed ADHD: Now-Obvious Signs I Had ADHD

Since hitting puberty, I’ve been compared to Zooey Deschanel’s manic-pixie-dream-girl characters a lot. The blue-eyes, dark brown hair with bangs, and fondness for polka-dots played a large part in it, but even more than that, is that I’ve always been called some semblance of weird, odd, and mainly: quirky.

It’s cliche at this point, but I always knew I was different. My brain didn’t seem to match most other people’s frequency. Being in a family with 3 other, very different siblings meant that these differences were highlighted in a matter-of-fact way, without any value judgement. Quirks like my obsessive reading and spaciness were just part of who I was – never something to be fixed.

It wasn’t until puberty hit, and with it a whole slew of realizations, that the once cute and quirky habits I had, were no longer so cute and quirky. My mental health had taken a nose dive.

In an effort to get better, over eight years ago I went to a psychologist and received a diagnosis for a personality disorder. This diagnosis turned out to be useless and a large source of frustration because it was wrong (more on that in the upcoming weeks).

January this year I received a new diagnosis that finally felt right: it was Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, aka ADHD, all along.

If you’ve been diagnosed with any sort of neurodiversity/mental illness, you might have encountered the same issue I’ve grappled with: it turns out, a lot of the things that I thought were just little quirks, were symptoms of untreated ADHD.

Here are the (not-so-)little quirks I now know had more to them.

In a world of my own

I was a spacey child. As a kid, if you weren’t looking me straight in the eye, there was no chance I was paying attention to you. My parents had even nicknamed my own little world, asking me if I was in La La Luna. Another common phrase I heard growing up was “colgada como los jamones”. Directly translated from Spanish it means “hanged like a ham”, but really it’s more like “totally zoned out”.

I loved daydreaming. My mental world took precedence over the physical world, which became an issue when it came to socializing. For years, I never understood why I didn’t connect with classmates. Looking back at old home videos, it’s clear I was mentally checked out, dipping in and out of the conversation wherever it interested me. It’s not that I had issues with understanding social cues in the first place. I understood what was expected, but I would get distracted and miss out on key parts of social situations.

My forgetfulness only made my awkwardness more apparent. Besides the run-of-the-mill signs of forgetting homework or appointments, there were multiple times where I’d go to school with two different shoes on my feet. In my defense, they were the same color.

Nowadays, I’ve gotten better at masking, but if I’m on autopilot, I’ll still space out and forget things. Only this time, the only victim is my partner who has to hear my Velma-like cry of “Where are my glasses? Have you seen my glasses?” at least three times a day.

Devouring books

Up until being diagnosed, my understanding of ADHD was relegated to it being about having a lack of focus. Turns out, ADHD is a deceptive name. Instead of an attention deficit, it’s more akin to an attention deregulation. Including sometimes focusing too much attention on a certain task. A common way this shows up for some in childhood is with an obsession with reading.

Whenever I talk about reading a lot when I was younger, I find it difficult to paint the picture as to how obsessive this hobby was. I’d read at dinner, with my book wedged between my legs and the table. I’d read in the car, to the point of making myself nauseous. I’d even read while walking down the street like Belle in the opening of The Beauty and The Beast.

Something I don’t often bring up, is the level of anger I would have if you distracted me, which everyone around me chalked up to me being grumpy. In reality, I was worried that if I lost focus, I wouldn’t guarantee I could get it back. This was particularly annoying if I was hell-bent on doing the one thing for hours and hours.

Niche interest sprints, not marathons

Hyperfixations are the obsessive interests that come with hyperfocus. While neither are considered official symptoms, they can be good indicators for ADHD. A hyperfixation is an intense focus on something, to the point where you’re blocking out the rest of the world. Important to note: hyperfixations are mostly associated with people with autism, but these tend to last longer – many months or years. ADHD hyperfixations are significantly shorter and more akin to impulsive shifts in interests.

In preparation of writing, I tried to list all the hyperfixations I’ve had. Things I spent hours on, researching until too early in the morning, for, at most, a few weeks on end, that I dropped once something more interesting came along. Because this list ended up being 4 pages, front and back, including only the ones I remembered, I won’t go through them all. But, to get a good idea of the topics I know way too much about, but don’t care about anymore, below is a taste.

Baking muffins, nail art, running, learning Japanese, learning the guitar, become a manga artist, marine biology, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Final Fantasy XII, YouTube beauty guru gossip, making Anime Music Videos, Gossip Girl, Gilmore Girls, all of Gordon Ramsey’s reality TV shows, Anthony Bourdain, Audrey Hepburn, Jim Morrison, barre, soft grunge Tumblr, the TV show Skins, historically accurate vintage wardrobes, fashion design, 30 Rock, commentary YouTube, Kingdom Hearts, One Piece (the manga and anime), bad movie reviews, Art Deco furniture, New York visual artists of the 80-2000s, Newgrounds Flash games, Stardew Valley, and Neopets.

To be clear: this is not just a list of interests. It’s a list of things I had made the main focus in my life for a short period of time, before moving on to the next one. I still regularly disorient new friends who start off sharing one of my hyperfixations, but realize a week later I’m disinterested because it’s no longer the flavor of the week.

At least it’s given me a wide range of skills and – useless – knowledge, which can be pretty handy sometimes.

I Have Approximate Knowledge of Many Things | Knowledge Meme on ME.ME
Although mostly I’m more like this.

No patience, just vibes

I hate waiting. I hate following instructions. I hate sticking to strict schedules. I love planning, but hate sticking to the actual plan. The thread through this hatred is simple: I’m impatient and have little to no impulse control.

Until my partner pointed it out, I never thought twice about the fact that the first thing I do when buying new electronics or furniture, is throw out the instruction manual because I know I won’t use it. Even as a kid, if my brother and I had a new LEGO set, while my brother would follow the instructions to build whatever was on the box, I’d be using the blocks to make off-kilter characters.

In school, I winged it during presentations. Classmates would comment on how impressed they were with my lack of note cards when presenting. In reality, I overcompensated with my delivery because I had no patience for the prep-work needed to stick to a script and would get too distracted if I had to read and present at the same time.

Even now, if you see me waiting for public transport, all you’ll see is someone pacing up and down the platform like a caged lion.

Perpetual fidgeter

Just like it seems you can only be underwhelmed or overwhelmed and not whelmed, I’m pretty sure there’s only overstimulation or understimulation.

I wouldn’t consider myself hyper in the traditional connotation of a six-year-old boy high on sugar. But I do score high in hyperactivity if we’re looking at chatting and fidgeting.

Fidgeting tends to be caused by being understimulated. Favorite forms of fidgeting apart from the obvious leg-bouncing? Doodling in class/during meetings, never being able to stay sitting in one position for too long, getting up to get tea six times a day as an excuse to walk around, and fidgeting with my hair to the point where I end up giving myself three different hairstyles in the span of an hour.

On the other hand, I also get overstimulated – mostly due to too much going on around me to focus on one thing. While it doesn’t happen as often as understimulation, it brings about its own quirks. Apart from randomly getting overwhelmed and snippy in packed public spaces, I’ve developed a party-only smoking habit that helps me take a socially-accepted pause when things get a bit too much.

Quirky or just undiagnosed ADHD? I don’t see any reason why it can’t be a bit of both. As long as no one compares me to a manic pixie dream girl ever again, I don’t care. Plus, recently I find out that Zooey Deschanel also has ADHD.

Sometimes life just comes full circle.

For ADHD Awareness Month, I’ve decided to share my personal journey with ADHD, because ADHD can look different from person to person. So, DISCLAIMER: some of these experiences may resonate because to an extent, a lot of them happen to most people. The biggest difference is the extreme to which these symptoms affect ADHD’ers life adversely. If you think you might have ADHD, please contact your doctor or mental health professional.

Like what you see? I post a new blog every Sunday/Monday where I talk about… whatever THOUGHT interests me that week. Expect a bit of books, travel, beauty, general life musings, and taking pop culture way too seriously.