I Shall Be Released Part II

22 Mar 2022

What is really stunning about my ADHD diagnosis is that it has been hiding in plain sight all my life. At school I was disruptive and ill-behaved but came good at exam time. This was put down to my being intelligent and therefore bored by the pace of tuition. (Actually I now believe the exam format of 4-5 30-45 minute pieces was almost tailor-made to fit my ADHD symptoms.)

In adult life I have found it useful to dispense with memory as far as possible, and use aids diaries, do-lists, whiteboards and tools such as Mind-Mapping. With an incidence of 2-3% of the population and an under-diagnosis of around 50% it means that there are hundreds of thousands of us in the UK alone. Many, as I was, wrongly diagnosed with depression.

The “hyper-activity” bit of the disorder is actually a bit of a misnomer. Better to say “hyper-focus.” People with ADHD can be consummate problem-solvers. I have lost count of the times my colleagues have been stumped by a problem and I’ve breezed in and pointed to the solution. When you’re the Manager this really justifies your position! However it can also make you extremely unpopular with colleagues...

Although I have always found process people quite irritating, I do recognise that I need them to achieve anything. The best assistants for me are those that recognise that there is a partnership at work and are happy to do their part, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of my original idea (and happy to be part of something creative. Conversely, the best leaders for me are those who listen to what I say with an open mind and argue logically.

Where the depression comes in is that I can get extremely frustrated either when my Big Idea is unworkable because my attention-deficit missed a crucial link, or when I can’t convince others that the idea is feasible because they lack the ability to “think outside the box.” A bit like all the disaster movies where the hero(ine) is not believed and unable to prevent the disaster unfolding.

There is no rest: my brain is full of thoughts flying at random. Imagine being in a dark cave with thousands of bats flying around: that is the adhd mind. As you can imagine, the use of alcohol serves to quieten the mind and reduce the flow of random thoughts. Caffeine also helps as a stimulant to reduce inattentiveness and increase concentration. Caffeine in the morning and alcohol in the evening can quickly become a daily routine to assist functionality, with major consequences. I also misunderstood sugar. Some time ago there was public concern over sugary drinks and hyper-activity. It seems that there is no cause-and-effect, but adhd people need sugar as a stimulant to fuel their hyperactivity. So the sugar is more of an enabler than a cause. It still led to my type-2 diabetes.

At the moment, all I have is the diagnosis. I am unable to access medication as, being technically homeless, I don’t have a permanent GP to monitor the regime under the oversight of my consultant. That will be Part III. Watch this space!


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