Note: This post was initially titled ‘ADHD diagnosis, three months on. I wrote it a year ago, and then ‘left it to stew’… where it’s been sitting for the last year. Primarily I was mostly concerned about offending my parents if I’m honest.
When I wrote my first ADHD post, as a small aside I mentioned that the psychiatrist had mentioned that often people who are diagnosed later in life can feel frustrated or angry that they weren’t diagnosed earlier.
When I was first diagnosed, the primary emotion was relief and happiness. I felt happy that there was a good explanation as to why I often have had difficulty relating to other people, and that it could be given a name, and that there is medication to treat it.
More recently I have been feeling a bit more frustrated that I wasn’t diagnosed earlier, and thinking ‘what if’ – what if I had been diagnosed as a kid?
It’s not like the idea that I had ADHD as a kid was completely foreign. My mother had cut out an article about ADHD and stuck it to the fridge. While she didn’t say so, the commonly expressed opinion of my siblings was this was in reference to me. This coined a phrase – whenever I was acting out my siblings would say ‘David, get off the fridge!’.
Interestingly enough though – I can’t for the life of me remember what kinds of things I did as a kid that constituted hyperactivity. You think of your typical hyperactive kid as very loud, always running around and getting into things. While I did do things that are otherwise typical of ADHD behaviour, mainly losing things, breaking things and forgetting things, the primary thing that I remember is being absorbed in reading. This obviously isn’t a complete picture, because I was also characterised as being an attention seeker – but again I can’t remember what things I did to seek attention. I do remember frequently and repeatedly complaining “I’mmmmmmmmmmmm boooooorrrrrreeeeeeeeddd’ in an obnoxious manner. 😀
I asked one of my sisters about what hyperactive things I did, and she couldn’t remember either.
So there were suggestions that I had ADHD as a kid, but my parents didn’t do anything about it.
A possible explanation for this is, my performance at school was still pretty good. My school reports consistently said ‘David has potential but needs to apply himself’ but I always marked reasonably well at my subjects, and was at the top of my classes in maths.
I have a hypothesis for this. Especially for a subject like maths, primary level math problems are short and discreet. These kinds of problems might actually suit someone with ADHD, providing that immediate short term sense of stimulation and satisfaction each time a problem is solved. The nature of the teaching also involves ongoing teacher engagement. It’s not until a problem requires sustained concentration that ADHD might be disruptive.
It’s not like my parents were averse to getting additional help for their kids – they enrolled my older in some after school tuition because he couldn’t read. But here we have a very distinct problem – not reading, that the solution for is quite apparent. General hyperactive behaviour does not have an immediately obviously solution, unless you know what you’re looking for.
Also – the school did refer me to some kind of child psychologist when I was about nine.
The experience as I remember it was this: I was sitting at my desk reading a book. An adult was in the room and some of the girls appeared to be showing off to her showing her some of the work they’d done. She then came and talked to me and asked me what I was doing (I was reading book). She then invited me to talk to her in another room. In the room she asked me a series of math related (‘A train is travelling…’) and some English questions (one of them was asking the meaning of the word ‘transparent’ – I didn’t know).
The psychologist obviously didn’t make an ADHD diagnosis, but my mum told me that she’d said that I have the maths brain of a sixteen year old, whatever that means.
It’s fruitless to imagine how things might be different if I had be diagnosed as a kid. There’s no changing the past and so it’s a matter of dealing with my life as it is now.
However, at the same time acknowledging how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking is often the first step for moving forward.
It’s also interesting to reflect on how society has changed. The idea of therapy and psychological assessments are a lot more acceptable now. I’m not sure if that means that parents in New Zealand are sending their kids to therapy or psychologists more frequently now.