Like many people with ADHD, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was a grown adult. There I was, out in the world: setting several dozen alarms in my phone to remind me to clean; leaving the supermarket without the one thing I went there for; replying to emails in the first 30 seconds or never. Every day I looked at my list of tasks and thought, yes, that seems doable. And every day I found myself knee-deep in the etymology of ‘binomial nomenclature’, at which I had arrived because of an urgent need to remind myself of the relationship of Richard III to Richard ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’ Neville, via, by the way, a man called Władysław I Łokietek, who was the King of Poland from 1320 to 1333 and known as ‘the Elbow-high’ (an epithet, like ‘the Kingmaker’ (what would mine be? Is there a word like ‘inebriated’ but for eating all the chocolate you had bought for the entire week? I had a brief debate on Twitter earlier about whether UK or Australian chocolate is better—the latter needs more stabilising agents (like soy lecithin, which, by the way, is reported to dampen psychological distress and anxiety (both symptoms of developmental disorders like ADHD which
Oh yes, I see
I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was in my late 30s. Melbourne’s Covid lockdown and remote school learning had made it clear that my children—who are teenagers—were challenged by concentrating on a task without pulling out their phones to jump on Discord and talk to their also-remote friends or play a tower defence game for five hours (a common misconception of ADHD is that we can’t concentrate at all, but hyperfixation is also a symptom (which means being completely immersed in something to the point of sometimes not responding to outside stimulus at all (when my elder daughter was a very small child we had her hearing tested twice on the insistence of her kindergarten teacher, because she would busily work away at something and not respond to any request, not even her own name (she doesn’t have any physiological hearing issues, she just can’t hear you because gluing paper to other paper is extremely fun and she has no idea how much time has passed and whatever you’re going to say to her is less important
so we took one child to be diagnosed. In Australia, being assessed by a neuropsychologist for ADHD is not subsidised by Medicare, which means it cost us $1950 out of pocket to do the six-hour assessment and have a report prepared for her school (schools can take these reports and, when someone has a miraculous spare moment, read part of them and realise they do not have the resources to support a neurodiverse child to perform at their best because classrooms are designed for middle-of-the-road, neurotypical and non-disabled kids who will work quietly and never, ever speak to another child for fear of a school report that says Anna is bright but disruptive and Anna tends to interrupt the other students (I found some of my own parents’ school reports, which for some reason I have in a drawer beside my bed, and those reports say all the same things (David is our best mathematics student but must apply himself and Kathryn talks very much
a 2016 study found that 41.3% of mothers of children with ADHD also have ADHD, and 51% of fathers. It also found no significant correlation between parental and child diagnoses, but I don’t know what this means because although I am a current PhD candidate (nearly finished, in fact, three years in and working on the final chapters of my exegetic component, which is about trauma narratives and how childhood trauma affects the way we can build an stable identity (which is to say—greatly, and people who have experienced childhood trauma, say, because they had undiagnosed ADHD and so were made to feel like a pain, burden, disappointment, are more likely to recall negative memories (and more likely to have gaps in their memory, which is something the brain does to protect a body from a threat that may cause harm (like trauma
I don’t know if I have ever read the middle of a journal paper. I have read conclusions (the parts that managed to be in front of my eyes at the same time as I had found enough energy to concentrate on parsing the sentences (“About 40% of ADHD children have at least one parent with clinical ADHD symptoms.” “People diagnosed with ADHD have an elevated risk for school failure, antisocial behavior, other psychiatric problems, somatic disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, accidental injuries, and premature death, including attempted and completed suicide.” “… regardless of psychiatric status, ADHD placed children at relative risk for educational and vocational disadvantage.” (the subjects of this study were all white males (women with ADHD are chronically under-diagnosed and diagnosed at a more advanced age (they also have higher rates of eating disorders, alcohol addiction and low self-esteem
but when my children were diagnosed with ADHD (up to 7.4% of children under 14 have ADHD, making it the most common mental disorder in Australian children (but about 1 in 100 adults also have it and doctors—doctors—recognise the prevalence of adult diagnoses is significantly increasing (by 123% between 2007 and 2016
the neuropsychologist recommended a book called ADHD Go-To Guide. The adolescent psychiatrist and both of the clinical psychologists also recommended it, so I figured it must be good and bought it online, and when it arrived I diligently read from cover to cover. It’s a very practical book, full of tips to make it easier to concentrate, to reduce distress caused by anxiety and frustration, to give positive reinforcement and create better routines (“Exercise: Start a success diary for your child. Make a note each day of even the smallest successes they have
If Anna is to reach her potential, she must concentrate in class. Anna could be our best student if she paid closer attention. Please bring Anna to the school office at 9am on Saturday for detention
and it describes the everyday effects of ADHD (‘the inability to pause’ (‘Your child is unable to stop, make the decision to ignore the distraction, and return to the task at hand’) (‘time blindness’ (‘The ADHD brain does not have an internal clock.’) (‘memory blanks’)
‘Did you pack the dishwasher, like I asked?’ ‘I forgot.’ ‘Could you do it now?’ ‘Yep.’ ‘Just stand up. Stand up and go to the dishwasher.’ ‘I’m going to.’ ‘Go on. You’re still sitting on your phone. Stand up.’ ‘I’m just about to.’ ‘Do the dishwasher.’ ‘I will.’
Two secs, just finding the section about how it makes you invade other people’s privacy
I cried while I read this book. Some of the text is blotchy now because I sobbed my ADHD-ass tears all over it, and because there is a grief attached to never getting anything quite right, to always being in the way, to letting people down, to being the class clown, to not understanding why your body does what it does (twitching, buzzing, trying to get off the chair, making noises, grabbing stuff off the wall, talking too loudly, (and always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, never making friends properly, being the ‘weird one’, embarrassing your cousins in public, (losing your school jumper, losing your homework, losing your PE bag, forgetting your part of the assignment (doing too much for the assignment, being bossy, always wanting to be in charge, alienating others (crying
‘Emotional flooding’? That sounds like it. ‘Difficulty controlling emotion is a strong characteristic of ADHD …’ Now the part about how that difficulty makes it hard to stop yourself from taking photos of women bending over (allegedly) without their permission: ‘Your child will struggle with self-soothing, resulting in angry outbursts, brooding or mental meltdowns.’
they’ve surely included the medical evidence that ADHD causes you to harass and stalk people with the intention of (allegedly) damaging their reputation until they are suicidal?
Nothing about taking photos of people in parks? Making anti-Semitic remarks on Facebook? Liking sexist posts? Body shaming? Tweeting racism?
but these are symptoms, I read it in the paper.
Anna Spargo-Ryan is a Melbourne writer. This post was orignally published here.