I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 31. Growing up in a country in Asia, my parents didn't know what ADHD was. I was often labelled the 'naughty', 'careless', 'wreckless' and 'messy' child.
However, after learning more about ADHD, I can now reflect back on different stages of my childhood and adolescent years and understand how the signs, symptoms and behaviours for my case have presented themselves and how it affected me.
When people think of a child with ADHD, many think of the stereotypical ‘hyperactive wall climber’ running from room to room causing havoc. But this wasn’t me. For me, I struggled with sitting still and paying attention. As a kid I needed to move and fidget. Even when tasks required me to sit, I could not. I can recall memories when a primary school teacher called my mother to inform her that I couldn’t remain seated during my exams. My parents dismissed the incident saying that I just wanted to play. In another occasion when my parents enrolled me in a performing arts school to learn to play an instrument, they found me in the back of the dance class. The school principal noticed my inability to stay seated or focused on repetitive tasks and felt my energy was better suited in the dance class...
Needless to say, on many occasions, my inability to remain still and pay attention meant I was strongly disciplined for being ‘naughty’ and was often punished by my parents. Throughout my schooling, I recall challenges learning subjects that involved abstract concepts, organisation, prioritisation and problem solving, particularly science and maths. Organising complex ideas for essays and university assignments were troublesome, in my case essay writing took longer than my peers to complete. I felt as though I had to work extra hard just to get the job done. Poor self image and self esteem began to creep up on me, leading me to feel shame and anxiety. While I confided in friends and family to discuss my challenges, I often found it difficult to sustain my train of thoughts to resolve them.
It wasn’t until I found myself in a stressful working environment where I really struggled to cope, that I decided I really needed to get to the bottom of my issues. I decided to see a psychiatrist for what I thought was work related stress. However, as our sessions continued each week, we explored the reasons behind my stress. It became apparent that the difficulty I faced at work was compounded by my struggle to concentrate, remain focused on the task, prioritise, organise and manage my time. It also didn’t help that I can be forgetful, messy, and impulsive; suffered from poor self image and mood swings from time to time. While these traits can often point to other mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression (conditions to which individuals with ADHD are vulnerable to) my diagnosis for ADHD was confirmed after completing the TOVA assessment under the advice of my psychiatrist.
Reflecting on my experience, my message to parents and teachers is: take notice of the signs and behaviours your child exhibits. If you suspect that your child is suffering from the challenges associated with hyperactivity, inattentiveness and impulsiveness speak to a qualified therapist and have your child assessed. Not doing so could mean that your child will struggle to live up to their true potential, or take advantage of some the positive qualities associated with ADHD.
Fortunately for me, I now understand my struggle and also enjoy the unique qualities that come with my ADHD. But that is perhaps a topic for another day!
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