Adult ADHD can devastate your life and the lives of those around you. Still, It amazes me how much venom and vitriol people regularly churn out against the very notion of ADHD. Comments I’ve heard recently include: ADHD was invented by the working classes to avoid responsibility, sponge benefits, and get high; ADHD was invented through the collusion of GPs with American pharmaceutical corporations; ADHD is just another word for bad parenting; or – the mildest of them all, strangely – ADHD doesn’t exist.
ADHD is real, believe me. I live with it every day.
At the time I got diagnosed, in 2016, the house was a mess. I could barely see the kitchen floor for all the clothes that had gathered there, given my inability to put clothes away after they came out of the tumble drier. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. The mess was simply invisible to me. It was the same for the kitchen benches. Mess everywhere, driving Emma crazy, but I was oblivious. And Emma, being disabled, wasn’t physically able to cover for me. I lost count of the times I found myself in the kitchen staring at the sink, wondering what I was there for. I discovered after the diagnosis that Emma had been worried I was suffering from Early Onset Alzheimer’s.
I had dozens of projects on the go, all destined to change the world, so I thought, and, for whatever reason I couldn’t fathom, I hadn’t manage to finish one of them. Lots of hard work, lots of sweat and tears, but nothing was going anywhere. This is a bit of a problem when you’re self-employed. No money was coming in, a full four years since leaving full-time employment. We were in a crisis.
It all came to a head one week in June, 2016.
On the Monday I didn’t head home from the office until 6pm, not really aware of the time at all. I was doing research and following up on leads and clues, jumping from book to book, and had been doing this all day. This wouldn’t have been too much of a problem, except I’m the only one in the house who drives, and I was supposed to have picked the kids up from nursery at 4pm. I had no awareness of this until I arrived home to find Emma at the door, almost in tears, on the point of calling the police and the hospitals. Apparently she had been calling my mobile phone for hours, and I hadn’t even noticed.
On the Tuesday I arrived back with the kids from nursery. Emma was in the car with me this time, just to be sure. I turned off the engine. Emma opened her door. The car lurched forward and slammed Emma’s shoulder as I quickly lunged to put on the handbrake, which I had forgotten. Emma hurt her shoulder, which would be bad enough for anyone, but with her particular disabilities it was an injury that would take 3 weeks to heal, under normal circumstances.
But circumstances were anything but normal. Exactly the same thing happened on the Wednesday. “Not again, Daddy!” shouts Aodan from the back, aged 3. Emma’s shoulder was now in a mess. It would take more than a month to heal.
My confidence was at an all-time low. I had worked at an international level as a specialist in music and copyright, lectured at the University of California, and given international keynote speeches on the transformation of organisational systems (CV). I’m a qualified life and business coach. A poet. A songwriter. I’d run conferences and secured capital infrastructure funding. But I couldn’t make a cup of tea, tidy a floor, pick up the kids without supervision, finish a project, boil water without burning the pot, or remember to apply for a job. And I had hurt my wife. And might have hurt my kids.
As we sat down together that evening, the kids sound asleep in bed, Emma implored me to get help, expecting me to resist. I didn’t. Enough was enough. I needed help. So we booked an appointment privately, whatever it cost us, and got a diagnosis.
I was fortunate, I responded well to medication. I sat down at the dinner table for the whole meal on the first night, something my wife could not remember me doing before. I got my memory back. I finished many of the projects I had been sitting on for years, releasing 4 albums of songs, an album of electronic composition, and a book of poetry, all in the post-diagnosis period. I’m slowly writing a book about ADHD as well as a number of other projects, and I’m working at full capacity (still freelance, wearing a number of hats), and enjoying it.
More importantly, I am able to listen to my wife and kids, and look after my family better than I have been. And I’m feeling a lot better in myself. Nothing’s perfect, but it’s a major improvement on staring into space in the middle of the kitchen.
The medication has opened up space for me to try every way I can to keep my life on track. I do my best to stay away from sugar (I find that hard!). I make sure I exercise. I take time-outs for a bit of quiet when I can. I don’t beat myself up about slipping up. And I research ADHD to learn more about what we’re all dealing with.
I’ve become a bit of an ADHD flag-bearer since the diagnosis. I’m keen to spread the word that it’s real, that it can destroy lives, and that it can be treated. I’m also keen to help others with ADHD, or who think they might have ADHD. I do this through one-to-one coaching.
If you’d like to arrange a coaching session with me in Bangor, somewhere else, or online, please use the contact form and I will get back to you quickly.
I wrote this poem after the diagnosis:
I didn’t catch the
I needed help
You said, again,
Expecting me to
Too tired, too sad, to fight.
Never having choked it back till now
For having choked it half to death.
This vague suggestion of
A brain gone wrong.
This pilgrim visit,
Will take the scattered
Pieces of my life
And build a tiny sun
To light our way to
As giving a name to an island.
And maybe I will learn
It’s not my fault.
That life undone
And life undaunted
Weren’t as far apart
As I had mapped
With keen presumption
And an urgent, anxious heart.
I might have cried
The water of my head
Had you not sat
And held my hand
As daily you do hold
I still don’t catch
The first half
Of your sentences.
But now at least
I know enough
To ask forgiveness
As I try again.