- Andy Steele
ADHD and me
When I was at school, there was a kid who had ADHD. The naughty boy who misbehaved; cocky and disruptive in class, who struggled to concentrate and as a result struggled to make the same kind or progress in lessons as others; a stereotype that probably to this day makes us associate the condition with boys, under-achieving and disruptiveness. Absolutely, ADHD can be those things but it's affects people in different ways. ADHD in girls is often subtly different meaning there is probably a lower chance that hyperactivity is the primary symptom and instead it's inattentiveness. But not always. There is no hard-and-fast rule and people often go for years without knowing they have it.
I was diagnosed with ADHD as recently as last year and I wasn't one bit of the easier-to-recognise stereotype that I had always assumed I had to be as a child for it to be diagnosed. I was the quiet daydreamer at the back of the class who, if I was interested in a subject, would write pages and pages of often scrappy words. Otherwise, I might not quite pay attention and just rush through my work to get it done so I could go back to something more interesting like imagining how cool it would be to shoot laser beams out of my hands. So long as I was doing enough not fall behind; that was sufficient. I was not a problem child. I was just a little odd.
I didn't think I had ADHD, not even when a former colleague of mine told me I should go get myself tested because he was convinced that I struggled with a lot of the same things that he did. No, I thought. That was rubbish. I didn't fit into that image I had of what ADHD looked like. I was just like nearly everyone else on my father's side. So what if I walked and talked fast; so did a lot of my family. I was always fiddling with something, anything, but so did my Dad, and my uncle.
Then I trained as a Sound Therapist and I went out of my comfort zone of fixing-breaking-fixing stuff to helping others. Creating a therapeutic space for someone was the easy bit. It was like finding out I had a new superpower. But writing it up afterwards was the hard part. I struggled like hell to put all of my analysis into something that was coherent to another human being. To make matters worse, I started my training in February 2020. Remote lectures, revising, coursework submissions, periodic assessments and a theory exam was then followed by a case study period that was interspersed by 3 more lockdowns. My notes were horrific. My natural inability to organise myself and display my thinking to others was laid painfully bare. The poor examiner at BAST had an almighty task on her hands. Here was a portfolio of people all reporting an improvement in their symptoms but understanding how I got from A to B was like tried to find Wally in a magic eye picture while on a rollercoaster. I could help people; I just couldn't prove it.
When I got the news that BAST needed more evidence from me to qualify, I had been waiting 9 months to be seen by a neurologist and had just suffered a very nasty mountain-bike accident. I was cut and bruised on the inside and the outside. Miraculously, 2 weeks after I got the news, I was offered to be transferred to a third party who was helping the NHS with the backlog of referrals. First, I was diagnosed with ASD. Then ADHD. I had to then complete additional case studies whilst coming to terms with conditions that I felt were outside of my control. I felt that I both didn't know myself and getting to know a new self at the same time. It was both an incredibly confusing and enlightening time for me.
When the consultant told me I had ASD; he told me that I didn't need to tell anyone, because a lot of people just don't get it and the sad truth is that a lot of people with ADHD and ASD get stereotyped because they don't fit into that nice label of what a definitive condition should look like. This is why they call it a spectrum! Not because everyone is on it; but because there is no stereotype. It affects people in different ways and by differing degrees. And the amount of impact can change as we enter different phases of our lives and encounter different experiences. It's like trying to fit a moving cube into a static, rounded hole.
Fortunately, for me, this story has a happy ending/beginning. I passed my Sound Therapy Practitioner diploma with a decent grade and I'm just grateful to BAST for finding Wally in that magic eye picture on a second pass.
I thought that being different meant there are some things that I just maybe shouldn't do. These last few months have shown me that actually, I've been able to tap into a few of the things that I know now is just my ADHD and I use them as warning signs to slow down or take a break altogether, go into myself and re-focus before coming back to something. They don't have to be things to endure; they can just be flags to help me look after myself better.
I hope by sharing my own experience, it can help others and take away the stigma of seeking a diagnosis. I will be sharing other posts about how I've found being neurodivergent has affected how I interact with sound and other things in future posts so please check back in a few weeks if this has been of interest to you, or reach out to me if you have been affected by anything in this article.