ADHD, meet Georgie. Georgie, meet ADHD.

As I begin writing this post, I’m largely unsure of when I’ll actually publish it. Perhaps I will return to it little by little, or I might be able to write it out in a couple of sittings. It’s difficult to predict, but I have also learned that my unpredictability now has a reason. There’s nothing that I’m trying to hide (anymore?) but from the beginning of my journey, I knew I wanted to share my experience.

I will cut to the chase, because that is how incredibly the mind of a person with ADHD works—we want the punchline, then the backstory, otherwise we won’t pay an ounce of attention: I was diagnosed with combined type hyperactive & inattentive ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). I had symptoms from early childhood, including an inability to sit still, constant fidgeting, daydreaming, and losing focus and attention in school when it came to things I did not enjoy. I went to a Catholic school and I remember literally looking forward to Mass because it meant that I could sit there and stare into space and let my many thoughts run free without obligation. Of course, I allowed myself to be distracted by my other students or I would create distractions myself. As I approached my teens, I became loud and obnoxious, feeling like it was a true and genuine part of my personality that I felt was previously trapped inside. I was constantly playing with my hair until I developed the hair-pulling disorder trichotillomania, where I was obsessively pulling hair from my head because it felt good but I was unable to notice the damage I’d caused until I got bald patches on my head.

I went to a gifted/talented and selective school from grades 5 to 12. I did fairly well in high school from grades 7 to 12, excelling in subjects that I enjoyed—coming first in French and yielding exceptional results in English and Music but doing extremely poorly in Mathematics and History, which were both subjects I grew to dislike. I became depressed, feeling pressure at home to do well at school, and feeling like everything was so difficult even though I tried so hard. I recall breaking rules by wearing jewellery and accessories with my school uniform, throwing tantrums at teachers for not letting me use the restroom during class, shouting at the school principal that I was “dumb and would fail the HSC”, and specifically a time I was punching a wall in the playground after someone had spread rumours about me and bullied me. My self-expression was so important to me that I continued wearing dozens of bracelets and giant earrings, but when a teacher scolded me for breaking the rules I would buckle and tear up because the tone of her voice made me think she was going to physically hurt me.

From the ages of 10 to 22 I experienced disordered eating, that came about as a result of being diagnosed with high cholesterol. It was not until after these twelve years that I was told it was likely genetic, well after the damage had been done. I engaged in one fad diet after another, but mostly restricting food and eating as little as possible. I had spent years dealing with low iron levels and obsessing over exercising to burn calories and be as small as possible. (Yeah, I’m an example of that meme of girls who went from wanting to become thin, to lifting heavy weights. Or in my case, a powerlifter.)

I found myself in university doing a bachelor’s degree that I wanted to do, but feeling lost because I didn’t know what was expected of me. Everything suddenly seemed so much harder than school and so many of my university course mates seemed to understand what was going on, while I didn’t understand how university was supposed to “work”. I skipped some lectures and tutorials but finished my assignments with some exceptional grades; some of the assignments had been done at the last minute. I completed an entire presentation twenty minutes before I got up in front of everyone in my tutorial group and delivered it, getting a High Distinction that convinced me that I could continue leaving shit until the last minute with no repercussions. I had a part-time job that I had generally no trouble with, but I had trouble understanding the tone of my supervisor. It always seemed like she was mad at me and I thought I would get fired at any moment.

In my early twenties—well, I didn’t want to go there, but I’ve been there on my blog, and I’ve been open about related things, so here we are—I was a mess. Irresponsible behaviour, driving overconfidently and recklessly (and not quite learning from it), unable to control my consumption of alcohol, destroying relationships, and creating more work for myself, resulting in burnout. I don’t brag about working and studying my masters degree full-time, per se, but there is a scar I bear from the overwork I brought upon myself. It was non stop. Wake up, go for a run, commute for an hour while trying to do work on my laptop, work 8 hours at my day job and barely take a lunch break, run to university for class for several hours, go to a concert as a photographer or a music reviewer, buy a coffee before my midnight or 1:00am train ride home, shower, sleep, wake up at 6:00am and do it all over again. Yeah, of course some days didn’t have university or I didn’t attend a concert, but this was my life for several years.

It was not until last year that I was willing to admit that I had a shopping addiction, after over five years of earning a reputation of being “that girl who always gets parcels of clothes” at the office. Even today, I am ashamed that some people I work with continue to hold that image of me, thinking that all I do in my spare time is shop online. I made every excuse that it was productive shopping, that I bought better quality clothes, that I spent less, that I was certain of my personal style (I was not—it is not static and everyone’s personal style evolves over time), and above all—that it was fun, so why not. Only now does it make sense that I threw stuff in a virtual shopping cart, spent hours and hours trying to decide on whether purchasing was necessary, and clicked the “place order” or “pay now” button and felt sudden boredom. Shopping for clothes was my way of getting dopamine, and my indecision was a result of the constant thoughts running through my head. My habit was insidious.

I struggle to remember how many times I have cried and felt helpless about my professional work. In my career as a software engineer, I’ve previously been underpaid. It was not because of my lack of skills (budget, company not aligning with market salaries, gender pay gap), but I was every bit convinced that I was not worth more, and I was afraid to negotiate. I received positive feedback from my peers and managers, yet I did not feel like I was enough, because of many times I felt undervalued. I spoke at meetups and conferences where I received positive feedback from others, saying they felt inspired, but I still felt like there was something to dislike about me. I’m too vain, too proud, and I keep talking about the same shit (blogging, insert “lol” here). I gave honest critique about a lack of inclusivity at a conference I attended, and one of the organisers rebuffed me. To this day I feel like I was just othered, or too “different”, and not good enough to attend, much less speak at, that conference. It may not be the case, but that incident alone has caused me to approach many of my speaking opportunities with insecurity.

I have been at my current place of employment for over eight years. At one low point, I felt like my wheels were spinning, but I was too scared to look for other jobs because I thought I was unemployable. I burst into tears in a one-on-one with my manager after he read my performance review, filled with glowing feedback from my peers and the recognition that I was open to, and helped so many people and that I was great to work with. I recall so many other times I wanted to cry, but where it felt completely unreasonable. I joined a concert band at university, but when I attended my first rehearsal, I was the only new person and they already learned a piece for an upcoming performance. I just watched them for an hour before I left and cried. After going to the Apple Store when my Watch wasn’t starting up, the staff member said they couldn’t give me an interim replacement. I thought he was mean. A man on a bus was mocking a woman and her crying baby, and I shouted at him to leave her alone, and then the bus driver yelled at me as I alighted the bus. What the hell had I done wrong? My coworkers at a previous workplace made a joke about me, and being brutally honest, I said I was offended. They scoffed and said, “pff, can’t you take a joke?” Oh, that’s right—as I’ve been told my whole life—I’m just too sensitive.

There is no distinct pattern here, but every piece of what I’ve just shared can be traced back to a symptom of ADHD. Times I thought I was unintelligent, too emotional, too much for some people, “up myself”, and unworthy of love, suddenly make sense. My inability to watch a movie without getting bored out of my mind, or without doing something else, or my mind going absolutely bonkers, has been present for as long as I can remember.

For once, though, I don’t mind at all. I thought there was something wrong with me, or I was just weird, but at least now I know—it’s just who I am.

Hi, and thank you for reading this far. 💙 As I went through the process of obtaining medical diagnosis for ADHD, I really wanted to share more about that process because I don’t think the details are really shared much. It is a blog post I’m planning for the near future.

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I’m so sorry you had to go through all that. Stuff like that honestly sucks especially if it’s something you don’t exactly have control over and stuff.

I know how you feel with the sensitive stuff. Maybe not to the same extent, but I’ve always been kinda over sensitive so I get how that can feel.

But at least I guess if nothing else this has given you answers.

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Hi, tbh this doesn’t sound like ADHD but rather a decent and kind human being trying to get along, make a life for herself and deal with a cruel and incomprehensible world where it’s everyone for themselves. Good luck to you ♥🙏

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Hi, thank you—but ADHD presents itself differently in different people, so your idea of it is not the same in every person with ADHD, and you have no way of living someone else’s experience for a mental condition. It can also be hurtful to invalidate other people’s diagnoses.

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I felt this post so deeply. I hear you!

I hope knowing “why” is helping you, that you feel at least some peace or comfort in having answers to questions, or that you’re having “aha!” moments which help you to understand and go easier on yourself.

Welcome to the club btw; all the best people are a little “neurospicy”. :D

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IIRC we already discussed this 😅 but I wanted to congratulate you anyways! Neurodivergent people tend to associate with fellow neurodivergent people, and I found it odd that you were presumably neurotypical this whole time despite our friendship going strong??

so I had a thought that perhaps you were ND, and I hope you’re able to learn more about yourself/find self-acceptance/etc. things you need now that you have this new…lens? of understanding. 💖

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