While I wait for a professional diagnosis, I’ve made a few small changes to help manage what I’m convinced is ADHD.
To learn more about self-diagnosis, I recommend reading this article: How wary should we be of diagnosing our own mental health conditions, though your research doesn’t need to stop there.
There are also arguments against self-diagnosis which urge those who think they have a problem to seek a professional’s opinion. Well, I’ve done that. I’ve sought a professional’s opinion but they won’t give me it any time soon. So what am I meant to do while I wait to speak to a psychiatrist? Should I just continue to struggle and cry and get nothing done? Perhaps it would be more productive to join the welcoming ADHD community which is offering me help and guidance, regardless of whether a professional has given me their stamp of approval or not.
This post started out as a length Twitter thread so it might read a little different to the pieces I usually write. On the positive side, it might be a little easier for those with ADHD to get through!
I’ve gone from being 95% sure I have ADHD to being certain. I’m keen to be formally diagnosed & medicated but after approaching my GP for help, I’e been put on a massive waiting list and to use the internet to manage my symptoms.
People think self-diagnosis is about being a hypochondriac, watching a few ADHD TikToks and saying “omg I do that!” but ‘properly’ self-diagnosing yourself isn’t just a passing thought.
I’ve not stopped thinking about it for the last few months. I was nervous to tell my mum because I thought she’d see it as a ‘naughty boy thing’. I thought she’d call me lazy and would blame social media. To my surprise, when I read out the list of reasons why I think I have it, she agreed with it all and added more to the list. I said: “you know how I’ve always been a bit of an attention seeker…?” And she was like “mmhmm” 😬
I’m not suggesting all people with ADHD are ‘attention seekers’. For me personally, I think it’s an ADHD-trait but maybe I’d be just as insufferable even if I was neurotypical.
My boyfriend was sceptical at first but then each day we spent together after that confirmed my self-diagnosis for him too. We couldn’t get through Guardians of the Galaxy without me asking him to pause it every few minutes. “This song was in Better Call Saul too!” was just one of the mundane facts I impulsively had to share.
‘Executive dysfunction’ often leaves me unable to complete tasks
My boyfriend will be cooking us dinner and he’ll ask me to fetch one thing. On my way to fetch that thing, I’ll do 10 other things. I’ll be frantically dashing from one side of the flat to another, adding more and more things to a to-do list in my head. It’s hard to snap myself out of it. I’ve learned this is known as ‘executive dysfunction’ and is common among those with ADHD.
Getting ready to leave the house when you have ADHD
Getting ready to leave the house is a struggle unless I have somewhere I absolutely have to be by a certain time. I’m rarely late for a personal training session but if I tell myself to get to the gym at 10 am, it won’t happen because I’ll be pottering around the flat for hours.
I’ll go to fetch my sports bra from my bedroom only to realise on the way that I need to brush my teeth. I’ll start brushing my teeth and I’ll remember that I was about to find my sports bra. I’ll walk out of my bathroom and see a packet of contraceptive pills by the side of my bed. I’ll think to myself: “If I don’t take one now, I’ll forget and end up pregnant.” I’ll walk back into the bathroom to spit out the toothpaste so I can swallow the pill. By the time I’ve rinsed my toothbrush I’ll remember my sports bra. I’ll walk back into the bedroom and see the pill again. I’ll walk into the kitchen to get a glass of water. I’ll see a pile of dirty washing on the floor by the washing machine. I’ll throw it in and turn it on. By this time I’ve forgotten about both the sports bra and the contraceptive pill and will pick up my phone to go on social media. Half an hour of scrolling later I’ll remember the sports bra. The sports bra is in the washing machine and it’s on a two-hour spin.
I’ve learned I need deadlines to function. I need an editor to give me deadlines and I need to believe there’ll be some kind of consequence for my career if I don’t meet them. If I set my own or an editor says “Honestly no rush!” I’m screwed.
When I was a writer in a marketing agency, I was very good at meeting tight deadlines but awful at managing my own schedule. On the tram each morning I’d plead with myself to break the cycle & have a productive day but as soon as I’d sit down at my desk, I knew it wouldn’t happen.
Every time a manager called my name, I assumed my time was up and I was about to be fired. I was so passionate about doing a good job and had hundreds of ideas, but executing them was impossible. I’ve since learned I’ve been suffering from ‘decision paralysis’.
I have a huge list of article ideas on Trello but whenever I pick one and sit down to write it, I’ll think about all the other ideas on the list and worry that I’ve chosen the wrong one. I’ll jump from one idea to the next and end up with 10 half-written pieces.
Decision paralysis is something I experience every day. I’ll wake up in the morning and think “I could go to the gym or I could write a couple of articles or I could clean my flat or I could…” Realistically, I could do all of those things but I know I’ll be lucky if I do one. I often just end up scrolling or posting on social media. Sometimes I hyper-focus on a social media post and can’t tear myself away. That’s what’s happening with this thread right now. If the phone rang, I know I wouldn’t answer. I would probably ignore the doorbell.
Hyper-focusing is my superpower – most of the time
Sometimes I hyper-focus on cleaning or most recently decorating. When I decided to decorate my flat, it became the only thing I wanted to do. I’d stay up until 2 am sanding down the walls & get up at 8 am to paint. It’s hard to not jump from one decorating task to another though.
When I was decorating, my boyfriend invited me to spend some time with him and his housemates. I love them all and they’ve embraced my weirdness from the start but tearing myself away from my paintbrush was distressing. I couldn’t help but feel resentment, even though I enjoy spending time with them. I can see how ADHD can damage relationships.
When I first told my boyfriend that I think I have ADHD, he (gently) suggested it’s maybe just social media. Social media definitely is a problem for me. It’s a quick-fix when I want instant stimulation, I guess. But the problems exist even when I’m not on my phone.
He stays at mine at the weekend and I don’t go on social media as much during that time. I continue to interrupt him when he’s telling a story, forget things he’s said to me, have bursts of hyperactivity, and get distressed if we watch TV for too long.
Maintaining friendships can be a challenge
I’ve lost track of the number of times friends have gotten frustrated with me for forgetting important things they’ve told me. I’ll ask them a question and they’ll say “I told you that twice already!” and I’ll be convinced that they didn’t. Getting upset just thinking about it.
ADHD vs my personality
It’s hard to tell what’s ADHD & what’s just my personality. I recently learned that people with ADHD often take things very personally, obsess over things they perceive to be a personal attack and find it hard to let things go. I feel SEEN! It’s crippling.
A few years ago I argued with a friend & still think about the things she said on an almost daily basis. Maybe I’m just a sensitive bastard who cares too much what other people think or maybe I’m like this because of my childhood or experiences.
Maybe it’s ADHD. “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s ADHD!!!!” Lol. Shit. My chain of thought has been broken. What was I going to say next?
I’ve really been struggling lately. I even had a little cry last night cos I’ve written a to-do list for the week & I easily have enough time to get it all done but I know I won’t. I’ll jump from one task to the other without completing them. It’s upsetting to think of the untapped potential.
How to get stuff done when you have ADHD
Here are a few things I’ve been doing since self-diagnosing myself with ADHD to try and get things done…
Cookbooks have transformed my eating habits
One thing I’ve long struggled with is cooking/following a recipe. If I Google how to make risotto, I’ll jump from one recipe to another. If I manage to pick one, I then have to navigate ads and long-winded intros. It’s overwhelming. Enter… a cookbook!
I bought myself a TwoChubbyCubs book to start with. The meals looked bangin’ & there weren’t too many ingredients. Suddenly I was no longer overwhelmed with thousands of recipes for the same thing. Wanna make sausage casserole? This is the only way to do it!
I started this in January and since then I’ve bought more recipe books and have cooked dozens of new meals. This is HUGE for me. I used to live off burgers & cheesy potatoes. The thought of taking a list of random ingredients to the supermarket overwhelmed me but I’m getting better.
‘Habit stacking’ will help you kill two birds with one stone
I read (okay, listened to) Atomic Habits by James Clear and that was helpful. It got me thinking about how I could attach the things I want to do but struggle with (such as eating well & exercising) to things I already do. Clear calls this ‘habit stacking’ and it works!
I already spend the whole weekend with my boyfriend so on Saturdays he cooks something new for me and on Sundays I cook something new for him.
It’s become something fun that I look forward to all week!
We’ve also introduced gym workouts to our weekends too. We go off and do our own thing when we’re there, but it’s nice to be held accountable. Going to the gym with someone else means I have a deadline. It’s not like I can expect him to sit on the sofa for 2 hours while I potter around ‘gEtTinG rEaDy’.
Ask people to set you deadlines
I really wish I knew I had ADHD when I was employed. If I’d asked my managers to set me very strict deadlines, I honestly think I would have been more ‘successful’, would have avoided a lot of work conflict & maybe wouldn’t have been made redundant.
Thankfully, one of my current editors has ADHD too and so she gets it. She’ll send me an email with each article title and the deadline beside it. Having deadlines adds a little bit of structure to my life and keeps me accountable! I’ll get stuff done if I absolutely have to.
Forgive yourself for not being perfect
While I find the above tweaks helpful, they’re not fool-proof. I still struggle and have days where all I can do is cry because I’m so overwhelmed. We have to forgive ourselves for not being perfect.
I have five deadlines due on Friday. I know I’ll get them done in time but I’d save myself a lot of stress and guilt if I just started them now. Yet here I am, hyper-focusing on this Twitter thread/article.
Letting go of perfectionism can actually help you get more done.
Instead of beating myself up for writing a Twitter thread about ADHD this morning instead of writing the articles I’m being paid to do, I’ve set myself a timer and challenged myself to turn it into a blog post in less than an hour. I think in the ADHD community this is known as productive procrastination. Ha!
Usually when I write a blog post, I’ll spend hours tweaking it and ‘perfecting’ it and obsessing over every word choice. Sometimes I won’t hit the publish button at all. This time, I’m submitting the very first draft. I’m on track to finish it on time and I don’t care if there are any typos.
I’m in what I like to call ‘The Hole’ and I’m loving it. Holy shit. Remember that film?
*Googles Laurence Fox and gets increasingly annoyed*
*Has Instagram rant about anti-maskers*
*Receives one DM telling me to not let other people’s behaviour get to me*
*Calls my boyfriend to rant about that one person who DMd me*
*Puts down the phone and cries for two hours because my boyfriend is such a great listener but no matter how much I try, I really struggle to return the favour*