Candid Chaos Chronicles: Clair's Light Bulb Moment
Candid Chaos Chronicles Part 2 is authored by Clair, a mother in her 40's. She was recently diagnosed with ADHD and wanted to share her pre-diagnosis experiences along with what life has been like since starting medication. Her story features her time at university, jobs, marriage, infidelity, parenting, and more. Warning: the following story mentions alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts. Reader discretion is advised.
Serendipity has long been in my list of top 5 favourite words. It's also the reason for my ADHD diagnosis at age 44.
When thinking back on how it all came about, I have an image in my head of Light Bulb Moments happening to adults around the country, which - in domino-style - resulted in other adults finally finding out the reason for the chaos in their lives. In my case, there are four adults who I know personally - a friend of my friend, my friend, myself and then my brother. Within a year, we all received our ADHD diagnoses. Before this time, we spent our entire adult lives (and parts of our childhoods) feeling that something wasn’t right and being fobbed off and misdiagnosed... which is why we all thought of each other when we learned more and more about ADHD.
"I also now know that RSD (Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria) more than likely played a part in my anxiety."
For me, things started to feel "wrong" shortly after leaving home at 19. I moved to a different city for university and within a year of being there, had fallen completely in love for the first time; he later became husband #1. In retrospect, I think the intense feelings I had completely overwhelmed me. There was euphoria but there was also massive vulnerability - to give myself completely to someone else was to risk being hurt. So there was also enormous anxiety. Now that I know more about ADHD, I know that it's very common for our feelings to be so much more than "normal". Emotional Dysregulation is a core symptom of ADHD; we feel much more intensely than Neurotypicals. For me, there is no middle ground. I’m either flying or burying myself as far underground as possible. I also now know that RSD (Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria) more than likely played a part in my anxiety.
In addition to this, there was the issue of hyperfocus. My partner was my hyperfocus. I let go of friends. I let go of my sense of self. And I completely let go of the reason I was there in the first place: to study. I scraped a "Pass" by the skin of my teeth and was very lucky not to be thrown out. I was called into the office and warned every year that I could be.
Up until this time, I'd always managed well in academic settings, which is part of the reason I would've never considered myself to be ADHD. I wasn’t particularly great at concentrating in class and would often daydream. I was called a “chatterbox” on all of my primary school report cards. But when it came to passing tests, I did really well. Studying would always be left to the last minute, but then adrenaline would kick in and I'd manage to cram masses of information just to regurgitate it on the exam and forget immediately after. The same was true of essays at uni. I could be out the night before, wake up first thing, and write an essay with my heart racing. My best results were obtained this way, much to the disgust of fellow classmates. One said, “You are the cleverest in the class but you are also the biggest slacker. It’s really not fair!”
"This was to be the first in a very long list of unhelpful remarks I've heard from GPs."
It was around this time I really started self-medicating. I drank far too much alcohol and snorted large amounts of amphetamines. Only at these points did I feel calm and relaxed. My anxiety had started to produce feelings of dissociation, which I found incredibly frightening and was unable to get help with. I went to the GP and told him I felt like I was going mad. All he could say was, “if you feel like you're going mad, then you definitely aren’t. You just need to relax.” This was to be the first in a very long list of unhelpful remarks I've heard from GPs.
At 24, I started a post-graduate diploma. I convinced myself and the Admissions Office that I changed; that I was more mature and would work hard. As the result of a scathing report from my first university, I was asked to attend an interview. I was grilled for 2 hours on why I should be given a place when I had done so badly before. With the "gift of the gab", I won over the admissions officer and was accepted. I then went on to become a Regular in the Student Union, and - in the end - didn’t even graduate. I had actually done worse the second time around.
"I was constantly frustrated with myself. I felt ashamed and consumed by guilt."