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It's not laziness: I have adult ADHD

What is it like living with adult ADHD? Why is it important to distinguish it from laziness, similar problems, and why is it crucial to get a diagnosis?

by Pratyush Chauhan

Abigail from @joyflowerphotography via Unsplash


I step into the confines of my room, back from a weekend getaway, tired, wanting nothing but the comfort of my bed and the softness of my pillow to cushion me back to sleep. A familiar dread fills me up as I push the door open. It is the same feeling I have every time I pass through this motion. It has been here through all my teenage and adult life and does not look like it will go away anytime soon. I walk into the room to be greeted by chaos; a pair of socks lies unattended on the floor, heaps of clothes sit dumped on the side over my travel bag, the study table is cluttered with everything, from unattended papers, books, to empty bottles of ice-tea waiting to be put in the recycle bin. The bed is worse with the sheets halfway down, wrinkled, and the duvet sits in a clump. The dread has now turned into guilt, which turns into lethargy. I sweep the bed sheet, pull it up, and crash on the bed telling myself that I’ll fix it tomorrow, knowing well that this will happen again.


This may seem like the story of a lazy slob; something I believed myself, for 22 years of my life. Until, seven years ago, I was diagnosed with a condition called Attention Deficiency and Hyperactivity Disorder, referred to as ADHD. Prior to diagnosis, I grew up as a person who wasn’t just berated by others but my own self for being unable to perform everyday tasks that seem trivial or second nature to most people. Lack of organisation is one, then there is susceptibility to lateness, academic problems unless under proper guidance, impulsiveness in making decisions, inability to sit still, and last but the most problematic, the inability to focus on tasks especially the ones which did not interest me.

I have dropped out from one degree, completed another with flying colours after treatment, but these ailments remain because once you’re an adult and still suffer from ADHD, it never goes away. The issue is that nearly everyone suffers from the said symptoms to some degree, but in a person with ADHD, the inability to focus on or complete a task increases to a chronic extent, akin to a mental disability.

In the long term, it is life altering. Consistency is key to accomplishing tasks, whether it comes to everyday stuff like home organisation, to the bigger things like being successful in academics or career. This is where people with ADHD suffer their biggest drawback.


Imagine running a sprint or a marathon with an injured foot. It might be possible with a lot of effort, a ton of sweat and motivation; it would feel like an accomplishment at the end of it. Now, imagine doing it again the next day, and the next. Imagine trying to find the motivation. That is what a person with ADHD feels like, trying to complete every day, simple tasks that would be a breeze for other people. It is near impossible to maintain a consistent drive to run, and even if one manages to finish the race, there is no way to keep pace with people running with sturdy feet.


For people with ADHD, especially undiagnosed, getting even a little work done, a quarter of what a regular person might get done, feels like an accomplishment. Another important facet is performance relapse, not disparate to a drug relapse. This is when a person who is tediously maintaining a consistent schedule- work or otherwise- is one bad day away from falling back to months of disorganisation, undoing all the progress they made. In ADHD, this is unavoidable and can be a repeating battle of falling into said relapses and then trying to get organised again. It is, hence, very important to be sensitive to the problems of a person with ADHD, and to not shirk it off or trivialise it by comparing them to a lesser degree of similar sounding issues that everyone faces. ADHD is a lot more than being lazy.


But is it all gloom and doom?


Medication, for one, makes it easier to stick to a schedule, to focus on the task at hand, to avoid being fidgety and checking that phone every 30 seconds so that one can write that essay, or to just get out of bed to clean one’s room.

For a person without ADHD, these medications might make them, ironically, hyperactive, raring to go and get a staggering amount of work done. For an ADHD diagnosed individual, they just make them function in a ‘normal’ manner, to be able to work on a task without a foggy mind running to a dozen places, without a disability holding you back. This is why it is crucial to get diagnosed if one feels they inhibit the symptoms. An undiagnosed person might plunge into guilt, feel alienated due to societal scorn, spend most of their lives feeling inferior to the rest of the population, no matter how vastly different the truth might be.


Having ADHD doesn’t make a person any less smart than others. ADHD personnel are amazingly good at stuff that they are interested in and can actually spend hours engrossed in the activity of their liking. This state is known as hyper focus, which many in the community have even, cheekily, labelled as a superpower.

Being different to the norm of a systematic, strict approach, ADHD personnel are generally creative in their endeavours and also have a panache for hard work given the right conditions. It is not surprising that the majority of people with ADHD are in the creative industries, working as writers, artists, musicians. This does not mean that they cannot work in other professions. It is just crucial to work in a field that they feel invested in. There are multiple resources on the internet that can help a person self-diagnose for a tentative idea, find support and common ground with a community. If one feels that they exhibit the symptoms, reach out to a GP, who will refer to a psychiatrist for a formal evaluation. Links for help are provided at the end of the article. Also, feel free to reach out to the author via email or social media links for any questions or non-medical advice.


Resources:

Standard ADHD indicator test: https://psychcentral.com/quizzes/adhd-quiz#1

Symptoms: https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/adult-adhd#substance-misuse

Community Support Groups: https://www.ukadhd.com/support-groups.htm

An amazing YouTube channel on ADHD: https://www.youtube.com/c/HowtoADHD

Reddit page for ADHD: https://www.reddit.com/r/ADHD/

Author’s Email: pratystevie@gmail.com​ or, just send a message on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_pratyush.chauhan/