9 Jun 2016

What it's like to have adult ADHD

1:41 pm on 9 June 2016

Maz Welch, 29, is a student and early childhood teacher. She was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year, after her counselor referred her to a psychiatrist.

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Photo: 123RF

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As told to Rebecca Kamm.

Before I got diagnosed, I was really jittery and struggling to concentrate or remember to take my antidepressants. I had a bit of social anxiety too, and I was procrastinating and disorganised.

It's like your head is racing all the time, going 100 miles an hour. If I'm working on a project my thoughts go in a circle from one thing to the next very quickly then the next thing, then back to the first thing.

Physically, I'm all over the place. I'm talking about one thing then all of a sudden I'm talking about something else. I'm always moving. I fidget, I jiggle my leg quite a bit. I chew pens or have something in my mouth. Chewing on gum helps me focus. 

Maz Welsh: 'I've always felt different.'

Maz Welsh: 'I've always felt different.' Photo: Unknown

I've always felt different, like I didn't fit in or like something about me stood out. Being diagnosed with ADHD has actually been one of the best things for me; I've spent my whole life fighting all the different symptoms and now I've got strategies to help deal with them.

A lot of people don't understand ADHD. You talk about how you procrastinate and they just say, "Yeah, I do that."

Or I'll say, "I've got so many thoughts going through my head," and they're just like, "Yeah, same here." People don't think about it as something real, they think it's an everyday thing we all have.

Sometimes if I ask someone something and then I forget what they've just told me, I have to ask them to repeat themselves, and they're like, "I just told you." I either wasnt paying attention or I forgot. But if I'm interested in something I can hyperfocus. I'll zone in on it and not really notice other stuff happening around me.

Extra reading: Has the internet shot your attention span, or could you have adult ADHD?

I haven't ever sat in one job and gone up the ranks; I've got bored quickly then gone and done something else. That's held me back from where I want to be. It's the same with study, there have been times where I've really struggled. Just not been able to focus on basic stuff that everyone else gets the first time.

The most useful thing I've learned is just to accept my ADHD. I don't take regular meds for it, but I do have some and I take a couple if I've got an assignment due. Then everything comes into perspective. But even then, I'm still doing a whole lot of stuff  I'm listening to music, on Facebook, chewing gum. So I'm still flicking between things, it's just not as bad.

I sometimes have five or six different alarms on my phone, and I still forget to take them.

I struggle with remembering to take my antidepressants. I sometimes have five or six different alarms on my phone, and I still forget to take them. The alarm will go off and you'll swipe it and go, oh, I need to take my medication, but then something else pops into your head so you go and do that instead.

Even driving I get quite distracted. And often I'll go off on a tangent in conversations with people. That can be frustrating if they're trying to have a serious talk with you.

I struggle to let people in. I do think that's linked to my ADHD. I get quite frustrated quite easily, and I'm also quite impulsive at times. That isn't so good for the credit cards. I'm lucky to get five hours sleep six is a good night. I've got a big wall calendar at home where I write everything that needs to be done, or that I've got on.

My boss is pretty good. I get bored easily so she's always giving me new little bits to do. She knows I'll be a pain otherwise so she keeps me challenged. I did question whether I should tell her about my ADHD, but I work in education, so we're quite surrounded by it. Although, even people in our sector struggle to understand it or don't believe it exists.

Do you have a 'What it's Like' experience to share? Email rebecca.kamm@radionz.co.nz