‘This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back.’ The Matrix (1999).
I had my own ‘Matrix’ moment when I first took my prescribed, ‘Aspen Dexamphetamine.’ My life felt like one big lie and it was as if I had been living as someone else. Everything I thought I knew about myself and the person I was and how people saw me brought with it, great shame and embarrassment. What I also noticed, for the first time in 50 years on this planet, my brain went quiet. And now, there is no turning back.
Many people have an inner monologue, and strangely, I never knew some people don’t. For me, imagine if you will, the inside of your brain is hosting a dinner party and 1,000 guests are in attendance, all talking over each other. And also, at the back of the room, one of the guests decides to pick some music to play while everyone else is talking. But this guest keeps skipping tracks and can’t decide what song they want to play.
You’d be right in thinking that this would be annoying and drive you nuts. I knew no different. To me, I thought it was normal. Within 20 minutes of taking my dexamphetamine, my brain went quiet. The dinner guests had gone home and the music stopped. I cried at the silence, and cried harder knowing for my entire life I had a dysfunctional brain.
Now, I am no psychiatrist nor a medical professional. But, after being diagnosed with and medicated for ADHD nine months ago, I have learnt and read a lot. I have also been seeing my psychiatrist once a month in that time, too. Yesterday, for the first time since he began treating me for ADHD, he said, ‘Today is the first time in nine months that you sound so genuinely happy and positive.’ This was at the 45 minute mark of my one hour session that he said this. And added that normally by now I’d have been banging on about prison, the injustice I felt and my past. I had gone prepared with a list of discussion topics to keep myself on point. Something he noted I had never done before, either.
When ADHD goes undiagnosed and untreated it will manifest differently for everyone going into adulthood. So, I can only speak for myself. However, there are some similar traits I have noticed in other adults with ADHD with ones like mine.
Back in 2019 I had seen a psychologist over the course of that year. He was the first to diagnose me as being ADHD. Unfortunately, he couldn’t prescribe medication for it. Then, 2020 happened and we all know how that went. Also, that meant no psychiatrists were open and those that remained open were not taking any new clients. Most I rang had no appointments until late 2021, and or, well into 2023. Fortunately for me, I kept calling different psychiatrists and I got an appointment with one in November 2020. I still had to wait seven months. I was desperate to get this ADHD taken care of.
Up until 2019, over the course of 30 odd years. I had seen numerous psychologists, therapists and a few psychiatrists. I never had more than one consult with the psychiatrists as I didn’t think I was “crazy”. Only crazy people needed psychiatrists, so I thought. However, I still knew something was not right. All the professionals who I did see diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. Mind you, this was only after one session. I stopped seeing a lot of them after no more than three visits.
Unfortunately, depression and anxiety do go hand in hand with some adults who are ADHD. I have never had the symptoms of either. This is why it is harder to get an ADHD diagnosis beyond childhood without having any retrospective proof, such as school reports or prior medical diagnosis, or family history. For 30 years, I had been on and off antidepressants. I never noticed any differences in my moods because I still felt and thought the same way I had. All the antidepressants ever did to me, was make me sleep a lot. My doctor had been prescribing me antidepressants and Valium, for sometime, since my mum passed away in 2012.
Three years ago (2018), I became my dad’s fulltime carer. Dad has Parkinson’s Disease. So, for the first time in my life I found myself unoccupied as I am home pretty much 24/7. I do everything from the cooking, cleaning and shopping. Aside from that, I also found I had such absolute boredom with zero interest in actually doing anything to occupy my time. It felt like a huge weight sitting at my core. I would sit for hours endlessly scrolling through social media.
My doctor said it was possibly anhedonia, which is a psychiatric condition where one doesn’t get any pleasure from anything. I kept saying to my doctor, I feel as though I need uppers or something. As a side note, I had taken and snorted amphetamines in my past which never had any affect on me whatsoever, yet everyone else who had done them with me were yahooing off their heads. I felt like a log most days. I feared I was developing Parkinson’s, too. As my brain just couldn’t ‘think straight’ most days. I also feared that my heavy drinking had destroyed my brain. I was so scared.
My usual routine up until halfway into 2019 was this. I’d get up in the morning, usually around 10-11AM and come 1PM, I’d snooze for 4 hours. Then, I’d stay awake until 2-3AM drinking and smoking. I stopped taking the antidepressants three years ago, too. I also put on a lot of weight. A normal person would note that this was not healthy, and I simply didn’t care. I have never cared about my health. I had never been into sport or exercise my whole life. I hated sport at school and would avoid it like the plague.
This behaviour changed slightly after I started seeing my psychologist in 2019, who helped me with some of my behavioural issues attributed to ADHD. Such as the heavy drinking and smoking. I quit smoking on January 8th, 2020. I smoked 15 cigarettes at least, per day. I was still drinking but not as heavily as I had been. Which would normally be anywhere from drinking 12-14 pints a night and three bottles of spiced rum a week.
A common trait of ADHD is risky behaviour. So, that means the vast majority of ADHD people will have an addiction or affliction of some kind. Apart from drugs and booze, this could also be anything from excessive shopping, unnecessary purchases, gambling, unprotected and risky sex etc and so on.
This occurs due to a lack of dopamine in our brains, the ‘reward’ chemical that makes a neurotypical person feel good. When I smoke and drank, a lot, I was getting my dopamine hit from those activities. ‘Drunk’ Grant was fun. I learnt that early on in my teen years and ‘Party Animal’ Grant was awesome in his adult years. Also at play, is a part of the brain called the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. The “brake” system of the brain. It sits behind the frontal cortex. A neurotypical person who has a healthy brain braking system won’t go from ‘zero to fuck you!!’ in a nanosecond. The ACC regulates emotions and stops neurotypical people from yelling at the neighbour’s kids to keep off their lawn.
Anger has always been my go to emotion. I have been angry my entire life and never understood why. In adulthood, I could get explosive. Never violent, but scary. I got bullied a lot at high school and I had always thought that was where my anger had been born from. Wrong, I remember my mum telling me once, that when I was in kindergarten (4yo), she’d walk me to the gate every morning. She said there was this one kid, only one, who I just didn’t like. Every morning I’d see this kid and I would say to mum, ‘I want to punch him up the throat!’ Then I’d go happily play with him.
There have been countless people throughout my life, for no reason, I simply disliked. Just being in their presence would irritate me so much my skin would crawl. They could have been the most loveliest or charming of people. Yet, I’d never come out and say anything. However, the discomfort on my face read like a bad novel. I even had many of those same people ask me why I didn’t like them. For example, people I worked with would ask why I was happy being with other co-workers but seemed to despise them. I could never give an answer as to why.
As I got older, I even disliked my own mum. She too, disliked a lot of people and me in return. On reflection, she began disliking me in my mid-teens. We were never a ‘hugging’ family. And now she is gone. Turns out, my mum was ADHD too, according to my psychiatrist. It’s genetic.
To be continued…