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“I started seeing a psychiatrist for other issues I was having. Then, during a session after over a year of seeing this person, I mentioned that a teacher suggested that my brother should be tested for ADHD — and they determined he did have it. My therapist suggested that I could benefit from testing, too, since he had identified some warning signs from things I had told him, and I now had family history of the disorder. I was 18 years old, not far from turning 19. (It really annoyed me that he didn’t suggest that we act on his suspicions until I told him someone else had it — the joys of being a woman.) Long story short: I got diagnosed, and so did the rest of my nuclear family.”
“Turns out we all have it, so none of us picked up on it because that’s just what we considered ‘normal.’ It eased many of the tensions between us (especially between my mother, my siblings, and me) because now we know that we never disobeyed my mother, left things all over the place, or messed up in school out of malice or laziness. My parents didn’t explode out of frustration with us and each other and forgot about everyone’s schedules because they are bad people or bad parents, but rather we have all been trying our best all along, but had been climbing uphill without knowing we were on a slope at all.
It took a painful period of adaptation while we processed the news, but my family life is now much better. We have learned better ways to communicate and try to be more understanding when things go wrong.
I, in particular, have always been a good student, and have always been under enormous pressure to uphold my ‘reputation.’ I periodically burned out and spiraled, and had to pull myself out of that pit only to do it all over again. It had been like that since elementary school. I honestly hated myself at one point, because I could not keep living like that but did not know how to stop.
After I got diagnosed (plus other circumstances), I worked hard to learn how to manage my expectations and give myself grace. I no longer feel a need to be the best everywhere and take the hardest, most prestigious road all the time. It took enormous pressure off me. I’m still successful according to my own standards (I’m starting my master’s degree in August), but I can now admit to myself and others when I can’t do or need extra help with something, can admit when I did something wrong, and don’t need to do things the hardest possible way to prove I can, or overload myself with activities to increase my prestige. It’s not perfect, but it is getting better.”