My Experience Growing Up Without an ADHD Diagnosis
“Always got her head in the clouds, a little daydreamer.”
When I was very small, it was endearing to my family. My nickname was “Dolly, as in Dolly daydream.” (I was very cute..)
When I started school, my teachers thought I was deaf.
Until I was 8. This resulted in multiple hearing tests, where eventually it was deemed I just wasn’t paying attention enough in class. I was moved to the front of the class, so I could “see the board” as my attention span wasn’t seen as severe enough problem.
I chewed everything… and I mean, anything… into late childhood.
Baby wipes. Bedding corners. Plastic. The sleeves of my clothing were discoloured and faded. I got into trouble often for having holes in my school uniform sleeves or borrowing clothes…
I stole food.
A lot of food. Anything high in sugar or carbs. Sweets and chocolates, crisps and biscuits, cartons of milk… in the night. We never had anything to put in our lunches the next day. I was never full. And so, I was an overweight child. And my Dad went without his biscuit for work.
I never sat down.
Particularly while we ate. Wandering around with food was normal in our house and I still do walk around doing things while I eat!
I always had a creative project on the go.
Or some sort of imaginative venture going. That also continues today!!!
I had tantrums daily at school.
Until I was at least 13/14, where I had stopped going to school due to becoming very sick. Until then my teachers had described me as rude and spoilt.
I often had a mark against my name on the board for talking.
I often had a mark for shouting out.
And I was reprimanded for not raising my hand.
Some teachers were cruel and impatient.
I was made to stand outside by my 5th-grade teacher for hours until I changed my facial expression to one she deemed appropriate. Eventually, she made me work on my own outside in the corridor as I couldn’t stop crying. I missed several lunchtimes and break times to reflect upon my attitude and behaviour. My parents were told I was naughty and badly behaved.
I often daydreamed for 5-10 minutes in class then had no idea what I was supposed to be doing.
Again, I hated sitting.
Okay not entirely true, I can be extremely lazy on my bottom when I want to be. I hate being idle or bored. Often I was told to go back to my table or chair and to stop disturbing others. So, I would ask to go to the toilet every single lesson because I hated sitting. As a result, teachers wrote in my report I should see a dr for my bladder.
I often forgot my homework.
Or hadn’t listened and didn’t know what the homework was. I had a friend who was always on the ball who I would call and ask her what we were supposed to be doing, or my mum would ring another parent to find out. We compensated as a family and through friends.
I found maths hard.
Really hard. I couldn’t do maths. I hated maths and many-many-many tears were shed. My mother and father must have paid 1000s over the years in maths tutors. I am so grateful; I was so happy to get my C in year 11! Hooray! A pass!
I got tired and overwhelmed easily at school.
And wanted to come home by lunch. Sometimes, I could persuade my mum to come get me.
My PE Kit was often left forgotten.
I loved being outdoors.
My favourite alone time games included,
My favourite game at lunch time was 40-40 in or tag! Or British bulldog. Games that had rules, little social interaction; plenty of excitement and rushing around. I was very disappointed when they banned 40-40in.
My imagination was very wild and creative. And still is.
I was a very passionate child.
I loved being in charge.
….and coming up with all the ideas for our games…(which is bizarre, since I can now be so introverted !)
Wanting to please everyone, I aimed to be better.
When I left the house in the morning before school, I’d tell my mum “I’ll be good today!” I was so hurt and ashamed when id let her down when the teacher called her in the afternoon for a “quick word”.
(My mother told them where to stick it thankfully!) She wrote me notes in my lunch box to cheer me up at school.
Age 11, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome because if obsessive behaviour around Pokémon.
My teenage years got worse.
I was a very angry teenager. Misunderstood, and as I assumed I just couldn’t be good, I went with that.
I got into a lot of fights, with my impulsive fly off the handle temper… and could be aggressive towards other teenagers.
But I also had a lot of anxiety and became anxious and afraid of other teenagers. I would hide if I saw people my own age in the street and would rush back indoors. So, I stopped going out. I was signed off school by the educational psychiatrist, to be educated by the hospital from home for 2 years. My home tutor was my world. (I love her very much. Rest in peace.) I went to the Child and Adolescent health care team twice a week for Cognitive behavioural therapy to get me to talk and help with agoraphobia.
Life does improve.
I got a little better, my mother got me an educational needs statement, and I went to a special-needs school for children with behavioural and emotional difficulties.
(I cringe at the word ‘special needs’. It sounds like a cry for
I succeeded very well at school, leaving with 13 GCSEs. To go onto college to do art and design for 2 years, and then to complete a higher national diploma in graphic design.
I went to university. And completed a degree in animation and illustration.
I started a small business and opened an Etsy shop.
In November 2018, I graduated with a 1st class degree.
I went to work in the animation industry. Within a month, I lost the job; depressed and anxious. Following the same patterns, I had throughout my life. Difficulties at work, paying attention, difficulties completing tasks and rushing to the end; often making the simplest of mistakes, resulting in irritating my colleagues… Extreme boredom and disinterest as the excitement of the new wore off and then complete utter burnout… As usual, the depression and anxiety followed once more. I became sick. And moved back home.
I realised I identified a lot less with my Asperger’s diagnosis.
I was sociable and
Yet, I couldn’t remember anything. My memory was always terrible.
I got very, very, very depressed.
Multiple relatives have ADHD, ADD or show signs of ADHD.
(Including my mother and all of her siblings, and the generation before!)
My aunt on my mother’s side of the family, casually suggested an ADHD assessment as her son had similar issues, (as she was driving me and my boyfriend to the airport for our holiday to Italy.) I mentioned that I had attention problems to my Dr before when I was 20 but was told they don’t diagnose adults with ADHD in Oxfordshire. I don’t know where he got this information from. It wasn’t true.
After my holiday, I took a list of symptoms and a letter to a different Dr, and was diagnosed within 3 months.
I scored extremely highly on the DSM criteria. My mother and boyfriend were interviewed and they answered with ease.
I am now dealing and moving forward with a new understanding of my unique brain.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you found it helpful. If you relate to these at all, drop me a comment below I would love to connect with others with ADHD. My diagnosis has been an eye-opening experience. I recently visited a support group and I couldn’t believe just how many of my symptoms were not just “Danni things”, but quite severe ADHD! It is empowering to know that we aren’t alone but a big, creative and somewhat crazy, ‘phone and key losing’ community!