Hi! My name is Elise and I was diagnosed with #ADHD when I was 30 years old. At first I thought I was inattentive type but over time my psych suspected more and more that I am actually combined (inattentive and hyperactive) type. Here’s my story... #ADHDAwarenessMonth
When I was 9 or 10 years old I started getting intense abdominal and pelvic pains. In 1996 I was hospitalised several times in so much pain I couldn’t attend school.
After a laparoscopic investigation and appendectomy I was told that I did not have endometriosis or fibroids or cysts and I was discharged and referred to the mental health unit. I attended the MHU as an outpatient for several months. They didn’t tell me what I ~had~.
But I felt like they were saying that my pain wasn’t real and I was making it up. My parents had split up when I was 5 and my fathers mistress got pregnant with my brother.
With my half brother visiting occasionally from his home interstate - and my biofather’s partners kids spending time with their own dad. Our family was effectively a web with 6 children over 4 homes and 4 sets of parents. My emotional problems were attributed to the family setup
Sorry missed a tweet about how my mum remarried (no stepkids) and my bio dad moved in with his partner who had 2 kids. Plus my half brother on my dad’s side who lived interstate.
So we started going to family therapy - my mum & stepdad, dad & stepmum, me and my brother and sister.
In 1997 I had a pretty good year academically. A brilliant one. I’d always been clever and felt weird about how... dramatically faster I learned compared with my peers. But that year I embraced it a bit more as I seemed to have friends who were proud rather than bullying me
My school reports for my entire childhood were all pretty much the same, brilliant but not doing enough homework and not spending enough time on home projects. But I did super well in tests. And always always saying I didn’t “seek help when required”.
At the time I thought they just didn’t appreciate that I never ever needed help. But it was years later that I realised that I didn’t actually know HOW and that I actually could have and would have benefited from help.
But anyway I claimed that my resistance going to school and my unhappiness was all because I was too bored and I asked if I could be skipped up a year. In 1998 I started year 10 while my friends went into year 9.
That was the year I first tried to commit suicide. We’d been out of family therapy for a while and I had been “doing well”. I dated an older boy that I met through a self-development course for teenagers.
The course was a re-enforcement if the self-help books and tapes both sets of my parents were in to. Positive thinking. Huggy. Embrace your right-brain kinsesthetic learning style maybe it’s all just school being a prison that makes you feel bad kind of thing.
So at the tender age of 13 I was introduced to a bunch of troubled teenagers who REALLY liked drugs and alcohol. The boyfriend... wasn’t one of the party crowd but he was 17.
Anyway he broke up with me, I had transferred into a new year level and was just as crushingly bored as I had been the year before. Everything as either trivially easy or impossibly hard and being rejected by my first love hurt so much I wanted to die.
I was sent back to therapy and saw this therapist regularly for the next 3 years.
I dated a string of boys and discovered it was much easier to break up with them than deal with the crushing debilitating rejection of being broken up with. I was confronted with the reality that I had been sexually abused by my father for most of my life.
I had a reason that I was so messed up. That was almost liberating in a way. It wasn’t just me not trying hard enough or having any willpower or diligence. Still in 2000 (year 12) I had a breakdown.
At the time I thought “I feel like I am having a breakdown. But everyone is stressed with year 12 I am just crap at dealing with it and I suck as a person and I shouldn’t take attention away from people with real stress and problems”
Still I coasted on natural cleverness and got an ATAR in the low 90s. I aged out of the youth mental health clinic I had been attending. I was convinced that a year off studying would reset my brain and I deferred from uni.
I floundered. I couldn’t apply for jobs.
I couldn’t study anything fun? I was depressed again? I gave up on 2001 being the year I got my head together and earned some money and decided I obviously couldn’t deal with the real world and starting University was sure to help!
I saw a new psychiatrist and started a new anti-depressant which did help a bit. For the five years I spent trying to complete my 3 year science degree I repeated the following pattern: semester 1 was brilliant, all distinctions. Semester 2 I failed or withdrew from most or all
I wondered if I had bipolar or SAD but my psych didn’t think my symptoms fit either very well. I knew everything I needed to do to feel better - I just wasn’t doing them. If only I could keep up the momentum of semester 1 over the whole year I would be fine!!
I couldn’t deal with failure. Once I started getting behind in a subject I was filled with a gaping kind of rage and despair and I would tear up my books and smash my laptop.
Eventually I hit upon a combination of subject areas where I either LOVED the subject material enough that i basically couldn’t help but do well at it (History and Philosophy of science) or I found interesting but wasn’t naturally any good at it so I wasn’t emotionally invested
My offical major for my science degree is Geology. I found it super interesting but none of my natural math-smarts helped me and there was a lot of rote memorisation which I was really bad at. I was a kind of bad at geology where scraping by felt like a success.
I had felt and in some cases been explicitly told that if I couldn’t cope with university then how would I manage in the ~real world~? My boss wouldn’t care about my depression and wouldn’t extend deadlines for me because I was sad??
But I needed a ~break~ from studying so I decided to try taking a year off and work and make money thing again. But this time I already had a job in a call centre and they offered me a full time position as soon as I said I was interested in working more.
So I scrapped my plans of being a lifelong academic and I looked for a proper grown-up job, got the first job I interviewed for at a web development company. I found out that bosses actually DO care if you’re too depressed to work and might even try and support you??
Work... was fine. And when I was depressed I could still go to work and I just... did the work and then went home. A couple of guys from that job left to form a start-up and I jumped ship with them. I started working out A LOT.
I woke up before 5am every day and jogged to work. Let myself in to the building at around 6 and then used the gym for an hour or so. Used the sauna. Showered, went up to the office and used the microwave to make my breakfast. Started work before 8am and knocked off at 4.
Jogged home. Sometimes went the long way. Often went for another walk after dinner. Went on 20-50 km hikes on the weekends. I went through a LOT of shoes.
My mental health was incredible!! Then the 100km event I was training for was over and my hip wouldn’t stop hurting. And then my boyfriend (who I had been dating since 2006) joined the navy. And... this time summer didn’t make it all better.
I tried to see people about it. I tried a couple of different anti-depressants which I had been off for a few years. They just made my mood rollercoaster. I wasn’t depressed. I just couldn’t DO THINGS. And I thought if I could do things I wouldn’t be depressed.
But the doctors assured me that I only couldn’t do things because I was depressed and that if I just did things ANYWAY then I would be okay. And my life was objectively pretty good?
My relationship was great (although long distance) and I was good at my job. I just came home and went to bed instead of trying to work out what to have for dinner. And on weekends I collapsed without any structure holding myself together.
We got engaged. I decided I would just power through until after the wedding - which came bundled with an interstate move. I’d address my mental health issues after that. It was now 2012. And to my credit I did find a psychiatrist shortly after the move.
I decided that it was Time to Address My Trauma and I handed my new psych a fat file of the terrible letters my father had sent me. And the descriptions of the abuse my mother had written down when I told her about it. And everything my mother had photocopied and filed.
Advice from the police at the time was that my story wasn’t solid enough, the events took place over 3 different states too many years ago and it would be really hard. With my fragile emotional state my mum didn’t push me. Just... wrote everything down and photocopied the letters
My new psych diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder, prescribed me a mood stabiliser which made me sleepy, told me the dose was too low for me to be experiencing side effects so strong and prescribed me an anti depressant because sleeping so much must be depression
I tried to explain some issues with my sense of self and identity and how and why I had always been fascinated and intrigued by “brain in a jar” and “we’re all in a simulation” thought experiments. She told me science proved that “this” was real.
I tried to explain some of the philosophy of science I’d studied and how part of what is so interesting about those thought experiments is that you ~can’t~ disprove them. That all formal systems are either incomplete or contradictory.
She told me she was VERY concerned about my grip on reality and that it didn’t make sense for me to be SO upset by her calling my degree, my passion for my field of study, “worthless nonsense”. I was shaking with rage and self doubt and offence and despair
I went to see my GP the next day and told her about the argument I had had with my psych. My GP assured me that philosophy is, in fact, a THING. I asked if I could see my GP every 2 weeks until I found a new psych who suited me better.
It was super good that I had this conversation with my GP. Because after I called The Bad Psych and cancelled all my appointments she called my GP and told her that she was worried I was losing my grip on reality and I might need to go to hospital for a while?
And my GP was like “um... no? She’s fine?”. So then in early 2013 I got a NEW psych. And I decided that it was manifestly NOT time to Address My Trauma and I... didn’t tell him the depths of my abusive past. I just told him the struggles I was having in my present.
And the 2013 psychiatrist said “have you ever been assessed for ADHD?”

LOL no. What a ridiculous suggestion?? I did GREAT at school (except when I didn’t). I had NO problems paying attention (to fun things).
He started me on a low dose stimulant. I was skeptical. Because caffeine does BAD to my brain.

So I took 2.5mg of dexamphetamine and then 20 minutes later I couldn’t keep my eyes open and I fell asleep.
After a few days I adjusted but I’d get super sleepy whenever we put my dose up. I didn’t really notice much else at first. And then one day I got on a train and sat down. And after I sat down I realised that I hadn’t... had to decide where to sit down.
And I realised that up until then “deciding where to sit on the train” would have involved me thinking about whether to go up or downstairs and whether to face back or forward and how close to sit near other people. And I had kind of set up a bunch of shortcuts in my head.
A sort of “seat deciding algorithm” where I just quickly ran through a bunch of considerations (temperature, time of day, length of trip, what side the doors would open at the end of the trip) to pick something.
It wasn’t that I thought any of those things particularly mattered. But I needed a method to make the decision. Because otherwise I would freeze. Not because I thought picking the wrong thing would be bad at all. I KNEW it didn’t matter.
But all things being equal there is no way to choose. So I created these kinds of mental algorithms to do that kind of decision making.

And on dexamphetamine I... could just sit down??
And then I had to have a blood test. So I girded myself. I had a kind of blood phobia. I’d feel light headed at the very mention of blood. So having a blood test was always an ordeal. So I got there and I practiced my breathing, trying to remain “present” and conscious...
And... it wasn’t difficult. I didn’t have to work to slow my breathing. The phlebotomist stuck a needle in my arm and I looked down at it and thought “hey that is kind of neat!”.

Also I started sleeping through the night.
And I thought “I’m taking a stimulant and it’s... making me sleep better, makes me less anxious, lowers my blood pressure and cures my phobias. I guess I do have ADHD??”
Then I started writing about my experience on Facebook and twitter and at least four or five different people said to me “THAT is what ADHD feels like??? That’s what *I* feel like!!!” And got diagnosed with ADHD. So... if you read this and wonder “maybe I have adhd???” Go to doc!
ADHD isn’t my only problem. I really DO have trauma which I am almost ready to start working through again. If I take enough stimulants to do have a full effect I faint a lot so I have to keep the dose low. Medication doesn’t give me a neurotypical brain.
But oh BOY does medication help me A LOT. Remember how I said that i knew what I needed to do to help my depression but I couldn’t DO them? Stimulants help me DO the things. But I still need to do them!
Once I was medicated I was able to actually kind of formalise my priority list which had helped me “pick a train seat” for my basic daily functioning. That list evolved to become the STUFF gears I bang on about (and is ever evolving and refining!!)
Just to get us caught up to the present day... abdominal pains had continued and I couldn’t get pregnant. at some point between the negative endo lap in 1997 and the positive diagnosis of endometriosis in 2015 my guts had glued themselves to my ovaries.
Fertility successfully restored I puked for 9 months straight and my son was born in 2016. I’d been working remotely doing web dev before I was too sick to work while pregnant. Then started back again and then stopped again this year.
Just over a year ago I posted a tweet which... a few people saw and I gained 2500 twitter followers in one weekend. And for some reason most of you seem to have stuck around!? 🥰 and earlier this year my husband was posted to Brisbane after 6 years in Sydney.
WELL that thread got a little long there, didn’t it?? Thanks for reading!! If you have questions about #adhd or executive function or #stuffupyourlife or The Carol Tweet or anything... my DMs are open!
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