Life After An Adult ADHD Diagnosis

adhd adhd diagnosis adhd life coach adult adhd Dec 05, 2021
Jay Emme - Creative Coach, Professional Cellist
Life After An Adult ADHD Diagnosis

This is the thing which has been...mind-blowing.

I'm currently 42, nearly 43 (I'm going to miss being the answer to Life, The Universe & Everything...). I was only officially diagnosed just over a year ago, but have been extremely aware that something wasn't right since the age of around 6 or 7 years old.

That feeling of...not really belonging on this planet...and...


Feeling like everything I did was impossible to understand?

And let's face it. A little black girl, growing up in the 80s, hoping to figure out what the heck was going on inside her head? Hahahahah NO.

(We ALL know it would have been a very different story had I been a little white boy. Hell...just not being black would have done me huge favours, much to my disgust.)

So here I was, aged 41, tired of being depressed and triggered, feeling like an alien who couldn't fit in no matter how much masking was happening, not even realising I was masking, struggling with cPTSD and PTSD, wondering if I was ever going to figure out what the hell was wrong with me.

(If you want to know the story about how I came about my diagnosis, you can check it out on my podcast right here.)

AFTER the diagnosis, though, hooooooooly moly, that was a WHOLE different story.

For the first couple of hours, I think I actually celebrated some kind of victory.

And world fell apart. Everything crumbled. And I do mean everything.

The first thing to come immediately after those first few hours of diagnosis relief, was wave upon wave of unexpected grief.

Because my entire life felt like a lie.

I felt like I had lost a lifetime.

All of the things I'd been lead to believe about myself, were somehow...just...wrong.

It was impossible not to spiral into a dark pit of the Shoulda Coulda Woulda scenario. Scenes from my life suddenly kept jumping out at me - sometimes flooding my mind - and the nauseating sense of clarity over why things had turned out the way they had turned out, struck me with stark realisation. 

Politely asked to leave numerous orchestras - because I didn't behave the way the I was supposed to? Because I didn't speak in the way that was expected? Because something was just..."off?"

Struggling to make friends - because I didn't match their behaviours? Because I preferred to play on my own and seemed rude? Because I was seen as bossy and threatening?

Endless anxiety with intimate relationships - because I wasn't like "the other women"? Because my chest hurt so bad when the slightest thing went wrong? Because I was always terrified of loving someone too much?

Repeatedly "let go" from work places (even as a temp!) - because I couldn't follow protocol? Because I would be bored to tears and couldn't focus? Because I would say inappropriate things?

There was more. There IS more. Sooooo much more. And for what felt like the longest time ever, these memories would suddenly replay in my mind, in full technicolour glory. I would be left feeling devastated with how I'd been treated, or how I had dealt with situations. I felt crushed because I had been so misunderstood. I felt exhausted because I'd been trying so hard, but it had all been wrong.

And then, like anyone "going through the motions"...then came the rage. I searing, white hot rage, where I wanted to lash out and destroy everyone, and everything. Suddenly, I hated everything. Nothing was worth anything. I was angry - I was livid - and it was raw.

It took me a little while to work out why I was so angry. 

Who the hell was I going to be angry at, when no one really knew what was wrong?!

But that's exactly it. I was angry with EVERYONE, because SOMEONE should have helped me sooner. I was furious with MYSELF for not figuring it out sooner. I was LIVID with my parents for making me feel the way I felt as a kid.

I recognised the rage, though.

It was the same rage I had seen in my own estranged father.

(I've since worked out that my father, RIP, also most likely had ADHD. It would have been hard to tell in the earlier years of my childhood, since he smoked a LOT of weed. However, he eventually lived in a flat by himself, preferring to sleep in his mini hut which he built on his double allotment plot.)

The rage and the guilt overlapped a lot, and still does. But I had to find a way to temper them down, if I was going to survive whatever the heck I was going through.

So I sat with it. I sat with ALL of the emotions. And you know what? It hurt. It hurt so much. Every single day, my chest hurt with what I now understand to be Emotional Dysregulation, and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. Every day I talked as much as I could with my partner, trying to make sense of it all. I spent hours and hours scrolling #ADHDTikTok, talking with friends, hanging out in Facebook groups, talking in therapy, listening to Life Coaches.

And. It. All. Hurt.

The thing is, no one actually prepares you for this. So many people will tell you the physical benefits of a diagnosis;

You can get meds!

Now you're validated!

You make sense to people!

Welcome to the club!

Now you know why people thought you were super weird and said all those painful things to you!

Now you understand the world!

Now you know why all those horrible things happened!

Congrats - it's not just depression!

But no one tells you that you might quite possibly spend a significant amount of time, unpacking your life and looking at everything with a very new perspective.

No one mentions that you might feel like you missed out on so many things - too many things - purely because you couldn't possibly have understood what's going on.

And it's probably only on the off-chance that someone will tell you that you'll spend hours and hours, researching and absorbing every last bit of ADHD-related information you can find.

All that might glide into your new title without so much as batting an eyelid, and with the right emotional and mental support in place, the transition can - and will - be easier.

The beauty for me, personally, is finally feeling like I've found myself. Years and years of confusion, and this feels like the last puzzle piece to fall into place. Or at the very least, this is the last piece to help all of the other pieces make more sense.

Either way, the phenomenal clarity, and understanding, feels pretty damn incredible.

I hope you get there too.

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