Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with ADHD. Sharing this news with friends over the past months, a common reaction has been: “You’re not the only one I know who got diagnosed recently.” I’ve met random strangers, too, only to discover deep into an unrelated conversation that we had this in common. It even cropped up as I was reading about the origins of the (truly excellent) film, Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Leading up to my getting tested, I wondered if I’d been subconsciously influenced by social media ads I’d seen from tech companies now under investigation for overdiagnosing and overprescribing. I call this The Theranos Principle: Be wary of any venture-backed healthcare startup whose business model is predicated on how many patients they sign up.
I also wondered how much it was a result of the everything-everywhere-all-at-once of a global pandemic, of compounding stresses and anxieties from that pandemic showing up in ways that looked like ADHD. Or how much of it was Western medicine’s tendency to pathologize and pharmaceuticalize every deviation from an impossible norm. This, too, I think is healthy skepticism – and very much applies on the level of populations and societies. But it’s significantly less useful when looking at an individual human with a very specific upbringing and set of experiences, i.e. me or you.
Maybe it took pandemic to bring out my symptoms enough for me to finally seek help.
Another reaction I’ve gotten from friends is: “Con ... gratulations?” To which I’ve responded: “Thank you!” Diagnosis has, for me, been a relief. It was very much in the back of my mind as I wrote this letter back in Februrary on the kinds of labels we claim for ourselves, and it’s also helped me connect the dots between my daydreaming and varying interests and impulsivity and perfectionism and laser-beam hyperfocus (at the expense of everything else), going all the way back to childhood.
It’s maybe no coincidence that a lot of the coping strategies I’ve been recommended by counselors and books and articles and podcasts – meditation, journaling, breaking larger projects into chunks – have been habits I’ve picked up intuitively over the years. Helpful for anyone, yes, but especially for me.
One thing I’ve heard about ADHD is that diagnosis itself is half the treatment; I’ve found this to be very much my truth. I now have a more-solid frame through which to view the world, a better casing for a hole I’ve scratched through the wall.
It fills me with awe and humility to find that, nearing the end of my 38th year on this planet, I’m still learning things about myself that drastically change – and expand, in the best possible ways – who I perceive myself to be, and what I perceive myself to be capable of. And with that, a better understanding of others, and what they’re capable of.
I wish as much for you, no matter how many years you’re on.