Trigger warning: This article includes mentions of suicidal ideation.
I was 37 years old when I received confirmation that, like an estimated 15 to 20% of the global population, I was neurodivergent: a term for a range of neurological and mental health reasons why a brain processes and reacts to information in ways that diverge from the typical. Some neurodivergent people are autistic, dyslexic, or dyspraxic. I am ADHD—an acronym that stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder–also known as ADD.
Until recently, I knew almost nothing about ADHD. I’d received a series of incorrect diagnoses to explain the extended mental health crisis I was in the grip of: generalized anxiety disorder, depression and clinical perfectionism. Neurodivergence had never occurred to me or anyone else, and I had no idea why so many aspects of my everyday life felt increasingly like shameful, desperate struggles.
Finally, in late 2019, I stumbled on an article about women living with ADHD. I read their words and found my own life reflected back: outwardly performing success yet going beyond breaking point to achieve what seemed to come more easily to others. Aspects of life felt so hard to me because they were hard for me.
Two years on from my diagnosis I’m beginning to understand how my brain works and uncover the consequences of a lifetime of furiously covering my ADHD-self up. Here are five of the most important things I’ve learned.