Square peg

I was a bit startled last week when two people in a 12-hour period suggested I might have adult ADHD.

They had just watched Em Rusciano’s Press Club of Australia address and urged me to take a look.

So I did. And it was incredible, I highly recommend watching it. Em Rusciano is amazing.

I laughed and I cried. I related to many things that Em said and I wanted adult ADHD to explain my struggles.

But I’m not sure it does.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Despite the name, ADHD isn’t a “deficit” of attention, but more an issue with regulating it, making it harder to plan, prioritise, avoid impulses, remember things and focus.

ADHD can include symptoms such as:

  • being easily distracted
  • frequently failing to complete tasks, work, or chores
  • making careless mistakes
  • having difficulty with organisation
  • easily losing items
  • avoiding tasks that require sustained attention
  • forgetting to do necessary tasks
  • appearing to “zone out” during conversations
  • having difficulty making plans
  • feeling easily overwhelmed by tasks or projects
  • inability to commit to a decision
  • emotional instability
  • difficulty with time management

Many of those things describe me, but some don’t.

Does that mean I have ADHD? I’m not sure that it does.

I consulted with Dr Google, who suggested I also display signs autism.

Austistic women may interact well in one-to-one situations, but they often find it very hard to be in groups and may feel exhausted after too much social interaction.

Tick.

Women with autism tend to have specialised, intense interests.

Tick. My current obsession with domain.com.au being a case in point.

Many women with autism experience difficulty sleeping.

Tick. Last night was a shocker.

Making eye contact can be extremely challenging for people with autism. 

Tick.

Women with autism may display stimming (repetitive, compulsive) behaviours such as skin picking.

Tick. The skin down the side of my nails is a mess.

Because life is difficult for many women with autism, it is common for them to experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Tick.

But does that mean I have autism? I’m not sure that it does.

I think I’m just one of the millions of square pegs trying to fit into society’s round hole.

I didn’t enjoy being a kid very much. I was a weird little thing. I looked funny with my red hair and freckles. I acted funny too. My head was constantly buried in books or daydreams. I was obsessed with ants and tiny weed flowers and imaginary play.

Making friends didn’t come naturally, I was hopelessly uncoordinated and I didn’t like physical contact.

But I never found schoolwork or sensory stuff difficult – they were the easy bits. It was the people that were hard for me.

It has taken decades to become more at ease in the company of others, but I rarely feel that I belong.

I feel a deep sense of shame after most social interactions, fearful that I have talked too much, made a bad impression, let people down or said the wrong thing.

I constantly search for visual cues that someone is angry or upset with me. I often find emails and texts scary because they don’t contain those cues. If you call me, my first reaction is fear that I have screwed something up.

I expect people to be cruel. I am surprised when they are kind.

I feel very grateful that my friends have been incredibly kind over the past few days, helping me house hunt, taking me out to dinner, meeting me for breakfast, apologising before giving me a hug when I was upset.

I don’t know whether there is a diagnosis for me, but I do know that I am loved, quirks and all.

As for where I am going to live next … I have no idea! House hunting was a bust.

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