When I was 12 years old, back in 1998 before computers and internet access were a household reality let alone necessity, I was sitting in my social studies class as a lecture was going on. My teacher, whose name I can’t remember now (and that is probably for the best), would sit at the front of the class and just talk at us for an hour and it was usually agonizing to sit through if I wasn’t daydreaming.
Thing is I was always daydreaming. And one particular day I was doing just that when she called on me to respond on something she just said. But I had no idea what was going on. I froze like I normally did because that was how I was conditioned. She looked at me with disgust and said I was going to grow up and just flip burgers at McDonald’s for a living. The whole class laughed at me. I was so angry and hurt. I also thought to myself that if she weren’t so boring maybe I’d pay more attention.
Back then I didn’t know I had ADHD, among other things, so that constant daydreaming in her class wasn’t entirely my fault. I didn’t get my official diagnosis for ADHD until May of 2019, when I was 33 years old and in my second year of college. I didn’t even know what ADHD entailed until I really started to struggle. College schoolwork and situational depression were taking their toll.
My psychiatrist didn’t explain all of ADHD’s symptoms to me even when I kept telling her I was struggling to focus and concentrate—that it had always been that way. I thought things should have improved by then since supposedly I was on the right medications for my bipolar disorder.
Everything I know about ADHD I have learned from other ADHDers on Twitter and articles and a book or two. All I had been waiting for and all I needed was an explanation of ADHD and its core symptoms. Suddenly, more of my life made sense. I’m far better off now that I have my ADHD medication and some answers.
CW for childhood abuse. I’ll avoid graphic details obviously but I didn’t have a good childhood growing up and ADHD played a role in that. I didn’t deserve to be treated the way I was treated and if you had a bad childhood too and also have ADHD know that you didn’t deserve it either. You should have been loved and cared for unconditionally regardless of what you could or couldn’t do.
Many things were demanded of me and I was constantly set up for failure. One of my two abusers really wanted that anyway, and no one cared enough to look for the underlying problems I was having or to bring me to a mental health care professional.
When I hit puberty, things got worse
I was actually really successful in school up until then, but at the time I didn’t realize it because of many factors: I had always struggled with math, was constantly talking in class, was often caught not paying attention, and had emotional outbursts. A few times I was sent to the school guidance counselor or the special needs teacher in order to relay troubling behavior that was happening at home.
All of these things always got me into trouble at home despite all the A’s and B’s I was getting in school. They didn’t matter because I got a C in math and I was again reported for talking in class. The school reports always said the same thing, “Very bright, but doesn’t try hard enough.” What I heard at home was worse—things a child should never hear from caregivers. When I entered sixth grade I just stopped trying all together, which of course, only made things that much worse.
That wasn’t my fault though and if you have ADHD and was in the same boat I was in, know that it wasn’t your fault either; people should have realized you needed help and love and that you not trying at school was a cry for help. Someone should have helped you. You deserved to be cared for regardless of your behavior.
ADHD and being transgender
I’m transgender; a non-binary trans man who very recently figured out that I have a complex gender dysphoria. I’m talking about this because the emotional issues that come with ADHD played a role in delaying my understanding my gender identity and the complex feelings that I have as a trans person. When you have ADHD you sometimes get stuck with emotions that you have no explanation for feeling and have to play detective and figure out what caused them.
I had many signs growing up that my assigned gender wasn’t what I was.
When I was twelve and sitting in that social studies class, I thought about how I didn’t feel like a girl but I also didn’t feel entirely like a man. I tried to draw that in order to understand my feelings. Someone saw what I was doing and was very cruel to me. In shame I got rid of the drawing and forced myself to not think about it.
At twelve I had no idea what being transgender was let alone that there were more than two genders. I would grow up with a lot of complex feelings and at times a blunt affect for reasons that I couldn’t explain. I thought I was a misogynist because I got angry whenever someone referred to me as a woman or used my deadname–which literally means ‘girl.’ I also got very hostile when my mom wanted me to wear more feminine clothes.
Figuring it out
I never completely made the “I’m non-binary transgender” connection until I was 30 and trying to work through some trauma in a workbook designed for women that my therapist gave me. I was being very snarky—so angry at having to fill out questions that I wasn’t really thinking about my responses to them. Then I got to a question that asked, “What makes you a woman?” Before I realized what I was doing I very angrily wrote “I’m not a woman” in jagged, frantic letters. I remember freezing after that and thinking, “Wait, what? What does that mean?” and spending the rest of the day contemplating what I was if not a woman.
That day was four years ago, and the time in between has been, well, somewhat odd. I realized I was non-binary that day, but it wasn’t until months later that I realized I was transgender. I came to that conclusion when I realized that the only reason I wanted my breasts was because my marriage partner liked them. I certainly didn’t, and don’t. Thankfully my marriage partner, or my ringmate as I call him, loves me for me—regardless of my gender and how I present. Due to the emotional dysregulation from my ADHD, I didn’t realize I had such complex dysphoria until a month ago just before I turned 34.
Having ADHD has made life quite a trip and I’m still figuring things out. If you are struggling to figure things out and need someone to talk to, you can reach out to this stranger on the internet at @ArtistSomeday on Twitter. I may not know what to say but I will certainly listen and care about your problem and hopefully help you find an answer or something like it.
ADHD Voices is a series dedicated to sharing the stories of folks like you and me who have ADHD. Posts in the series are written by guest authors, sharing windows into their lives and struggles, written by them, for you and me. If you’d like to share your story, please contact me on social media or through my email, ADHDsurprise @ gmail.com