Hiding in Plain Sight

Hiding in Plain Sight by Louise Duggan

I created this painting in reflection of my diagnosis. Looking back, it was so obvious, it was there, hiding in plain sight.

I was diagnosed with ADHD a month after my 50th birthday. I didn’t see this coming at all. Truth is, when it was confirmed, I spent a few days feeling very sad, how had no one noticed, how had I not realised. It had come about as I was going through some old school reports. I went to boarding school when I was nine.

My parents were working in Africa so I would only travel back in the holidays. Half terms and weekend where initially with a guardian and later as I got older, with friends.

I don’t have many childhood memories at all so thought  by reading them it would give me a bit of insight into my character, it certainly did that!  

My young nephew has ADHD, so I had researched a lot about children with neurodiversity, behavior, impulse, concentration. I saw it straight away. ADHD was all over those reports.

Now I realise that it was the missing piece, so much more makes sense to me.

The symptoms became much more noticeable as I became more aware of them, at first it felt a lot to take on, but I was reminded that I had lived with this for 50 years and that I had sub-consciously put things in place to manage.

Now I was able to really look and see the areas I struggle with and create an environment that would much more conducive to me.

I take a lot more conscious breaks in the day when I can feel that my brain has jumped onto new ideas, and I am no longer able to focus on the task at hand. Even while composing this, there is another part of my brain thinking about some equipment I want to buy and what the best option will be!!! It’s exhausting sometimes. 

Sometimes it can feel very overwhelming , but I now have the ability and knowledge to work out where that is coming from. I can see now how I had various techniques to mask , which I am working on dropping. I always thought I was a bit eccentric, a bit much, so always trying to tone that down.

Another thing I have really noticed is,  how often when I feel immediately comfortable with some people, I then find out that they also suffer from some form of neurodiversity, maybe just a coincidence, however, I just feel more relaxed.

I know we will both interrupt each other, talk over each other, and bounce around in our conversations all over the place but we “get it”.

I now don’t beat myself up when I literally cannot do the smallest of tasks. There is a pile of clothes sat at the bottom of my stairs to be carried up, they have been there for 8 days now! I know I will get it done, but that simple task of just carrying them upstairs, for some reason is really hard, but the flip side is, what would seem like a mammoth task to some, I normally have three of those on the go at the same time and thrive.

I can now work with the hyper focus and lean into it, but on the days where it feels like I am walking though treacle, I just take more breaks,  breaking down each thing I need to do into actions with some sort of reward. Vacuum the house then you can start to paint.

There is often a feeling of “I didn’t get much done today” but look back and realise I really hadn’t stopped.

I think what life would have looked like if I had been diagnosed earlier on, but that’s a pointless exercise. I does explain so much, the constant anxiety I felt that often reappears, plus I was treated for depression for 10 years in my 30’s, would we have had a better understanding of it if we knew I had ADHD. 

I  do know now, and the timing was right for me to really understand my diagnosis. I have been in therapy since Jan 2023, so by now it really did become the missing piece, a large missing piece to give me a better understanding of who I am and why.

I am shocked at the number of women my age with the same diagnosis, so many of us where missed. I read a little about this and it seems there are so many factors as to why girls were missed.

Societal expectations and gender norms play a significant role. Girls are often socialised to be more compliant and quieter than boys, which can lead them to internalise their struggles, and develop coping mechanisms that mask their symptoms.

As a result, their difficulties may go unnoticed by parents, teachers, and healthcare providers. Women with ADHD are more likely to be misdiagnosed with other conditions such as anxiety, depression, or mood disorders.

These conditions can either coexist with ADHD or overshadow its symptoms, leading to a delay in the correct diagnosis. Additionally, the stress of managing undiagnosed ADHD can contribute to these mental health issues.

One of the best resources I was sent was ADDitude https://www.additudemag.com/

I am learning so much about what it means to have ADHD and the more I understand the better tools I find to help.


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