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  • Writer's pictureTim Sanderson

The Upside Down

I sat with the questionnaire on my desk going through it item by item with my counselling client as I assessed him for ADHD. He was in his early thirties, had a history of difficult relationship and work issues already and this was a serious attempt for him at trying to work out what was going on.

As I worked through the questions, I had my own lightbulb moment. With each passing question and discussion about examples that might apply, I realised that I too may have ADHD. After the client was gone and I had time for myself I completed the same questionnaire for myself.

Indeed, I was ADHD according to the questionnaire.

I made an appointment with my GP and took the questionnaire with me. There was agreement that in fact I was probably right, even though we had that 'You should never diagnose yourself' conversation, but I was right. It was both a profound and a devastating realisation.

I started reminiscing through a series of life events from my childhood, teen years, Uni, and working life that now suddenly after a lifetime, made sense. The failed relationships, the job losses, legal and professional problems. Odd behaviours that had left friends and family shocked and bewildered at the same time as I had an empty space in my head when faced with trying to understand what had happened to make things go so wrong.

I was mourning for lost opportunities and failed projects, like precious gems washed away on a high tide never to be seen again. I was 60 years of age and grief stricken for a life seemingly lost and voided because for so many years I could not see what was right in front of my face. I was appalled by that realisation, and by my own ignorance and seeming futility. I thought this even more tragic as I had worked as an educational psychologist and had assessed more children than I care to remember as having ADHD, and helping them and their parents navigate paediatric assessments and medication management at school. The penny never dropped for me.

I realised that I had to turn the situation around, as someone who was neurodiverse I needed to find pride in who I was – what I could do well – in fact brilliantly. I had found my way into counselling. I have a knack of being able to get to the nub of an issue really quickly, I can see pathways forward for clients and 'the big picture' when clients only see fog. I'm incredibly kind, and I have developed a sharp witted and honest approach which I wield like a psychological scalpel. I have clients who come back for help now, year after year. I'm really good at what I do, outstanding even, though I could not do it for myself.

It was time for that maxim 'Physician heal thyself'

I'm now proceeding through the formal psychiatric assessment process, which will lead to stimulant medication. I don't expect this to be a panacea, but I do expect that I will finally be able to finish reading a book, watch a film from start to finish without playing with my phone and rummaging in the fridge during the best bits. More importantly I hope to be able to hang on to those friendships that I still have.

There's real joy in looking forward to working with more clients who are neurodiverse like me. We're not all the same, some people are more successful in their ADHD world than others. We all appear to have something in common when it comes to reading though. We all scan or speed read text from the top of page to the bottom. Then we work our way back up the page in reverse. Sometimes even reading sentences in reverse. I am fascinated by this behaviour, and I haven't come across any ADHD adult who doesn't do this so far. What are we doing? We all 'get' the content, I find the process enthralling.

When I was working I learned I had what I came to call the eight month rule. Any job I commenced lasted eight months before I was fired. I could set my watch by it. I couldn't stop it and I didn't understand it. For years. I eventually learned to stretch this out, and talked myself into believing that whatever the problem was, it was gone. It wasn't. I just found other ways to implode, to destroy any good I had created and any relationships I had developed.

I really struggled to understand myself and answer the question, 'What's wrong with me?'

I've never finished anything. I really wanted to. Its one of the reasons I like counselling. Its process work, I like the short sessions, I can do them all day. I thrive on the variety of clients and short term nature of intervention. I'm crap at paperwork though, like organising invoices!

I now assess other adults for ADHD and work with them to get through the necessary psychiatric process to access medication. That's a bit of hurdle. This is because we are talking about Dexamphetamine. The law changed here on March 1 this year, allowing adults to be prescribed the medication. It's now available on the PBS.

I have plays and film scripts that I want to finish, and other arts projects that I want to complete. There is this sense for me of time lost to a journey that was not of my making, and

I now want to chart a course correction.

I have missed so much.

If this blog has raised issues for you in relation to ADHD for yourself, talk this over with your GP & perhaps about arranging a formal assessment.

It's never too late.

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