ADHD IN SCOTLAND SERIES: My ADHD Journey by 'the girl with the dog'

So far, the story of my life looks like a disjointed mess, jumping from idea to idea, from hobby to hobby, and impulsive decision to impulsive decision. I am two completely different people, the “type A” perfectionist who tries to do everything, and also the person who didn’t attend a single class in a semester and then had to try and cram an entire course into my brain the day before the exam. Which actually sometimes worked. I was the keen bean, who disappeared after 3 weeks. I was good in school if I liked the teacher and the subject, if I didn’t then I would get mediocre results, never do the homework. My school records say stuff like “needs to think more before she talks” “participates in class discussions but struggles to stay on relevant topics” “distracted” “needs to concentrate more” “could do really well if she tried to apply herself” “can do really well when the subject interests her” “daydreams” “disorganised” “unmotivated and little interest in trying”.

At some point the combination of self hatred of the person who didn’t succeed and the inability to ever do enough to appease the perfectionist, became completely overwhelming.

At some point the combination of self hatred of the person who didn’t succeed and the inability to ever do enough to appease the perfectionist, became completely overwhelming. I became increasingly unwell. I didn’t have the ability to be empathetic with myself, and I didn’t know why I was struggling so much. I believed everything that people said to me and about me my whole life, and my self esteem was in the toilet. By the time I was 20 I was not doing well. I was using achievement in sport to underpin my entire self worth. Someone loved me that year and I had no idea what to do with that. I was struggling to cut out the binge eating habit and that made my athletic aspirations and sense of self worth unsustainable.


Then I hurt my leg. For the first time. It was devastating for my mental health, without sport to pin my self worth on, I had to pin it on something else and I chose academic work and starving myself. I thought that if I could make being good at my degree my personality then I will be okay. I realised that all of those issues I had with academic work were still there when I tried super hard and weren’t a side effect of me not trying hard enough. And they couldn’t be forced or willed away. I spent three days trying to do the reading for one course, which was supposed to take four hours, and actually got to the end of the page count after 3 days, but when asked what I had read my answer was, well, wait I know I read it, his point was.... he talked about.... not only was the task completely torturous, and terrible, it was pointless. For a whole semester I tried to figure out ways to get past that problem. In addition to the inability to do any work consistently, serious panic about the work once it was getting done, and difficulty organising thoughts, I just could not cope.

The following semester I was just flat out depressed. I felt more and more suicidal and unwell. I had wanted a dog for a long time and had desperately wanted to get one the previous summer but the timing wasn’t right. At this point I said, screw timing, and I semi-impulsively finally got a dog. I felt that he would help me with a lot of the problems I was experiencing. But unfortunately putting a dog shaped plaster on a huge gaping wound doesn’t stop the bleeding.

At this point I went to see a new counsellor at the university. I kind of thought, what is the point of this, four sessions and I will be just as bad off after as before. That turned out to only be partly true. The counsellor asked me why I found it made me sad to see parents letting their kids run free and have fun and be hyper and not constantly chastise them and it being okay to just exist the way they are. This snowballed into the question of ADHD. I didn’t really think before I had it except for having seen that meme by Dani Donovan about how ADHDers tell a story. At the time when I saw that I thought “haha, that’s so me” but figured if I had ADHD that someone would’ve noticed before I was 21. I also didn’t want to ask any more questions because all I knew about ADHD was the boy at church growing up that was horrible to everyone. But after the counsellor and I talked about it I learned more about it, and found out about all of the different people that have ADHD including Simone Biles whose book I had read. I went to my GP and got on a waitlist, which I was told could be about a year.

When she told me I had ADHD I felt emotional, I cried. I felt significantly less suicidal than I had felt in about a year, and I felt like I had a reason. I was also angry, I was mourning the me I could’ve been, and that no one was looking out for me enough to notice or if they did notice, care.

Unfortunately before I was able to get anywhere near the top of the waitlist, my mental health continued to get worse, and my second leg injury combined with issues at uni and social problems and so many other little factors led to a complete breakdown. I ended up in hospital and I had given up. After discharge, I had a psychiatrist who also thought maybe I had ADHD. Over the next 3 months we went through the DIVA assessment for adult ADHD. When she told me I had ADHD I felt emotional, I cried. I felt significantly less suicidal than I had felt in about a year, and I felt like I had a reason. I was also angry, I was mourning the me I could’ve been, and that no one was looking out for me enough to notice or if they did notice, care. Unfortunately due to COVID I was unable to start medication until about six months later. I did my best in the meantime to try to build a good foundation learned from “Delivered from Distraction”. We started low dose Concerta and I thought maybe things were getting better and my life would be less of a total mess.


Unfortunately, while I did have some improvement in my ADHD symptoms I have yet to really see the benefits of diagnosis and medication aside from the alleviation of some guilt and some shame. I have been dealing with coexisting difficulties which I think are really common in ADHDers, and they have been a significant piece of the puzzle. As a result of my persistent low mood and anxiety my doctor wanted to try and treat that first before trying to up the medication. I am now undergoing treatment for that and I think when that has all been sorted out, we can find the right dose of my ADHD meds. I hope that between treating ADHD and fixing these other problems, I will be able to find my path. Or at least the next path.


I am still a bit lost but at least this time I have a framework and people around me as I find my way. And I am really excited to see where that takes me.

I am still lost, and I think a lot of us feel lost at times. But the difference is that I am living with my best friend, with an explanation for both of the reasons why things have always been so hard for me, and the hope that it doesn’t have to be so hard in the future with treatment. I have a community, am making new friends and am able to find the type of friend that will appreciate me. Because I’m awesome. I have better boundaries with my parents, I have my dog and my flatmate has one too. In a field near here I have a three year old horse, who is growing up and waiting to be old enough to be trained properly, and for me to recover from yet another leg injury. I am still a bit lost but at least this time I have a framework and people around me as I find my way. And I am really excited to see where that takes me.


YOU CAN FOLLOW the girl with the dog ON TWITTER @adhdandthedog