Living with ADHD: How growing up with an undiagnosed neurodevelopmental disorder has impacted my life as an adult

No thoughts, head empty


By Phyll Wu

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Living with ADHD: How growing up with an undiagnosed neurodevelopmental disorder has impacted my life as an adult

There are way too many misconceptions about ADHD—it’s not just occasionally forgetting things or being hyperactive. Here’s what it’s actually like inside the mind of someone with ADHD.

We’ve all wondered if we have ADHD at some point in our lives, especially considering that it’s one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in the world—anyone could have it, even those who may seem neurotypical. For me, it’s a postulation that I had ruminated on with absolute certainty for a long, long time.

Growing up, I’ve always felt different from everyone else, as if something wasn’t right with me. The first time that I felt that way was in pre-school, when I realised that I was struggling to connect with the people around me and had a hard time with conversations. In primary school, not only was it challenging for me to make friends, but I was also extremely impulsive and easily distracted, I had difficulties following instructions and retaining information, and I could only excel at certain things that I was deeply interested in—and it only got worse down the road.



High school was one of the toughest times of my life. I had the attention span of a goldfish, I was failing nearly every class, I didn’t complete any of my homework, I was becoming emotionally explosive, and I was stuck in my own world every second of the day, unable to snap back into reality. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the chronic procrastination, insomnia, and time blindness.

All things considered, dealing with my inability to function like a normal human being wasn’t the hardest part, rather, it was how people perceived me as if I was deliberately lazy and incompetent. My teachers looked down on me, some of them even visibly disliked me and would either speak to me passive aggressively or completely disregard me. My mental health was abysmal, often sleeping in class and pretending like I wasn’t even there.



Of course, I wanted to prove that I wasn’t the hopeless good-for-nothing that everyone thought I was, but I just… couldn’t. In all my attempts to complete my assignments and study for exams, I would spend hours just staring into blank space as I mentally begged my brain to work. There were several instances where I broke down from frustration and quietly sobbed in the exam hall, leaving the pages almost completely empty. I attended one-on-one tuition classes weekly as well, however, while my exam results saw slight improvements, it didn’t improve enough to show them that they were wrong about me—and it was crushing.



I was certain that I wasn’t neurotypical and I wanted so badly to get diagnosed, but it seemed as though no one could care enough to take me seriously. The response was almost always “Don’t we all kinda have ADHD?” And I can’t emphasise enough how ignorant that is to say. Nevertheless, I eventually got diagnosed—and boy, was it a long, chaotic process. Because no one took me seriously, I had to wait until I moved out and had enough money to visit a doctor on my own. When that time finally came, I didn’t get the diagnosis that I hoped for and I was put on anti-depressants for nearly a year.

It wasn’t until I ended up in the ER in 2021 that I was finally diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which is an inattentive form of ADHD. Now, you might be wondering how my ADD could possibly put me in the ER. Long story short, my ADD and anxiety were so severe that they made me physically ill with GERD. Yay!

READ: Living with GERD: I found out I have an incurable digestive disease—here’s how it affects my life



While I was glad to find out that I was right all along, at that point, my symptoms have intensified to such an insufferable level that it’s practically too late to reverse the severity. Since I got diagnosed, I’ve been on ADD stimulants every day and it’s harrowing to think about how I’ll have to rely on medications for the rest of my life just to function normally like everyone else. Not to mention, doctor appointments and medications are not cheap. If I had started treatment as a child, during the early stages of the disorder, things might’ve turned out differently.



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I’m still trying to understand the disorder and how I should navigate through life with it, but truth be told, it’s been extremely difficult. I’m stuck in a never-ending losing battle with my brain and I’m chronically forgetful, which has made even the smallest of tasks in my daily life almost impossible to perform. It’s as if my brain is permanently running on 3GB RAM and everything takes forever to load, if at all.

To anyone who recently discovered they’re neurodivergent, my only advice is to cut yourself some slack and don’t be too harsh on yourself. As the saying goes, it is what it is, and there’s only so much we can do about it. Meanwhile, to all the parents out there whose child is showing symptoms of being neurodivergent, do not ignore your suspicions and get them treated immediately—they will not “grow out of it.”




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