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Removing the Mask

For those that know me or follow me... well you will know I’m not one for going with the grain, I don’t follow trends and generally love to do my own thing.

I think that may be why I have gone back and forth more times than a mosquito in a nudist colony, when deciding if I should post this.

ADHD is currently #trending on social media and I don’t want to appear like I’m jumping on some sort of bandwagon or attempting to boost the V Word’s audience in a disingenuous or unethical fashion.

Then I thought:

But this IS actually happening right now!

Why am I worrying about the opinion of others? #hypocrite

Writing is one of my main coping mechanisms so use it…

Put your money where your mouth is…

Practice what you preach you daft mare!

Remember sharing your story, could be someone else’s survival guide…

F@&k it!

Oh My…

This is my ADHD talking!

(Welcome to a snapshot of my mind! Exhausted yet?)

So yeah…

I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder!

Just been officially diagnosed 2 months before my 40th Birthday 🥳 but kinda already knew for the past year. It was originally suggested thanks to an online assessment I randomly did about neurodiversity at work.

I’ll be completely honest never suspected for a second that I was neurodiverse at the time, which seems insane now that I know more about it, as I literally nailed both the informal and formal assessments with the highest markers! Lol.

I just thought I was really struggling to adjust to civilian life... that I suffered with severe high functioning anxiety mixed with a bit of depression, that I wasn’t coping, that I was inadequate, that I was failing as a mother and a wife and that this was just my new norm.

It’s been bloody hard to be me since leaving the military and becoming a mother and I couldn’t understand why!

However, the diagnosis, ADHD counselling sessions and research have been God damn enlightening!

Looking back, I now realise that my undiagnosed ADHD was something that was always there, I mean my nickname from basic training was Dory! (Yes Finding Nemo is THAT old!)

For those that haven’t seen the film, Dory has trouble with multi-step directions, she's forgetful, is easily distracted, displays signs of hyperfocus and is very impulsive.

Although I earned the nickname Dory during service, truth is, the majority of my symptoms were masked by my career in the military. A fact verified by my clinician, who stated this is not something unique to me and that she is witnessing more and more cases.

You see, in the military, everything is structured, organised, and regimented. There's not much room for spontaneity or creativity in the day to day, and that's exactly what my ADHD brain needed. The military provided me with a clear set of rules, schedules, accountabilities, and routines, and I was able to keep my ADHD symptoms mostly under control without even realising it.

But then I left the military, and all hell broke loose.

The mask had been well and truly removed!

Suddenly, I had to be responsible for my own schedule and routine, and I was completely lost. I couldn't focus on anything, or I focused too much on one thing and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was getting more and more agitated and lost, one minute I was going to set up my own company and the next I was moving to Australia!

I was always forgetting things, and my time management skills were somewhat lacking, particularly if it was something not currently within my new hyper-focus phase!

I became the friend that was always late… the one you gave a fake time too, like tell me it’s 1830hrs instead of 1900hrs for the restaurant booking, in the hope I might actually make it on time.

I felt like I was constantly rushing around yet running through wet tar.

On top of stepping outside of the military bubble that gave me free coping mechanisms, I also became a first time Mum… suddenly everything was even more chaotic and unpredictable. My brain was constantly overloaded with tasks and to-do lists, and I couldn't keep up.

I remember when my mini was born, and the nurses were trying to teach me how to swaddle her. They demonstrated it once, and I completely forgot how to do it as soon as they handed me my baby. I tried to swaddle her, but it was a disaster. She looked like a burrito that had been sat on! Bless her…

As little legs got older, things only got more challenging. I would forget important dates, like her doctor's appointments, my appointments or school events. I would mix up our schedules and forget to book breakfast clubs and after school clubs. If it wasn’t for the ever-suffering husband being such a legend I dread to think how I would have coped. I’m very lucky to have that level of unconditional support, even when neither of us had a chuffing clue what was going on!

I mean, I once even sent my mini, the poor little sod, to school in uniform on own clothes day! #mumfail

I constantly felt like a failure as a Mum and a Wife.

My clinician picked up on this during my first session and when she said it, I burst into tears… it’s been tough!

Once I suspected and eventually got diagnosed with ADHD, everything started to make sense. My behaviours, choices, weight problems, fidgeting, forgetfulness, impulsivity, rejection sensitivity dysphoria (a condition in which a person feels extreme emotional sensitivity and pain due to perceived or actual rejection, teasing, or criticism (Media News Today ) and of course my inability to not interrupt!

I should, of course, also mention my superpowers - of being able to focus on something and smash it out the park in record breaking time (hyperfocus), my ability to feel the vibe in a room the moment I walk in (extreme empathy), being able to remember lyrics after hearing a song once, my ability to learn (because I love it!), be creative, to problem solve and forecast way quicker than anyone else (and the frustration I feel waiting for others to catch up!) and finally my piest de resistance… the ability to hear lyrics in pretty much every conversation I have and then proceed to sing them at you! Mmm… I don’t think everyone else who knows me will feel as positive about that last little gem LMAO.

Along with the mask being removed once I left the military, I also learned that becoming a mother can exacerbate ADHD symptoms, and that's exactly what happened to me.

But now that I understand my ADHD better, I'm learning to manage it. I've developed new techniques to help me stay organised, like using color-coded calendars, and setting ALL the reminders on my phone and I start on medication soon. While I still have my moments of forgetfulness and distraction, I'm learning to be kinder to myself and to understand that my brain works differently than others.

Becoming a veteran and becoming mother with ADHD has been challenging to say the least, but it's also bloody rewarding. I'm learning to embrace my quirks and to be proud of who I am, ADHD and all. While I may forget to sign a permission slip or show up late to pretty much everything, my daughter and the ever-suffering husband know that I love them, and that's all that matters. Plus, I’ve finally got the information I really need to figure out what I want to be when I grow up (Everything!). Lol.

I’m not broken after all, I’m not ungrateful for not liking my lot and I’m not a failure.

I’m neurodiverse and have differing needs and that’s ok 👌🏼.

So, to all the Veterans and all the Mums out there who are struggling with ADHD, know that you're not alone.

Seek help if you need it and remember that you're doing the best you can!

PS to all my people, who don't have ADHD, well, I'll still show up to your party, even if I'm excruciatingly early, an hour late (or maybe even a week!) and I've forgot the gift. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, I’m not being rude, and I guarantee you no one will make me feel any worse for it than myself. So, I ask that you please accept me as I am, chin hairs, ADHD, warts and all (I dont actually have any warts... chin hairs though... well.. its unfortunately true...) and we can all have a bloody good laugh about it later!

Links for information about ADHD in women.

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