Disability Pride Month: My journey to an ADHD diagnosis


After almost two decades of incomplete projects, missed deadlines, and harmful impulsive decisions, I finally got diagnosed with ADHD — interestingly during Disability Pride Month. 

As soon as I ended the call with the psychologist, I cried. That moment felt so cathartic because for the first time, it felt like someone acknowledged that this entire time, I had been trying my best. 

Growing up, I was often told that I “wasn’t living up to my potential” and was labelled lazy by the adults around me. Even though I could tell that I was putting in significant effort, the evidence seemed to point in the other direction. My peers were able to prioritise their tasks well, consistently manage multiple activities and still be able to find time for themselves. I, on the other hand, performed unpredictably in most areas of my life. Academically, for example, I have, in the same year, scored exceptionally well on certain exams while failing others. 

I found it hard to focus on certain activities but there were other times when I would be so focused on a task I would tune out everything else. After days or weeks of procrastinating assignments just hours before the deadline, I would somehow be so intensely focused that I would not even take a break to eat or drink. It was because of those cases of hyperfocus that I never even considered I might have an attention “deficit” disorder, which really tells you how much of a misnomer “Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder” is. 

Honestly, if the deadline induced hyperfocus continued to work for me, I might never even have considered that there was any issue at all. After all, the fact that I was motivated by a fear of consequences seemed to confirm the “attitude problem” so many people thought I had. But that fear of consequences helped… until it didn’t. Every few months, I would reach a stage where the consequences stopped being an incentive and instead turned into a source of anxiety. 

However, because I had been experiencing this since I was a child, I had become really good at masking it. Instead of seeing an anxious, overwhelmed student trying their best, the neurotypical students and adults around me saw an insolent child who did not care about the consequences of his actions.

Part of me used to wonder if they were correct. I would always say that I cared, and I really did, but every time I was asked to explain if my actions were those of someone who cared, I had no answer. Turns out, there was a good reason, and I just didn’t know it. My brain simply wasn’t designed to function in the same way the average neurotypical person’s would. 

Things got particularly bad over the pandemic. I wasn’t seeing my professors in person regularly, so it felt like I didn’t have anyone to be directly accountable to. That lack of accountability sped up the process of consequences turning from a motivator to a trigger. There were other signs of a problem as well — I couldn’t even regularly focus enough to read casually — something that had previously been easy for me. Even while watching movies, another activity I love, I needed to do another task alongside it because I couldn’t sustain my attention towards one activity. The inattention became so functionally limiting that I knew I needed to seek help.

This January, I reached out to Counselling Services, who advised me to get assessed for ADHD after our very first session. I reached out to Health Services to inquire about a diagnosis but unfortunately, they did not refer me to a mental health professional so I was compelled to pursue a private assessment. 

Admittedly, I was luckier than most. I got an appointment within six months and was diagnosed a month later. As I mentioned, the diagnosis was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. It confirmed my lifelong suspicion that not only was I trying my best but that I was also putting in more effort than a lot of my peers for a much lower output. The diagnosis gave me the validation that it was not my fault. 

The diagnosis was also a source of hope. It was the first step in the healing process. Over the next few months or years, I will be working with therapists to see how to manage my symptoms. I will also be trying medication for ADHD to see whether that will help with the symptoms.

Honestly, I don’t completely hate that I have this disability. Being neurodivergent, and more specifically, being undiagnosed, has certainly made my life more difficult than my neurotypical counterparts. At the same time, ADHD has also given me some of my favourite qualities. Having too many thoughts in my head does make it difficult to focus but it is also the reason, I have an “active” imagination and is why I am creative. Impulsively speaking without thinking has created many awkward moments for me, but it has also made sure that I always stand up for what I believe in. Difficulty regulating my emotions may be a reason that I easily cry or lose my temper, but it is also why I feel such intense empathy for those around me. For all the challenges and roadblocks that ADHD brings, it has also helped me become the person I am today — someone of whom I can always be proud.