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MY STORY: A lifetime of struggling with ADHD

Saturday October 27 2018

My name is Eunice Victoria and I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). PHOTO| COURTESY

My name is Eunice Victoria and I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). PHOTO| COURTESY 

RACHEL WAMBUI
By RACHEL WAMBUI
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“My name is Eunice Victoria and I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I got diagnosed early this year, at age 27.

When you get a mental illness diagnosis, people think you are mad or bewitched or they don’t believe you have it. For me, the diagnosis was a relief; I finally understood why I had always behaved the way I did. My symptoms had exhibited since childhood; it’s just that no one had been aware.

“When I was young, I was teased a lot for being overweight. I was also extremely disorganised. If I wasn’t motivated to do my chores, I couldn’t force it so I was beaten a lot and told I was lazy. I had trouble fitting at school.

This could be explained by the fact that one of the symptoms of ADHD is lack of restraint or boundaries with what you say or do.

I also express emotion to the extreme, be it happiness, anger or sadness. My mum says that sometimes, I would just coil up and keep quiet.

“I was lagging behind in nursery school so much that the sibling who was two years younger than me eventually caught up. No one in my family had ever repeated classes, so now, not only was I ‘fat’, I was also ‘stupid’.

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Recently, I went back to my primary school and in my records the teacher wrote things like ‘easily distracted, disorganised, can do better’. All classic signs of ADHD.

'WIERD AND UGLY'

“The first high school I went to, I was bullied so much that I asked to be transferred to a private school. It turned out to be worse. This was a mixed school and I didn’t think I was beautiful. Also, because of my disorganisation, I appeared unkempt. I remember being labelled as ‘weird’ and ‘ugly’.

This took a toll on my self-esteem.

“Anyway, I finished high school and went to university. My self-esteem was so low that after pre-university, when they suggested I pursue communications, I wondered, who would hire me with my looks? But when I was in third year, I rebranded myself; I bought a fake behind and bleached myself. This gave me so much confidence that even boys started noticing me, which was a new experience for me.

“When I was still in school, I started a media productions company, got a job at a radio station followed shortly by another job as a communications assistant at an oil company.

For the first time I felt like people valued me because ‘she works at XYZ’. But then symptoms of ADHD showed up. I would spend my whole salary on clothes and then I would be left begging for bus fare.

When I was angry, I shopped; I just couldn’t stop buying clothes! ADHD makes you impulsive.

EASILY BORED

“The other thing about ADHD is that I get easily bored. But if I am interested in something, I become hyper-focused.

I was very good at my job but when I got stressed, I became depressed. I was eventually let go. Shortly after that, I got another job at a motor manufacturing company. I did exemplary well for three months and became a pensionable employee.

But then I started getting unmotivated.

“My dilemma was that this job was good because it was making people validate me. But then again, I couldn’t continue because I didn’t love it anymore. One day, I was told to explain why a customer had complained. I blew up.

I broke into my mother-tongue and used some choice words.

I was in rage. They were sitting there like; we only asked a simple question! I stormed out and wrote a letter of resignation. Later, I regretted because resigning was such an impulsive move.

“I started operating a cleaning service and registered for a life-skills course. At the training, I would talk a lot, I had all the answers at my fingertips, I would point out how I had worked in all these places yet I was only 27!

REJECTED AGAIN

I think it appeared as if I was showing off and so again, people started withdrawing from me. I had been rejected again.

“One day I had an idea to start an organisation and when I approached one of the lecturers about it, she saw a red flag in the fact that I had had three jobs (and many businesses) in a span of three years. She said, you have a good idea, but go and see a therapist first and let’s talks after.

That’s how I started therapy.

“One of the exercises my therapist recommended involved asking others what they thought about me; the positive and the negative. They all said that I am nice, empathetic, passionate, creative and that I am a go-getter.

They also said that I have unpredictable moods, can be a bully, hold grudges, have an attitude, over consult, tell everyone everything, have difficulty saying no and that I start things and don’t finish them.

I watched a talk by a woman who has ADHD and her thing was that she used to jump from relationship to the next; my equivalent was jobs and businesses before eventually losing motivation and moving on to something else.

“My diagnosis was the beginning of self-realisation. The fact that I have ADHD, depression and anxiety means I am a strong person; not very many people can have this and still show up for life.

I also want to create awareness. My mum was telling about people in shags who have been locked up in their rooms all their lives because they have mental illnesses! There is a child I know who is autistic and I can already see the denial; everyone says ‘oh, he just has slow speech’.

He is autistic! The only issue with people like me or with autistics is that we think differently. And that’s fine. Some of the revolutionaries in history lived with symptoms of one mental condition or the other; that’s the magic that made them who they are!

“I am now pursuing my Masters in communications. I still get highs and lows. The highs are characterised by anxiety and sleeplessness. Sometimes I get this feeling that I will change the world and I come up with an idea on how to do it in less than an hour! If it’s a business, I’ll even find clients.

Then the lows come and everything crashes and I have to start over. But now that I am on medication, I don’t get very low lows.

“Exercise also helps; I carry a skipping rope everywhere so that when I start feeling some type of way, I go somewhere, even if it’s in a bathroom and I skip. My self-esteem has also gone up; I no longer bleach myself or wear a fake behind – I don’t feel that I need that sort of validation anymore.”

 

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