On Wednesday, we asked our friend Katy Rollins about her life before diagnosis. As a side note, we also asked her if she would tell someone else that she thought they might need an assessment. I asked her that because I wanted to know if she thought being diagnosed was a good thing. Sneaky, aren’t I?
Katy saw through that and shot us a straight answer.
Today I only have one question for her. But that’s okay, it’s a big question, and Katy has a lot to say about it.
Now that you’ve been diagnosed, can you relate some difficulties from pre-diagnosis to your ADHD?
Yes – I am very sensitive to light and sound and I would often spend my entire day at school very anxious, or with a sick feeling, or feeling of dread in my stomach, because of all the light and sound. Some have told me this might be some kind of sensory disorder. I don’t know. I just know it was awful.
I found my environment very distracting when it was time for independent work in school. I rarely completed tasks. This was documented as far back as first grade report cards. I would be watching other children, watching the teacher, thinking about other things, watching the “bad kids” (who were usually very interesting) or just sitting there feeling anxious. I didn’t cause trouble, but I didn’t get much done. I didn’t know that life wasn’t supposed to be that uncomfortable so I guess I didn’t really complain about it. I knew that I felt bad about being the kid that never finished. My best friend was the one that always finished first and I longed to be just like her and didn’t understand how she did it. I remember not understanding how I even got to go to the next grade because I knew I never finished my work. I think that nowadays I might have been diagnosed but back then they just shuffled you along if you didn’t cause problems for other people.
Emotional reactivity was also a major issue. I always had BIG feelings and had to start learning, at a young age (about 9) what to do with them. Screaming, stomping, kicking, throwing things – totally routine and totally in contrast to my behavior the rest of the time (which generally involved reading books, playing quietly by myself, or drawing). Broke a piano when I was about 13. Kicked a hole in a wall when I was 17. Got arrested for assault when I was 19. I still have big feelings but I’ve learned more subtle ways to deal with them. Took practice.
My room/school bag/desks/locker/dorm room looked like toxic waste sites. I had to teach myself as an adult how to deal with these things and it requires a lot of ongoing effort.
I was always late for class and still struggle with this as an adult.
I generally cope very well at work (except for the lateness thing) – and if anything usually overachieve because I have to stay busy. Can’t complain about that. Problems only arise when I have bosses who don’t appreciate this strength. For example: I had a really lazy boss once who didn’t like me making her look lazy, by getting so much work done. Oops. Most bosses really like this about me though. I don’t really dig working for arbitrary control freaks either. But…I don’t consider this a problem. I had a boss once that became obsessed with my tardiness, for example. So I quit. If the quality of my work isn’t what you’re interested in, then I’m not interested in working for you. On the other hand, when I have a boss that sees that I’m a good worker, I’ll work even harder and they have my loyalty for life.
Thanks for that insight into your life from the vantage of diagnosis, Katy.
On Wednesday next, we’ll be asking a few more questions of our friend Katy Rollins. I know you’ll want to come back to hear what she has to say. And if you can’t wait, check out her blog, 18 Channels.