It took my parents four years to tell me I had ADHD

They hid my diagnosis from me, and I’m glad

The stereotypes of ADHD kids being loud, fidgety and obnoxious are true. I should know – I have ADHD.

Even today, I can be highly opinionated, rude and easily distracted, although I have calmed down considerably. My background probably didn’t help with any of this as I grew up in eight different countries, including Nepal, and went to nine schools, as we moved around every two years.

Probably the only photo of me not fidgeting.

Probably the only photo of me not fidgeting

I always knew that I was different. Everyone would tell me, although looking back, it probably wasn’t intended as a compliment. My ADHD only really seemed to be a problem when I entered year seven, I got into loads of trouble in school all the time and was nearly expelled on more than one occasion. Eventually I had to leave that particular school: jump before you’re pushed. I was diagnosed with ADHD when was 13 years old, although my parents never told me this.

I thought I was just seeing a behavioural psychologist for an IQ test – my teachers usually told me I was thick. Unlike a lot of young people diagnosed with ADHD, my parents decided not to put me on medication. One of my friends from school in Nepal was given Ritalin and my parents always described him as a ‘zombie’. They have made it very clear to me now that I wasn’t medicated because they wanted to avoid that same fate.

Instead, I spent a great deal of my young teenage years with educational psychologists and therapists to help with my dyslexia and ADHD. I remember one house was filled with climbing equipment and lots of toys where I would go to let out all my energy, and talk to a woman about what I felt. And my dad would take me on long walks every evening, like a dog, to burn off all my energy. My parents encouraged me to join every single after-school club, from fencing to gymnastics.

My then school was unhappy about this. I’m told they wanted to medicate me, although my parents were adamant not to take what they perceived as the ‘easy’ way out. I found concentration at school difficult and I completely flunked my GCSEs, but I remember the moment when it all clicked.

Shortly after my GCSEs I had screamed at my parents for some reason or another in the middle of the night. My dad took me out on an extra long walk so I would have time to think and reflect. On this walk I remember seeing a pangolin – it’s kind of like an armadillo – and my father told me it reminded him of the time when before he went to boarding school, and he saw a hedgehog with his father. For some reason, things started to make sense for me from that point.

Pangolins look like this.

My drawing of a pangolin – they look like this

I went back to the UK for my first year of sixth form. It was my first time back in the UK in five years and it all seemed foreign. But I made a commitment to myself to work hard at school. I finished sixth form with the best A Level results in my school, all in difficult subjects, and I did more A Levels than any of my peers. Quite the transformation, considering that in year seven, I used to sit under my shower and cry because I didn’t know what was going on.

Although my final years at school were not easy, I had the support of my parents and my housemaster. I set goals for myself and worked to my own schedule. My friends at university today all comment on how I am one of the hardest working people they know.

I found about my ADHD diagnosis eventually. In my last term of school I was sneaking around my parents’ desk trying to find some spare batteries when I came across information regarding my ADHD. I questioned my parents and they owned up. I remember my mum telling me she had hidden it from me because she didn’t want me to think that I was any different, or to use it as an excuse for my poor behaviour. She argued that no one in the adult world would care that I had it, so I had to learn at a young age to deal with my ADHD, without using it as a crutch.

But I am so thankful that my parents kept it from me. I’ve never used it as an excuse; I simply learned to get on with things. I have calmed down significantly since I was a young teenager. I know who I am, and I am unapologetically happy about it.

Happier today.

Happier today

Learning to deal with my ADHD has made me a much better person and, in a strange sense, I am grateful I have it. My mum always used to snap at me whenever I felt sorry for myself and now I know why they did it. And I love them even more for it.

This piece is part of a series on health and mental health. If you have a story you want to tell, email [email protected] to get involved. 

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