My ADHD Was The Reason I Couldn’t Bond With My Mum.

Let’s start from the top. When did you first learn about ADHD?

I first came across ADHD in a book I read when I was younger and could relate to one of the characters. I was like, “I feel like I have this”. And I always had that at the back of my mind, but I wasn’t really sure what it was because I didn’t have access to the internet then, so I couldn’t exactly Google it. 

But growing up, I just always had a feeling that I wasn’t quite like other kids. In school, I was always playful and distracted and struggled with focusing on classwork. I thought that was just being a child, but then I went to secondary school, and it was like that too. My classwork grades suffered because I could never focus enough to get things done. I only did well during exams after studying last minute. 

When were you diagnosed?

The first time I spoke to a therapist about it was in 2018. He was the first therapist I saw, but it wasn’t because of ADHD, it was because I was depressed. After we spoke about my depression, I told him I think I might also have ADHD. He didn’t do a test; he just said, “I don’t think you have it because you did well in secondary school, graduated early and got good results. He said it wasn’t possible. 

At the time, I didn’t ask any further questions because he was a professional, so I assumed he knew better. But he did diagnose me with an anxiety disorder and depression. It wasn’t until 2021 that I got diagnosed with ADHD. I spoke to another therapist who asked me a few questions and told me I had it. Then while interacting with a client from work (a licensed therapist) about an ADHD project I was working on, they confirmed it. 

I could relate to so many of the things she was saying about ADHD and even used stuff I struggle with as examples. She was like, “You clearly have ADHD”. So from the therapists I spoke to and the questions they asked me, I was diagnosed and it was confirmed.

Then I went into deep research and found that I could relate to a lot of the things I read about, especially the inattentive ADHD type. I’d watch TikTok videos relating to ADHD and feel like they were talking about me. 

You mentioned anxiety and depression earlier. Tell me about that

I’ve always been aware of my anxiety. I just didn’t have the language for it.

I was always overly worried about the smallest things in ways that would affect me to the point where I wouldn’t be able to think properly. Concentrating was hard; I would even get headaches sometimes. I used to panic a lot. I was dating somebody who once told me: “One thing about you is that you worry too much.”  And it was true. I also used to assume the worst, and was paranoid all the time. One time, I had a headache and was so sure I had a brain tumour.

How did you go about getting help for your depression?

I was living with my aunt, and she noticed I kept to myself a lot, and was barely talking to anyone. One day, I sent my aunties a voice note about having suicidal thoughts. One of them is a pastor in the UK, so she prayed for me. The auntie I was living with could see something was wrong, so they came together and decided to get me professional help.

I saw the therapist for the first time in a clinic owned by a family member, and he asked me a lot of questions. My auntie went with me and also spoke to the therapist. And the next day, he diagnosed me with anxiety and depression, and put me on meds. This was in 2018.  

You haven’t mentioned your parents at all. What about them?

I’ve never had a close-knit nuclear unit. My mum lives in Edo state, and my dad is in Europe. He’s been there for a long time. I was born there as well. He and my mum never married; they just met there and had me, and we all lived together for a bit. But when I was about eight years old, my mum brought me back to Edo state. I lived there with her for about a year until my paternal grandmother came to pick me up and brought me to Lagos.

So I grew up with my grandma and my dad’s youngest sister. They took care of me as best as they could, sent me to the best schools and gave me everything I needed. My grandma is late now. She died in 2015. But I grew up with her for the longest time. I was very close to her, so her death hit me really hard. 

I’m so sorry for your loss. When was the last time you saw your mum?

When I was 16. That was the first and last time she came to Lagos to see me. She tried to keep in contact as much as possible. When I didn’t have a phone, she’d call my grandma or auntie. And when I had a phone, she’d call me a lot.

I tried my best to connect with her, but it wasn’t easy for me because she wasn’t somebody I spent a lot of time with. I think she gave up at some point because I haven’t spoken to her in almost three years. 

Do you think the ADHD affected your relationship with her?

Yes. For sure. For people with ADHD, it’s harder to connect with people who we don’t see or talk to often. My mum and I weren’t really talking, so the less I interacted with her, the more I forgot her. I get overwhelmed with phone calls, which made me avoid hers. There was just a lot of communication imbalance until she eventually stopped trying. 

Do your aunties know about you having ADHD too?

The one I live with knows. The pastor in the UK and the other one don’t. The one I live with only found out because I wrote about it, and she saw it.

She doesn’t understand the severity of it; she doesn’t know that the way my brain functions is different from neurotypicals. And I haven’t really tried explaining it to her because I just don’t have the strength. 

Are you in a relationship? How does ADHD affect your relationship with your partner?

Yes, and it does. A lot. I think my current relationship helped me understand things about my ADHD I didn’t notice before. For example, how I always assume the worst. There was one time he didn’t get back from work at the usual time he does, and he wasn’t picking up his phone. I panicked. I called his friend, and his friend called his sister. When he finally got home, it was a whole thing because he couldn’t understand why 30 minutes would cause such a fuss.  

It wasn’t until I did some more research that I found out it’s an ADHD thing. Another thing is how I feel things deeply and react quickly.

One time we’d had a fight the night before, but we’d sorted it out. The next day, he didn’t text me first like he usually would, and I got so upset. I just assumed he was still upset about the fight. Meanwhile, he’d been having a crazy morning, woke up late, got to work late, got thrown into a meeting and got thrown into a major work task. And I was just there thinking he didn’t want to talk to me. So I made a big deal out of it. 

Now, I count to 10 or I think about different scenarios first before reacting. I still slip up because I’m only human, but I’m trying now.

So he knows about your ADHD. Is he supportive? 

I told him on our first date in early 2022 because I needed to know if it was something he could handle. But it was harder in the beginning, with me always losing things, my time blindness, my inability to sleep, reacting quickly and all that. 

There was a time I even felt like my ADHD was too much for him. I came up with a document that had a list of links on how you can help a partner with ADHD. I felt like he hadn’t done research on it, and I wanted to help him out a bit. The list included TikTok videos, articles, etc. But when I told him, he misunderstood and thought I was asking him to do all the work. It caused a lot of friction. I had to explain that I was doing work on my own, but I also wanted to show him how he could support me in the relationship. 

ALSO READ: 7 Young Nigerians Talk About Living with ADHD

How long ago was this? Is he more supportive now?

This was the middle of 2022. He’s a lot more supportive now. He talked about us doing therapy together so he can understand deeper, especially before we get married. 

My ADHD is not too much for him if he’s willing to go to therapy with me. He also does little things that make it easier. For example, he tries to keep things where I’d easily find them. He knows I usually misplace my AirPods. So if he sees them in the bathroom or something, he just puts them where I’d easily find them.

I’m glad you have that. Has ADHD affected your work in any way? 

That’s where it’s really hard, honestly, so I wing it. Especially because I work in a fast-paced environment where there are a lot of big tasks. With ADHD, it takes a lot of energy to focus.

Sometimes, I just want to lie down and not do my tasks until the last minute because it’s too overwhelming. That’s how almost every day at work goes. But I push myself. I use the fact that I don’t want to get fired, and I want a promotion, to do my job well. 

I have time blindness — I often think I have time when I don’t. So when I wait till the very last minute then just rush through it, something else in my life suffers for it, like me not getting enough sleep. 

I switched roles recently, and work is more exciting now. That makes it easier. Monotonous tasks are the worst for a person with ADHD, but my role allows for a lot of excitement.  This is another thing about having ADHD, you’re interested in so many things. I’ve had many hobbies and done quite a few things in my life. I’ve done makeup. There was a time I wanted to start selling smoothies. Another time, I was so sure I would become a business consultant. I even started my own digital magazine.

Would you say that’s an advantage of having ADHD? Just being interested in and being able to do many things?

It can be an advantage or disadvantage. An advantage because you always have great ideas; you’re always learning something new. You can find creative ideas in the smallest things. But I start something, find out the nitty-gritty of what it takes to do it and just lose interest. 

Sometimes, it’s hard to find what you’re passionate about; there’s no way to be sure it’s not just another exciting project that’d last a few months. I always need excitement, and I’m learning to find it in as many things as I can. 

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Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.