The Scariest Part of Undiagnosed Adult ADHD


Wanna hear a scary story?

Since today is Hallowe’en, I thought I would take this opportunity to break from tradition and post a day early. Everyone loves a scary story now and then. And there is no better day than Hallowe’en to share one. Be warned though, sometimes reality is scarier than fiction.

No one knows for sure why we celebrate Hallowe’en in the way that we do. Some theories suggest that its origins are rooted in times when the Roman Empire ruled the world. Their tradition of conjointly honouring saints who had no other day bestowed to them became amalgamated with ancient Celtic beliefs that the dead revisit the earth one day a year.

Hallowe’en, the evening before All Saints Day, was seen as the time when the portal between earthly and ethereal realms would be opened. In attempt to appease the spirits, the people would leave food at the edge of their townships and adorn themselves in gruesome costumes, hoping to ward off harm from evil spirits. And somewhere along the line, the tradition of dressing up and trick-or-treating was born. (Aside – I’m no historian so I make no claims to this being anything more than a theory!)

When times are hard and we don’t understand why, people tell themselves stories to explain the difficulties and give them context. The theories, inaccurate though they may be, give us a sense that we are not completely lost and navigating life without a compass. Likewise, it is human tendency to seek safety in benign rituals when there is no power to be found in more logical defenses. The rituals may not always make sense or have even a modicum of plausibility, but they are nonetheless comforting because they offer us a sense of control over situations that are beyond comprehension.

Put it this way: if your community was poor, oppressed, illness-laden and there was nothing you could do about it, wouldn’t the idea that you could ward off further harm through engaging in ritualistic behaviours bring you some sense of assurance? You may not be able to change what’s already been done, but you could surely stop it from getting any worse!

Would scary costumes really defend a person from an evil spirit with malicious intentions? Probably not. I also have a vague sense that ghosts probably don’t eat, so I can’t see what good leaving out a picnic for them would do either. But that’s not the point. Doing those things gave the people a sense of control and an ability to take some sort of action. People need to feel that they have some power over their situation or they will lose all hope. Without hope, you have nothing.

And so it is the way for someone living an ADHD life never knowing that ADHD is what they are dealing with. They devise all sorts of theories and explanations to understand why they are the way that they are, and create elaborate rituals and systems to compensate for what they cannot explain. These are not the undead roaming our earth one day a year, but the undiagnosed wandering it every day of the year. They wander through life lost, knowing not they are undiagnosed, and missing their place in the tribe they never they belonged to.

Scary isn’t it?

I must point you towards my virtual face right now, so that can you see my cheek protruding with a tongue lodged firmly in it. I am not really likening my undiagnosed comrades to zombies and monsters. I was undiagnosed myself for most of my life. In my (always) melodramatic way I am highlighting a simile that I think is worth mentioning. The dead are fantasized to wander the earth because they don’t know they are dead. We ADDers also have a great tendency to wander aimlessly when we don’t know that we have ADD.

It’s not the diagnosis that’s important, it’s the understanding it brings us. Whether or not you chose to seek diagnosis or even treatment is not nearly as important as the choice to, once and for all, seek a new understanding of yourself and your brain chemistry. Most important, it’s the realization that we are not less-than-human because of our differences, but that we are an important part of the human tribe, that sets us free from the curse of being supposed interlopers. And then we can give up useless rituals in favour of ones that actually serve us.

We aren’t lost. With the right map we can find our way just fine. Take that with you as you wander the earth this Hallowe’en day!


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5 comments on “The Scariest Part of Undiagnosed Adult ADHD

    1. Thanks for stopping by Michael. That’s a great point you’ve made about finding ways to integrate our talents so that they can be used for the better. Interesting stuff you offer!

  1. I agree with your statement that diagnosis or treatment is not as important as knowing yourself. Those of us born with this personality also known as add/adhd, have a specific role to play in this particular point and time in history. Ours is an important but thank-less role and God made us very resourceful and resilient to be able to tolerate the beatings that life gives us. We are meant to be change agents and fore-runners, and dare I say that we could be the pinnacle of human evolution? I like to think so.

    I have always suffered from low self-esteem because of my personality, I don’t think I have to go into details explaining why, I think we all know the reasons very well. But along the way, rays of sunshine get through that allow me to get to know the real me. One of those times was during a team/leadership seminar I once attended with classmates from a master’s degree program. We were competing in teams in different challenging exercises that were designed to test our ability to use teamwork. To make a long story short, I immediately “saw” the solution to the problem in a flash. When I tried to explain it to the group, nobody listened because they all thought I was the oddball in the group. I was about to give up when something magical happened, one of the natural leaders of the group heard me and “saw” what I was talking about too. He immediately ordered everyone to follow my instructions and, no surprise, we won by a landslide.

    The point I’m trying to make here is that we have a definite and important place in society, even if society doesn’t realize that. We must never stop, we must remain positive and we definitely should get to know ourselves better. And most important of all, we must be ourselves, with all of our add colors. Our personality does not make us broken, society and its ridiculous rules make us broken. Don’t give up, everyone, because there will come a day when we will be able to shine the way we are meant to. Sorry for the long reply, I had to let off some steam!

    1. Blow off all the steam you want Mmori, you write with such passionate prose – I welcome and admire these kinds of comments! We are not broken and we do have a place in this society. I am glad that those rays of sunshine are getting through to you so that you can see who you really are when you let go of other people’s definitions. Feel free to stop by anytime and share your comments – this is the kind of motivational fire we need to spread!

      1. Wow mmori! Thank you for Sharing your thoughts! I full heartedly agree that ADDer’s will lead the way to the future. In fact, I think it has been unknown/undiagnosed ADDer’s that has helped our world develop to the point that it has. It is the incredible talent of people with ADD who think outside the box that push our society forward instead of remaining stuck in time.

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