When I was first officially diagnosed with ADHD, I felt like a massive weight had been lifted. My suspicions had been confirmed, after all.
Then came the realisation that I would have to start telling people, including my family… who live about 7,000 km away in Australia.
The thing is, the world was a very different place when I was first diagnosed with ADHD last year—sure, COVID-19 was very much a thing in China, but it had barely made its way to Japan at that point. Both my mum and brother had plans to visit Japan that March, so I figured it’d be easier to tell them in person rather than over a Skype call. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be. Australia’s ban on international travel for citizens meant that my mother and brother’s plans to visit were put on hold—and so were my plans to tell them.
Although I’m writing this blog, there are only a few people who know that I have ADHD in my personal life. The first to know were my bosses since I figured they needed to know as it would explain certain aspects of my then most recent feedback, but also telling them would likely make it easier for me to deal with any issues that may arise in the workplace. I’ve told a handful of close friends, a couple of whom are also dealing with ADHD themselves, but that’s about it.
It took a long time to tell my mum—I’d been trying to tell her during our semi-regular Skype calls, but I had trouble finding the right moment to tell her. Admittedly, there were many times that I hesitated. Given that my brother was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, I wasn’t really worried about her believing, if anything I was afraid that telling her would somehow make her feel like a bad mother for not noticing or doing anything about it if she had suspicions.
So I didn’t say anything.
Until one day, I decided that I needed to just suck it up and do it. Not knowing when I’d be able to go home next meant that it would have to be over Skype because I felt an email would be too impersonal somehow. I happened to already be emailing my mum about other things, so I asked her if she wanted to Skype on that weekend… which just so happened to be the 6-month anniversary of my diagnosis.
Unfortunately, I had unwittingly picked what was probably personally the worst time to tell her. I had recently realised that I was depressed and had been for weeks at that point, so when we got on the call, and she asked me how things were, I instantly started crying. My tears had nothing to do with my ADHD diagnosis, so I fought through them to tell mum that I had been diagnosed with ADHD.
“Why’d you do that?” she asked, confused.
For a moment, I thought she didn’t believe me.
I then hastily explained to her that I had been experiencing ongoing issues with focus and distractibility, time management, procrastination, and forgetfulness, and I just knew it had to be more than laziness. I told her that it was then that I remembered that ADHD generally presented differently in men and women, so I looked into it, and a lot of the symptoms appeared to fit, so I went to a psychiatrist’s office and got diagnosed.
She then told me that she had noticed a lot of similarities between my brother and me when we were younger, and while he was getting treated, I seemed to not have as many issues in school and whatnot, so she didn’t do anything about it. “I probably just came up with better coping mechanisms,” I told her, “but ADHD also tends to get worse over time when left untreated.” She agreed.
Then, she asked if I was getting treated—yes—and if I was on Ritalin—no. I told her that Ritalin is banned in Japan because people were abusing it, so I was on some non-stimulant alternatives, but my doctor and I were still trying to figure out the best combination for me. (Almost a year later, we still are.)
Towards the end of our conversation, I asked my mum if she believed me. “Of course, I do,” she reassured me, telling me that it really does make sense after all this time.
After telling my mum, it was time to tell my brother. Since our communication is mostly limited to Facebook Messenger, I decided to just send him a message and be done with it. I figured he’d be understanding about it. (Also, it would save me from crying a whole bunch on Skype again, so there was that.)
So I wrote up a message while at work and sent it off, like ripping off a bandaid. This was what I sent:
Not sure if mum has told you yet, (if not this probably going to be totally out of the blue lol sorry) but I actually got diagnosed with ADHD a couple of months back. I’m the Inattentive type according to my doctor which is probably why I flew under the radar for so long… on top of the fact that girls don’t really get diagnosed to begin with lmao. Though weirdly enough, mum actually said she saw similarities between us when we were younger and you were getting treated, but I guess my symptoms appeared milder so she didn’t do anything about it lol.
But yeah, earlier in the year, I noticed I was having a lot more trouble concentrating at work/on conversations, task management, processing verbal information, having trouble with getting distracted/sensory overload, becoming more and more forgetful, etc, and kind of came to the realisation that maybe there was actually something wrong with me. At that point I’d recently learnt that ADHD presents differently in women, so I looked into the symptoms and pretty much everything matched perfectly, so I went and saw a doctor and got diagnosed in my first session (partially thanks to me mentioning you lmao)
Been getting treatment for a couple of months and I’m still in the progress of getting my shit together and better deal with the whole thing, but I figured I’d tell you, haha. Sorry again this was completely out of the blue (I’d actually been planning on telling you and mum when you were in Japan, but that couldn’t happen so I’ve been putting it off lmao)
And his reply? Well, it was so much sweeter and sincere than I was expecting:
Full disclosure: I damn nearly burst into tears at my desk.
Like I said, I knew he’d be understanding about the whole thing—he’s the only other person in my immediate family who has been diagnosed, after all—but it still made me happy that he was so sweet about the whole thing—my brother is typically more sarcastic and apathetic. Since I messaged him over Facebook, we didn’t get too much more into it, but I’m sure the next time we see each other, we’ll have a big ol’ conversation about it… whenever that might be.
Anyway, I’m very lucky that I have a family that understands ADHD and don’t deny its existence. I know there are many, many people with ADHD out there who haven’t had that sort of luck with their loved ones. I’m not sure what I would have done if I were met with less acceptance and understanding, and knowing that there are people who’ve had those experiences makes me incredibly sad.
But I guess this is a part of why I want to write about my experiences with ADHD, to show those that don’t believe its existence is real—that those of us who have it are not just lazy, and we’re trying much harder just to get by in our day-to-day life—from a more anecdotal point of view. That isn’t the only reason by any means, but the more I write about it and read about ADHD on forums like Twitter and Reddit, I realise spreading awareness through simply talking/writing about ADHD and everything that comes with it is genuinely important.
…. not quite sure I expected this post to end with a mini-rant about spreading ADHD awareness, but here we are, haha.
Until next time!