Hi all, this is my first post here. I just wanted to share my story (mostly as a vent because I don't know anyone else with ADHD and need an outlet/support group) but hopefully this is helpful to others out there too.
I am a young adult (26) working in science and had suspicions that I might have ADHD since highschool. I grew up in a relatively medicine-averse household so I didn't work up the courage to ask a doctor until a year or so ago (I was also homeschooled so there also wasn't really any teachers or anything that would've noticed). College was kind of a hell in a way - my first year I performed poorly academically, and then in my second year I developed (what I believe to be) coping mechanisms: nicotine+caffeine and extreme stress. I realized that I could not focus my attention very well unless 1) the subject was already very interesting or 2) I had a bunch of caffeine, nicotine, no distractions, and the deadline was right around the corner. It felt like the adrenaline of possibly failing would finally kick my brain into action. I had so many all-nighters (or even multiple days of not sleeping) due to chronic procrastination which I felt like I couldn't control. I'd overload my schedule (extra classes + work) so I was working around 80 hours a week because it was only in that zone of high-stress that I felt like I could actually do things. I think even though I hated all the stress the procrastination and overloading would bring I was addicted to it because I couldn't perform otherwise (and I found a lot of self-worth in academic performance). I don't how to explain it other than my focus felt like a switch (either all the stars aligned and I would hyperfocus, or they didn't and I couldn't focus at all). At some point I realized this lifestyle was really unhealthy and I tried so many times to change - I bought tons of self-help books on improving willpower, motivation, etc. and tried to implement the ideas but it still felt like it was out of my control. The failure of not being able to change I think led to lowered self-esteem. And at a certain point (a couple years ago, in graduate school) I think I just gave up trying - it was too exhausting and it felt like the amount of effort in trying to focus vs results was simply not worth it; this led to a sort of depression.
Anyways - a year ago (in graduate school, failing to meet almost every deadline/expectation) I realized a lot of these symptoms: chronic procrastination, inability to give focus to non-interesting tasks, hyperfocus on interesting tasks (I could work on an interesting subject for 12 hours at a time, even forgetting that I needed to eat), poor impulse control, etc. could be attributed to ADHD. I mean I had suspicions before, but I decided to really do my due diligence in research (research is basically my job now, heh). I concluded that it was a reasonable hypothesis and worth exploring. I decided to see a psychiatrist and ask, at least for the closure. The first psychiatrist I talked to literally shut me down within 30 seconds of our meeting - he said "I'm not going to lie; if a smart college kid like you comes in here and tells me they have ADHD I'm immediately suspicious. If you got this far you probably don't have ADHD." That really stuck with me. Of course as a scientist I really value and trust the opinions of doctors so even though I felt like his opinion was pretty biased, maybe there was some basis. Maybe I actually just needed to develop more willpower and I was using this ADHD idea as an excuse for my laziness. His wording scared me too... do I sound like a drug-seeker or something by simply asking a psychiatrist to test for ADHD? I had been seeing a therapist for a while, and brought up all of this. he highly encouraged me to get a second opinion - I also found out that the psychiatrist I went to was fired because many other patients had complained about him - this led to me finding another psychiatrist that actually gave me a chance and listened. A month ago I was diagnosed with ADHD and when I found out I just had an uncontrollable fit of tears (mostly joy? but too many emotions to process tbh) - since then I feel like my world has turned upside-down (for the better?). I'm on a relatively low dose of vyvanse (20mg) but am still amazed at how much of a difference it is making (I know ADHD is a neurochemical imbalance so it makes sense, but I'm still in shock). The best way I can describe it is I have far more impulse control, meaning I can kind of just focus on things at a level "7" instead of a level 0 or 10 if that makes sense? But (and I guess this is the main part of my post) oh my goodness there are so many "aha"/"eureka" moments I am experiencing when considering past events in my life that now make so much more sense with a diagnosis. On one hand I am filled with joy that there is so much clarity. I have been re-implementing a lot of the productivity/focus tools that I tried in the past (but at the time felt like they were ineffective) to great success. I had this severe fear that my whole life I'd either have to work at a level "0" or "10" with no in-betweens but now I feel like I could actually hold a 9-5 job and be functional. However on the other hand I am also filled with so much anger and resentment due to how long it took to get diagnosed and feeling gaslit the entire time. I'm upset at the psychiatrist who immediately dismissed me without even listening, I'm upset that I spent so many weekends not hanging out with friends because I needed to get stuff done, only to be an unfocused mess and get 0 work done (which felt *terrible*), I'm upset that I've wasted so much potential in my career, I'm upset that my coping mechanisms were so mentally taxing / destructive yet felt necessary to adapt to my circumstances at the time, and I'm upset that so many self-esteem issues developed as a result of not being diagnosed for so long (its one thing to realize that maybe the foundation of a self-esteem issue is untrue, but after so many years these things are embedded into your psyche and difficult to work through).
I know this is a huge word dump - and I am going to weekly therapy to work through all of this, but I'm really curious if anyone else in the community has had similar experiences... struggling to get a diagnosis, self-doubt, recovering self-esteem, post-diagnosis frustration, etc. It feels like even after getting the right medication that fills the exact hole that was missing in my neurochemistry, there is still a mountain of psychological work to be done because of all the years of unhealthy coping mechanisms and self-esteem issues. It is just so much to process. I think my experience with the first psychiatrist led to a ton of self-doubt, so hearing other people's experiences that are similar to my own is very comforting.
I look forward to reading about your experiences - cheers!