When I was born, my mother named me Samuel David. My father however, called me Dennis, because it was “the only name worse than Sam.” A good joke to some, but not exactly an empowering start to life.
As the family came to get a feel for my personality, I was quickly given the nickname “Dennis the Menace”, due to my happy knack of always following my impulses well outside the rules.
As I grew up and meandered through early to middle school, I was adorned with medals and high marks wherever I went, despite spending more time in the teachers’ bad books than in the school curriculum.
This high performance was almost in line with the standardised testing of the day, which unfortunately revealed extremely high intelligence. How can being intelligent be unfortunate? Well, as my Dad always says, “gifts are curses”.
It is estimated a child born with ADHD receives 20,000 more negative messages than they do positive ones by the age of 10. A heartbreaking statistic given sufferers have an extreme sensitivity to disapproval. So should a person make it to 35 alive, without diagnosis and treatment, they are likely to have felt publicly whipped and emotionally beaten on a regular basis.
Everyday of my life I’ve had to play Russian roulette with my feelings; counting the clicks of frustration until I inevitably get a bullet of emotion so big and unstoppable it puts an end to any other thought and feeling I’ve ever had in this world. It’s an impossible way to live and by 15, I began to unravel.
I came to fear triggers more and more. Overmatched by the fact that a good day might mean four poorly concealed outbursts, and a bad day meant many crippling emotional explosions. This uncontrollable frustration made me feel so forlorn, I began to long for a trigger I could pull on my own terms.
That was until I was diagnosed and medicated recently. Properly. For the condition that I’ve been battling on my own since I was born. ADHD.
After the thousands of pills I have taken for my mental health, I’m shocked that there could ever be a pill that would make me feel so much better. So calm. So in control. So aware of my strengths and weaknesses. A pill that could turn a curse, into a gift.
Now, instead of hearing clicks of the trigger in challenging situations, I hear a compassionate voice of reason telling me everything is going to be okay. It’s a voice I’ve used often, but very rarely for myself.
I feel like I’m learning to walk again, but that it’s not so hard while I’m comfortable in my own shoes; safe in the knowledge that my neurodivergence is now propelling me forward rather than holding me back.
For the first time ever, I feel like I’m not just fighting to survive, but like I’m fighting to win. And my feelings are fucking enormous. So I must have half a chance. And if working towards a win feels like learning to walk, achieving victory must feel like soaring above the heavens. I’m hoping I can reach those heights now. And smile on top of the world.
If you or anyone you know needs help contact Beyond Blue (1300 22 46 36), Lifeline (13 11 14) or speak to your GP. Always use 000 in an emergency.
"My heart was so big" art by @bekindbella