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17 September 2014
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Charlotte Fisher and her family
Living with adult ADHD

Mood swings, forgetfulness, endless energy... Charlotte Fisher on living with adult ADHD.

Horizon: Living with ADHD: Programme summary

The next time you're in the supermarket and you find yourself staring at the mother with the screaming child who's throwing itself on the floor spitting and swearing, stop and think before you make a judgement. Are they really the bad parent that you are imagining? Could you do any better yourself? Remember, things in life are rarely what they seem.

ADHD is a real condition. It's not a fad or an excuse for bad parenting, it's a medical fact. All over the country families and adults alike are struggling to be understood. People with ADHD face difficulties because of their condition every day - but we don't want sympathy, we want empathy and positive regard. Accept us for what we are. Put yourself in our shoes for one day, and maybe you will change your view. (Find out more about the prevalance, diagnosis and treatment of adult ADHD.)

People often ask me what is it like to live with ADHD. I always reply honestly, that there are good points and there are not so good points. On the positive side, I love having the endless energy and the get up and go to do the things in life that I enjoy. I've got a never-say-die attitude and I think that I am fun to be around. People often tell me I'm the life and soul of the party and you always know when I've left the room!

On the other hand I can't remember the simple things in life, like people's names, or where I've left my keys, or why I've gone upstairs. It can be incredibly frustrating and the children get very annoyed with me because I'm always forgetting to sign their forms for school. But they are just as bad as me and it can be hard living in a house where nobody has a reliable memory.

I still have a problem with my moods which can, at times, still explode to the surface. Sometimes when I am standing and waiting to be served in a check-out queue I can literally feel the anger welling up inside me, like a volcano. I'm thinking, 'Why are others so slow?' They irritate me so much that I blow up and start shouting at people. Five seconds later it's blown over for me and I'm absolutely fine. I just can't understand why no one else around me wants to talk to me - what more can I say?

Before diagnosis
I sometimes find it hard now to look back to the time before my diagnosis. My life has changed so much now that I find it hard to believe I was once a wreck, a shell of a person. The memories are painful, but I have moved on. I believe that ADHD can be a blessing when recognised and treated correctly.

Before my diagnosis my life consisted of daily drug taking. The only way I can explain it is that I knew from a very early age I was different. I didn't know why, I just knew that I was. I felt like I had a void inside me, and one day I discovered drugs - and that void was filled. The numbing effect of the illicit substances was the only thing that helped to relieve my whirring mind that never switched off, and restless body that never kept still.

The next 17 years were predictable, almost textbook. I was lost in a fog and scrabbling around for answers that I could never find. It was a tortured existence. I didn't feel that I could socialise with people, and so I had few friends. I felt like I was on the outside looking in, that I didn't belong in society and that nobody understood me.

So how has medication changed my life? I've never had unrealistic expectations - ADHD is and always will be part of me. Methylphenidate is not a miracle cure, but it enables me to have a life for the first time in 32 years. I can focus and concentrate on tasks, my thoughts are more controlled and less erratic and I'm less impulsive. Because of this I actually have friends now, and can socialise with people instead of standing in the corner worrying. I can handle group situations and I like myself too. I really didn't like myself as a person before.

One of the most dramatic changes is that now I'm drug free. Before my diagnosis I could not have imagined a life without drugs, and this depressed me terribly. When I started taking methylphenidate I stopped abusing illegal substances immediately - and I'm not joking. I haven't touched anything since diagnosis, and have even had the will power to stop smoking cigarettes.

Looking ahead
After so many years of not knowing what to do, I finally have some direction in my life. I have started a counselling course at my local college and recently passed my first exam - the sort of success I was never able to achieve at school. In the future I hope to work as an addiction counsellor or as a life coach for people with ADHD.

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 Elsewhere on

Health: Hot Topic: Living with ADHD
Are you or is someone in your family living with ADHD? Tell us about your experiences.

Health: ADHD and Hyperactivity
Some medical conditions get bad publicity... ADHD is one of them.

Health: Ask the Doctor: Oppositional Defiant Disorder
"My son has had behavioural problems since he could breathe."

Horizon: The Genetic Investigation of ADHD
Dr Philip Asherson on why gathering DNA from those with ADHD will help scientists understand the condition.

Horizon: ADHD in Adults
Questions and answers about the prevalance, diagnosis, treatment of adult ADHD.

 Elsewhere on the web

ADHD support group.

The National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service.

Institute of Psychiatry ADHD Genetic Group
Identifying the genes involved in ADHD and related behavioural traits.

Royal College of Psychiatrists: ADHD information
Factsheet for parents, teachers and young people.

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