A mum diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at the age of 37 has said the ‘mindblowing’ yet ‘reassuring’ discovery has helped her make more sense of herself.
She now realises why she sometimes found it difficult to give her son the ‘attention he needed’ when playing together.
Amy Polly, 38, who lives with her son, Jackson, four, in Stamford, Lincolnshire, also had postnatal anxiety and thought that was why she was having ‘chaotic’ thoughts and a ‘noisy’ mind.
Amy finds juggling her ADHD symptoms while being a mother difficult, as mundane and repetitive tasks are hard for her to do, such as playing the same games over and over with her son, which can make her feel like she is not always giving him the attention he deserves.
Amy thinks the growing awareness about ADHD, especially in women, on social media is extremely positive.
‘Having ADHD at an older age was a huge learning curve and a complete shock – I always thought everyone had a constantly noisy brain and found boring activities almost impossible,’ Amy said.
‘It’s strange to be told you’ve got something you’ve had and didn’t know for 37 years.
‘So it was mind-blowing and very surprising, but reassuring at the same time.’
After giving birth to her son Jackson in October 2018, Amy felt she had little control over her emotions and was diagnosed with postnatal anxiety.
She said: ‘My thoughts were so chaotic, my mind would not rest.
‘It was so noisy in my head – it used to confuse me so much when my partner could just sit there and watch television without worrying or thinking about a million other things.
‘I had no idea what I was going through could be ADHD.’
She hadn’t even considered it could be at the root of why she was struggling, but after her GP mentioned it she began researching – and what she found resonated.
Amy’s doctor put her forward for an ADHD screening test, but with a six-month waiting list on the NHS, she decided to go private, and in September 2021, at age 37, she was diagnosed with the disorder.
‘It was just lightbulb moment after lightbulb moment,’ she said.
The mum also started seeing some ‘positive changes’ in her life, explaining: ‘After my diagnosis, my boss asked me if I wanted to leave my job, which I did.
‘Having my ADHD diagnosis gave me permission to stop being so hard on myself.’
One of the biggest difficulties for Amy has been managing her ADHD symptoms while being a mother.
She said: ‘I think when you’ve got a child, it’s things like impulsivity you have to control.
‘You can’t do things so much on impulse, and you have to have the focus and the ability to be able to do things that are not interest-driven, because you just have to keep a child alive and happy, regardless of it not always being exciting.
‘With ADHD, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and I got to the point where, despite being a mindfulness teacher, I felt like I couldn’t manage my thoughts.
‘It was hard too because it’s all internal.’
Since discovering ‘ADHD masking’, when people subconsciously hide their ADHD symptoms, Amy realised in social situations she would concentrate so much on appearing a particular way rather than being present.
She said: ‘I would always be the one in the room that was making everybody else laugh to avoid what was going on around me.
‘All my attention and focus was going on making everybody else laugh – that was masking for me – just pushing through things that were uncomfortable through humour.
‘At work, I always used to procrastinate and end up doing important tasks at the very last minute in the evenings at home – my boss had no idea, I’d just hide it.’
Looking to the future, Amy hopes that now there is more awareness on social media and more people are advocating and educating about ADHD, fewer people will be diagnosed later in life.
She said: ‘Perhaps if there was more awareness like there is now, I would have been diagnosed earlier in life.’
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