Alex’s ADHD

My name is Alex Conner, I am the co-founder of Focus on Adult ADHD and @ADHDAdultUK. I have ADHD and really want everyone to have access to the information and support that I’ve had (luck and privilege in equal measure). I have a day job as a scientist interested in brain swelling after illness and injury.

My day to day life is ADHD heavy. I have lots of responsibilities (mostly family ones that I chose) and lots of tasks. I have numerous children and animals wandering about, hoping my working memory will kick in somewhere near the food. My own work starts once I’ve got everyone off to their various places, I have a portfolio career teaching medicine (only the easy bits) and running a research team (with a partner who does most of the work). I have a lot of different things to do throughout every day, which means lots of short-term wins are possible. I’m not able to deal with long-term goals unless they are split up so this approach suits me perfectly. Everything I need to do has to have a short-term emotional reward or it is unlikely to get done.

Before my diagnosis, I was externally successful and not completely unhappy, but I knew I wasn’t internally successful and felt like I ‘wasn’t a proper grown-up’. I still feel like that but now I know why, it’s a lot easier to handle. I drank too much. I was clearly self-medicating without quite understanding what was wrong. I couldn’t do ‘normal people stuff’ like a 9-5 job, sitting in an audience or really basic admin. I could stand in front of an audience of 300 people but couldn’t send my gas metre readings even though I knew I should (and actually want to). It was infuriating. I also reacted way too emotionally to small things and not very emotionally to emergencies. I spent a lot of my life avoiding criticism because that stings so much.

I was very lucky when it came to diagnosis. I was diagnosed on the NHS quite a few years ago. It took weeks, not months and I was put on to a medical treatment that works well for some aspects of my ADHD. I’ve never had a follow-up meeting though, despite requesting one more than once through my GP. We’ve defunded and deprioritised that now as a country and it makes me very frustrated.

I ended up stopping taking the meds for a long time because I didn’t want to feel like there was something wrong with me. I’d listened to a lot of people saying ADHD was some sort of superpower and I didn’t feel like that. That was awful and I thought I should be able to be happy without treatment. This led to quite a lot of destructive behaviour until I accepted the disorder element of ADHD. I’m now medicated and much more peaceful. I still have ADHD and always will. My view is that ADHD is a disorder. Treated ADHD can lead to a neurodivergence that can have positive elements. I’ve still yet to find evidence for ADHD as a superpower; rather the learnt coping strategies can also be useful in daily life. That’s not the same thing.

Now diagnosed and treated, I have the life of an adult with ADHD. My working memory is still terrible. I still have inappropriate emotional reactions to things and I still do tasks based on short-term emotional reward rather than objective importance. But I accept these things. I build and communicate them into my home and work plans. I make sure that my goals align with my employer’s values but the specifics are on my terms. Life is good. We started the Focus on adult ADHD magazine because psychoeducation helped me so much but a lot of the information (like ADHD is a superpower) just didn’t have any evidence behind it. We wanted a place for that so we built it. I’m proud of it.