Well it’s official, you have ADHD now. I hate to be the one to break it to you – I imagine you’d prefer to hear it from a doctor or a psychologist, or even just someone who isn’t banned from entering hospitals because they keep drinking all the saline packets like they’re juice boxes (I’ll remind you I’m a taxpayer).
But with the way things were going – the ever-increasing explosion in adult ADHD diagnoses, the reassessment of who’s been chronically overlooked (read: women), the course-correcting of the course-correcting – you must have known this was coming. By now most of your friends have all been diagnosed, it was just a matter of time that you got the green light too. I’m just saving you the trouble of finding an expensive specialist who, suspiciously, had to do even more school than a regular doctor, despite allegedly being smart. Doesn’t add up.
Welcome to the new stage of your life, where everyone seems to have the same neurological condition, or is at least somewhere on the same spectrum – grinding our skateboards endlessly along different points of the same vast handrail, like one of those freakishly high-scoring rounds of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater which the least-supervised kid in your primary school friendship circle could pull off without blinking (a significant time in ADHD culture, now that I think of it).
I, of course, have it, having been diagnosed mid-pandemic. Like so many others, I spent far too much time with myself not to come out thinking something must be going on up there. I knew I needed an answer, even if I had no idea what the question actually was. Plus, this way I get drugs!
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Many of my friends are at this or that stage of the consultation process. Meanwhile, a growing cohort of ultra-online zillennial Twitter warriors are claiming ADHD removes all object permanence for some reason. They can be ignored for the most part (they’ll cease existing as soon as they leave the room anyway).
This is not to diminish the significance of anyone’s diagnosis. Many people have had their lives improve dramatically, almost overnight, and I’m one of them. That’s to say nothing of the relief of gently reframing many of my more knuckleheaded moments: forgetting to go to uni graduation (2008), arriving for international flight with tickets bought for following year (2015), fridge bacteria reaching HR Giger levels of alien civilisation (ongoing).
But it’s also hard to deny the stunning ease with which an ADHD diagnosis has become commonplace, like when a new character is quietly introduced at the beginning of a show’s second season and we sort of have to just accept they’ve been there the whole time.
Have they? Has this really always been with us? In early human societies were there those who constantly had a dozen unfinished hunter-gatherer projects on the go? Is this why it took humanity so long to develop the Game Boy? Could Julius Caesar have enjoyed Pokémon, had things been different?
The threshold for diagnosis seems to be an open question too. Have you ever missed a bus? Have you ever been eating a strand of spaghetti only to find your lover was unwittingly eating the other end in a romantic tableau? Were your ancestors seafaring nomads or was it more of a static agrarian situation? My diagnosis amounted to two extremely quick chats with a doctor and a psych. Contrast this with one friend whose psychologist put them through four rigorous stages of assessment before they would sign off on it, and another who had to forward a questionnaire to her friends and family so they could contribute their thoughts. You have to go through less to get a job at Asio, and they give some of those guys sniper rifles.
Despite this, it seems set to become the defining condition of our age – certainly of the younger generations, and probably the older ones too at this rate. Gen X already lived through the 80s depression boom and baby boomers had whatever you get from having your sports carnivals sponsored by an asbestos company. (Any generations before that had less believable conditions like “battle fatigue” and “plague”.)
Meanwhile, try not to get tied in a knot wondering how much the modern environment, which is drastically more difficult to navigate with the symptoms of ADHD, may be directly influencing those symptoms. Personally I think it’s unrelated that the 21st century’s dominant modes of labour and education and entertainment are, even at a glance, disastrous to the human body and mind. Sitting all day is turning our central nervous systems into string cheese? Blue light is Nutribulleting our brains? None of my business!
So, with all that out of the way, congratulations on your diagnosis! Try to take things slow (which can be difficult with the … you get it) as you work your way through what will be the medical trait of the 2020s – at least until the permafrost melts and releases some of that ultra bacteria they keep talking about and everyone develops a prehensile tongue or the ability to see inside their own face. Whatever it is, I just hope they treat it with the same stuff they’re giving me now.
Jack Vening is a writer living in Melbourne. He is completing his first book of stories, and sends out Small Town Grievances, a community newsletter about a nameless town with an owl problem, every few months