Space L Clottey

Should I link in having undiagnosed ADHD the whole time?

I have ADHD.

It’s rather nice being able to say that, after two and a half years of not knowing what on earth was wrong with me.

Suddenly, after a fourteen year streak of being really productive and pounding away six hour projects each weekend, I found the idea of work becoming less and less appealing.

I could feel fun slipping away from things, and work becoming harder and harder. I was tired all the time and started to like talking to people way less.

This led to multiple “nothing weeks”. Periods where absolutely nothing was appealing and fun, and the only course to my life feeling like it was remotely worth anything was playing video games and watching video essays on youtube all day.

But I spent most of any time I had thinking, trying to solve the problem once and for all. I reread “Why We Sleep”, read “The Power of When”, and every other book I could get my hands on that would provide insight to what could have been happening to me.

I tried hundreds of pieces of advice, did dozens of experiments.

Unsatisfied with the state of existing apps to track my sleep, I created and programmed my own one-tap sleep tracking app (Sleeptap.vercel.app), and created a blog to journal every intervention I tried for over a year, with over 100 unique entries.

After dozens of blood tests and tears spent on convincing my mum to come to the hospital with me, the first doctor told me I had “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”, a name that I soon found out was a generic term for when they don’t know what’s wrong with you.

However I kept trying, doing my own research. Sleep apnea repeatedly came up as a possible cause, but after spending months organising my own test for that, that too returned negative.

After a year of trying everything I could, I eventually applied for funding to test if it was due to the simulation at my house, and received £1.6k to sleep in a secluded airbnb over the christmas break. My sleep went round in circles, however I did not experience any change in energy. I thanked my funders and continued on my journey of trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

Eventually the idea of getting tested for ADHD came up. I started to research ADHD — no one was going to do it for me — and I realised how much I related to the symptoms. I applied all over the place for sources of funding to get tested, as the government given option would take eight whole months just to get off the waitlist. Eventually I got some, and was tested only to find out…

Well, no need to rehash the first line of this essay. One month ago I started ADHD medication, and have never felt better.

Exploring my “chronic fatigue” taught me a lesson in self reliance. Many people have structures that will do the search for them, will schedule doctors appointments on their behalf. Many people are lucky enough to receive doctors that will tell them what’s really wrong with them and give them a means to getting better on the first time round.

I wasn’t lucky enough for this.

Two years of my life and happiness is a price that I would not pay lightly. But for a lesson in getting stronger, more capable, and better navigating beaurocracy and doctors and medical research?

I might just be willing to pay it again.

I should do like a long list of the things I tried.

Outline

I have ADHD.

It’s rather nice being able to say that, after two and a half years of not knowing what on earth was wrong with me.

Suddenly, after a fourteen year streak of being really productive, and pounding away six hour projects each weekend, I found the idea of work terrifyingly unappealing.

I could feel fun slipping away from things, and work becoming harder and harder. I was tired all the time, and could feel the enjoyment of conversation draining away.

This led to multiple “nothing weeks”. Periods where absolutely nothing was appealing and fun, and the only things that made me happy were Minecraft and watching video essays on YouTube.

But I spent most of any time I had thinking, trying to solve the problem once and for all. I read Why We Sleep, The Power of When, and every other book I could get my hands on that would provide insight to what could have been happening to me.

After dozens of blood tests and tears spent on convincing my mum to come to the hospital with me, the first doctor told me I had “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”. I was ecstatic to have a diagnosis — finally a means to get better! But that elation disappeared when I learned that CFS was a generic name for when a doctor didn’t know what was wrong with you.

So I kept searching for the answer, doing my own research.

And I tried everything I could. I dimmed my room to red light for four hours each night, fasted for three hours before bed, tried sleep-restriction therapy, supplemented vitamin D, tried a ketogenic diet, meditated for an hour every day, used a weighted blanket, used a red bicycle light attached to my sleep mask as a headlight while reading, wrote a computer script to ask me for my alertness every hour and collected six months of data, tried meal replacements—

Unsatisfied with the state of existing apps to track my sleep, I created and programmed my own one-tap sleep tracking app (sleeptap.vercel.app), and created a blog to journal every intervention I tried for over a year, with 100+ unique entries (alienmechanic.wordpress.com).

Eventually the idea of getting tested for ADHD came up. I started to research ADHD — no one was going to do it for me — and I realised how much I related to the symptoms. I applied all over the place for sources of funding to get tested, as the government given option would take eight whole months just to get off the waitlist. Eventually I got some, and was tested only to find out…

Well, no need to rehash the first line of this essay. One month ago I started ADHD medication, and have never felt better.

Exploring my “chronic fatigue” taught me a lesson in self-reliance. Many people have structures that will do the search for them, will schedule doctors appointments on their behalf. Many people are lucky enough to receive doctors that will tell them what’s really wrong with them, and give them means to get better the first time round.

I wasn’t lucky enough for this.

Two years of my life and happiness is a price that I would not pay lightly. I’m never going to get the chance to resit my suboptimal GCSEs. But for a lesson in getting stronger, more capable, and more independent?

I might just be willing to pay it all again.


other random awards

eg. price albert scholarship, what wellington is eg.