ADHD Journey: A Veteran's Story
The testimonial below is a personal and honest account of the life journey of a member of the ADHD community. Due to the sensitive nature of the story you are about to read, the author prefers to remain anonymous. We hope that you find it as inspiring as we do.
ADHD: a beautiful creature; a blessing and a curse; super power and kryptonite all in one.
Having ADHD is amazing when I’m managing the symptoms, maintaining my routine, preparing for the upcoming days’ scheduled events, and practicing my self-care. A beautiful human being I have the privilege to call friend once said to me, “Remember, where there is a defined weakness, there is a defined strength!”. I don’t believe I fully understood the true meaning of what was said to me that day until my diagnosis of ADHD two and a half years ago.
As a child, I grew up in the poverty-stricken areas of Saint John, New Brunswick. My mother was an alcoholic that loved to act out the story of “Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hide”. In other words, she loved us the best she could while sober but was a force to hide from when she drank. Please note that as an adult having gone/going through years of therapy I have learned to forgive my mother, understand that the trauma inflicted was not my fault, and have since spoken to and built a great relationship with her. I provide that context only to demonstrate that as a child I didn’t receive very much supervision. Rules and structure didn’t exist. I found myself getting into trouble much of the time and experienced a rough upbringing. Again, we have a great relationship today. The children love Nan, and all is good.
I ran around as a kid running my mouth without a filter and getting bullied by other kids. In school I couldn’t sit and pay attention in class and often caused disruptions which led to me being disciplined by the teacher. A note would come home stating the facts of said incident, for which I was disciplined a second time. Rinse and repeat. Add in the emotional and physical abuse over the years and I finally decided to move in with my father. Reflecting on my childhood, teen years, and early adult life used to make me angry. I made so many impulsive decisions, hurt a lot people, lost many friends, and I couldn’t seem to see things through from start to finish.
In high school I struggled academically, but I was one of the “cool kids” due to my inability to control my mouth, my temper, and my fists. This is all I knew and what I was made to believe. My fifth grade teacher told me that they passed me so I wouldn’t be in their class again. I was a bad kid… not a kid with bad behaviour. There was no consideration that there might be issues at home, or that I was a kid who suffered bullying or that there might be a learning disability or anything. This was the mold. This is a ‘Bad Kid’.
Enter hyper-focus. Not having a clue about ADHD I was introduced to boxing and I fell in love with the sport and the science. I could fight people and not get into trouble! I learned fast. I was exercising, letting go of stress and anger, and I was a natural at it. Boxing was a lifesaver for me. The only issue was that I lacked discipline. Instead of training everyday, my impulses had other plans.
Fast-forwarding through my life, I joined the Canadian Armed Forces out of high-school. My recruit training was challenging. The challenge wasn’t the yelling and name calling (I was accustomed to that), it wasn’t the cleaning, inspections, weapons handling, or the physical training. The challenge was preparing for and prioritizing these tasks in the small amount of time given. I was often left with some tasks finished, many tasks half finished, and ordered to hold a plank for long periods of time for all the tiny details I had missed.
Despite the challenges, I had a great and rewarding career within the Forces. I responded well to the routine and structure and found my niche immediately as a LAV 3 Turret Operator. I was good. I deployed overseas as a Turret Operator and roughly two months into my tour was injured and returned to Canada. Unable to return to duty with my brothers, I was devastated. Each passing day drove me down deeper and deeper.
Later I was posted with a new Unit, and things were going well at work. I was Promoted to Corporal, completed five out of six Leadership Modules and was training to deploy overseas for a second tour. At this point, however, I had marital issues that came to the forefront and resulted in me being pulled off the tour. I was enraged at the time because I could only think about me, in that moment, and not the bigger picture of what was at stake. I will be forever thankful to the man who made that decision and was completely honest and direct with me about it. Because of him I have my wife and beautiful children with me today.
My rollercoaster ride continued. Up and down, left and right, round and round. I couldn’t understand why. Why was I depressed, feeling shame, feeling guilty, and feeling like I needed to prove myself to be ok with myself?
Fast-forward again and I receive a medical release from the Canadian Forces. I started college and another beautiful human entered my life. This person seemed to know more about me and how my brain worked than I knew about myself. I found great success in academics because for the first time I wasn’t being told to climb a tree that “normal people” could climb. Instead, I was given an ocean to swim in, a forest to run through, and wings to fly with as options that I could choose from. I could choose whatever worked for me.
My professor understood, without knowing anything about me or my peers, that providing options for trial and error would lead me to find my learning style in an unstructured setting and not feel punished for having a different view. I could think and write anything I wanted regarding the course theory so long as I could back it up. I learned more about myself during the two-year course than I would have ever thought possible.
I was doing great in class. I volunteered with a couple of organizations. I was lifting weights. I was doing the things I had been taught to do for self care, but I still couldn’t stop my mind from spinning and ripping myself apart on the inside.
I finally asked the question: could I have ADHD or Bi-Polar Disorder?
Fast-forward once more to the present time. I am a man with ADHD. I am a man with Major Depressive Disorder. I am a man with Adjustment Disorder. I am a man that struggles with Anxiety. I am a man that has memory and information processing delays. I am a man that feels inadequate at times. I am a man that struggles with self-expression. I am a man that struggles to start a simple task. I am a man that feels like a child at times.
I am also a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, and a friend. I graduated high school in five and a half years and college with honours, something I didn’t think was possible. I was a Provincial boxing champion. A football team Captain. I have volunteered with at-risk youth and received an award from the province. I am a volunteer in the community. I have a beautiful family. I am loved and supported.
I am a Veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. I have served my country on deployment overseas. I have served my country domestically. I have served along side some of the best people I know, some of whom are not here today. I miss them very much. They may be gone but never will be forgotten. R.I.P Brothers.
Most importantly, I am ME.
In conclusion, ADHD presents itself in many different ways amongst men and women. I have so much to learn about my ADHD and every day presents something new. It’s not always easy, but I have been able to achieve a great deal when the right seed gets planted. I utilize coping strategies, reach out to supports when needed (Thank you ADHD PEI!), and love what I’m doing. My ADHD diagnosis was the missing link that answered many “whys” about my life.
Today, I like me. I’m learning to love me.
If you laughed, smiled, cried, reflected, remembered, got angry or confused while reading this then I happily welcome you, as I experienced all of those things while writing it. Thank you for reading my story and joining me on the rollercoaster.