I watch The Simpsons. A lot.
It’s like a comfort blanket, coddling me when I feel down or so restless I don’t know what to do. I fell in love with the show as a kid and, like so many others, was obviously drawn towards Bart.
He was a cultural phenomenon, an idol for an apathetic youth who would grow up to deal with The War on Terror and two significant recessions before they were 30.
But I’ve always identified with the specifics of his character, too.
He struggles to focus in school; he’s reckless and acts without thinking, and he’s been broken by the barrage of negative comments.
Growing up, I forgot my homework. I couldn’t focus in lessons. I was always getting sent out or given detentions, and I couldn’t follow simple tasks. Every report card said, ‘Graham has lots of potential but must try harder’.
I messed up my AS Levels so severely I was kicked out of the sixth form. My attitude was to do the absolute minimum but then was shocked when I did poorly.
At university, I rarely turned up to lectures. I left every assignment, essay and piece of revision to the last minute. While others were stressing about dissertations for weeks, I’d whack out a 5,000-word piece the night before and still get a good grade.
Again, my lecturers would tell me I could do better if I tried, but I’d realised quite some time in that I could comfortably get a 2:1 without really putting that much effort in.
Other than maths, I never found school or uni remotely challenging. The only challenge I faced was trying to focus long enough to get the work done.
This carried through into my career. Constant mistakes, failing to meet deadlines and a complete inability to focus. It cost me my dream job as a local newspaper reporter – something that I’d been working towards since I was 16. Every job I’ve had has started with me enthralling my employers before falling off after a few months.
If Bart ever grew up, I’m sure his life would look a lot like mine.
It was only in January 2019 when I figured out why our characters are so similar: we both share a diagnosis of ADHD.
I’d just been sacked, again. I was told I couldn’t be trusted, that I was extremely lazy, and simply wasn’t cut out for working in marketing. Truth be told, I hated the job, but I was still upset; I had let my fiancé down once more.
I got home armed with a bag full of junk food to binge while I watched The Simpsons to cheer me up. I picked Season 11’s Brother’s Little Helper; I didn’t deserve to watch a great episode.
Still, I’d seen it dozens of times before. In the episode, Bart’s unruly behaviour leads Principal Skinner to call him a ‘classic case of Attention Deficit Disorder’ and suggests he takes Focusyn, a parody of Ritalin.
The episode portrays ADHD and its treatments in a ludicrous and over the top fashion. Despite ‘sitting up and flying right’, Bart becomes a twisted, paranoid mess, covering himself in tinfoil and spouting conspiracy theory about Major League Baseball spying on people.
This episode had given me a misconception of ADHD and its treatment when first watching it aged 10. Like so many others, I still believed it was just something unruly boys have; an overdiagnosed, lame excuse for poor behaviour.
For this reason, I never even considered it could be something I had.
I typically like to read about the episodes I’ve watched to find any trivia to impress my mates with. However, this time I fell down a rabbit hole of ironically hyper-focusing on finding out more about the condition.
I had to know if ADHD was really like I imagined, and whether medication makes a person a tinfoil-wearing paranoid mess?
As I read more and more about the symptoms, how they manifest and how they impact you, it finally started to make sense.
I have ADHD.
For years I’d been telling my GP that I was struggling to focus, but neither they nor I ever considered this.
I’d looked for answers throughout my life and was told I had depression and anxiety. In 2012 when I was 21, I started antidepressants and therapy after the sudden passing of my sister – who’d had a heart attack after finding out her disability benefits were being stopped.
If I acknowledged the loss of someone so close to me at the hand of Tory cuts, it would break me. Instead, I bottled it up and took things out on my family, friends and girlfriend. I gambled, I drank too much, and when I went for help, I mentioned my issues focusing, and they put it down to the trauma of losing my sister.
I stayed on antidepressants until I was 28. I had four courses of CBT and a course of counselling. I started meditating, I went to the gym, and I even stopped drinking for a bit. Sure, I felt a bit better, but there was still something not quite right. No medication or therapy worked; the mistakes and lack of focus were still persistent.
It took a middle of the road Simpsons episode to be the catalyst to finally make things click and get me on a journey to find answers
Looking at my friends and former school mates getting on while I was moving on to my sixth job in five years felt brutal. I was closing in on 30, but I had no real direction in life. My career was just like my time at school: I felt unchallenged, and yet I still struggled to complete things on time.
Day to day tasks felt like an uphill battle, let alone trying to work. Pots piled up. I’d forget to wash clothes; even remembering to brush my teeth was a nightmare.
By far, the worst part was my terrible relationship with money. At one point, I’d accumulated over £9,000 of debt, spurred on by a gambling addiction built on what I now know was a hunt for dopamine and inability to think about the future.
Something had to change.
I finally plucked up the courage to go to my GP and start what would be a 19-month slog to get a formal diagnosis.
At the first stage, I ended up speaking to someone who didn’t specialise in ADHD and told me I was ‘too bright’ to have ADHD and that I was just depressed, so I should try CBT.
Typically, I would’ve given up there and accepted my fate, but I was so driven by the fact that I knew I was right, I refused to take no for an answer.
I then managed to speak to someone who knew more about the condition, who thankfully added me to the waiting list to be contacted by my local ADHD team.
After a year and five months with little progress, I decided I was going to keep calling the service every week to ask for help – with the lockdown, my ability to focus had gone completely out the window.
I lucked out – for once in my life – and the first person to answer was the person that would end up diagnosing me. She was only answering calls because the receptionist was shielding. After going through my history and experiences with her, she told me there was a very good chance I did have ADHD.
By June 2020, I’d been diagnosed with severe combined ADHD. Finally, after 29 years of never feeling quite right, I had an answer.
I kept asking, ‘How the hell had nobody noticed?’ Not my parents, not one teacher did, despite them consistently telling me I’m not living up to my potential. Not my friends, nor my doctors noticed. Most importantly, I didn’t.
It took a middle of the road Simpsons episode to be the catalyst to finally make things click and get me on a journey to find answers.
More than two years on, and I’m still so thankful that I got fired that day. If I hadn’t, I think there’s a very good chance I wouldn’t be here.
I’m now closing in on having been diagnosed almost a year. I’ve entirely wiped my debts to the point where I actually have savings. I finally have direction in my life.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
Share your views in the comments below.
MORE: Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult saved my life
MORE: If my son’s ADHD had been diagnosed sooner he might still be alive
MORE: The Simpsons star Hank Azaria ‘feels like he needs to apologise to every Indian person in America’ for Apu portrayal
Source: Read Full Article