Updated: Jun 20, 2021
“A boy was born. That hyperactive ball of energy did not sleep for the first 9 days of his life,” tells my mother with a tiresome yet loving smile on her face. That, I would say, was a rock solid hint as to what was to come in time.
I remember school being a dreary daily battle; running from one conflict to the next, never really understanding why things around me went so wrong. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere, nobody understood me or even wanted to understand me. Every move I made seemed to create problems. Not completing my work on time, not being able to focus in class, being different from the kids - all labeled me as the mischievous boy in need of some disciplining. If so many people had an issue with me, maybe I was to blame?
By the age of 10, this sense of constant conflict finally took its toll on me. The little boy - once full of curiosity, joy, and always a chatty ball of energy - was now a fearful and silent recluse. My mother took note of this change and naturally began worrying for my well being. She did what she deemed as the right thing to do, and changed my school hoping I might find more compassion and understanding from teachers there. And that is what ended up happening - I was surrounded by kindness and empathy, and suddenly my every move was not followed with anger and disapproval. With that my confidence and self-esteem sky-rocketed: all the built up shame and guilt from my past washed away as time went on. I felt joy everyday and most of all, I finally felt normal.
Despite this new found sense of normality, I was oblivious to the term ADHD. I didn’t know what it was and back then, I didn’t care. The idea that something was biologically different about me didn’t cross my mind for one second. And clearly it didn’t for my teachers either. But as fate would have it, when I was about 13 or 14, my uncle - who is an ophthalmologist in the UK - sent my mother a pamphlet which detailed what ADHD was and what its symptoms might look like. That is how I first came to know of the term ADHD and to say I was in for a life-changing revelation, would be an understatement. I found myself relating to every sentence I was reading. I never realized that my hyperactivity, inability to control my emotions and anger issues were all direct results of my ADHD. And maybe, I wasn’t crazy or stupid afterall - just different.
My curiosity drove me to investigate everything there was to know about ADHD. As I kept on reading, I found myself over taken by a myriad of feelings. Disappointed that nobody had pieced this together earlier and provided me the specialised support I needed. Disbelief, at how a lack of ‘basic’ understanding of ADHD had held my life hostage for so long. Regret, over innumerable past conflicts that need not have happened. Relieved, because my life made sense suddenly: all this new knowledge was proof that every conflict that had brought me misery was never intentional on my part.
Equipped with an explanation for my struggles, I embarked on my next challenge: using this to find the right kind of tools and support for myself. To my dismay, but not surprise, I was unable to find someone in Pakistan who openly spoke about ADHD - much less provide resources for it. Consequently, I had to take this task on myself. Day in and day out, I spent my time trying to reach out to as many ADHD specialists across the world as I could. Inadvertently, this helped me become capable of talking openly and publicly about my struggles, bringing me one step closer to overcoming them.
I was living my life as a carefree teen, oblivious to how this neurobiological condition was affecting every aspect of my life - oblivious to the fact that I wasn’t a mischievous boy who just wanted to make trouble, oblivious to the fact that all the conflicts that I experienced in my life were not because of me, but because of other people’s inability to accommodate difference. But this speaks to the current state of how things are for children that are different. Unfortunately for me and multitudes of other kids my age, corporal punishment and indifference is the social norm in Pakistani schools and community.
But this shouldn’t be the case. We should all have the opportunity to know who our true self is, and to learn to focus on our strengths and gifts rather than our weaknesses. This is why I decided to go down the path of becoming an ADHD Behavioral Consultant, enabling other kids and adults with ADHD feel more confident, more courageous and less alone on the crazy journey that is ADHD. I want to empower people, like me, who have been struggling for so many years. Whether it be in daily life, social situations, career choices, etc. I want you to know that it doesn’t always have to be this way. You are not alone. I know what you have been going through, and there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you.