Guest article: My life with ASD and ADHD

October is ADHD awareness month. I don’t have ADHD myself, but I know plenty of people who both have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and ADHD. Therefore, I thought it would be nice to have a guest article about the life with both conditions.

This article is written by Ellen. She got an ADHD diagnosis at the age of nine and an Aspergers diagnosis at the age of 32.

A little bit about ADHD
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neuropsychiatric disorder, that makes you struggle with things in the areas of attention, impulse control and activity level. There are three types of ADHD
• ADHD where you mainly have problems with attention. That’s also called ADD.
• ADHD where you mainly have problems with hyperactivity and impulsivity.
• ADHD as a combined type, where you have problems within all three areas.
I have the combined type. My issues within the three areas are varying, but hyperactivity is most predominant. It’s a constant inner restlessness and my brain keeps running all the time.

Having both diagnoses
I often describe my ASD and ADHD diagnoses as “the wild and the quiet twin”. The wild twin (ADHD) always wants everything at the same time, gets bored easily and therefore plans way too many appointments. The quiet twin (ASD) feels best, when everything is the same. It’s fine with staying inside and watching series or playing video games the whole day.

Because of my Aspergers I am very sensitive to stress (that’s also a symptom of ADHD). Therefore, I can’t handle having too many appointments. It takes me long time to recover. Depending on what I have done, it can take up to a whole week.

As I mentioned before, my ADHD wants everything right away. That’s why I made up an “every second weekend rule”. This means that I only can have appointments every second weekend. If possible, there should also only be one appointment that weekend and Sunday should be free, so that I can recharge my energy for the next week.

The problem with having appointments each weekend is not only that I get stressed, but then I also don’t have the energy for everyday tasks. I need my free weekends to relax, but also because I do laundry and often prepare a big meal. During weekdays I rarely have energy for those things, especially if I want to socialize.

The differences between the diagnoses
Because I have two diagnoses it’s hard for me to differentiate which issue is caused by ADHD and which by Aspergers. I also don’t think it’s that important because, no matter what it’s caused by, even if it is both diagnoses, it still affects my life.

I have read and heard that these are both ASD and ADHD symptoms: sensory issues, visual thinking and extreme focus. Probably there are even more, but it’s hard for me to find out, because I have both diagnoses.

The best and the worst about having ASD and ADHD
I don’t know if there’s anything good about having both ASD and ADHD together. I mostly feel like they collide. I rather think that there are positive aspects about ADHD and ASD separately.
The best thing about having ADHD is probably that I can get an idea and bring it to life quite fast. However, this impulsivity is also one of the worst things, because it makes me say yes to too many things. In addition, my difficulties concentrating and my hyperactivity are also some of the worst things about ADHD.

The best thing about autism is, that I can immerge so much into a topic that I can work on it for hours. (That’s just not so smart, when I forget to eat) I also like my ability to see details others can’t see. That’s a huge advantage when I take pictures or edit videos.

The hardest thing about having ASD are my sensory issues and that 80% of the time I feel like people are talking in half sentences and I have to guess the rest.

I mentioned that I feel like my diagnoses collide. That happens for example when I’m downtown. I often notice that I’m about to be exhausted, but I have a hard time stopping and going home, because my brain keeps running and I get new ideas about what to look at all the time. It’s hard for me to push those ideas aside, because I want to look at everything right away.

My strategies
My best strategy for my everyday life is to structure my day, so that I can keep my ADHD down.
As I mentioned before, I often say yes to too many things, which is bad because I easily get stressed. That’s why I made up the “every second weekend rule”.

Advice for others
My advice would be to get a lot of info about your diagnoses. Find out what the good and the bad sides are, so that you can start to find out what’s helping you. It can be difficult to find out about all those things on your own, so I recommend meeting like-minded people e.g. through Facebook.
My other advice would be to take your sensory issues seriously. Don’t just think: “I have to learn to tolerate loud noises or at least fight more.” For me, that’s wasting my energy. I could use that energy better for other stuff. So, use everything that helps you: headphones, sunglasses etc.

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