'I didn't know until I was in my 40s'

John Byrne talks about his attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis.

I grew up when things like ADHD and dyslexia hadn’t been ‘invented’ so didn’t find out until I was in my early forties.

My 6 year-old son was tested. Teachers thought he had signs of ADHD but when the child psychologist described the symptoms I realised it was me she was describing and any traits my son had were just behaviours of mine he was copying.

I was shocked but when I did some reading it rang lots of bells. There were crazy things I had done and bad decisions which, although they can’t be blamed entirely on ADHD, weren’t helped by the ADHD tendency to act without any planning and take on too much.

ADHD adults, while often creative and quirky, tend to be extremely forgetful and disorganised. All of us are like this sometimes. The key word is ‘extreme’. You can be easily distracted or at another time so focused on one thing that you forget eating, sleeping and other people (relationships often break up over this). Sometimes we self-medicate with drugs, alcohol or high-risk behaviour.

Because I work in drawing and the arts, some of my ADHD behaviour - ‘sideways’ thinking, creativity, moving from one topic to another - fitted in well. But the chaos in my finances, relationships and other areas that needed focus and clear thinking were another story.

The ADHD drug Ritalin helped me to begin to develop daily routines and organisation techniques. After about 5 years (and marriage to a very supportive and organised wife), I was able to stop the medication and manage myself with the routines and habits I had learned. It is not perfect, of course. I need to watch I don’t get too stressed or disorganisation quickly takes over again.

  • John Byrne has been a cartoonist for over 25 years with clients ranging from Private Eye and The Guardian to Unicef and Arthritis Care. Currently a tutor at The London Art College, he is cartoonist in the Men's Health Forum's Beat Stress, Feel Better
This article reflects the experience of the individual. It is not health information from the Men's Health Forum under the terms of the NHS England Information Standard.


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