Before I sat down to write about Third Culture Kids and ADHD, I made a herbal tea (some concoction I had made for me ages ago to help regulate my energy levels – it’s probably out of date now) and jumped up and down in the kitchen for a few minutes, eating jaffa cakes. Then I sat at my desk for a bit, wriggling in my seat, before jumping up to go outside and sit in the sunshine to see if that would calm me down. I got distracted by some weeding and poking at plants. Then realised I wasn’t sitting still there either, and came back in.
In the past this rigmarole would have frustrated me greatly – “Why can’t you just focus, Rachel?!”, I would berate myself, whilst anxiously watching the minutes tick around on my (many) clocks.
Today, I smiled a wry internal smile, took several short deep breaths (somehow some self induced mild hyperventilation slows my brain down long enough for me to catch up with it), and put some music on (I have go-to playlist of calm-me-down-but-affirm-me-at-the-same-time songs).
And now I’m here. Writing to you about Third Culture Kids and AD(H)D.
I identify as having hypermobility and ADHD – to be more precise, my family identified this for me… who also share combinations of ADD, ADHD, hypermobility (EDS) and autism. I was diagnosed hypermobile in my teens (when my shoulders went through an intriguing phase of refusing to stay in their sockets) and it’s been an interesting journey through energy dips, chronic pain, and miscellaneous seemingly unrelated symptoms that nevertheless are connected (unlike my connective tissue) to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
I have not been formally diagnosed with ADHD. Like many adults, by the time I realised many of my behaviours and experiences made sense through the prism of this condition, I had already developed pretty sound coping strategies and diagnosis felt unnecessary. Nevertheless, I am finding the more that I treat myself as an adult with ADHD, the more competently I engage with my needs and my life in general. So I’ve chosen to proceed on the basis of having an ADHD brain, and this is working for me.
Then something happened that I didn’t anticipate; a significant proportion of my Third Culture Kid clients presenting with either formal diagnoses of AD(H)D or clusters of behaviours that signalled experiences often pegged as AD(H)D.
Now, there are a number of possible explanations for this here. Firstly, people with AD(H)D are more likely to experience challenges in their work or home lives and are therefore more likely to go to counselling than a neurotypical person. Secondly, given the received wisdom that a large component of AD(H)D is genetically determined, as well as a tendency towards restlessness and desire for adventure and novelty, the parents that take the step to raise their children abroad are likely to have this gene, and are therefore more likely to raise TCKs with AD(H)D behaviours. Gabor Mate offers a third explanation; that AD(H)D behaviours need more than a genetic trigger – that experiences of relational instability in childhood may well be the catalyst for the development of this syndrome. Incidentally, Mate’s “Scattered Minds” is well worth a read and I’ll write more about this book in another post.
Why am I writing about AD(H)D and Third Culture Kids? I’m not a diagnostician. There are some great resources out there such as ADDITUDE that offer far more specialist expertise than I can.
What I am offering today to you via these ponderings, is permission; permission to find ways of moving through life that work for YOU. Permission to abandon ways of doing things that don’t work for you and permission to seek out workarounds that get you where you want to go. Understanding how we work best matters, for it allows us to work better.
Understanding me has gotten me through writing this post. Jittery legs and all.