Coping with ADHD is life changing, as Darryl Morris explains...
Sitting in class and struggling to focus on the lesson, Darryl Morris decided to devote his attention to making his school friends laugh by being the class clown.
Little did he know at the time but his concentration problems were actually down to him having Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - which he was diagnosed with at the age of 10.
Darryl, now 27, who presents the evening show on Rock FM radio, which is syndicated across the country, recalls: “I remember really struggling with a sense of restlessness during most of my primary school life.
“My attentiveness to education really started to take a nosedive when I was about six or seven.
“I was struggling to concentrate and focus and a by-product of that was disruptive behaviour. I was always by my nature a bit of a showman and this manifested itself by me becoming a class clown and trying to make people laugh.”
Darryl says he was lucky as he was diagnosed with ADHD relatively early in life at the age of 10.
He credits a lot of this to his mum Vivienne who noticed his symptoms early on and sought medical advice.
Darryl explains: “As opposed to me just being disruptive, it quickly became obvious to my mum and teachers that my behaviour was a result of my inability to focus on the academic side of life.
“A good team of doctors gave a diagnosis of ADHD.
“Getting that diagnosis made a huge difference and really turned my life around.
“It made me, my family and my teachers able to define the restlessness I was experiencing and put it into some context and seek out a way of managing it.”ADHD can be hereditary and Darryl says his own diagnosis made both his mum and his grandad realise they had clearly been suffering from ADHD throughout their own lives.
Darryl says: “When I got my diagnosis, my mum and grandad woke up to the fact they had been suffering from ADHD themselves as they recognised a lot of the symptoms.
“However, they never sought or got a diagnosis.”
After diagnosis, Darryl was tried on different medications with varying degrees of success. Although medication gave Darryl the ability to focus in school lessons what stands out for Darryl is how his step-dad Stuart remembers the medication affecting Darryl.
Darryl says: “My mum and step-dad met when I was 10 and he noticed that while the medication allowed me to focus on things like maths and geography, it also dulled the fun element of my personality.
“He realised I was no longer joking around over dinner and he became aware of the change in my personality.
“He said he would rather have the child with ADHD than this sedatised version.
“When it came to medication, it was all about trial and error and balancing. I still needed something to help me focus at school during my academic years.
“My mum really helped me cope with my ADHD as a child by pinning notes everywhere and helping me to become more organised.”
Darryl says the best way to describe ADHD and how it affected him is that he found himself struggling to concentrate on tasks and became easily distracted and frequently started things but didn’t finish them.
One of the symptoms of ADHD is hyperfocus - the tendency to focus very intently on things that interest them. At times, the focus is so strong that people with ADHD become oblivious to the world around them.
Hyperfocus is the flipside of the ADHD symptom distractibility. Channelling this symptom in a positive way means people with ADHD often excel in areas that interest and excite them.
Darryl explains: “Academically, I struggled in things I was not engaged in. However, I was very lucky as I discovered my hyperfocus area from a young age and realised that when you are engaged in something, you are engaged in it 100 per cent and are totally focused.
“When I was growing up, for me it was drama and I was really passionate about studying it.
“ADHD lends itself to people being incredibly good creatively. You find a lot of people in the entertainment industry such as singers and actors have a high proportion of people with ADHD.”
Interestingly, even though one of the features of ADHD means those with the condition struggle to articulate themselves through writing such as essays, Darryl found that with drama, because he was passionate and actively interested in the subject, he became an A* pupil not just in the practical side of things, but also in the theory element.
As well as being actively involved in drama, Darryl discovered his love of radio from the age of 15 when the school set up its own radio station.
Darryl remembers: “I was fortunate to discover my passion at such an early age.
“I loved radio and the whole craft and art of it.
“A chief characteristic of ADHD is that if you find something you enjoy, you often excel at it.
“You don’t just do well but become an expert and acclaimed in your chosen field.
“It is about harnessing the positives of ADHD.”
As an adult, Darryl no longer takes medication for his ADHD but has adopted coping mechanisms and says it is about recognising your weaknesses and focusing on them.
Darryl says: “I am now able to be incredibly creative and I have taken that into my career.
“I use the hyperfocus to concentrate on things that I really enjoy such as writing columns.”
Darryl says another way the ADHD affects him is a lack of organisation. To combat this, he writes a lot of lists and describes his calendar as a sight to behold.
Smiling, he explains: “If it is not in my diary, it doesn’t happen so I have to be super organised. When you are an adult, you can recognise your symptoms. I realise when I am getting distracted and I take steps to re-focus.
“I am sure most people will be able to recognise an element of that in themselves. But with ADHD, this is taken to another level.”
Darryl says the ADHD really feeds his curiosity and he uses this in a positive way in his life and his career.
He says: “I am really curious about the world and how it all works and the people in it. I love travelling and seeing things and throwing myself into projects and adventures.
“I might forget to do the washing up, but I can suddenly become an expert in some theory because I became curious about it and researched it.”
Hearing about presenter Richard Bacon’s diagnosis of ADHD at the age of 42 made Darryl recognise a lot of his own experience. He says: “It did not surprise me at all.
“It also added to the pile of people working in the creative industry who have ADHD - whether they know it or not.
“I think there will be a lot of people out there who will be suffering symptoms well into their lives and feeling frustrated and being hard on themselves.“These people may have left school believing they were thick, but the reality is that they are probably very intelligent but have not found the right thing to engage in and manage the ADHD.
“ADHD is not always outwardly obvious and there are days when I forget I have it and it does not define me.
“However, there is rarely a day when it does not affect me in some way.
“This can be anything from missing a deadline at work to misplacing my keys at home. But if you just apply the right coping mechanisms, you can manage ADHD and extract all the brilliant things it can offer.
“ADHD is the sole reason I have been able to excel at what I do.
“For me and Richard Bacon, our hyperfocus just happens to be broadcasting.
“But it can apply to anything. There are a lot of famous people with ADHD who excel at something.
“For Justin Timberlake and Robbie Williams, it is music and performing. For Richard Branson, it is about business and making money.
“But for someone else, it might be maths or it could be plumbing. If you look at the top brass in a lot of industries, they often have ADHD.“These people
are lucky. Like me, they have found their passion.
“But there will also be a lot of people out there with ADHD struggling and feeling lost. Having an early diagnosis of ADHD really helped me and helped make me the person I am today.”