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How an ADHD Diagnosis Helped Me Understand My Life and Turn It Around With Therapy

“Oftentimes males are super hesitant to open up to strangers about their feelings and what they’ve got going on in their life. Yet, I took the approach of I need the help and this person is here to help me and this was one of the best things I could’ve done.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hi there! My name is Kage Burton. I am a welder in Utah and I build conveyor systems for companies around the world. I have been welding for 7 years now and I’d like to say I am getting pretty good at it!

I am also a ski instructor during the winters. There is nothing I love more than watching people when they finally start to understand skiing. It’s like watching someone discover what fun is. It’s really a neat experience.

While I do live in Utah now, Wyoming will always be home as that is where I spent the first 20 years of my life. I have a lot of fond memories growing up in Wyoming.

Wyoming has the smallest population out of any state in the United States, so when you’re a kid growing up in Wyoming, you kinda have to make the fun.

This took many shapes whether it be building four-wheelers with my K’nex, planning your next fort to build with your friends, or even sweeping all of the hay up in the top of the barn so you can open up a restaurant. (Yes me and my cousins did this and no we never opened the restaurant, we were like 8.) 

I am very fortunate to have a loving family that I grew up around. My family is very religious yet, I am not. I realized this when I graduated high school and quit going to church.

Being very worried about how this would affect my relationship with my father and the rest of my family, I can now say that I am extremely grateful for them. They have all accepted my life choices and let me be who I want to be, judgment-free. I will forever love them.

I moved to Utah in 2019 at the end of the year to pursue my career in welding. As you all know, 2020 is when COVID-19 hit and many people’s lives were affected. I was extremely lucky in the way things played out.

When I showed up to Utah I had 6 grand in savings and I managed to blow that in 2 months! But, in March, the school I was going to was forced to move all their classes online.

The story is actually pretty funny. I remember my late 70’s welding instructor telling the class, “All these colleges are going to online classes and they expect us to, but you can’t teach welding online!”

And then about a week later we were told that our course had been moved online. But, this was fortunate for me. I ended up taking a leave of absence in order to find a job and rebuild my savings.

Up to this point, I had never been out on my own so going out and living on my own was a very daunting task and I was quite frankly frightened. My town didn’t even have stoplights. The closest one to where I lived was half an hour north so I never went through that thing.

I don’t even think I had driven through a stoplight at this point. So moving to a town with stoplights at every intersection, that was a city to me, and I was terrified.

But now I’ve been living in Utah for three years. I have had so many wonderful and terrible experiences that have happened since. I’ve made friends and lost friends. Some of which have been with me from the start. I’ve learned to accept it though.

I live with my aunt and uncle right now where rent is so high. It’s a good place for me. It’s helped me to get out of my cocoon of sadness, cheered me up, and gave me the space to find the help that I need. So yeah, I am at one of the happiest points in my life.

Kage Burton

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

Well, I only really started taking my mental health seriously back in March. However, now looking back I can see that I have struggled with Anxiety and Depression my whole life.

As of one week ago, I can now add ADHD to the list of things I have always struggled with. Getting this ADHD diagnosis really adds depth to it all that I never could have seen. The lonely nights, the terrible performance, and the general lack of motivation.

As I said, I have been experiencing these things for as long as I can remember. When it comes to depression, I got very depressed when my first best friend replaced me with other more popular kids. This tore my poor little soul apart.

I remember crying many times, missing my dear friend and all the wonderful memories we had. Wanting so badly to be like the other kids so he would take me back. But he never did and I honestly can’t stand him anymore for what he did to me.

When I got into 5th grade, my teacher was not very nice to me due to me struggling with ADHD. This was extremely depressing and anxiety-inducing. I still don’t know how to longhand double digit divide because of this teacher. I genuinely did not understand the way she was teaching the concept.

young kage

But, after two or three attempts to ask for help, my teacher would yell at me and then send me into the hall crying. This destroyed my social reputation and self-esteem.

So the next year, in sixth grade, I was bullied relentlessly fueling the depression and anxiety I had already been experiencing. I wouldn’t participate with the class in games preferring to sit to the side and avoid all social interactions. Because I knew if I participated, I would just be subjecting myself to the put-downs of the popular girls.

Going into middle school, we see sadness arise from almost losing yet another best friend to the popular kids. This led me down the same road as before. Crying, fearing that my friend may move on and forget me and the relationship I had. So once again I tried to shift crowds with him.

This was almost my downfall. I started hanging out with a kid that happened to be a VERY BAD influence. Luckily this kid moved away after middle school and no longer played a part in my life after that. To give you an idea, this kid tried to rob a gun store after he moved. So yeah, glad I dodged that bullet.

young kage 1

Now I feel at this point, I should address ADHD and the effect it had upon me up to this point. In elementary school, my mother was always confused because I would read a book and then never test it. My reading grade was terrible because of this. She would take me in to take the test after school and I would score 100%. 

This eventually led to me losing my beloved dog in fifth grade. My dad says he told me if I didn’t get my reading grade up, he would get rid of Gage. I didn’t remember this probably due to ADHD and one day I came home after a long, depressing, anxiety-ridden day expecting to see my dog.

He was nowhere to be found. I asked my dad where he was and he just told me,” A snowmobiler from Montana came and picked him up.” I never got to say goodbye. Over the years we have had many dogs but Gage was my dog and I loved him.

I spent the rest of the night crying in my room missing my best friend. This wasn’t the only night that this had happened. In fact, I’ve been crying writing this because I still miss my friend.

ADHD continued to rule my life well into middle school and onwards. While teachers could keep my attention in class, the homework was about as boring as can be and it never got done. Thus, grades tanked and led to much disappointment.

A lot of teachers would see how smart I was when they were teaching something that I liked but they couldn’t figure out why I wouldn’t do the work. This is about the time when every teacher began feeding me the depressing mantra,” You would do so much better if you would just apply yourself.”

I heard this from almost every teacher from this point till the end of my schooling career. I didn’t even know what that meant and it hurt. Because when you don’t know you have ADHD, this becomes an attack on one’s personal character.

So this became me. Someone who didn’t apply themselves. Someone who was lazy. And not someone who couldn’t do the hard work but someone who just wouldn’t. As if I had a choice in all the procrastinating and forgetting. When you have ADHD you don’t choose these things. They just happen.

I didn’t want to be 32 assignments behind in math. I didn’t want to barely graduate with a 2.1 GPA. I didn’t want to be a disappointment to my parents and teachers. It all just happened and there was no way for me to control any of it. But after so long you believe it all was your fault.

Eventually, I did graduate, launching me into the many struggles of holding a steady job. My first job I actually thrived at. This was working at a little retail store in town. Every day presented something new to deal with. The ADHD mind loves this.

Always something new to keep the mind entertained. From making shopping cart trains with the electric cart, to watching people get arrested for shoplifting. Every day was an adventure and I loved it.

A year later that place closed down and I found a job at the local Radioshack. Yes, you read that right. 2019, in a small town, run by a nearly 80-year-old man, Radioshack. It was as boring as it sounds and the only entertainment I got at that job was the 70-year-old man who worked there with me.

Other than that, there was no motivation to get anything done. My boss was always disappointed with me whenever he came around. And I almost made the store close down because it was losing so much money. But now I realize, that’s not entirely my fault. It’s a Radioshack in Wyoming. It was destined to fail.

After that wonderful experience I started my welding career by heading off to school. This required a lot out of me and it promptly started off with a panic attack in my mother’s shower at 8 in the morning when I should’ve been packing my car. My grandparents were eventually able to help me calm down and I did get moved.

I started school and this is when I met my first real girlfriend. If you don’t think that ADHD affects relationships, well, it does. I was completely infatuated with this girl for the first little while. I loved her and everything about her.

However as time went on, we grew distant as I wouldn’t be as excited by her or her interests anymore, and from her perspective, it looked as though the relationship had become about me.

She’s not wrong in looking at it this way. I wanted to do what I wanted to do because what she wanted to do didn’t interest me. I wanted to play my video games and she wanted to ride her horses. And after living together for a year and a half, she ripped my heart to pieces and moved 13 hours away to New Mexico.

I only had a week with her after finding out that she was doing this and it hit me like a truck. The day she told me, I had to leave and process what she’d said.

So, I went out to a field, laid in some dirt, stared at the sky, and cried for the next hour. She broke up with me about a month later and you could see in her text message that I had made the relationship about me. And now I know why.

Since then I’ve had two more relationships that never went anywhere because I lost interest in them. I still miss my ex and I don’t know when I’ll have another relationship like I had with her. This is single-handedly the most depressing thing I deal with. It’s about once a month I go into a depressive episode missing her.

And here we are now! Working my welding job and loving life! ADHD is always at work forgetting where my tape measure is or where I set my gloves. I make silly mistakes sometimes because I’m not paying attention and so I measure the wrong length or forget to change settings on machines.

The other day I had to grab some wrenches about 10ft away and within that distance, I forgot what I was doing and began eating Cheese-Its. I’ll pull out my phone to check the time and forget to check the time, opting to check my notifications instead. Every day is a struggle but, at least I can now see it for what it is!

Kage Burton 1

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

Having ADHD, depression, and anxiety is like having the dream team of “you’re gonna have a crappy day!” ADHD just makes the highs really high and the lows really low and the lows are just compounded by anxiety and depression.

When you’re in the highs it’s like hitting New Year’s all over again. You make all these wonderful resolutions/goals that you swear you are gonna follow through with.

Then a week to two weeks later, all that has gone to the wayside and you are right back to the habits you were so sure that you were going to conquer a few weeks before.

Once you slip back into those habits, the anxiety and depression hit like a truck. You’re anxious because you feel the need to stick to your goals but you can’t because your ADHD won’t let you. Then you get depressed because you feel like you will never be able to reach your goals.

The goals extend far and wide as well. It’s not as simple as I wanna lose 10 pounds. No, it’s more along the lines of I want to become a world-class bodybuilder.

As Peter Shankman says in his book Faster than Normal “When you have ADHD, there is no such thing as moderation.” So all the many hobbies that I have tried to start or thought would be fun. You find me thinking about what it would be like to be the best in the world.

Lately, my obsession has been singing. If you could look into my brain, you would not see someone starting a small YouTube channel to showcase new songs. Instead, I am thinking about who could be in my band and envision myself on big stages playing top songs.

A while back I really wanted to get into gem faceting (cutting gemstones). I have always had a fascination with rocks, so I thought it was right up my alley. Instantly I am thinking about cutting hundreds of thousand dollar stones and making beautiful works of art. However, this is an expensive hobby and the lack of funds eventually led to loss of interest.

Other hobbies I have dreamed about include Geology, Space Photography, Astrophysics, 3D Modeling, Mountain Biking, Freestyle Skiing, Park Skiing, War History, YouTube, Twitch, Video Game Development, Car Design, Vehicle Modding, Drawing, Music Production, Writing, Piano, Competitive Gaming, Videography, Social Media Marketing, Weight Lifting, Traveling, Self Help, Stoicism, Podcasting. I could list off so many more but I think you get the idea.

Eventually, you will try your hardest to stick to your newfound obsession but all the drive will be gone and it will actually feel sickening and depressing to even touch the hobby.

Then you start wondering, what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you follow through with anything? Can I even achieve my goals? And it all gets so very depressing.

You literally go from mentally planning your whole future out in your head to hating the very thing you were so excited about in a matter of two weeks.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

Anxiety and depression have both gone down drastically since I moved and switched jobs. From the people that I know who have experienced depression or anxiety, there is often something in one’s environment that is causing the problem.

In my case, it was the job I was at where my boss expected way too much out of me for way too little. I soon realized this when it became obvious that he was lying about how we were performing in hopes of making us work harder. Spoiler, it had the opposite effect.

The anxiety had actually gotten so bad that back in March I had the worst panic attack of my life. It was work-induced and I was scared because my body legitimately locked up and I couldn’t move. Spooky!

However, when I went to the ER they prescribed me medication. As crazy as this may sound, I had no idea that they had medication for that! This was an eye-opening realization to me that this thing that you have had your whole life… Yeah that’s not normal.

So after having this major panic attack, I decided something needed to change. I was super depressed and I had started taking anxiety meds almost every day at work to keep the panic attacks at bay. So I started therapy!

Oftentimes males are super hesitant to open up to strangers about their feelings and what they’ve got going on in their life. Yet, I took the approach of I need the help and this person is here to help me and this was one of the best things I could’ve done. It took me only about a month with my therapist’s help to connect the dots to my terrible job.

This got me daydreaming at work about quitting and moving closer to my friends and boy did that excite me. Eventually, my boss pushed me over the edge and I pulled the trigger. I wrote my boss a letter telling him I was going to search for a new job. Instantly I felt better.

No longer did I have the ever-present pressure to give another 100% after giving 110% I ended up finding a job and moving and WOW my life is so much better. I haven’t taken anxiety meds since I left and I honestly don’t even think about them anymore.

Now, throughout therapy, there were some other things, aside from work, that came up in our discussions that were depressing me. Lack of motivation, inability to complete tasks, lack of goals, jumping from hobby to hobby. And every time I brought one up, my therapist would say, “That could be a symptom of ADHD.”

Up to this point, ADHD wasn’t something that I thought about. No, ADHD up to this point had just been something that my mother mentioned getting me tested for when I was a kid. After which I proceeded to start crying.

After all, I thought that if I got diagnosed with ADHD that meant I was stupid and disabled (I do not think this anymore). Why wouldn’t a kid start crying if that’s what they thought their mother said. So she never got me tested.

So, when I finally quit my job and moved south I made it my goal to get tested for ADHD and finally get an answer to some of my life’s most pressing questions.

I moved in April and it took me some time to finally get around to it. The thing that finally pushed me over the edge was the weekend of September 30th of this year. That weekend I was going to my first ever concert!

‘Falling in Reverse’ was opening for Avenged Sevenfold and I couldn’t be more excited. Falling in Reverse is one of my FAVORITE bands. I worked that Friday and as it is coming home from work on a Friday, I was exhausted.

I came home and took a nap, no big deal. Well after I had my nap, my girlfriend was gonna come over and my room was trashed. Gotta clean!

The very first thing I did was some laundry. I had gotten into the habit of leaving my wallet and keys in my pants so I wouldn’t lose them. Well, I cleared out my pockets. BIG MISTAKE!

I took my wallet along with a stack of papers and I put it all in my dresser drawer. My girlfriend comes over, we go to get snacks. No wallet. I begin ripping my bedroom apart! All that work I had done making my bedroom look nice, doesn’t even matter anymore.

Eventually, my girlfriend just said she’d buy the snacks and I calmed down. Besides, I’ll find it when I get back right? Wrong. Honestly, I forgot to look until about an hour before I was supposed to leave for the concert. I didn’t find it.

At this point, the anxious side of me is going nuts. Not only am I going to have to ask my friend to buy everything for me at the concert tonight, but I’m also going to have to cancel all my cards, get new ones, get a new driver’s license, get a new insurance card, and a whole host of other things. It’s worse when you have ADHD too because you never really know when you’ll get any of this done.

So Monday rolls around, but still no wallet. At this point, I am going through my head mentally drawing up everything that needs to be done to fix this. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I knew my wallet couldn’t be lost unless it was stolen or I dropped it somewhere. I finally called a mental health clinic and scheduled a test. Between the excessive fidgeting and the excessive loss of items at work, I was fed up and ready to find help. And me losing my wallet finally did it in.

Mind you, at this point, I had not found my wallet which means no insurance card. No insurance card means no coverage and thus yet another thing for me to worry about. I couldn’t care less at this point.

So after I had gotten home from work, my anxiety was running strong. Just that constant feeling that you are on edge and something bad’s coming your way. So later in the evening, I turned to my release, journaling.

But I haven’t been able to find my journal since well, Friday. Hmmm, maybe if I find my journal I’ll find my wallet. At that point, I remembered the stack of papers that I had and I thought maybe I had stuffed them into a drawer. I opened the drawer and sure enough, there’s my journal, and under my journal, THE EVASIVE WALLET!

Since then, I have been tested. I do have ADHD. I actually learned that just a few days ago and I couldn’t be happier. When you go 23 years with ADHD not knowing, the moment you start researching ADHD and the effects it has on people, your life changes. It really does!

I have always thought that I was normal. No different than everyone else. But I never questioned why I struggled so much more on the easy tasks than everyone else.

Through Middle School my grades were awful. Got called to the principal’s office so many times because of this. I was kicked off the middle school football team for poor grades. Never got to go on school ski trips which was really sad to me because my parents never took me skiing.

Going into High School. I was signed up for a jump start. I did fine in jump start. I actually quite enjoyed it but this was then followed by 4 years of disappointing my parents and teachers.

Failing in even the classes that I enjoyed, such as welding, robotics, engineering, and foods. I finished High School with a 2.1 GPA barely graduating.

My joke has always been,” I needed a D on that test in chemistry to graduate, and boy did I get that D!” But, now, I look back with sadness because, unlike most people who hated high school, I loved it!

Hanging out with friends all day, learning cool things about science, history, English, and participating in extracurricular activities. Why would I ever say I hated it or didn’t care? Because that’s just what I was told.

With ADHD there are always moments where it turns around for a while. My room was clean about a week ago. Now there is trash and clothes everywhere and it’s kinda just the way I am existing right now.

You’ll get these magical bursts of motivation that push you in the right direction but motivation is fleeting with ADHD and about a week or two later, it won’t matter how easy you’ve made it, you’ll stop doing whatever it was. This feeds into the depression.

However, I do feel like I am making progress as a diagnosis is a great step in the right direction. I am gathering the resources I need to help myself be more successful and it does feel good.

The diagnosis has most importantly helped me to realize what I am and what I am not. Because of this, the extreme self-degradation has gone down and I feel so much more free to embrace the silliness of it all.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

ASK FOR HELP! I cannot stress this enough. I would not be where I am now if it weren’t for the support group I have around me. I used to be so scared of asking for help, especially because of ADHD.

This is because when I was a kid, asking for help or asking questions was often met with degrading or hurtful comments. Couldn’t find something, Mother comes in finds it, and says “It would help if you open your eyes!”.

Didn’t understand what the teacher was teaching, “It’s super simple and you are just not paying attention!” Brain didn’t react to Dad’s question so I responded with,” What?” Dad responds,” Did I st st stutter?!”

All these things really add up and so you start to build a shell around you and think no one wants to help you. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized there are a lot of people out there whose only job is TO HELP YOU! 

I cannot tell you how excited I am that I can unabashedly ask for help. I am just plotting out all the help I can get all the time and it feels so awesome.

I’ve already got my therapist and I just recently added a psychiatrist to the roster. Imagine all the others I’ll add. ADHD Coaches… Career Consultants… All these wonderful people who are there to make my life more enjoyable are no longer behind this wall that I had put up.

I would also say, anyone who thinks they could be struggling with a mental illness, do some research. ADHD up until about a month ago was only a possibility in my head and I thought if I had it, it was probably only affecting me a little bit.

But as I listened to podcasts and browsed the ADHD subreddit, I slowly began to learn what it means to actually have ADHD. Eventually, I had the experience that most people with undiagnosed ADHD go through. The experience of understanding your whole life.

Mind you, this happened within a matter of two days, and from these two days, I actually came out scared that I wouldn’t get the diagnosis. So as you can see this shifted my entire worldview. I honestly think everyone should at least research mental disorders a little bit to at least understand what neurodivergent people go through.

Medication is also a big thing for me as well. By no means am I a professional but, data does suggest that medication is really beneficial to those with mental health disorders. The negative stipulation is something that has personally affected my family.

My sister actually has ADHD as well and we’ve known this from an early age. When she was diagnosed, she was put on Ritalin. This was around the time of the Columbine School Shooting where the assailant had been using a psychotropic drug leading up to the shooting.

Because of this, my mother had to listen to everyone questioning her for putting my sister on drugs. My mother had been trying to find the help she needed with my sister and up to this point doctors had told her that it was her just being a bad parent. Even going as far as to give her books on parenting.

She was eventually able to find a doctor who told her she wasn’t a bad parent and that her daughter had a 7-second attention span. After that, she was put on Ritalin and the doctor didn’t even believe it was the same child when she brought my sister back for a follow-up.

The medication was life-changing for my mother and from what I understand it’s the same with most people that struggle with ADHD.

Even when I got my anxiety medication I noticed a difference. Every time I knew it was going to be a rough day, I would take a pill, and everything would be ok.

Up to that point, my boss had to do any small thing to ruin my day and leave me anxious for the rest of the day. So the medication was a godsend.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

Yes I have actually! I haven’t quite decided if this is a good thing yet. My reasoning for sharing this information is that it takes a lot of the mistakes I make off of my character. These people can then understand why I do the things I do and they can either accept it or deny it.

It no longer becomes my problem and I can continue to try to implement the systems that will help with a sort of shield from all the scrutiny. If they question me for asking for help or doing things a different way then I can simply turn to them and say,” I am asking for help/doing it this way because it is easier for me.

If you’d prefer I do things your way then just understand it will take longer or may never get done. Are you ok with that?” At that point, I have laid it out for them and they choose where it goes from there.

However, this has proven tough in certain aspects because, as mentioned in previous sections, no one knows what ADHD actually is and what we actually struggle with.

So when I tell my supervisor that due to my ADHD, I can’t do the inspection phase of a build, he just responds with,” Oh this doesn’t mean you can start using that as an excuse.”

Or when it comes to not cashing checks, my mom says,” Well this is your finances so this needs to take a bit more priority.” Little do they know, I have always struggled with the inspection phase and I can’t simply choose to prioritize one section of my life. I am simply trying to make the inspection phase easier and I will never do it if I spend too much time on one thing.

I think I’ll stick to telling people that I have ADHD, anxiety, and depression. The biggest thing is just making sure to educate them as to why I’m doing what I do and making sure they understand.

At the end of the day, I am the one who is part of the 5% so, I can’t expect anyone to understand what it’s like to be me and it’s my job to make sure they understand.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

You are not alone. It is easy to get used to living with a disorder for so long and you think everything is ok and normal. But when you find out you are not normal by neurotypical means, it can be a depressing feeling like no one understands.

I am here to tell you that is not the case. There are millions of people struggling with the same things that you are. As dumb as it may sound I know a lot of us have sat at our computers in our underwear when we should be getting dressed for the day.

This isn’t just my experience, I heard it in the book Faster than Normal. I was at work when I heard it and remember just saying out loud, “THATS ME! Wait… that’s scarily super close to me.” Why is it so accurate? Because we are all sharing the same experience! Yeah, that’s how closely our experiences are connected.

So when you’re struggling and feel like no one understands, know that I understand. I lose my keys on the bed. I forget what I’m doing walking into another room. My room is trashed. I buy stuff I don’t need. We all do!

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Where can we go to learn more about you?

All I really have is YouTube and Twitch but heh, my ADHD makes it hard to stay regular. Check them out if you’d like. They are mostly just gaming content.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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