Courtesy of Elin Doyle
Elin Doyle was diagnosed with ADHD months before she turned 50.
She says a lot of her life suddenly made sense after she got the diagnosis.
This is Doyle’s story, as told to Laura Cooke.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Elin Doyle. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Many people think ADHD is boisterous boys running around and tearing up the classroom. But that perception is wrong. I would never have thought I had ADHD because I’m not a physically boisterous person, but it can be very internalized.
ADHD is not always about hyperactivity. It’s a disorder of the ability to regulate attention, emotions, and activity. You can swing between overstimulated and unmotivated, or a lack of focus and hyperfocus, and you might behave impulsively. A lack of dopamine or ineffective dopamine usage can affect all sorts of areas of the brain.
I was diagnosed two months before I turned 50. But I’ve always known I was a bit different.
I left school to live in France, where I had my son
I struggled with getting good school reports, but I was able to wing it until I was 16. I didn’t get brilliant results, but I scraped by, despite doing practically no homework or revision.
I hadn’t paid any attention to where I was going for university and don’t remember ever speaking to anybody about my university choices. As I got slightly better grades than predicted, I decided to take a year off and reapply somewhere else that I was more interested in.
I went to the south of France to be an au pair for six months. I met someone and decided I wasn’t going back to England: I was going to stay in France, have this really interesting life, and have his baby. I had been with him for six months, and my son was born nine months later. It was a conscious decision, but very much one made by a 19-year-old with ADHD.
It was quite a hard time. We came back to England when my son was a little over 2. I went back to my parents with my tail between my legs, at 22, with no money.
When I returned to England, I got a job. I ended up spending 15 years in financial services before I retrained as an actor.
An accident made me look for a diagnosis
I really struggle with learning lines, focusing on them, and absorbing their meaning. When I’m learning lines, I must be moving around to have something else going on; I learn best on public transport because part of my mind is taken up elsewhere, allowing me to focus on the lines.
I can’t tell you the number of times I went to workshops on how to self-produce my play. I would come away knowing what I needed to do, but the difficulty with ADHD is sifting out which step comes first and what’s next. It becomes this big blob of everything that has to happen now. I got completely overwhelmed.
I’m very accident-prone. In 2021, I broke one ankle and damaged the other, which meant I was trapped for a couple of months. I needed to keep myself busy, and getting an ADHD assessment was on my list. The psychiatrist said being accident-prone is one of the symptoms of ADHD.
I mentioned I had bulimia as a teenager, and he said bulimia could sometimes be a sign of ADHD.
My psychiatrist told me my brain had been like an orchestra missing a conductor — that’s exactly how it feels.
The most remarkable thing is how medication stabilized my mood so I wasn’t experiencing these huge highs and lows I could cycle through several times within a day. I could get really excited, especially about a topic I’m passionate about — then other times I would feel so unmotivated and low that I couldn’t get out of bed.
It was a huge relief to find out I wasn’t a flawed, bad human who was unable to achieve the things that other people could. It’s really changed my life in that respect.