The outcome of ADHD: a journey of mental illness
By Cesilia Faustina
Photography by Cesilia Faustina
“I knew there was something wrong with my personality but when I found out, I knew why these things were happening.”
Mental illness is something you need to live with and can’t get rid off, according to one ADHD patient.
One Jordanian has been fighting the effects of ADHD on his life since his late childhood.
Ahmad Al-Eid was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 22. The local Jordanian-Palestinian had been battling his mental illness almost all his life.
“I knew there was something wrong with my personality but when I found out, I knew why these things were happening — why ABC was happening,” he said.
“If I knew why I could have dealt with it much much earlier.”
The marketing consultant and pilot said he would have loved to gain a good support system throughout his early symptoms.
“The thing was I grew up not knowing that it took me a little bit of time to find out,” he said.
“It made my life much much easier after I found out.
“I wish I would have known [I had ADHD] as a kid, because at school — I was not in public school, I was in private school, and I wish I would have someone to know these things — as a kid it was always hard to sit down and write and read.
“I always wanted to jump around, I always wanted to play, I even stuttered and when I grew I found out why I stuttered.
“I think very fast for me to talk. If I read, I don’t stutter, I only stutter when I talk because my mind would work faster and that’s a very very clear sign for a teacher or a nurse at school, or somebody at school to have known [I had ADHD].
“My kid brother, right now he’s six years old and he has the same thing and at the first day at school, they knew right away that this kid has ADHD.
“They gave him special classes and it helped him in a big way. I wish I had that.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a brain disorder that causes an ongoing pattern of inattention and or hyperactivity and impulsivity that interferes with functioning and development.
The ADHD Institute estimated ADHD prevalence numbers worldwide range between 5.29 percent and 7.1 percent in children and adolescents and 3.4 percent in adults.
Eid said he never realised anything was truly prominent about his behaviour since nobody seemed aware of this illness.
“I was the baby of the family with five other kids, in a typical Jordanian family. I got a lot of attention but no one cared enough about that,” he said.
“I was doing alright at school — I wasn’t doing bad, I wasn’t doing well — I was doing alright and for my parents, that was as far as their concern went.
“Mentally it did affect me to an extent cause I always felt there was something missing, I’m not like them, I’m not like the other kids but socially I was fine.
“I had a good group of friends and I left to the US when I was 15 on a scholarship and over there everybody has ADHD — you feel like everyone there has so much energy, so I fit in a lot better there.
“The school system was a lot different there — I went to high school there; the school system does not want you to focus 24/7, they would make us finish our homework at school and when you leave school they want you to have fun and stuff.
“That really helped in a big big way.”
Diagnosed with ADHD
“I do still have symptoms, it’s not something you can get rid of, it’s something you need to live with.”
After suspecting of having ADHD, Eid went to a psychiatrist to confirm his suspicions.
“She was an amazing doctor — I went to her myself,” he said.
“I found out I had ADHD.”
Eid said he suspected himself of having ADHD after watching a TV show.
“I can’t remember what show it was but there was a show that always talked about [ADHD] and I just wanted to check, because sometimes you make stuff up in your head and I just wanted to get a confirmation,” he said.
Once diagnosed, the pilot said he did not want to take medication due to the effects it caused on his mood and personality.
“I didn’t want to take any medication because I’m a pilot and I get tested on this stuff so she gave me some exercises for me to calm down before I talk and it helped me calm down a lot with the stuttering,” he said.
“[My psychiatrist] told me to do something that would calm me down before I started a conversation, so I started singing the Jingle Bells song.
“I sang it when I wanted to say something huge, it’s like a lullaby in my head and then I talk.”
“I’m not on medication now,” he added.
“I’ve tried [medication] before and I found that it calmed me down way too much — not in a bad way, but I felt like it wasn’t me. I’m very energetic, I’m a talkative person. I took Xanax for a while but it just made me a very chill and calm person, even a lot of people were asking what was wrong with me.
“I didn’t want to tell anybody at the time, but I went off of it very very fast. I was not happy having to take it in my daily life.”
After being diagnosed, Eid said he now felt better about his actions and himself.
“I do still have symptoms, it’s not something you can get rid of, it’s something you need to live with,” he said.
“For the past years, I think I have it under control. I’m much happier with myself. When I used to do things that irritate me very much — like why did you do this why did you do that, but now I know why I did it.
“It’s much easier to explain it to myself; I’m not stupid, I’m not a weak person, I’m not an upset person, I had these thoughts and I learned how to deal with them.
“However, I wish — again — I knew about these things earlier. Personality-wise it would have helped a lot. To be more confident.”
The path of acceptance
Eid said the biggest challenge of having a mental illness was the fact that he didn’t know. Never understanding why he felt different from everybody else had always been a constant struggle.
“For a while, they made me feel like I was stupid at school, I’ve heard a lot of people say that I couldn’t fully sit down and give people my attention — I heard that — my teachers calling me stupid and that I would never be anything,” he said.
“Then I went on to be a pilot because of that. I stutter, so I had to go to two academies before I was accepted to the third.
“The first two academies said I would never get accepted because I stutter. It became a personal challenge and I ended up graduating, I just wanted to go back to the people who said that and tell them I’m doing great and I’m working now.
“I come from a family of doctors and people who are very smart — and I was the only who didn’t get enough grades to get into medical school — the only one out of six kids.
“So that has always weighed heavy on me. I wish my parents knew.”
“Finding out was the biggest challenge,” he added.
“It changed my life. I did a lot of things I couldn’t explain to myself and for a while I started to believe that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was.
“In my head, I knew I was smart, but people kept telling me to a point where I thought maybe it’s true I’m not that smart.”
Eid said despite the challenges, he had many factors to help him pull through.
“I had these things to put me down, but I had a lot of things to pull me up,” he said.
“In high school and elementary school I had a lot of friends behind me and again, I wasn’t doing bad at school either, but if I look back, I did a lot of things to cover it up.
“I did a lot of activities, I used to play a lot of sports, I used to play karate, I kept my day full in a way I didn’t think about it.
“In my own life my parents were amazing — they were loving and caring — that helped a lot, even if you don’t have a problem that always helped a lot.
“Having them for me, I’m the baby in a big Middle Eastern family and my dad and mom were always there for me.
“It was a comfortable thing for me, whenever I messed up I always had my dad behind my back, I always had my mom behind my back, that always helped.”
“I’m not gonna cry about it,” he added.
“As bad as it affected me, it’s as good as it affected me. It made me a stronger person. I had thicker skin.
“Growing up in that kind of environment — my parents were amazing, when it came to academics it was not easy. I just needed to grow a thick skin.
“I don’t think I would have had that without going through that.”
“If I followed what other people said about me, I would have never been the way I am in a hundred years.”
Eid said he wished he would have found out earlier about his illness and felt it would have helped greatly with his development.
“My brother’s son goes to an Ivy League school, which is a very expensive school, he gets support for his mental illness but if you go to any other school, you get none,” he said.
“None of the government schools have the right support system. I think that’s sad.
“They should have some sort of support system. It’s so easy to know.
“Psychiatrists would need to sit with the kid two or three times and they would diagnose that. I think every school needs that, it would change the life of these kids.”
Even with the hardships, however, the Jordanian-Palestinian said he did not regret going through what he went through, thanks to the advantages this illness brought.
“Having ADHD as a pilot is an advantage because of my job as a pilot, I have to keep track of many things at the same time,” he said.
“So many buttons and more, other pilots would be tired because they need to focus a lot, me, when I leave the airplane, I’m energetic because it lights a fire in me.”
“You don’t have to listen to people,” he added.
“If I had listened to the people that knocked me down, I would have thought I was stupid, I wouldn’t have been a pilot and the thing is I’m so proud of myself for accomplishing this.
“I kept fighting because there was a voice inside my head that said I was different and I’m not like other people, I’m smart, I kept following those voices.
“If I followed what other people said about me, I would have never been the way I am in a hundred years.”
With all the hardships Eid has been through, he said he would just like to focus on his ultimate goal.
“Growing up I had big goals, I wanted to be rich — I remember growing up that was the ultimate goal,” he said.
“If someone asked me this five years ago I would have said I wanted to buy my own island, live alone, do whatever I wanted to do but growing up I’ve been through ups and downs — I’ve had money and I lost money.
“I just want to be a normal happy person. I want to look back and see the things I’ve done, doing things you want to do and be happy about it. Just to wake up and have a smile on your face without any reasons, that’s a big deal.”
“I’ve never been happier than I am right now because now I have a plan and I know what I want,” he added.
“You have no idea how much it organised my life — back then I just wanted to have fun but now I have a goal and a future.
“Have a plan and follow through. It’s not going to work the first time or the second time but keep working on it.
“People will not believe in you but you need to select the people that will support you.
“When I graduated from pilot school I did something that nobody thought was possible so you have to break through that negativity.”
Al-Eid Ahmad is a marketing consultant and a pilot based in Amman, Jordan. Originally from the city of Irbid, this Jordanian-Palestinian found out he was diagnosed with ADHD at 22 years old. He now is still a pilot despite his mental illness and does not take medication in dealing with the symptoms — taking comforts in daily exercises.