Dom’s Undiagnosed ADHD: impulsivity, mistakes and a fear that everything will fall apart

Dom Longford
Feb 18, 2022

This is the first part out of a series of stories in which ADHDers share their ADHD journey from struggle to diagnosis to treatment to living well.

The stories are meant to help to answer questions like: What does ADHD look and feel like? What is the process of diagnosis? What is life like after ADHD treatment? What’s the impact of different treatments?

We hope to help destigmatise ADHD and allow ADHDers (diagnosed or not) to feel seen, validated and capable of improving their lives. Because others have paved the way and done it too!

This is Cog's founders story of having undiagnosed adult ADHD and how he got diagnosed. Hold on to your hat, this story is a little emotional.


Growing up and living in London was both entertaining and exhausting — full of family get-togethers, friends’ birthdays, a party for every occasion and a thriving social network of entertaining personalities. London is a big city, and I was constantly on the go meeting friends and was always late. Without fail. Which meant the journeys were always rushed, anxious and involved a deep feeling of guilt. The patience of my friends was tested.

Possessions like keys, wallets or phones were always at risk of being left, forgotten, lost or if I was lucky, simply misplaced. There is no worse feeling than needlessly losing an important everyday possession without reason nor memory. Particularly as an adult. My blood would boil with rage and I would feel deeply irresponsible, particularly when compared to my neuro-typcial peers. Deep down, I felt inferior to everyone around me and it hurt.

I was also very hard on myself for my many mistakes - forgetting a gift to a birthday party or spending my weekly budget in a day. I never gave myself time for relaxation, rest or self-care — instead I people-pleased. Life felt like it was being driven at 100mph and a devastating crash could happen at any moment. But life was eventful and entertaining. I was never short of dopamine. It was simply big city life, right?

Impulsive thoughts and behaviour

I was always good at ideation and starting projects only to quickly lose interest — always full of thoughts, ideas and things I SHOULD be doing. I would try to do them all and I rarely complete tasks. A great example is that for years my mind was occupied by the idea of building a chair. I’ve never had any training nor knowledge on how, but I couldn’t get rid of the idea, which led to feelings of pressure and guilt for not spending my Sundays miraculously building a chair. Even when doing nothing, that guilt meant I could not mentally rest.

These feelings were often the byproduct of not actualising my tempting yet abstract ideas. Often I would go out and party and essentially escape the self-inflicted pressure. I’d be out too late, consume too much and sleep too little. Then being too tired to achieve anything the following day, leading to more guilt and pressure. I was my harshest critic.

Errors, fear of errors & more errors

Often there were periods of recurring mistakes at work. Being an analyst with undiagnosed ADHD meant I spent my career trying to master things that were never natural to me nor a strength. I played life to my natural weaknesses. Especially when projects were nearly done I would lose interest and my brain would look elsewhere for dopamine. I would rush that all-important final review of my work and miss simple errors. I just couldn’t help it. Fortunately, my work was mainly valuable but always had sloppy errors.

As the tender age of 30 started approaching, my expectations of myself started to rise. Yet the errors kept happening. Suddenly, making mistakes felt more painful and my confidence and mental health started to suffer. I would boil inside with embarrassment and confusion at every mistake. Quickly I developed a constant fear of making simple, and often, unimportant mistakes. Ironically, this pressure and stress actually fuelled more errors since my attention was split into a fear and the task in hand, fuelling further mistakes!

Despite all this, I did okay in life because I was creative and logical. I asked questions that no one did, excellently solved problems and looked at issues from multiple perspectives. I am an effective researcher who enjoys getting to the core of problems and designing long-lasting solutions. My natural strengths were investigating, presenting and problem-solving. I often could figure out the steps to success, in most projects. But these strengths were overlooked in the name of perfectionism.

Honestly, my achievements made matters confusing. Despite constant mistakes, I achieved a degree in economics, became a capable analyst and went on to build a successful career as an independent business consultant. I am fortunate to have loyal friends and a loving family. In many ways, I have always had a very happy side of life and I’m grateful. It was not all bad.

Taking on too much

We moved from London to Amsterdam as an experiment to bring calmness and focus to my life. Let’s change environments to change behaviour. I got engaged. Started working at a startup as a senior business analyst — purposefully didn’t make friends, didn’t go out so much and was ready to finally be proud of myself. Time to focus.

Within 8 months of working in the Netherlands, I got burnt out. Primarily from taking on too much at the new company. The team was fantastic, the product started to work well and everyone wanted the project to work. But there were rumours of investors losing patience with our poor commercial results. In my head, I took it upon myself to try and save a company that was being shut down. Regularly working late nights and weekends.

I became anxious, making errors at work in areas I normally do well, I started to misplace my wallet, keys and phone, struggled to even listen to loved ones. I felt great stress from work. I started to feel a loss of control of my life, I was mentally vacant and I soon became very scared. Soon I couldn’t sleep at night. This continued for months and progressively got worse.

It started to dawn on me that my behaviour wasn’t a by-product of living in London. It was me.

Lost, burnt out and helpless

The stresses of my new start up role triggered my (undiagnosed) ADHD. I developed anxiety which stemmed from a fear that my work, friendships, relationship, finances and health could all collapse. Probably because all aspects of my life were under pressure, I spent more money, couldn’t connect with people and my performance at work got worse. I felt out of control, making errors, struggling to listen to my fiancé which made me panic about losing her.

One particular moment felt like it was all too much. I was trying to hire a car to attend a Dutch festival to see the Arctic Monkeys. At the car hire shop, I was asked for my passport which I had forgotten. I rushed home, turned the whole flat upside down looking for my passport, only to realise it was in my inside coat pocket all along — the coat that I had been wearing the whole time in the car rental shop. Maximum stress for nothing.

My poor fiancé. Really, the combination of stressing her out and struggling to listen to her made me want to prioritise getting better. She deserved better. The fear of losing her and everything else was real. I was also certain my boss wanted to fire me. I needed help to turn things around.

This was a turning point…

Deciding to speak to a GP felt strange and I had little hope of any results. Perhaps my GP would tell me something smart like to stop working so hard and sign me off for a small break. Maybe nothing was wrong with me at all, and it was simply a busy time.

All I knew was that I felt broken. Lost. Zero energy. No control. Paralysed by distraction. So one morning I visited my local GP in Amsterdam — the best decision of my life.