He has ADHD and was miserable in Singapore until he moved to this country for university

diagnosed with ADHD

For most of his life, Bryce Chee felt different from others.

His memory was terrible — no matter how hard he tried, he would not be able to recall the things that happened or were said to him the day before.

This affected his time in school too. Every minute was torture, and he barely scraped by, doing badly for most of his schooling years. 

“I gave up on things like studying because I was convinced that I would never be good at it,” said Chee. “I couldn’t keep a lot of friendships, and my emotions were irregular. That was the lived experience that I’ve had for most of my life.”

These were all symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental disorder that resulted in hyperactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty focusing, but Chee was not yet diagnosed with ADHD.

He had no idea what he was going through.

Growing up in Singapore — one of the most academically competitive countries in the world where reports reveal that 72% of Singapore students said they worry about what others would think of them if they fail, and 78% said they would have doubts about their future if they were failing — was already a challenge.

Add that Chee’s strict Asian family, where academic excellence is expected as a norm, and you get a miserable and suffocating time.

The only way out – quite literally – was to study abroad. 

“In all honesty, I didn’t want to study – I just wanted an adventure,” confesses Chee. 

It was Chee’s colleagues at Carousell Singapore who pointed him in the right direction.

Back in 2016, Carousell Singapore had been a small start-up with less than 25 employees. Chee’s interest and passion for start-ups had led him there, and it was where he was encouraged to pursue a degree in business – more specifically, in information systems to bolster the skills he needed in the scene.

Luckily for him, Melbourne’s RMIT University had just the programme for him.

“Going to the US or the UK required me to write an essay for each unique university submission,” he said. “Australia was different – I didn’t have to do anything. So obviously, I chose Australia.” 

diagnosed with ADHD

Chee graduated with a distinction in his Bachelor of Business in Business Information Systems from RMIT University. Source: Bryce Chee

Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery

To Chee, university was the best time of his life. So good in fact, that he graduated with a distinction for the first time ever.

“It was surreal to walk away with a distinction on my degree,” he said. “I’ve never had a distinction on anything. And the irony is that I did it before getting diagnosed with ADHD and getting treatment.”

He credited a big part of his time at university to his wife, whom he met back then during orientation. They started out as classmates, then began a relationship after a few months. Thanks to her presence and support, Chee realised that it was time for him to pull himself together and overcome his challenges.

“For the first time in a long time, I cared about doing well,” says Chee. “My wife – who was still my girlfriend back then – was a big help because I started to feel like I needed to do what she did.”

Whenever she began her assignments, Chee would be motivated to start his too. If she started revising for exams early, so did he. She was particularly strict when it came to group assignments as well and would push him to do his work well.

“I didn’t have much of a choice,” laughs Chee.

Looking back at it even now, this transformation from scraping by classes to graduating with distinction kickstarted Chee in the right direction. But another hurdle was about to come his way. 

diagnosed with ADHD

Chee with his wife, Felicia. Source: Bryce Chee

Getting an official diagnosis

Eager to continue his journey with start-ups, Chee became an operations analyst at one in Melbourne after graduating in 2018. 

Unfortunately, it was not without difficulties. 

“I messed up a lot at work,” says Chee. “It was starting to annoy my boss, and one day he just patted me on the shoulder and asked, ‘Has anyone ever told you that you might have ADHD?’”

Now that was a lightbulb moment that Chee will never forget.

“I realised why my life felt tougher than others,” he said. “I did some research and asked around – in fact, my boss was also diagnosed with ADHD, that’s why he recognised the symptoms. So after talking to him, I wanted to get a proper diagnosis because I wanted treatment for it.”

To Chee, it was important that he made the effort because he wanted things to change for the better.

“I realised that if I kept my life as it was, it was quite unacceptable,” he said. “I didn’t ask to be this way, and I certainly wouldn’t want to continue living like that.”

At 29 years old, Chee received his official diagnosis.

diagnosed with ADHD

Chee is now a permanent resident in Melbourne. Source: Bryce Chee

Initial struggles after being diagnosed with ADHD

“Having ADHD is like, in gaming terms, having permanent debuffs on yourself,” says Chee. “It feels like you have to put in 30% more effort compared to a neurotypical person in almost everything.”

It took Chee almost eight or nine tries before he found medication that worked for him. Some of the unsuitable medicine made his heart palpitate and his hands shake uncontrollably. There was even one that made his toes swell.

Eventually, he found the right mix for himself – Zyban, Strattera, and Memantine.

“In a way, getting the right medication feels like trying to find the right food stall,” he joked. “You want one that’s cheap and serves good food, and it takes multiple tries to find one like that. It was the same with my medication.”

Beyond that, a big part of his journey involved learning new habits and unlearning old ones.

His strict upbringing meant that he was used to suppressing his receptors and emotions. It also didn’t help that mental health and disorders were a taboo topic for some of his family members, and he struggled to be open about his condition to them.

“I would say being in Melbourne is 100% better for me. I feel like it’s a lot easier here – culturally – around mental health issues, as the general attitude about it is good,” says Chee. “The way professionals and specialists interact with you here is vastly different as compared to the ones in Singapore and Malaysia. Back home, it’s common to hear about doctors asking you if you were faking it – I personally know a lot of people who had similar troubles.”

Luckily, Chee found a great doctor in Melbourne and, at the same time, was supported by his friends and girlfriend during his journey for treatment.

With their help, he began to learn new and better ways to manage his ADHD and has since thrived both in his personal and professional life – he’s now working with HotDoc as a business operations analyst and has been happily married since 2022. 

diagnosed with ADHD

In his spare time, Chee enjoys taking photos, especially of his wife. Source: Bryce Chee

How to navigate a life after being diagnosed with ADHD

Now 32, Chee is a passionate advocate of mental health, ready to talk and help those around him who struggle with similar experiences. While it hasn’t been easy managing his condition for the most part, he gradually learned to live with it

What measures have you taken to manage your ADHD besides medication?

Chee: My Google calendar is my saviour. When I’m working, my calendar always needs to be visible on my desktop. I cannot cover it at all – if I cover it with a different window or application, I will literally forget what else I need to do today.

Admittedly, I cannot tell you the times I forgot to even make a calendar event for something. But over the years, it’s now muscle memory. Now, I make calendar events for everything – going out with friends, arranging dates with my wife, work-related tasks, and even blocking out time on weekends for my hobbies.

Management applications like Notion and Airtable are also really useful. I used to use Notion a lot to store a lot of my personal stuff or work. I also used to use it to journal when I was struggling a lot in the beginning with my medication – in a way, it helped with my medicine tracking, as well as emotional regulation.

Password managers are also very good. Honestly, I can’t even remember important things most of the time, so who has the time to remember passwords? I wouldn’t survive without them, and I recommend them to anyone, not just those diagnosed with ADHD.

What is your advice to those struggling with ADHD?

Chee: The life you’ve lived so far doesn’t determine who you will become in the future, even if you’re diagnosed with ADHD.

It doesn’t mean the crappy life you’ve had with ADHD, and all the truths you’ve learned about yourself so far, did not happen, but you have to believe in your ability to change for the better. 

Each person’s journey is different, but always be kind to yourself. Have courage – learning more about yourself is just the first step. ADHD doesn’t stop you from being responsible for your life or being unable to overcome the challenges, no matter how unfair or difficult they are. And, of course, it should never be used as an excuse for poor behaviour.

Remember that your condition doesn’t only affect you, but it affects those around you too. It’s a hard journey, and most people give up after a while, but I highly recommend that you try your best for yourself and your loved ones.

What are your thoughts on self-diagnosing?

Chee: Self-diagnosing is usually a neutral action – what you do with the information after that is what matters. You can’t dismiss being late all the time or forgetting something just because you think you have ADHD. It’s not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card.

If you relate to any symptoms or feel like any signs resonate with you, I highly recommend looking it up or talking to a friend about it first, then going to a doctor if you have strong suspicions. 

However, I recognise that in Asian countries like Singapore, people can be quite prejudiced against mental health – there are multiple other avenues to find treatment, such as online services or mental health communities. 

Even if you don’t end up taking medication for ADHD, it’s good to just be more educated on the subject. It helps prevent yourself and others from running around and using ADHD as an excuse for your behaviour.