Getting my ADHD Diagnosis by Julia MelvinPosted: 18 Nov 2022
October marked ADHD Awareness Month but for me, 2022 has been a year of ADHD awareness as I just received my diagnosis this year.
I’ve had ADHD all of my life, but I never realised it. I had never known any women or girls who had ADHD, just a few male friends growing up who mentioned it in passing. It had just never occurred to me, or to anyone else around me, that I could have ADHD.
I had always been a good student in most subjects because I love to learn new things, though I struggled terribly with maths. I couldn’t pay attention in class no matter how hard I tried and I required interventions to help me get through it.
Looking back, it seems so obvious now. My life has always seemed somehow more dramatic than everyone else’s – I am the friend who would constantly lock her keys in her car, if I could even find my car. I am the friend who has left her handbag at some random place and has to go back for it, who jumps onto the wrong train, who arrives to an appointment at the wrong time or place.
Once I became a parent, I had my child’s schedule to keep up with as well so even more things could go wrong. I get mixed up on dates when things are happening on a regular basis. People say these things happen to everyone, but they happen to me almost every single day, and on a bad day they stack up. The more stressed I get about losing or forgetting something, the more likely I am to lose or forget something else and so on.
Like many other people, I am far harder on myself than I would be on anyone else in these situations. It took a toll on my confidence and self-esteem and anxiety became a regular feature of my life because I felt I couldn’t trust myself to remember anything or keep up with anything, to be organised like everyone else.
There are other things too. I can be impatient with others and get frustrated because it sometimes seems like everyone else around me is moving too slowly or thinking too slowly. I have trouble sitting still and am constantly pacing around the room, or shaking my legs, cracking my knuckles, fidgeting with anything and everything nearby. Listening to anything or anyone else for long periods of time can be difficult because my brain is never still either.
My brain is like an internet browser where there are hundreds of tabs open and I’m quickly moving between them all until I eventually forget why I opened some of them in the first place.
As I’ve become older, this has had more of an impact on me. The natural process of aging and changing hormones affects memory and concentration and because I already have life-long problems in that area… well, at times it becomes very disruptive to my life. When I began to lead a local neurodiversity project for our studios I didn’t know much about ADHD, but the more I read, the more I began to understand why I had felt so different all my life.
I completed a self-assessment and spoke to my GP and she agreed it sounded very likely that I had ADHD. She referred me to speak to a specialist over a year ago and I’m still waiting for my appointment now. The NHS unfortunately is unable to meet demand for assessments for ADHD. I decided I’d waited long enough having gone my entire life without treatment, so I went to a private clinic. It was an expensive process and there were a lot of forms to fill out about myself – my personal kryptonite! But I managed to complete everything and ADHD was confirmed. I feel like diagnosis is a privilege, and as a single parent, it was a tough priority to manage financially, but it felt important.
I tried medication but due to side effects and other health conditions, it didn’t work well for me. Everyone is different. I’ve been doing my own research and self-reflection and figuring out ways to manage the things that are harder for me. But, getting the diagnosis suddenly illuminated something about myself that I had always tried so hard to hide and fight against, and I began to be kinder to myself. I’ve started to accept that there are certain areas where I might struggle, and I can plan for them ahead of time or ask for help. I’ve also started to notice that there are some good things about my brain too. It’s full of passion and excitement, wonder and curiosity. I see possibilities everywhere. I can look at something from many different perspectives and find creative solutions. When I am fully passionate and engaged on a topic, I can achieve so much that I feel almost unstoppable.
ADHD is part of who I am and even if there are frustrations, I try to find humour in my mishaps now and I try to be kinder to myself when they happen. I am starting to like my bouncy brain, it keeps life interesting.
Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale Checklist – this is what I completed and showed my GP with some examples. If you feel you may have ADHD, this can be a good place to start.
ADDitude Magazine has some great articles for adults with ADHD and parents of children with ADHD
ADHD Aware Film – Living with ADHD – this is a great film of various people talking about their experiences of living with ADHD