A couple of months ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD. It was something I’d been thinking about investigating for a while but with COVID and the lockdowns, it was just something that got pushed to the back on my mind; I was busy trying to deal with my anxiety and depression. But then the opportunity to have an assessment came up unexpectedly and I decided to take it.
At the end of my hypermobility assessment, we were really just making conversation and the appointment was drawing to a close when I mentioned something offhandedly (I can’t even remember what now) and the specialist commented that she had worked with multiple individuals with ADHD who had similar experiences. I decided to bite the bullet and so I told her that I had done some research into the combination of ASD and ADHD and that I’d been thinking about whether I should be assessed. She said she could arrange that for me, which was more than a bit shocking: I’m so used to having to fight like hell for people to give me that sort of opportunity. So I took it gratefully and to my complete and utter surprise, I received a letter later that week with an appointment date in less than a month. I was expecting months of waiting. And it was also with the same specialist so that was reassuring since consistency is helpful for me, as someone with ASD.
In the time before the assessment, I was sent a handful of questionnaires used when diagnosing ADHD, which I filled out, but it was clear that they were old: aimed at children and the stereotypical presentation (they were old: I searched them and when they’d been created). But I filled them in anyway and we sent them back in preparation for the assessment.
I also did a load of research into ADHD in adult women (more extensive than I’d previously done). I collected articles, personal essays, blog posts, and anecdotes from social media that I related to or felt were relevant to my life, and compiled them into a document. It was a LONG document. That done, we emailed it to her, although it was so close to the assessment that I wasn’t sure whether she’d have time to read it before she saw me. I still thought it was worth sending and when we spoke, she did too.
When the assessment rolled around, I was nervous. I’ve had enough bad experiences at this point to at least be apprehensive before these things. But already knowing the specialist was helpful and she was really good. She hadn’t had a chance to read the document I’d sent but promised she would before making any decisions about a diagnosis. Then she spent about an hour asking me and my Mum (who was also present for emotional support and information about my childhood) lots of questions, the majority of them about my childhood, my experiences at school, and typical ADHD symptoms. Some of the questions were quite stereotypical but having said that, she was incredibly knowledgable and very aware of the fact that there are different presentations of ADHD, as well as how different everything can be when you have ASD in the mix as well. So even though she obviously had to ask the conventional questions, she did tailor her approach to fit my circumstances, which, of course, gave her a much more accurate picture of what I was dealing with and how I’ve been struggling.
After an hour – at the mid point of the assessment – she suggested we take a break: to move, have a drink, etc. But as soon as I tried to move, I got the blinding, electric shock like pain in my leg that I’ve been getting on and off since the first lockdown. It’s excruciating and nothing helps it; I just have to try to remember to breathe and wait until it fades. This can take from a few minutes to almost an hour and I’m always exhausted after so when the break ended and the specialist rejoined the online call, Mum told her what was happening (she was already aware that it was something I was having to manage since it had come up in the hypermobility assessment) and between them, they rescheduled the second hour of the assessment for a later date. I doubt I could have kept going but it was frustrating to slam the breaks on halfway through a process like that and then have to wait almost two months to continue. Having begun, I just wanted to get on with it and get an answer, one way or the other.
But when the second appointment finally rolled around, I wasn’t sure whether I was relieved or nervous. But again, the specialist was great. She’d read all of my research and she asked me a few more questions based on certain things I’d included or commented on. Then she moved on to her observations and her conclusions, based on the original questionnaires, the questions she’d asked me, and my research. She said that, because of the overlap between ASD and ADHD, it can be very tricky to determine which symptoms ‘belong’ to which condition but having said that, she felt that I did display enough symptoms and the impairment caused by those symptoms to diagnose me with ADHD Inattentive Type. And that’s that. Except, of course, it isn’t. But it is an explanation and it does point in the direction of potential help and support.
Initially it was pretty overwhelming; for some reason I found it really hard to process. I had to just sit with it for a bit – let the dust settle – and then, after a while, it just felt less intense. I could think about it without feeling overwhelmed by it. But, even though I had been wondering about it before the assessment, it’s still very new and I’m still learning about what this means for me and how I move forward.
So now I’m investigating various options in terms of support. Apparently group therapy is a commonly used method of supporting individuals with ADHD but, of course, that’s not possible at this moment in time. The specialist told me that the NHS are currently building an online hub of resources but, as far as I know, that’s not been published yet. I’m fortunate to already have a very good therapist so I feel well supported there.
That just leaves medication. Unfortunately, I can’t take the classic ADHD medications with my current antidepressant because they both potentially cause high blood pressure, which could be dangerous. There are other ADHD medications that I could take but they all appear likely to have a sedating effect, and with the sedation I already struggle with due to the Phenelzine, that just feels unbearable. I can barely get through the day without two Red Bulls and caffeine pills. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I was even more sleepy; I’m not even sure if I’d be functional. So that’s not really an option. I’ve been doing some research, talking to the various medical professionals involved, and thinking about it a lot. I’m still not sure what’s going to happen next but I’ll work it out. I just need to be patient and keep looking through the kaleidoscope; I have to believe that, at some point, the bigger picture will become clear.