ADHD: My Journey and Diagnosis

Bendy road on yellow background

I’ve always known that there was something ‘off’ with me. I’ve struggled with procrastination since I was a child (cleaning my shared room with my brother took us months), finding things for school such as my shoes and school books was a nightmare, and I’ve always been incredibly forgetful. This led to my family and friends assuming that I just didn’t care, and it hurt, because I was never doing these things on purpose or out of spite, I was just as confused and upset as they were.

Primary and High School

My homework problems started arriving towards the end of year six in primary school. I’d forget my homework, and if I did remember to do it was rushed or just not thought through, but I got away with it because I did well in class. This habit obviously followed me through in to high school, and getting away with it wasn’t a plan anymore. There were now consequences to these actions (red comments in my planner or detentions), and being told off just sends me in to tears, so I’d try and get it done when I remembered. This led to me completing homework at school during break or lunch before the lesson. The most memorable time was when I found myself on the stairs outside of my R.E class during break, for my R.E teacher to come down the stairs to find me completing the homework that was set for the lesson after break. It didn’t go down well.
This continued through high school, my planners are filled with red comments from forgetting my homework, or my P.E kit, or forgetting my coursework, but no one ever questioned it, it was just ‘Georgie is a forgetful person’.

While I did okay in my GCSE’s, I could have done a lot better had I not procrastinated my revision until the night before the exam. I got through with B’s and C’s, enough to get me in to my college of choice to study maths, sociology, and psychology.

College

I began my first year of college enthusiastic, excited for the year ahead. I started the year off so well, I kept up with my work, handed in my homework, and I finally thought to myself ‘this is my year’.

Towards the end of November one of my best friends passed away, and it just threw me off course with everything. The stress, guilt, and grief caused me to lose interest with everything, and those with ADHD know that times of extreme stress and anxiety can make symptoms 100 times harder to deal with. I powered on through with college, but not with the same enthusiasm I had at the start of the year, I had lost interest completely, and ended up failing my AS exams.

After receiving my results, I felt sad, but also a sigh of relief. I never did well with exams anyway, so I decided I would pursue Art and Design. I’ve always had a talent in art, but I decided not to do an Art a-level as my art GCSE taught me one thing; if I’m to do art, I need my sole focus on it. Art was incredibly hard to manage in high school due to the coursework along with my other homework, so it was dropped in my first month of college.

So I signed up to complete my Extended Diploma in Art and Design. My first year was a mess. I had just learnt how to drive, which meant I now had to figure when to set off for college, rather than walking down to my coach stop for a set time. I struggled with my coursework thanks to procrastination, where I ended up having a referral for my first year, but my amazing tutors helped me through it, even though I scraped through. My second year went a lot smoother in comparison, I was able to find things I was so interested in that I was absorbed by my work, leaving me with a distinction. I cried when I got my results, I just couldn’t believe that I could do so well.

University

After receiving my grade from my Extended Diploma, I was so excited to study Graphic Design at my chosen university, but the extra workload and copious amounts of writing that came along with it really tested me. At the beginning of the year the Academic Support team sent round a questionnaire to figure out if students had a missed dyslexia or other learning disability. I ended up really struggling through my first term at university, and during that first term I had stumbled across an article online about a woman in her late 50’s who had only just been diagnosed with ADHD. I read through this article with astonishment, everything she had described was as if she’d just written about myself. This finding, along with my complete inability to cope with the amount of work that was set upon me, I gave Academic Support a visit regarding these issues. They gave a read through of the initial questionnaire that I had filled in, and agreed that I should be given the initial Dyslexia assessment and some support for my ADHD.

Visiting My GP

After my findings, I started researching ADHD, comparing my symptoms, and becoming kind of obsessed with just the concept of ADHD. Why had I gone years without no one ever noticing my symptoms, or that a bright, young girl was struggling with what should have been so easy for someone of my ability. And there was the answer to my question: women with ADHD are three times more likely to be missed for a diagnosis of ADHD. Why? Because the inattentive symptoms that I, and so many other women deal with, weren’t obvious symptoms. I mean, it’s called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, so people latch on to the idea of the disorder being about hyperactivity, so me not bringing in my homework wasn’t considered as much as a nuisance as the boy in my class who constantly shouts out.

I had read so many horror stories of women just being ignored by their doctor, or their symptoms being shrugged off as depression or anxiety. So I began listing my symptoms, and more specifically, writing down real examples of when I faced these symptoms. I curated this incredibly long list for two months as I waited for my GP appointment, as well as printing of the DSM-5 and NICE guidelines on ADHD, prepared to fight for a referral with my doctor.

It turns out I didn’t need all that, but it did help me when I went so I could give a real list of symptoms, along with my fit of crying to my doctor, and she referred me to the ADHD Clinic in my city.

I didn’t get an appointment for the ADHD clinic until nearly 11 months after my referral, not the quickest, but definitely not as long as others who have experienced wait times of up to two years.

The Diagnosis

I finally got my letter, and they asked me to bring a few things with me, which included my school planners, school reports (which I could only find one of!) and either a close relative or friend who they could also ask questions during the session, so I brought my older sister who had first hand experience of the disorganised chaos that my life had been so far.

The session took just under four hours, and they scoured every part of my life, starting all the way back at my mums pregnancy. We discussed it in detail, it was tedious, but helped them to better understand me, and I think it helped me understand myself too. After four hours we finally left, leaving my school planners and reports, as well as the questionnaires with the specialist.

I think I got a call back for an appointment roughly two months after the initial assessment, where they went through my diagnosis in full. Predominantley-Inattentive was the diagnosis, which was no surprise for me at all but I still had a good cry when they told me. It was the release of years of thinking I was inadequate, lazy, and stupid.

I then began my journey of starting medication, which I’ve been on now for over a year. That first feeling of being super productive wears out as you build up the tolerance, and I still need to put in more work for similar results as my friends, but it makes dealing with these problems so much easier.

I still have trouble with my time management, losing and forgetting items, and stopping my procrastination, but it’s learning how to work with these problems, and finding coping methods to deal with the problem when it arises.

Final Words

ADHD is a tough disorder, and it angers me when people tell me that everyone ‘has a bit of ADHD’ or ‘I sometimes forget my phone so I must have ADHD’. I’ve learnt to ask them that if their leg hurts does it mean they have a broken leg? No, it means your leg will occasionally hurt. Or I’ll ask them to read through the DSM-5 guidelines and ask if they struggle with 12 or more symptoms on the list of 18 symptoms, everyday. That tends to keep them quiet.

I also want to note that my ADHD diagnosis went pretty smoothly, as well as being located in the U.K so medications are much easier to get a hold of, so it may not go as smoothly for others. But I want to ensure that all people with ADHD find the resources they need, and I want to be able to help those with the disorder, because it can a devastating disorder that not many understand. I want people to read my blog and know that it’s from someone who struggles with the disorder first hand, not a medical professional or the parent of a child with ADHD on what it’s like because it’s not the same. I don’t at all doubt what they ar saying, but sometimes it’s better to hear from someone who has struggled with it too, I know that’s what I spent a lot of the time searching for before my diagnosis.

If you’re going through your diagnosis right now, or just need some friendly support, leave a comment below or send me a message on my contact page!

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