Talking to a friend about receiving their ADHD diagnosis well into adulthood, the thing that struck me most was “but everybody lives like that?” rather than the more obvious take “oh, perhaps this is relatable because I too should seek a diagnosis.”
After asking around and learning that actually no, not everybody finds it physically uncomfortable to sit with their back to the door, or found the stress of filling out a mortgage application so great that they quite literally thought it would be easier to die than buy the damn house, I accepted that perhaps no, not everybody lives like that after all.
Speaking to my doctor, it became apparent that the signs had been there all along, signs like teachers quite literally telling me they thought I exhibited signs of ADHD – I thought this was more of a reflection on one particular IT teacher’s lack of showmanship and ability to hold my attention.
There was the university ex telling me off for always starting three or four new tasks before finishing one, with dire warnings about the impact this could have on my future career. Or the manager who commented on my obvious restlessness and short temper, which struck me as a logical response to a rubbish job in a toxic environment.
This is to say, these early suggestions of ADHD came from people who for various reasons I already distrusted, people who made it feel easy to assume that they were pathologising my natural personality, that their comments were somehow malevolent, or least a little manipulative. As a slightly mouthy, slightly queer woman, this felt like another example of a long line of attempts to put me back in my box, and one which I was naturally inclined to resist.
However, after speaking to my friend about her experience seeking diagnosis as an adult, and the benefits of doing so, in terms of understanding herself and finding ways to make life a little easier, I decided to shake off my misconceptions, and after a surprisingly straightforward appointment with a very kind and understanding doctor, got myself into the system for a psych referral to have a full assessment.
The process had been smoother than I could have imagined, after years of tiresome, drawn out experiences with medical professionals, particularly while seeking an endometriosis diagnosis, which as notoriety had warned me, really did take literal years. With ADHD though, it seemed like the time it would all just come together.
However, that optimism was shattered when, after getting a call from my GP regarding my assessment, I went in for a follow up only to be told that the Dr had left the paperwork somewhere, and the receptionist had moved it. Somehow even in this modern age, that paper copy was the only key to any meaningful answers, and that key had quite clearly been absent-mindedly recycled, which in some ways was comfortingly familiar.
I gave up pursuing a formal diagnosis after that, and instead live in the in-between land of telling people that my ADHD paperwork was lost by my doctor, and so perhaps everybody lives like this. I can see the funny side, but I really shouldn’t have to.
The similarities between diagnosis pathways for endometriosis and ADHD in adults are far more apparent than I had optimistically thought; they depend on a level of perseverance, resilience and sheer luck that highlights the ways that our medical system just isn’t set up to believe women, or neurodiverse people. Not through any malevolent act but through the barriers and bureaucracy that put the onus on the patient, while doubting any presented self-diagnosis at appointments which if trusted and tested for in the first instance could save years of life admin.
And believe me, as someone who would rather die than do admin, that would be a very welcome shift.
We shouldn’t have to just live like this, but at least my just living like this comes with a side order of faintly amusing medical anecdote.
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