ADHD, Health

How I Sought Help

Getting a diagnosis in the UK for ADHD as an adult is not easy.  Especially if you have ADHD.  My decision to ask for help wasn’t because of a ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ moment, but more a build up of disappointments, mistakes and an unmanageable feeling of being overwhelmed with perimenopausal symptoms, ill parents and small children.  I’d not read much about ADHD since I’d initially looked into it when my son was 3, but I’d signed up to a few blogs.  One day an email popped up and I read it and I was reminded that perhaps I had this thing.  It just struck a timely chord.

At the same time, I took a course in Transcendental Meditation.  The lady I met was an absolute star, but totally bonkers.  I told her about my suspicions and she was horrified.  Like a lot of well meaning people, she put my distress down to the internet, my diet, sugar, bad chakras, and all sorts of other stuff.  She could not accept, however, that there might be a neuro-biological reason for it.  I have no doubt that TM helps, and I truly believe this is the best of the type of meditation I have tried, but, if I’m honest, I can’t be arsed with meditation.  It’s boring.  And that’s why I need to see a doctor of the actual head.

My next resource that helped was this:

http://www.simplywellbeing.com/  written by Andrew Lewis.  He’s an ADHD coach who has grappled with the disorder himself for years.  It was though his website and email advice I took courage to go to my GP.

My GP is lovely.  He’s about 30/35 and is very kind.  But he’s really, really vanilla.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the shock factor.  I can’t speak for all ADHD girls, but I’ve been really quite bad in a sex way and it’s got me into some very dangerous and risky situations (I have to admit, I’ve also had a blast).  I realised a few minutes in to my ‘why I think I have ADHD’, my GP was blushing.  After our initial ‘I don’t believe it exists or you can have it when you’re 46’ meeting, he asked me to write an account of how the traits have caused me problems since childhood.

Well, I didn’t want to disappoint him.  He (reluctantly) booked me a double appointment and he sat and read my account (6 pages of illustrated, colour codedspider diagrams – should have seen his face).  I realised when he read the ‘relationships’ one that he was probably a virgin when he got married.  The page detailed my chaotic and dangerous relationship with sex.  The desperation to lose my virginity, resulting in a very frightening initial sexual encounter that I felt I couldn’t get out of, then a rape.  The drunken, drug-fueled situations I wandered into, a horrible (sober) racially motivated sexual assault in the US, risky promiscuity – two sexual encounters in one night in Italy on a work trip.  At the time and for years after I bragged about this. Now I think I’m lucky I’m alive.  The temporary thrill of sex with a stranger.  Then there have been the flings and affairs.

I’m a creature of contradictions.  I crave normality and stability, yet I find that so boring. And in the very worst versions of myself, I have found excitement in being unfaithful. This has destroyed teen relationships and my first marriage which was on it’s last legs already, and it’s almost destroyed my second.  This is another reason I seek diagnosis.  I don’t want to do that again.  What I am beginning to get is some insight into why I found these liaisons so thrilling.

So many crappy things people with ADHD do can be seen through a moral filter, and so many things they do can get them judged as bad.  I’m not proud of a lot of things I’ve done, but what is wonderful is that I’ve realised WHY I’m doing it and I have supportive people (husband/mother) who are interested in learning more.

Once I got referred it was to the Maudsley, to their local service.  I quickly got an initial appointment.  I had to fill out a million forms (not boring because they were all about ME) and I took a childhood friend who has known me since I was 3.  The interview was with a specialist nurse practitioner who was absolutely lovely and we actually had a great laugh despite the horrible subjects we were discussing.  Thank God for gallows humour.

Then it all ground to a halt.

I thought they’d write to me (I think they’re meant to), but they didn’t, so I sort of forgot.  Then I did forget.  Then I remembered and procrastinated.  Then two weeks ago, my eldest son had another manic episode – or something like that and I realised that I had to take command of my own mental health if I was going to ever help him.

Now I have a date for diagnosis.  I have another chunk of questionnaires to fill out and I’m meeting an actual psychiatrist.  Apparently, according to the secretary, he’s ‘lovely’ and Greek.

I’m hoping he’ll be on his guard for terrible girls like me.

 

ADHD, Health

From Mother to Son

 

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This little so-and-so is the reason I Googled ADHD in the first place, that was when he was 3 and as we looked at the diagnostic criteria, my husband said, ‘That’s you that is’.  Well, here I am in the midst of my assessment and we’ve now finally decided to get our lad assessed too.

This is not without stigma in the UK.  Funnily enough, his teacher and the Inclusion Manager at the school were totally calm about it, but it’s the reaction of relatives and friends that needs to be carefully navigated – not easy if you have bloody ADHD yerself!

My son is in a slight danger of aggrandisement via Special Labelling of Neurobiological Disorders, i.e. becoming a cocky arse.  He sent me  this link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFHXDRvHbw8

10 signs that apparently show you are a genius – all of which are well documented traits of ADHD (apart from blue eyes).  He sent it to me knowing full well that he fulfills all of them apart from the alcoholic one.  He then pointed to my 6pm very large glass of Shiraz to demonstrate it was only a matter of time before he succumb to the 10th.  That’s exactly why I’m having him referred.  So he doesn’t resort to the 10th.

When we talk about our referrals, relatives go quiet, think, maybe, we’re justifying terrible behavior, or are bewildered because ‘we all have these traits, don’t we?’

Yes, yes we do!  And some people – actually, A LOT of the bravest people in history have had ADHD traits, but it’s only a DIS-order when things go wrong. And for me and, unfortunately for my boy, things are going wrong.

For me – Underachievement in work despite academic success, inability to write book 3 – I’ve now racked up 4 first chapters of different projects.  Hormones don’t help.  Total inability to sort out my house.  I have piles of crap everywhere.  There is evidence of Herculean bursts of energy where I’ve decorated a room, then I can’t finish it, so the piles of paint tins and tools stay in the corner for, er, three years.  Tip of the iceberg.

My son – well.  Homework is torture.  I’ve asked for help for about 5 years from school but he’s always been a good boy there – until year 6.  Now the hormones are kicking in, it seems he’s acting out at school too. I feel his pain –

I recently got all my school reports from my parents’ house and there it was, laid bare – first I read mine and my sister’s which was similar:

  • If only she could apply herself
  • Awful spelling
  • Huge potential but needs to focus
  • If only she could be more self disciplined
  • She needs to  concentrate
  • Her term time marks  are excellent but the exam is not representative of her potential
  • Careless
  • If she actually came to lessons, she might achieve

Then worse, I looked at my mother’s reports – they weren’t so polite in 1953…

One said she was “a nuisance”  and then this:

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“She finds it difficult to take correction”.  And look again at the word “concentrate”.

Hilarious!  Except, sort of not.  I always knew she was different.  She couldn’t cope with cooking – hated it.  She kept draws and draws full of receipts and lists. My sister used to half joke that mum expressed her rage through her food, but actually it was rage plus frustration.  She must have punched the 70s air with the development of microwave technology.  I now see that she was trying her very hardest to impose her own crazy system on things she found really very hard to manage.

crayons

At 7 I was top of the class with the odd comment about finishing on time.  By the time I got to lower 6th doing A-Levels it was ‘we will be astonished if she finishes’, ‘so much potential unrealised’.

Maybe they’d chucked too many bloody board rubbers at my head…

 

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I now have to apologise to all readers who are religious.  Please walk away, because this will be upsetting.  It really will:

I hate church.  And my son hates church.  I, possibly/maybe influenced his first experience of church (Scouts) in a bad way by hyperventilating/fidgeting/texting all the way through that agonising hour.

I can only explain by saying I was forced to go to church by my parents until I refused to go any more.  I was 11.  The reason I gave my parents was because our Minister had it off with our sunday school teacher (with a ginger fro) behind his wife’s back – he had 3 kids.

Once I refused to go at 11 it sort of opened a floodgate of power – I knew I didn’t have to do what they told me.  So our vicar was a morally weak – but that wasn’t the real reason I hated church, that was just the excuse I needed to end the agony.  The real reason?  It was really, really BORING.  Perhaps if my well meaning parents had been more ‘high church’ rather than opting for the plain, un-showy, but tonque-speaking Baptists, it might have been more bearable.  I’d at least have had some pretty gold trinkets, frescos and decent architecture to stare at while I zoned out.

Once I had won this victory, I learned something very useful – I could just refuse to do stuff!  Armed with this brilliant new weapon I stumbled angry and confused into the hormonal hell of adolescence and came right up against the one thing that would obstruct me from total freedom – my dad.  And the conflict that resulted was carnage…

 

ADHD, Health

Let the Journey Begin

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The wheel have fallen off again…

There’s been a lot of discussion and misinformation about what ADHD is, whether it exists and how it’s treated in the press.  I’m not attempting to address these arguments, but rather offer my own experience and how I came to seek a diagnosis when I was 46.

A little about the name ADHD.  I believe ‘Attention Deficit’ is misleading.  I certainly don’t suffer from a deficit of attention – nope!  I just find it hard to pay attention to what I’m meant to be paying attention to.  Much to the annoyance of almost every teacher, employer and pretty much anyone who has tried to have a conversation with me.

As a girl (the ratio of males to females diagnosed with ADHD is 3:1) I was always either a gobby motormouth that wouldn’t shut up, or I’d be daydreaming with very little perception whatsoever of what was going on around me.  Neither of these things were a deficit of attention.  In fact, I could cover about 82 topics of conversation (one sided) in only a few minutes with no trouble.  And when it came to daydreaming, I was able to focus for hours on the clouds drifting above my classroom window, or the grain in the wood on my desk, or my pencil, or my ornate doodling as my teacher’s boring, monotonous drawl melted away to nothing.

Another thing about the name ADHD is the hyperactivity part.  From what I’ve read and know of my own experience, one of the reasons girls sometimes slip through the net is because they don’t necessarily act particularly hyper.  They aren’t bouncing off the walls (like my son), or unable to sit still in a chair (like my son).  But instead tend to have very little impulse  control and maybe have a restlessness that presents differently, inwardly rather than outwardly.

So, it seems, there may be a lot more adult women out there that have struggled since a young age but have managed through, perhaps, good relationships, social networks, their own sheer bloody minded determination to keep going with ADHD but never get diagnosed.

That was me – when the planets aligned and all was calm and good, things were manageable.  I have had some exciting and rewarding jobs and several careers.  I’m a successful photographer and an author of two books.  I have three lovely children, a good marriage, a loving supportive family and a lovely home, great life-long friendships.  But these manageable periods are always short-lived.

Then there were the times when things were not alright.  When life was extremely hard. The wheels first fell off with the onset of teenage hormones.  Then the inevitable relationship breakups and on into my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s – divorce, eviction, post natal depression, redundancy, bankrupcy, professional rejection and lack of success, loss of friendships, bereavement, a child with serious mental health problems, a child with a disability.  All these life events can and do happen to anyone and everyone, yet with each of these to a lesser or greater extent, it seemed so much harder than it should have been to recover or just cope.   I watched friends and acquaintances deal with far worse, but didn’t go into a total tailspin.  All of which just makes me feel even more like a total loser.

It has been the latest one that has finally driven me to seek a diagnosis though.  This last one, the femme-fatale of female physiology, mid-life’s biggest shitty stick – the bloody menopause.  Since 2015, once a month, my brain has felt like a clown’s car – collapsing, falling apart and disintegrating until it’s just a heap on the floor.  I can deal with the night sweats, the acne and the migraines.  But not being able to string a sentence together, or organise my housework, or simply work, I can’t put up with.

Clown cars collapsing are amusing.  This is not.

ADHD, Health

Bored, not Bad.

When my son was about three and regularly going beserk, I Googled his behaviour and came across the term ADHD.  My husband and I read the diagnostic criteria, nodding and ‘hmm-ing’ at how similar it was to our little firebrand and then my man said something that was to change my life – ‘That’s you that is,’ he said.

Although, it turns out, without the hyper bit. I’m just talented at day-dreaming…. Like when I had to fly home from my family holiday in France to potentially ‘say goodbye’ to my mum.  I managed the trip by thinking about lipstick.  Matt lipstick, mainly.  Principally, it meant I didn’t cry in public, and that’s good.  I’m an ugly crier.

Well, she survived and I continued to muddle along, not really achieving what I wanted to achieve.

Hyper focus can be an ADHD skill and this blog is all about the ups and downs of life as a differently wired person.  Hyperfocus can also be a massive hindrance, partlicularly if say, I was thinking about matte lipstick in a job interview for example.  Whilst ADDer’s have some great skills and talents, but we do also get bored.  Everso, everso BORED.

I’m an anomaly.  I’ve also got to 47 and not got sectioned, arrested or committed suicide, which is popular in my family. I sought diagnosis for many reasons.  One, because I believe my son has the same set of traits – some brilliant, some unhelpful.  I wanted to go through the process before him – he’s  10.  Another because as an optimist,  I’m hoping a diagnosis will help me finally meet my potential – something my teachers warned would never happen right from the age of 5 unless I ‘learned to concentrate’ and ‘got organised’.

I’d like to share my diagnostic story with you and maybe his.