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:  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

Let the Journey Begin

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.