This image may not look like much and may not strike anyone as significant, after all it’s just a ticked off to-do list, but this is a to-do list I completed pro-actively and without the constant feeling of overwhelm and that is where the achievement and significance lies. As organised and ‘together’ as I look on the outside, it’s a constant uphill struggle that rarely ends in a win.
And I am aware that lots of people would describe a fair number of their days in that way, but for a year or so now I’ve had suspicions it’s more than that, and this past week or so I put my big girl pants on and decided to try and find out if there was indeed something more to it.
It’s the sixth point on my list that is the biggest achievement and the culmination of the past few days. I emailed over the rest of the information my doctor required from me for a referral for a diagnosis of Inattentive ADHD (previously known as ADD). Because last Friday, in the paraphrased words of singer Jason Isbell I was ‘afraid, very afraid and did it anyway’ (actual lyric is the title of this post). After a year of umm-ing and ahh-ing, I got in touch with my GP with my suspicions that I have Inattentive ADHD. By the end of the call she was almost certain and I felt like I could say I was almost certain now too. I was almost certain before, but didn’t really feel like I could say so until I had the validation of someone with far more medical knowledge than I.
But I know my own body and I know when reading a symptom list whether they are actually applicable or not with a pretty level head. If anything I will naturally try and downplay how they may affect me. But since first looking into this almost a year ago, it felt like the answer was now hiding in plain sight, but it was up to me to make the first move.
I know everyone struggles and has bad days etc, not everyone is motivated all the time, but there was a nagging feeling as no matter what approaches I took to try and improve this for myself with little impact, that it was more than that. And about a year ago, I started noticing that people on the group I am a member of on Facebook for people with my genetic condition were talking more and more about the ADHD diagnoses they were receiving for their children (most people on the group are parents with children with the condition, not many are adults with it). And I knew for me the hyperactivity it is commonly pictured as wasn’t me, but the word inattentiveness as it was now being called for ADD, well, that struck a chord. So I started my research with symptom lists and every one was familiar. Distracted, always trying to do too many things at once, giving up on tasks when they are no longer engaging, talking too much (HAHAHA, oh boy.), inability to sit still, easily stressed, very short temper and mood swings, extreme impatience, a lack of attention to detail, misplacing things frequently, forgetfulness. All of these things were so relevant to me and the things I tried (and lets be honest not always managed) to navigate and mask day-to-day, because I thought they were just bad habits I’d picked up.
But my research moved from symptom lists to reading articles written by adults living with ADHD and that’s when it really hit home. That’s when I felt like the whole article had been written by someone who must’ve been squatting in my brain for a while to write something that so accurately reflected me. This is the one that most struck a chord with me and quite honestly, made me cry, although this is one of the more recent ones I read only a few weeks ago.
And then my appendicitis happened and then the pandemic happened and next thing I knew, I was in the middle of another pretty rough patch a few weeks ago, with lots of emotions and the words ADHD started popping up everywhere I looked again. Four separate people who have no links to each other shared posts about adults with ADHD on Facebook (one was a series of cute cartoon style images that again, had never so accurately reflected my life), it was mentioned in two different youtube videos I watched, neither of which have anything to do with it usually. I saw an interesting thread on twitter about it, etc, it just seemed to be really prominent again, and I needed to face it. And then I was listening to the aforementioned Jason Isbell song which has a line in it ‘see every one of us is counting dice that we didn’t roll, and the loser is the last to ask for help’ and the bluntness of that struck home. It made me realise I can keep wondering if that’s the answer and if it is, never get the help I might be able to receive, or I can make that move. The very next line is the chorus ‘Be afraid, be very afraid, do it anyway’ and that was how I felt. It’s scary approaching someone with a medical degree and saying, with not much to go on other than knowing yourself, ‘I think this is wrong with me’, but ultimately, if nothing else, I gave my doctor an indication of my symptoms and a fairly good starting point.
And I struck lucky in that my doctor has recently gone through a diagnosis for a family member and has been doing a lot of her own research and said that my ability to describe my symptoms like that was pretty spot on. And no, I don’t have my absolute final diagnosis, but frankly that is going to be a loooooong process. Hopefully I will be eligible for some help, to allow me to better manage all the symptoms, but most of all I feel a huge weight has been lifted now we are pretty confident we know what is causing those symptoms and for me that is almost enough on it’s own. I now understand why I act, feel and react to situations the way do. I understand why all the symptoms I listed above are happening. And that’s a big reassurance. They are not just bad habits that I am struggling to break because they are so much more intrinsically linked to me than that.
And I am not aiming to use this diagnosis as an excuse and a caveat for my behaviour and reactions, I am always trying to be less forgetful, to manage my stress better, to talk less, to listen more attentively, to keep to task, to not give up so easily, to stop over promising and under delivering, to pay attention to detail, to keep my temper and have better patience, but at least now I know why I find it hard to improve on these, why it’s not easy for me to make the changes I am trying to make. But I am also able to understand that I need to be kinder to myself, because it’s part of me, and it’s not going to change just by ‘being a better person’. I am not asking anyone else to excuse any of the above either, but I hope by being honest I can demonstrate that nothing of the things above are personal, that they are things I struggle with and although I never want to be excused, compassion for the fact that these are hard for me will always be welcomed.
And as with my other health conditions, it’s the hope for compassion and understanding that drives me to share. I wholeheartedly believe that those who have the ability and confidence to share their story will do two things, they will encourage others who are fighting the same/similar battles by showing they are not alone in their fight, and they will spread knowledge, awareness and experience to those who are not in that position the battles which will hopefully lead to better understanding, a better ability for people to know when they might have something that needs checking out and a chance of compassion for those who are struggling in ways different to their own. So yes, this is just an extension of me talking too much, but I hope for someone, in some way my honesty and openness is useful.