Lily, diagnosed with ADHD at 23 in United Kingdom

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United Kingdom
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1. What made you decide to have your diagnosis?

I had been struggling with my mental health for years and despite being on medication it was not helping in the right way. I was finding myself spending every ounce of energy trying to function “normally”. After struggling in university, I decided to look into whether anything else was going on and eventually thought it could be ADHD.

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2. What do you do for a living?

I am a final year undergraduate student about to enter the working world

3. What is your ADHD presentation?


4. How were your school years?

School for me mainly revolved around sleep, I just couldn’t fall asleep at the time I needed to. I was diagnosed with delayed sleep phase disorder (meaning that my natural sleep cycle was later than the norm) because my ideal sleep pattern was from 3/4am until 10/11am everyday. However, because of school I was only getting around 3/4 hours a night. On top of this, I was very particular in what I wanted to study and if it wasn’t interesting I just wouldn’t do it.

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5. Looking back, what was an obvious ADHD trait in your childhood?

For me, it was just a pure curiosity in everything and constantly changing what I was doing because I wanted to do everything.

6. Was it difficult to get a diagnosis?

In the UK, the waiting list for a diagnosis is around 1.5-2 years long. I was so desperate at the time that I decided to go privately. This was very efficient but obviously very expensive. I’m very lucky that I could go privately but unfortunately many people in the UK cannot afford this option.

7. How did you prepare yourself for your diagnosis?

I did as much research about symptoms for ADHD, not just on healthcare websites (which often talk about symptoms experienced by men), but also at people’s personal experiences on social media. I then looked back at my life to see whether I had ever been experienced those symptoms and noted them down so I wouldn’t forget when speaking to the psychiatrist.

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8. How did you feel right after getting your diagnosis?

I didn’t really know how to feel after diagnosis, it was kind of like ok? But what next? I was quickly told the next steps in terms of medication but I wasn’t given any educational resources etc. I was told I would benefit from CBT, but haven’t currently got the time to do this.

9. How do you feel about it now?

I am still not sure how to feel. I have only recently started my medication at a level that has an effect (my previous dose was just for my body to get used to the medication). I can tell the difference but now I am at the point where I’m like “is this how I should feel or is there still room for improvement?” I am also still struggling with the idea of ADHD being a part of who I am. I know it does not have to be part of my identity, but I still struggle with even telling people when it is necessary.

10. Do you think you "look like" the ADHD stereotype?

Definitely not. I have been told I am a leader, someone who is confident and charismatic. A lot of people still consider ADHD to be the boy in class who wouldn’t sit down and that is just not accurate at all. For me, I think I have been masking for years and the image I portray is not how I feel inside.

11. What are you struggling with because of your ADHD brain?

I struggle massively with anxiety. I struggle to let thoughts go and often ruminate on them. This often leads to procrastination and I struggle to move on with my day.

12. What are your ADHD strengths ?

Probably my enthusiasm and resilience. I still have a passion for many different things and have learnt through my struggles over many years that at the end of the day, I will get through it.

13. Did your ADHD diagnosis help you?

I was only diagnosed 3 months ago and I am already glad that I followed through with diagnosis. The medication has been helping in countless ways and I plan to do CBT when I finish my degree. After experiencing setbacks for many years and feeling like something must be wrong with me, I now know why I have struggled with so many things that others don’t find challenging.

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14. Do you feel your life could have gone the other way if you'd been diagnosed earlier?

I am not sure as to whether being diagnosed earlier would have had a bit effect on my time in school, as overall I was a good student and managed to maintain my grades despite struggling with sleep. However I do wish I had been diagnosed in time for university. My mental health plummeted at university, a lot of this resulting for big changes and having to cope on my own. Since being diagnosed, I have had access to the university disability service, and I just know that this would have been a god send if I had this access from my first year.

15. What was your family/friends' reaction to your diagnosis?

My mum was actually the one who brought up ADHD with me. I was convinced that I didn’t have it but after my mum showed me all the varied symptoms that can be associated with ADHD, I began to realise that I had many of them. My dad is a stereotypical British dad who slightly overlooks mental health issues, as they weren’t really considered when he was young. But he has been very considerate and willing to learn about what is involved with ADHD. I actually think this diagnosis has brought me closer to my parents.

16. Do you have any comorbid disorders or neurological conditions?

I have always struggled with anxiety and depression, but now I know that this is often linked with ADHD. Prior to my ADHD diagnosis, I had a general psychiatric appointment and was told I may have Bipolar Type 2/Cyclothymia but this would need to be looked into after being treated for ADHD to check whether the symptoms were just ADHD related or were a separate diagnosis.

17. Do you deal with anxiety?

Yes, everyday. Sometime it can be very difficult to manage and I think I am still struggling with this. I try my best to distract myself with friends and family in order to push back the negative thoughts.

18. Did people around you make you doubt yourself during your diagnosis journey?

I think the only person doubting myself was me! I kept telling myself that if I didn’t have every symptom, then I couldn’t have ADHD, but that is simply not true.

19. Do you ever doubt your diagnosis now?

Sometimes I do still wonder. I have done a lot of research and have seen how so many symptoms overlap between several different mental health conditions. However, so far the medication is working, and if I didn’t have ADHD then it wouldn’t be.

20. How has the diagnosis changed the way you live?

My diagnosis has made me consider how I treat myself. I have always been harsh on myself and have often felt angry or guilty over very small things. Now I realise that I need to be kinder to my mind and my body.

21. How do you feel about medication?

I am currently on 36mg of methylphenidate daily. I have been on medication for different conditions for years and consider them essential for me to get by. The ADHD medication has already helped me drastically, my sleeping pattern has been easier to maintain, my focus has been better, I have had a better overall mood. There have been many improvements.

22. What was the thing that helped you most in your daily life? 

For me, it’s probably this feeling of a nudge in my back. Before, if I was in a slightly bad mood or a bit tired, I would tend to just give up and say the day was a write off. Now I seem to have a more positive mindset, even if I have a setback I am able to get up quickly and move on, meaning I get a lot more done!

23. What advice would you give someone who is wondering if they have ADHD?

It can be scary if you think you may have ADHD, I would consider doing online quizzes and also speaking to someone you trust (especially if they have known you a long time and may be able to comment on your behaviour and lifestyle). Then just go to the doctor, voice your concerns and go from there.

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