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1. What made you decide to have your diagnosis?
I feel like all of my life I had been compensating for the little things that seemed to make my life harder and no one else's. When Covid-19 hit, I didn't realize just how much my brain needed that structure. As I sat at home with my family and child, I noticed (what I know now were ADHD/Autism symptoms) how much I would spend on pointless items, or how much I would over/mindlessly eat. I started to see how all of the things I was doing, were not "normal" because I would watch my family not struggle with the same things. It's as if I never saw those things until I had no choice but to see them. All of the projects that were halfway started but never finished, the laundry basket full of clean clothes that I just could NOT make myself fold. Being that I am currently obtaining my Master's in Psychology, I had some background knowledge of ADHD and what it looks like, but I thought "No, that's not me. Someone would have known or told me". But the more I looked into it and really studied it, I knew I had to have it.
2. What do you do for a living?
Administrative Assistant for a Community College & Grad School
3. What is your ADHD presentation?
4. How were your school years?
I think this is where a lot of doctors/friends/family didn't believe me when I said I think I have ADHD. Looking back, I made mostly A's with a few B's. I would study so hard for topics but had horrible test anxiety. The wording of questions or the situation would always make me second-guess myself, even if I knew the answers. I appeared to have it all together and was a normal to slightly above-average student. I participated in multiple different after-school activities and sports because I liked to stay busy and loved doing it all. I am still the same now in grad school for Psychology. I struggle to study and hate taking tests. I feel as if I struggle more than I did back then. When I was younger I could get away with just memorizing the information to pass the test, and then I'd forget it. Now, I want to actually understand my schooling so that I can help others like me!
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5. Looking back, what was an obvious ADHD trait in your childhood?
This one is tough, because back then ADHD was not talked about as much. Especially when it came to females. I have repressed a lot of my childhood, but I remember for sure I'd get in trouble for talking too much. I would always have my folder signed for talking or not paying attention. A teacher one time thought I was cheating with my friend on a test (10yo) when really I was telling her I had "no idea what the answer was". My first and last principles office visit!
6. Was it difficult to get a diagnosis?
It was very difficult! Over the years doctors would try to tell me it is just anxiety or depression, then give me medication for those. I even had a heart doctor tell me it was a small arrhythmia! The medication seemed to help only a little in some areas but I knew something was still off (this was prior to thinking I had ADHD). Even with my in office ADHD paper assesment scoring me very high, they still said no because I don't "look" it. My current basic doctor finally believed me that I felt something else was wrong that other doctors pushed aside (thyroid). Because she believed me then I felt like she had to believe me about ADHD. Thankfully she did! However, there are no true adult ADHD specialists where I live. After reaching out on social media, someone commented and said they while they provide other mental health services, they can diagnose ADHD and would love to help. She let me do a payment plan to help cover costs. All it took was 30 min and I was diagnosed combined ADHD (with a potential for Autism and others).
7. How did you prepare yourself for your diagnosis?
I wrote down notes on my phone of all of the symptoms I had been feeling the past year. I also wrote down medications and past diagnoses I was given. I tried to write down things I felt went unnoticed when I was a kid that could have been ADHD. While I don't know if it helped, I also mentioned I have some education in psychology and ADHD itself. I often let doctors just tread on me without advocating for me. This time, I wasn't going to let that happen. I was going to fight for myself.
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8. How did you feel right after getting your diagnosis?
Right after, I was so happy! I felt so validated in my thinking and had that feeling of "I was right, and all of you were wrong!" I was excited to start working towards making life a little easier for me finally. Being a full-time single mom, full-time employee, and full-time grad student my life had started to get really difficult. I felt like I wasn't "crazy" finally was ready to live me new life!
9. How do you feel about it now?
Even though I am happy with my validation and that I am not "crazy", I still struggle with feeling like I am faking it. I have my good days of acceptance and days where I feel like I tricked her into diagnosing me. I grew up for so long thinking that it was normal what I dealt with every day. I've only been diagnosed for about 6 months so I am still trying to understand what that means for me! As of right now, I have only been dealing with medication adjustments. I hope to be counseled in other ways regarding my ADHD and really getting to the bottom of it. It's funny, I have studied ADHD professionally but it is different when it's personal.
10. Do you think you "look like" the ADHD stereotype?
I do NOT think I look like the stereotypical ADHD person. My hyperactivity was my mind and not my body movements. While it looked like I wasn't struggling in school, I was. I haven't really told anyone about my diagnosis because I know they would say I didn't look like I had ADHD.
11. What are you struggling with because of your ADHD brain?
I struggle with impulse buying and eating. I also have a hard time shutting my brain off at night so I can sleep or even when I should be doing homework. I find my schoolwork very interesting, but I have a hard time making myself start a research paper or any assignment. I struggle with folding my clean clothes or changing the sheets on my bed. I often times space out during conversations with friends and have to pretend as if I heard them. I struggle with social interactions a lot and feel exhausted by the end of the day trying to make sure I socialized correctly. Making careless mistakes in my work and school work makes me feel inadequate a lot of the time.
12. What are your ADHD strengths ?
I like to think of myself as a very creative person whether artistically or through problem-solving. I am also really good at picking up new hobbies or interests. Music is my second language, and I've taken pride in my ability to learn a new instrument quickly or be able to switch keys quickly if needed. Lastly, I feel like I can think out of the box better than some around me. Or I am able to see a different perspective that others can't.
13. Did your ADHD diagnosis help you?
Yes and NO. If that makes sense! Yes, because I finally feel like someone believes me and took me seriously. I have felt more like myself than I have in a long time, and it's helped me to understand why I do the things I do. No, because I am still 6mo into diagnosis and struggle with that imposter syndrome from time to time. There are days that I wish I hadn't been diagnosed or seen someone. I think it will take some time to adjust and have a counselor walk me through my "new" life with ADHD. Overall, I think it was the right decision.
14. Do you feel your life could have gone the other way if you'd been diagnosed earlier?
I am honestly not sure. I am the kind of person that doesn't like to dwell on the "what if's". While the journey to get here was not always sunshine and rainbows, I wouldn't change a thing. Being diagnosed earlier might have helped with anxiety, schooling, and binge spending/eating for sure! Those thins I wish could have been helped earlier.
15. What was your family/friends' reaction to your diagnosis?
Granted I was diagnosed with AuDHD (Autism & ADHD). I told my sister the next day about both and I was a little taken aback by her response. She didn't believe I was Autistic because I didn't "look" like her male coworker who was. For ADHD she said that everyone has those symptoms and maybe the counselor was wrong. I tried to explain the concept of "masking" to her, but I am not good at explaining things. I think that one hurt the most. My parents know I was diagnosed with ADHD but that it is. My mom thinks I am just attention-seeking and she would have known if I was ADHD. My dad just brushed it off. I've casually dropped it in conversations with my friends and it's as if it just goes over their heads.
16. Do you have any comorbid disorders or neurological conditions?
As mentioned I do have Autism as well. I do suffer from anxiety and depression although my ADHD medication has helped a lot with that. I am in the process of being diagnosed with PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance).
17. Do you deal with anxiety?
I do! Medications never seemed to help and I would have panic attacks a lot. My new ADHD medication has helped so much and I can tell a difference when I've taken it or not. However, sometimes it does slip through the cracks. In this case, I try to take long deep breaths and close my eyes. If I am in a crowded area and my anxiety begins to worsen I will often times either just take charge of the situation, or appoint someone else to be while I stand in the back.
18. Did people around you make you doubt yourself during your diagnosis journey?
All the time. I would tell some friends that I think I had ADHD or was Autistic. Most of the time it was brushed off because, again, I didn't "look" like it. Or act like it! There were days I would go on a Google rabbit hole after having those conversations, and would talk myself out of going to the counselor for an evaluation.
19. Do you ever doubt your diagnosis now?
Very much so. There are days that I feel proud of myself for advocating my diagnosis, but there are days that I feel like I have fooled everyone around me. It's not that I regret my diagnosis because I don't, but there are days I feel like my diagnosis wasn't true.
20. How has the diagnosis changed the way you live?
I have started to be more conscious of my actions regarding ADHD, and it helps me to laugh off something I did instead of analyzing it and feel bad for it. It's like looking in a mirror and recognizing the person looking back at me.
21. How do you feel about medication?
I personally like it in that it has helped me! However, I know it is not for everyone and that is okay. Some people do not like those feelings and prefer to do others tings to help. But I don't think medication for ADHD is wrong in any way.
22. What was the thing that helped you most in your daily life?
I know I say it a lot, but honestly, it was medication. It has helped dampen some of the things that were making my day-to-day life harder. I feel more energetic and present throughout the day and I don't spend my money on useless things anymore.
23. What advice would you give someone who is wondering if they have ADHD?
There is nothing wrong with doing some research and taking ADHD quizzes online like the RAADS-R. I was often told neurotypical people didn't look to see if they had ADHD. If it is causing daily struggles in your life then don't be afraid to do some research and maybe be diagnosed. You are your best advocate always.
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