Tagged: adhd

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005: On girls and ADHD

Okay, so I’m not an expert. I was diagnosed two weeks ago, and I still haven’t gotten any medication or any help at all as of yet, because that’s just the way it goes at my mental health clinic. (That’s a story in of itself.)

But yes, I first got help for depression and anxiety when I was nineteen. That’s 1999. I’ve been on so many medications since then (eight I think? or nine?), but my anxiety has still been doing its thing anyway, especially in social settings. I just can’t keep up and it’s just terrible.

This year, in spring, my psychiatrist asked me if I would like to be evaluated for neuropsychiatric conditions. (That phrase isn’t used outside Sweden, it seems. It means autism, Aspergers, ADHD, etc.) At first I said no. I was upset at the possibility of having been misdiagnosed for eighteen years.

I thought about it. I talked to my sister (she said do it). I talked to my mum (she said you don’t need it). And my friends, and… yeah. Lots of people. And I read up on it, and thought “yes, maybe…”

I ended up saying yes. And so, I had a very intense week of extensive tests of all kinds at the beginning of October. I had to travel to the next town over, which took up towards an hour each time. There were four days. So I went, travelling for an hour each way four times in the span of a week, and did tests and talked to three different people and honestly, I’ve been going to mental health clinics for almost twenty years, but this was different. It was harder. And I was scared they’d end up saying it was nothing and that I’d have done it all for no reason.

On the last day I met the psychiatrist and psychologist together. They told me I have ADHD. Or ADD, rather. They told me girls, especially the ones growing up in the eighties, like me, often slipped through the cracks. Back then all focus was on hyperactivity, which is more common for boys. Girls generally have the inattentive thing going. It can cause anxiety and depression because you just can’t keep up with everything around you and it’s just too much.

I felt a little bit like I was hit by a ton of bricks. I also felt like I did when I figured out that I was queer. Like I found a puzzle piece I didn’t know was missing. It felt good, actually. It still does. I’ve been reading about it, and today I came across this on Instagram. It’s a page from a book, and it’s in Swedish so I’m going to transcribe it:

Characteristics; adults with ADHD:
Inattentiveness (often in boring circumstances only)
Hyperactivity (often decreasing with age)
Chronic inner nervousness (“thousands of thoughts at once”)
Forgetfulness
Disorganised (“chaotic life style”)
Impulsive
Quick mood changes
Doesn’t reach their intellectual potential (grades, etc)
Difficulties when routines and discipline is required
Difficulties with hierarchical structures
Interruption in friendships and relationships (including high divorce rate)
Interruption in education, work life, unemployment
Often co-exists with addiction, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, personality disorders

Positive traits; adults with ADHD:
Curiosity
Taking risks
Energy
Creativity
Imagination
Quick learning
Ability to organise others
Spontaneity
Hyper focus
Courage to question rules, hierarchies, etc
Strategies to compensate (good memory, clean house, etc)

10 out of 13 (list 1) and 7 out of 11 (list 2) is me. Despite this, and despite the diagnosis, people are telling me it can’t be me. I can’t have ADHD. I can focus, they say. I’m smart, they say. I have good grades, they say.

Actually, when it looks like I’m focusing I need multiple things to keep me focused (a timer, music to shut out the outside, knitting in my hands), and I use half the time I look focused trying to sort the facts inside my head before I can do anything with them.

I’m smart. They got that right. My grades, however, are just above average. They should’ve been better, I was told, given my intellect.

(I feel like I’m bragging. I’m honestly not. I’m just relieved that there’s a reason for my average grades, my inability to keep things neat, to remember where I put things, to filter out the conversation at the table behind me and focus on the person I’m talking to.)

They encouraged me to go back to school. Maybe I will. My university transcripts contain an endless row of half finished courses and interrupted attempts at learning things the way I’m supposed to. I always thought it was because I was… not stupid, but unable to follow through on things. To finish them.

I guess we know why, now.

I’ll probably have more to say on this topic once I’ve seen my regular psychiatrist (the people doing the evaluation aren’t allowed to do more than evaluate and send the results to the person referring me to them), but for now I’m just relieved.

So yes. I was misdiagnosed for eighteen years. My social anxiety and agoraphobia was likely caused at least in part by untreated ADHD.

I’m thirty-seven years old. I finally have an answer.