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My ADHD diagnosis

In my last update I mentioned I was waiting for my adhd assessment. Well, as the title of this post suggests, I got the diagnosis – and I’m so relieved that I did.

However, the assessment wasn’t easy, there were many tough and deeply personal questions asked, and though I was prepared to answer things about my childhood and school life, the ones that hit hard were actually nothing to do with those topics. I mean, I did cry when talking about my primary school teacher bullying me; for some reason, whenever I explain that to a doctor, the tears always appear. But I expected that, so after the influx of emotion passed, it was fine.

What got me was attempting to explain how, if I had ADHD and thus my concentration was so bad, did I manage to write books. Not only this, but the doctor (a psychiatrist specialising in neurological conditions) went on to ask how successful a writer I was, including how many books I’d sold. And considering I’ve had high imposter syndrome recently and have been questioning whether writing to be published is something I should even be pursuing still, it cut me deep.

Other questions that hurt were why I still had my birds when their sounds were distracting, why I don’t want kids, and how I knew I had something close to an eating disorder when I was younger (I didn’t have any diagnosis or records of one, but gosh did I have the mindset and sadly could slip back into it easily if I’m not careful). So, ouch, on all fronts, to the point where I completely broke down after the assessment was over.

But – as I’d also provided lots and lots of notes beforehand explaining my brain – I got my diagnosis then and there at the end of the session. Quickly, abruptly (as to my mind, things really hadn’t been going well. I’d been rambling and getting flustered, so it felt like my responses weren’t particularly coherent), and without much extra explanation. I was asked if I had any questions, but my brain was fried at that point, so any I had promptly left.

Fortunately, after emailing the head ADHD nurse, who I’d been in contact with during preliminary screening, I had a good conversation the next day with full permission to explain my feelings and rant as much as I needed to to get everything out. After that, she went through reasons why certain questions were asked, and went on to detail all next steps and options open to me.

Though I’ve been hesitant to try medication before, on the grounds that if I’m to have it, I want to make sure it’s the correct type for my neurodivergent brain and won’t simply cover up the symptoms of an underlying condition (untreated ADHD can often cause anxiety and depression, both of which I have), I chose to be put forward for ADHD medication. After a few tests at my GP surgery, which included blood pressure, pulse, height, weight, and an ECG, I received my first prescription of methylphenidate, which is a slow-release stimulant.

Now, medication isn’t for everyone, and there are lots of treatment options for the parts of ADHD that interfere with daily life. But, for me, I’m really pleased I made the choice I did. Within an hour of taking the first dose, a subtle, yet tangible change occurred to my thoughts. Usually, my brain runs off at top speed on anything and everything, flitting from topic to topic. But, though I still had the thoughts – meaning, I was still very much myself – I could choose to follow only the ones that were relevant to what I was doing at the time, and go back to the others later. When I explained this to my partner (who we also suspect is ADHD), he came up with a great metaphor: instead of everything being dumped in a box that I have to sift through to find something, I’d been given shelves where I could see everything individually and just select what I needed.

As of writing, I’m on day six of being medicated, which admittedly, isn’t very long, but it does appear that my ability to maintain focus on writing has definitely increased (the very fact that I’m writing this, after not posting an update for so long due to lack of energy and motivation, is good evidence of this). And the thing that’s most surprising is the realisation that the fatigue I felt from doing any kind of task was caused mostly by my chaotic thoughts, and now they have (slightly) more order, that fatigue is nowhere near as bad. I can feel it, but I’m not completely crashing anymore.

Sadly, my laptop battery is now fading, so I’ll have to wrap this up. Getting confirmation of my full neurodiversity (I’m autistic too, and yes, you can very much have both conditions), has allowed me to understand and accept how different, yet cool, my brain is. Even though I struggle with things on a daily basis because of it, I can see my creativity and ability to notice things few others do all stem from it and make my world brighter.

This process has taken, well, a lot of processing, but I’m getting there. And taking medication, despite all the controversy surrounding it, is no different to when I wear my ear defenders or sunglasses to help lesson sensory overload when I’m outside. It’s an aid to help me, and it’s not a bad thing. (I will point out, though, that I’m taking my medication exactly as prescribed by my doctor and I’ll be having strict, regular reviews with them to make sure it’s still doing what it should and nothing else.)

Lastly, for those interested or considering pursuing diagnosis, some key details. I’m in the UK and went through the NHS, so the process may differ considerably in other countries, but here’s the route I took:

In mid 2019, I spoke to a general GP at my local doctor’s surgery, explaining that I wanted to be referred to the ADHD service for diagnosis. I had a few notes with me on traits I resonated with so they could easily see my reasoning.

After that, I had a very long wait (possibly made worse by the pandemic), but eventually got sent some screening questionnaires to complete and send back. After that was done, a phone call was arranged with the ADHD nurse for an hour long further screening conversation, in which I had to answer a lot of personal questions about school, family, work, social life etc.

Determining that I was eligible for a diagnostic assessment, I was then given a virtual appointment and completed the assessment I’ve spoken in detail about above, and as mentioned, after diagnosis, I was offered options for treatment, which included various therapies and medication. I received very detailed leaflets on the option I chose, so I could thoroughly research before finalising my decision.

So, there we go. I hope this essay of a post has been interesting and/or helpful. Thank you for reading!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 22 – Chattering

Some say

trees speak to each other,

whispering pasts and presents our kind cannot comprehend.

These tales were woven as folklore, myth

but

keen minds have been at work

to research, ponder, analyse.

Their findings? Remarkable things.

If a tree is starved, its neighbours sense its desperation

and pass along nutrients to sustain it.

Their network of doing so is a curious one – fungus, they employ.

A phone line

of fungus which latches on to roots

and connects them to others.

In return,

a small percentage of sugar food must be paid.

Typical service charge.

Warnings can be given, too.

Of drought, pests, disease.

With the time

these messages bring, the collective

can change its behaviour.

Each sapling, each grandparent,

altering, slightly, to protect themselves.

In China, a bright green flower –

picked often for its herbal properties –

grew tired of the picking.

Plucked at again and again.

So it bloomed duller, then duller still,

until it matched its surroundings.

Hidden, protected

from eager hands.

Aerial footage, sped up

enough for us to discern the goings on,

shows a forest’s movement.

How each tree sways, branches linking

then parting,

trunks leaning first this way, then that.

Not unlike brain activity,

synapses pulsing with signals,

leaves drifting between.

Watching this slow progression, I wonder

if Tolkien was on to something.

Maybe trees and other plants can talk, but,

like Entish,

the delivery of their words is not

for the impatient.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, ‘traditional’ fundraisers etc.) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

Poetry

Unnecessary measurements

If we were to measure each other out as ingredients on silver scales,

the balance would be so perfectly held

it would look like the scales had rusted solid.

Then we’d spend all afternoon discussing why scales

with such precise measurements

are unnecessary for the conversion rates of our brains,

shooting off into zesty tangents

until we finally agree that the setting sun is a sign

we should stroll off and get some sleep.

Poetry

Ladies, please!

‘Ladies, please

the patient needs her rest,

stop bothering her with these trivial things!’

 

‘It’s not our fault, madame, she’s doing it herself.

She won’t sit still

no matter how many tasks she completes

 

I’ve never seen anyone procrastinate from resting!’

The maid bustled over to the weary girl perfectly

content in organising her affairs.

 

‘Now madame says you must retire to your bed

so please consider, for my sake,

to lay down your head

or at the very least

 

settle down with a cup of tea

and observe the birds flitting about the trees.’

 

The girl raised her head,

considering her brain’s suggestion,

and ignored it once again.

Poetry

Hubbub

Hubbub.

Who’s listening?

 

Chatter, natter, prattle

Prat.

 

Screens in our face, over our eyes

in our minds.

Siding with popular opinion,

shying away from engaging that hungry engine, the brain.

Work them, encourage them

steam-powered as they may be.

 

Quiet, I crave.

 

No, they sing.

We need the noise, need the buzz,

need the bright lights and sweat and alcohol

and neon screens

to feel normal.

 

Normal?

What is normal

but a falsity of who you are

trying to resemble

the falsehood of others.

 

Hubbub.

Who’s listening?

Chatter, natter, prattle

Prat.

 

Quiet, I crave.

Independent thinking, I urge.

Eccecentric. Weird. Outcast, they sing.

 

Poetry

Mind Games

When you think of a brain –

all those fleshy, pinkish

folds, a bit like the goo

from Ghost Busters 2 –

do you ever see the star map inside?

All those electric connections

zig-zagging their way

across the galaxy

(no, not the chocolate bar,

tempting as it is).

Can you feel each little jump

from synapse to synapse,

like Mario in invincible mode?

I don’t all the time. But

sometimes I do, and I wonder

if that star map is the same as mine,

or different.