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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!

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Querying, rewriting and ADHD

Hi everyone, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything other than my fundraising poems, which, though I’d appreciate you all having a read of them and sharing, aren’t the sole purpose of this blog. I like sharing my writing journey and the struggles I have, in the hope that others currently struggling with writing (or anything, really) don’t feel so alone.

And wow, have I been struggling.

Last year, I did quite a few edits of older projects, drafted a new book — something I try to do every year — and starting querying literary agents for the…seventh time, I think?

Meaning that come New Year, I was quite worn out. Add to that a broken laptop, and work became rather hard, to put it mildly. (I’m currently still using my partner’s laptop, which I’ve grown used to and he’s more than happy to let me use for as long as I want, so I got over that hurdle pretty quickly). My focus, however, has been particularly bad.

I wanted to rewrite a project that, from feedback I got from agents, was about 15,000 words too short for the genre. As I never know how to relax and get bored between projects, I actually tried to start the rewrite just before Christmas, but then my laptop failed and it got put on hold until I could grab the files from the hard drive. (I’m usually good at backing up my stuff, but as I’d only started the rewrite about three days beforehand, I hadn’t gotten round to it. Naturally, the one time I delayed, ‘disaster’ struck.) When I did manage to get back to it again, despite engaging with the story and characters, it took hours to go over four double spaced pages. I tried repeatedly to go faster, to try and be more productive with my time, but it simply wasn’t working. By the time I reached the half-way point in the book, working on it felt comparable to digging a trench with a teaspoon, and I’m incredibly impatient with certain things.

Now, here I’m going to jump in with the ADHD part, as it’s likely relevant. I’ve been on the waiting list for assessment since mid 2019. I knew it’d be a long wait, just like for my ASD one, and when the pandemic happened, I resigned myself to an extra long wait. Several times I considered getting it done privately, but it does cost a lot, and as I get imposter syndrome, one week I’d be convinced I needed a diagnosis, the next I’d be unsure — I’ve heard this is common regarding ADHD in adults, particularly as it can present quite differently depending not just on age, but gender too. That aside, I was then super surprised when I got a phone call last month saying in-person assessments where I live were no longer supported due to costs, so the people in charge had decided to go with online assessments and mine wouldn’t be too far off. After another phone call and some screening questionnaires to make absolutely sure I’m eligible, I was finally given an assessment date. It’s early next month, and I am nervous as hell. But I already sent them extra notes, so hopefully it’ll go smoothly, whether the conclusion is ADHD or something else.

Anyway, back to writing talk. I’ve always struggled with focusing on and maintaining projects, but I’m stubborn and refuse to quit. So I ended up giving myself a tight deadline and marathoning the work until it was done. It worked, but as always when I do that, I ended up exhausted as it’s really not good for me. That’s the main reason I haven’t posted much lately. All my energy has gone to rewriting, recovering, or writing poetry. (I am happy with the way the rewrite tuned out though!)

As for querying, this round is going better than past attempts in that I’ve actually had a couple of full and partial manuscript requests, but not as many as I’d hoped. Which is disheartening and has led to many hours of ‘what if I never get an agent?’ thoughts. Of course, there are many options, one of which I’ve already pursued for my previous books — finding indie publishers. But the rejections piling up still hurt.

On a side note, though, my publisher recently informed me that two of my contracted poetry books are moving to the editing stage, so that’s something to look forward to (and also be anxious about. You may be thinking I’m anxious about a lot of things, and you’d be right. That’s just my brain.)

So, to bring this ramble to a close: if, like me, you’re a creative struggling with current projects, I see you and I understand. My family keep saying productivity shouldn’t be linked to self-worth, and while I get the idea of that sentiment, I haven’t yet found a way to make it stick. Even writing this post, which I could have left until I felt better and had more energy, is part of that. I didn’t feel like I’d done enough today, so words had to be written. But maybe someday, I’ll have a healthier approach to self-worth.