Robyn Wilder was finally diagnosed with ADHD last year, in her early 40s. An earlier diagnosis might have been hugely beneficial, so she’s talking openly about the symptoms and treatment, to help others…
In 2018, at the grand old age of 42, I was diagnosed with adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I have been absentminded, impulsive and scatty – sometimes to the point of absolutely derailing my studies, career, and some relationships – since early childhood.
However, I never put all the pieces together as a unified “problem” until after the birth of my second son in 2017, when all the pieces of my life as a freelancer, homeowner and mother of two kept tumbling out of my hands, despite my intense desire to “step up”.
ADHD is a developmental disorder of the brain that generally begins in childhood. The medical world is beginning to realise that ADHD in girls can look different from ADHD in boys, but if you suspect you might have ADHD*, too, here’s a little cheat sheet on what to do next.
1. Getting a referral
First, I printed off the NHS symptoms list for Adult ADHD, and wrote down every memory I could think of, of a time I’d displayed one of these symptoms.
Next, I made a separate list of how all these symptoms were affecting my work, home, family and social life, and took it all along to my GP.
Adult ADHD can only be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, so I asked my GP for a referral to my nearest ADHD clinic – which in my case is based at London’s Maudsley Hospital.
Because knowledge about women with adult ADHD is still emerging – and other conditions like depression and anxiety (which I also have) can mimic some ADHD symptoms – I tried to steel myself to the prospect of getting a second opinion if my GP was unhelpful.
Happily, when I whipped out my long list of symptoms and notes, explained the extent to which these problems were negatively impacting my life, my GP was sympathetic, and referred me.
2. Dealing with the wait
On the NHS, an adult ADHD referral can take up to 18 months. Mine took 12. I spent my wait reading up on ADHD, joining support groups and trying out small-scale tricks to deal with my poor focus, like the Pomodoro technique.
I also researched private ADHD diagnosis in my area – if you have a little money to spare, a private diagnosis would be much quicker and some practices offer an ADHD diagnosis package (diagnosis, medicine prescriptions, etc.). Once you’re diagnosed and treated, you can ask to be discharged back to the NHS.
This took place in three stages. First, I filled out a diagnostic form about my symptoms, how far they went back, and their effects. There was a separate form for members of my family to fill out (my husband filled out mine). Next, I had a looooong consultation with a psychiatric nurse from the clinic, where I essentially told her my life story.
Finally, I met the psychiatrist who gave me the official diagnostic test, which scores you against the two types of ADHD – inattentive and hyperactive. By the end of the session, I had a firm diagnosis, a prescription for ADHD medication, and was on a waiting list for ADHD-specific psychotherapy.
- ADHD medication isn’t compulsory, but I’ve found it invaluable. If you go down this route I recommend signing up for NHS prescription prepayment to bring down costs.
- If NHS therapy isn’t for you (I’m still waiting for mine), an ADHD coach can help you work out strategies for dealing with life. Many offer “taster” sessions, and operate over Skype.
- Moderate to severe ADHD can qualify as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, which means your employer may need to accommodate your disability – for example, adjusting your schedule so you can work flexibly or without distraction.
- You may qualify for personal independence payments (PIP), or a grant under the Access to Work scheme – which can help pay for admin support and sessions with an ADHD coach if they focus on work issues.
I am now almost one year post-diagnosis. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re a lot better. I’m starting to emerge from under all the overwhelm with strategies and an increase in productivity. Simply getting a diagnosis has been life-changing, though, and I’m a lot more confident, relaxed, and self-forgiving as a result.
*You might not, of course! Although if you’re suffering it to a life-altering degree it might be worth getting it looked at anyway.