Content warning: Potentially distressing themes of mental health issues, detailed descriptions of potential ADHD symptoms, references to childhood abuse. Arguably excessive swearing.
I am not okay. I feel like I haven’t been okay for the vast majority of my life, with only fleeting moments of feeling in a good place, and long and short periods of feeling fucking awful. I have worked extremely hard, for many years, to improve my mental health, and improve myself as a person. I have done a wonderful job, and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, and how far I’ve come in my journey. But there’s one thing I’ve never addressed, never specifically paid attention to until now. I think I have ADHD.
I think I have ADHD, and I’m really, really struggling on the inside. I’ve always struggled on the inside, for various reasons, and as I’ve managed to improve the other aspects of my mental health, it’s become more and more apparent, and harder to ignore this thing that I’ve never before tried to specifically address. Even though I’ve suspected its presence for literally over 15 years.
I think I have ADHD. I want to be treated for ADHD. I am actively pursuing a diagnosis for ADHD. But it’s fucking hard.
The Purpose of this Post
The purpose of this post is:
- A brain dump. It should become apparent as you read on why I need to do this, and why I’m so afraid I’ll forget its contents unless I write this
- To help me pursue a diagnosis
- To fuck my hesitation, shame, embarassment, caution about talking about this openly before I manage to get any kind of diagnosis
- Because I don’t think I’m alone; I think other people will relate to my story, and I want to put it out there in case it helps someone
- Because maybe someone will read this, and be able to help me get a diagnosis, which is really, really fucking hard (did I say that already?)
- To start talking to people about what I’m going through and what I struggle with, so I can finally start asking for help
This post is gonna be a fucking mess, and not like my others. I spend a lot of time editing my posts, and trying to mould them into good content. This post isn’t about making good content, I just really need to get this stuff down, so please forgive me for just doing what I need to do. Ironically, sadly, it’s probably not in the best format for ADHD brains to absorb, but… Primary purpose is to list stuff that could help me get the right diagnosis, whatever that may be, so that’s my focus.
Why I think I have ADHD
I’ve completed numerous online assessments for ADHD, all of which suggest that I do have it. In the latest one, which I did just a few hours ago, I scored 18/18. I identified with every single characteristic, and, as I said to a friend, I even felt quite attacked by how much I identified with some of the questions. Not attacked in a bad way, but in the sense that I was being specifically targeted; that someone who knows me in great detail wrote this test about me, to freak me out.
I know that online assessments are only an indicator. You don’t have to tell me that. That’s why I’m pursuing a formal diagnosis, and why I’m dumping everything I can think of here to help with my professional assessment.
I’ve tried to categorise my symptoms / characteristics, just to help me organise things and try to spot anything I’m missing, but I’ll probably put some stuff in the “wrong” place, or it could fit under multiple headings. That’s okay.
You ready? Let’s go.
I get distracted all the time. I used to say I’m like a magpie and am drawn to shiny things, but I’m distracted by everything. Everything throws me off, everything makes me forget what I was just doing / saying / thinking in an instant. Noise, movement in my field of vision, a thought that pops into my mind. Focussing takes conscious effort. Except when it doesn’t.
Sometimes, I get really super sucked into things. I’ll work well into the night, suddenly realising that I haven’t had dinner and should probably go to bed now. I’ll do much more research into a single topic than is necessary, opening numerous tabs, watching video after video, beyond what’s probably reasonably necessary. I don’t have consistent personal passions (testing and quality is more like a professional one, and it’s not really the same) like other people do. I have a friend who loves Star Wars, and I would fucking love to care about anything as much as he cares about Star Wars. It makes him happy, and that’s lovely to see. I go through phases. I get super into them for a while and can do them non-stop for an entire day, but then it passes. It always passes.
My working memory is terrible. I’m very good at maths and puzzles when it’s written down, but I’ve always been bad at mental maths, because I can’t hold onto the building blocks of the equation long enough to apply any modifiers or techniques. It’s not a hard question, I just can’t remember it long enough. If you ask me a multiple choice question, I can’t remember what you’ve just asked me. When learning a new word in a foreign language, I ask, “can you spell that?” I then take 1-2 seconds to repeat each letter, while I try to visualise it. Eventually, I ask, “can you write that down?” I literally feel unable to hold onto small amounts of information, even for small amounts of time. Unless it’s semantically or personally significant.
I understand and remember, in great detail, how something works, or the history of how something came to be. I remember where I was, and whether we spoke in person or in text, and what question I asked you to uncover that information, and whether you paused before you answered. I remember why that song is your favourite song, because I care about you. I remember how I felt, and what I thought when you told me. But I don’t remember when we agreed to meet, or what you asked me to bring. Talk to me about something meaningful or thought provoking. But then it’s not so simple, because sometimes I’m sure I remember our conversation exactly, but you’re sure it happened differently, and I can’t tell you for sure that you’re wrong because I can’t trust my own memory, and we’ll never know for sure what really happened, but I really feel like I know what happened, and that makes me feel like I’m losing grip on reality. Who can I trust not to take advantage of me?
My colleagues tell me that I’m wrong about having a bad memory, that I’m really good at remembering a whole bunch of stuff about a particular project. But that’s a different kind of memory. If I can understand how something works; if there’s some story or logic that I can use to figure it out, I’m there. But if you just want me to memorise stuff, you will be sorely disappointed.
I think I don’t lose things, but that’s only because I’ve learned to keep everything in a very specific place, and I get upset if someone moves it. “Out of sight, out of mind,” is a warning, and I realise that all the things I use regularly are either kept in sight, or in a place I know I will look for another reason, probably because of routine or logic. New items are “lost” immediately. Just last night, I was setting up a new monitor. I removed a cable tie, set it down, and plugged in the cable. I was still standing in the exact same spot, and I have no idea where I put the cable tie. I searched for it. Really searched. It was in my hand less than a minute ago, but I couldn’t find it. When I eventually did find it, I had no recollection of putting it there mere minutes ago. Whatever doesn’t have its own spot is lost.
I keep lists upon lists, upon lists. I need to. Lists on my phone, lists on my computer, lists on paper. By the time it takes me to unlock my phone, click on the app, pick up my pen, I literally cannot remember why I did it, or what I was trying to do. This happens several times every single day. I stare blankly. I have no idea why I’m here or what I’m doing. I’ve completely forgotten, and I just need to move on. It’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s upsetting.
I consciously try very, very hard to listen to what you’re saying. Then I realise that I’m just staring at you and I’ve completely spaced out. I’m not sure what the last thing I heard you say was. You remind me, and then I start to answer. I haven’t even finished my first sentence, and then I lose my train of thought. Wait, what was I saying? Can you repeat exactly what you just said, yet again, to try and jog my memory? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This happens so often that I often just try to wing it and fill in the blanks using whatever’s going on when my mind comes back in the room. I think I don’t always get away with it, and you notice that something just happened and I seem suddenly unnecessarily confused or not quite there, even though I was the one talking.
And that’s why I interrupt you. I try really, really hard not to interrupt you, because I do genuinely care about what you’re saying and what you think, but it just comes out. I try really, really hard not to interrupt you, but when I don’t, I either completely forget what I wanted to say and have to let it go, or I have to repeat my thought over and over again in my head so I don’t forget, and then I’m not listening to you. I really want to listen to you, but my brain makes it really hard because I don’t want to forget, but I am.
I can’t read books. My attention span is way too short, and I just spend the whole time reading the same line over and over again, without taking in the contents. Blogs and articles with proper headings are much easier to digest. I only read non-fiction, never fiction. Fiction is very boring and predictable to me. I rarely watch new movies or TV shows; I just replay old ones over and over again. I don’t feel like I have the mental capacity to take in something new. But I watch a great deal of new non-fiction content, short and long, depending on how much time I have. That’s super easy, although I still often have to rewind when I zone out and miss something.
I recently had dinner with my partner, after which he received a message that he had to deal with. “Give me a minute, I need to send these details,” he said… Or something like that. It was important to him, and it was time critical, so I waited quietly. I waited quietly for 45 minutes, and I felt like I was dying inside. It was torture. I know it took 45 minutes because I was constantly watching the clock. After five minutes, I turned it into an experiment. I wanted to see how long I could wait before bursting. I wanted to be “good”. There were so many things that popped into my head, so many completely separate ideas I wanted to tell him, questions I wanted to ask. So many things popped into my head for no reason at all, completely unprompted. Thoughts in my head do not simply come and go. I needed to tell him. I was physically moving, rocking, sitting on my hands. My internal angst spilled out physically.
After 45 minutes, I couldn’t take it any longer and pleaded for his attention. I implored him to understand how difficult that was for me, repeating myself over and over. I know because he told me I was repeating myself. I frantically rattled off everything I wanted to say, ask, as fast as I could; the ones I could remember anyway. I was visibly agitated, distressed. I was stammering, struggling to get the words out, even though I don’t usually have any speech impediments, except when I’m distressed. I couldn’t remember everything I wanted to say, I couldn’t control my breath properly, and he urged me to calm down in the nicest way he could. It was fucking awful but so, so interesting as an experiment and demonstration of how hard something as simple as being quiet and waiting is for me.
I hate organising. I know how to do it, and I can even be very good at it because I’m methodical and taught myself how, but I hate it. Organising my tasks and responsibilities is something I’ve taught myself to do to cope, but I hate organising events, group projects, other people’s shit. Sometimes I can handle it, but other times, I can’t seem to will myself to do it. My brain finds other distractions and reasons not to do the thing I know I should really be doing. I know how to prioritise, I just struggle to make myself do things in the order they should probably be done in. I’m a finisher, and I like to keep work in progress low, because I know it doesn’t help me to have lots of unfinished items to tend to, but sometimes my brain urges me to abandon one thing for another. I’ve written about my struggle with work in progress before. That post is now three years old, but still incredibly relevant. I don’t know why I expected anything else.
Being organised helps me. Being systematic and taking things one small step at a time helps me. If I know there is a reason, a benefit to organising, then I’m fine with it. But if it’s just bullshit admin stuff, it feels pointless and I’d really rather not do it. If I can use my organisation skills to help solve a real work problem and add value, then it excites me and I want to do it, because I want to solve the problem and achieve something. I’m excited about making an impact, not the individual tasks and organisation it takes to do that.
I put things off until they really need to be done (most of the time; see impulsivity). I used to think I just procrastinated a lot, but now I think it’s something else. I leave important things to the last minute, and that often makes the result better than when I force myself to do it within plenty of time. I don’t want to work this way, and the best thing I’ve found to help me do things on time, or thereabouts, is when I’ve made a commitment to someone who is relying on me doing it by that time. I don’t want to let them down, but then I still rush it way later than I needed to, or could have. Especially if they require planning or preparation. Starting things is often very difficult.
Making plans makes me angry. It sounds so stupid, but making a plan with other people infuriates me. I love a spontaneous, “do you want to go out tonight?” or a quick, “I’m going to this place at this time, do you want to come?” but I despise drawn out processes of deciding where and when and who and what about this, that lasts anything more than five minutes. I cannot stress enough how angry it makes me to be maybe possibly doing “something” around some vague date, but not having any confirmation of this for several days, or even weeks. The uncertainty and the drawn out discussion, indecision makes me want to rage quit. This does not seem proportional even to me, but it’s how I feel.
I teach myself to add structure, so I can cope and function and get work done. I don’t like to organise, but it helps me a lot to be organised. It looks like I’m doing great, but on the inside, I’m really, really struggling. It takes a lot of concentrated effort, and sometimes I feel far too overwhelmed to bring myself to physically do the things I know I can do, and have done before. Sometimes, I literally can’t look at the lists I’ve made. They help me a lot, but not completely, and sometimes I can’t look at them. I feel overwhelmed and shut down. I need to do something else, then try again later. Sometimes I feel physically sick, like I do now, and my head hurts.
I feel like being able to do these things and process stuff requires a special kind of energy, or “mana”, as a friend and former boss calls it. Sometimes I just don’t have the processing power or mental capacity to begin to even try to understand what someone is asking me, or what I’m looking at. I need to wait for my mana to be restored. I haven’t found anything that helps to refill it, I just need to wait, and not do anything, or see anyone for a while. But sometimes that’s not practical, and I’m running on empty. That seems like a really, really bad idea, but the world isn’t built for someone like me, and so I just push through anyway, and probably suffer more because of it. It sometimes takes me a while to process things, and I walk away from conversations feeling fine, only to realise later what really happened there, and that I’m not happy about it. I then have to open up a dialogue to loop back to it, and that’s not easy either, especially when I left saying everything’s fine.
Travelling is a nightmare for me. It’s fine once I’m there, but the process of planning dates, booking time off, deciding on a place, arranging travel, finding a place to stay, organising a pet sitter, emptying the fridge, buying travel supplies, packing, figuring on when to leave, remembering to actually fucking go, etc., etc., etc. It’s awful, and I hate it. I went through a period of travelling for work and speaking engagements. The organisation was the worst fucking part, and the physical travel isn’t my favourite too, but at least I can just sit there for a bit and not do anything. I always feel a bit sick when I’m preparing to travel. Not travel sickness. Pre-travel sickness.
Let’s not forget to mention that it’s taken me more than 15 fucking years to start pursuing a diagnosis. Isn’t that in itself pretty typical of someone with ADHD?
I’m physically and mentally restless. I don’t move around on a large scale; exercise is a tough chore for me, but I always need to be doing something with my hands. I’m a kinetic, tactile person, and I need to be doing something with my hands. I have no less than four things on my desk specifically to fulfill this need, and I need that many, because the type of stimulation needs to change. One fidget toy only works for so long, or in a certain mood or situation. I need options.
Same goes for exercises. I am not a habit forming person. I never have been, though I’ve tried several times. I go through phases of forcing myself to exercise, with varying degrees of success, and I’ve found that I need to have different options to match my mood and keep me interested. I can’t have just one regular routine. I get bored and lose motivation too quickly. Or I can’t physically bring myself to do one thing, so I do another instead. When one thing doesn’t interest or suit me, it helps to have other, quite different options to consider instead.
My mind races from thing to thing to thing. Makes sense when you consider how easily distracted I am. My mind is constantly racing and jumping around, yet everything seems somehow connected and completely unrelated at the same time. I can often explain my rapid thought process of how I jumped from one thing to another, and there are usually several “invisible” jumps in between. I come up with tens of ideas for one thing, and dump them all on you. I come up with ideas for all this stuff that no one asked for, and I dump them on you out of nowhere because I can’t get them in my head and don’t want to forget. I can’t switch off my thoughts. Nothing relaxes me. My doctors say I have muscle pain and headaches because I’m stressed and need to relax, but I can’t relax. Meditation makes me feel incredibly anxious. I understand it on a conceptual level, but my brain can’t physically process how the fuck a thought could come into my mind and then I just let it go and don’t attack it with various other thoughts.
I have multiple thought streams going on at any one time. Mindfulness practices only take up one stream, while the others continue. I can’t just concentrate on my breathing or the massage, or the smell of my shampoo. I’m also thinking about work, and chores, and that thing I need to follow up on with that person, and oh fuck, that’s what I wanted to put on my to do list, but I’m in the shower now and I’ll do it when I get out, but whoops, I’ve already forgotten it again. I don’t understand how people can not have an internal monologue / inner voice. Mine is constant.
Is it any wonder I’ve always struggled to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get good quality sleep? Stop telling me that exercise will magically solve this problem. I’ve tried several times, and it doesn’t. I’ve tried several things several times, and it doesn’t.
I can’t sit through long meetings, or presentations, or listen to complicated board game instructions. Especially if the speaker has a monotone voice. I start checking my messages, zoning out, playing with figurines. Even if I’m paying attention, I need to play with something. It frustrates people. “Are you listening? Put that down and pay attention, or else you won’t know how to play.” But I need to play with the character piece. I won’t stop thinking about it until you let me have it, so just give it to me now so we can move on. I’m still listening, I promise. It’s still very hard, but it’s actually easier to listen when I’m clip-clopping the horsey along as you talk, making the pieces talk to one another out loud and doing the voices. I understand why you think I’m not listening, I really do, but I can’t help it.
It’s 2258 and I’ve been writing this for almost two hours straight. I had a long day, packed with back-to-back meetings, I didn’t have time for a lunch break, I need to prepare for a trip tomorrow, I need to get sleep, and yet I “needed” to start writing this. I thought I could maybe just write a little, but now it’s like I can’t stop. I need to keep going and get all this down and out of my mind, even though this is not time critical and there are other things I could be doing that are. I have an urge to write this now, even though there is no real need to write this now (apart from the forgetfulness thing).
It’s the same urge I have to interrupt. To play, to fidget. To be eating dinner and watching a show and playing a game, all at the same time. It’s so fucking unnecessary and doesn’t make sense, and yet I feel like I need the stimulation. There are gaps while I’m eating where I’m not cutting, or jabbing my fork through something, so I look for something else to do in the meantime.
Did I mention how I’d much rather meet spontaneously than commit to some plan weeks in advance? And if there’s a good reason to plan in advance, you’d better give me enough fucking details up front.
I don’t engage in risky behaviour. I’m good at taking calculated risks. I’ll think and think and think about something, and then make a decision and be very decisive about it. But I don’t abuse alcohol or drugs, and I don’t engage in risky sexual activities. In fact, safety has always been a prerequisite for engagement. I don’t hop from relationship to relationship. I really enjoy being on my own, and I think everyone should do it for a while, at least once.
Again, I’m a tactile person. Apart from what I’ve already described, I’m very sensitive to textures. I’ve always loved soft things, and I find them very soothing, comforting. They feel amazing to me. If I’m walking through a shop and see something from far away that looks soft (a fur coat, a plushie, a rug), I need to B-line over there and touch it. I can resist this urge, but it makes me very uncomfortable and I feel unfulfilled. If I get over there and touch it and it’s not as soft as I thought, I’m very disappointed. If it’s not soft at all, or even rough, I get visibly upset. I need to “fix” it and find something else acceptable to touch. This is worse than not touching the thing at all, and finding the “fix” is non-negotiable.
My skin is very sensitive. I used to think this was just because of my very severe, chronic eczema, but that finally got much better a few years ago and is completely manageable and usually not present. But my skin is just as sensitive as it always was. If I’m lying on a single hair in the bed, I can feel it, and need to remove it. Jaggy tags on clothes must be cut off. I can feel a single stray cotton fibre on my mask tickling my face, and I need to get rid of it as soon as possible. When my partner puts his arm around me, I’m constantly telling him to lift it directly up, then place it directly down again, because I can feel his arm pulling on my skin ever so slightly, and it’s uncomfortable and distracting. When I lift weights, I need to hold them exactly right so the weight is perfectly balanced and the texture on the bar doesn’t bother my skin. The mat needs to be perfectly aligned with surrounding furnishings, or I’ll have to stop and fix it.
Do not sit on a bench with me and shake your leg. If you sit behind me at the cinema or a conference, place your foot on my chair and shake it, I will genuinely want to punch you. I get very angry, and it’s all I can think about.
I love the feeling of being crushed. Physically crushed. “Proper” hugs noticeably release something in my brain that makes me feel better. If don’t get “proper” hugs often enough, my mood drops. I joke: “If I don’t get enough hugs, I’ll die!” But it’s kind of not really a joke. I honestly feel like I need them. I sleep under a weighted blanket that’s more than 10% of my body weight. People heavier than me tell me it’s heavy, but I can barely feel it. It’s heavy to lift, but not to lie under. I ask my partner to lie directly on top of me, lining up our limbs as much as possible, so I can feel the crushing sensation of as much of his weight as possible. It’s extremely satisfying. I could go even heavier and longer if it didn’t restrict my breathing so much.
I’m very sensitive to light. The brightness and temperature has a huge impact on my headaches and tiredness / alertness. My eyesight is terrible and can’t be fully corrected with glasses, but I can tell if something is off by a matter of pixels, just by eye-balling it. I’m very good at distinguishing between similar colours in isolation, and colour code a lot of things, but I’m not very good at picking out colours in a subject to create an expressive painting, for example. If I have multiple monitors, I must make all the display settings match as closely as possible. Differences really bother me, although I can accept “close enough”, which is much more restrictive in my definition than that of others. Flickering lights bother me. I can tell if audio and video are out of sync by milliseconds, and I can’t stop seeing it. I need to stop watching. I often stare off to the side when I’m thinking, talking, or processing. It can be staring out of the window or at a blank wall. Now that I think about it, I don’t even think it’s about looking or staring, so much as physically moving my head and eyes. I don’t know why I do that, but it helps me.
Clutter stresses me out and overwhelms me. My own, sectioned off piles and groups of organised mess that I understand are fine. Entire landscapes of just “things” and no empty space, spam are too much for me. Shops like TK Maxx. Websites with stuff just all over the place. Slack messages with massive preview boxes under every single fucking link. The Slackbot in general! It’s too much. It feels visually and spatially loud. Too loud. I hate Discord. They don’t have a proper threading system, so it’s just noise, and I can’t. I hate mindmaps. They are sometimes the right tool, but more often are also too cluttered and chaotic. Structured text usually works much better. Headings and summaries ftw.
I have music playing all the time. Heavy metal soothes me in a way that nothing else can, and calms me down when I feel angry or frustrated. I love to dance and can’t help but move to music, even if it’s not fitting to the environment or situation. I love deep bass. One of my favourite sensations in the world is when I can feel bass in my chest. It makes me happy.
A faint ringing in the background really bothers me. Audio needs to be at just the right volume – if it’s too low for me to fully make out what it is, it strains my ears and it almost hurts. Music should be loud, but shows and movies at the same volume are too loud. I don’t know why.
I put shows on for background noise, but it can’t be too exciting or dynamic. They help me to fall asleep, but ocean noises and “sleepscapes” give me serious anxiety and stress me out. Being shushed (shhh) soothes me. ASMR is cool, but I need to see it at the same time. Otherwise, it makes me really uncomfortable. I need to see what’s happening.
I’m weirdly sensitive to taste. I’m by no means fancy when it comes to food, but I’m really good at pinpointing tastes and telling you what’s in something. Same with smells, but to a lesser degree.
I have no concept of time. What day is it? What year, even? It’s now 2335 and I’m still going. I know I’m probably tired and should go to bed, but I’m on a roll. I’m getting things down, and doing this right this minute seems somehow more important than getting rest. (Read on to the end of this post to see how out of hand this got.) What was that thing you showed me the other week? Was that only yesterday? Oh. Oh my God, I’m going away this weekend! Remind me to go!! This is literally what I told someone this week. I literally feel at risk of forgetting to go on holiday, even though it’s in my calendar three different ways. I set multiple reminders for the same event, because I consistently get sucked into things and do just another thing, and one more other thing, and another thing, until I eventually realise I should have left already and need to rush to leave right now. I know when I should have left. I planned correctly. I just didn’t do it. Sometimes I was even just sitting there, feeling somehow unable to physically get up and get ready.
This feeling of not being able to physically move happens most often on public transport. I’ll know that my stop is coming next. I’ll be consciously aware of it and know that I need to physically get up and get off, but I don’t do it. I’ve missed my stop this way, more than once. I’ve learned to cope by standing up and preparing to get off as soon as the vehicle starts moving again from the stop right before mine. That’s much earlier than I should need to, but I feel like I’ll miss my stop again otherwise. I think about this every time.
I hate open plan offices. There’s too much going on, too much noise, too many distractions, too many interruptions, and I can’t concentrate properly. I use mechanical keyboards with clicky switches because the sound and tactile feedback feel good to me. Silent, linear switches freak me out. It feels like something is missing and I find it genuinely unsettling. Same goes for mouse buttons. The click and tactile feedback need to be right. I bought a new mouse with a dull sound and feel, and it bothered me so much that I stopped using it after about half an hour and gave it away. Turning off all notifications or using silent / do not disturb is somehow worse. If I get a notification, I can choose to ignore it (theoretically), but I know it’s there. If I don’t get notified, I’m far too curious about what’s happening that I don’t know about, and I check even more, even if there’s nothing there.
Emotions are complicated for me, since my history of mental health issues have brought me both long periods of extreme highs and lows, and long periods of feeling completely flat and numb. I’m probably in the best place, mental health wise, as I’ve ever been though, so I think that what’s left is likely a mixture of normal hormonal changes and ADHD symptoms.
Apart from what I’ve already described, I sometimes get very suddenly upset and shut down. If I know I’ve been trying really, really hard at something that I struggle with a lot, and then something happens that makes me feel inadequate, it makes me feel very small. I’ll tear up and become very quiet. I’ll stop talking completely and feel like giving up altogether. To keep trying feels pointless and overwhelming. Trying to get an ADHD diagnosis is a painful and ironic example of this. The whole process of trying to do it is exactly the kind of thing I struggle with, and I’ve cried a lot over it lately.
I’ve taught myself how to cope, function, and manage stress in the sense that I keep going. But I have a limit. Over time, things are fine, still fine, yeah, I can cope, still fine, uh-huh I can manage, fine, and then oh no, all of a sudden things are really, really not fucking fine, and you will feel the fire of my wrath until I feel sufficiently spent. It’s like my glass overflows, and then I need to throw everything out and “reset”. I think they call this a meltdown, but I don’t know.
Slow walking people really annoy me. Over the years, I’ve learned not to walk so fast if I’m not under a time constraint, but it’s probably still quick. I don’t have the patience for slow walkers and often get frustrated, charging past as soon as I can, even if I’m not in a rush. Same goes for slow talkers. I get very impatient and if I can’t speed things up, I just leave. Or interrupt. I probably interrupt, and then leave.
I have no idea what impact this other stuff has, but I feel like it could be relevant, and I want to give a full picture, to allow for proper diagnosis as much as possible.
Other mental health stuff I’ve had largely includes depression, anxiety, and maybe PTSD. I dunno. I’ve seen several counsellors and psychologists on my long journey to better mental health, and they have all been unwilling to officially diagnose me, citing bullshit about how it makes things worse for some people to know what they have, and so they just vaguely beat around the bush and tell me I’m showing signs of these things, without ever actually officially saying that’s what I have, even though I explain to them that I can’t properly understand, manage, or talk about what I’m going through without a real diagnosis. I have no option but to self diagnose, because they refuse to tell me. It’s extremely frustrating, patronising, and a big reason why I know it will be even harder to try and get an ADHD diagnosis, but I really need this in order to get treatment, so… Yeah. It’s ridiculous though. You would never hide a diabetes diagnosis, or an asthma diagnosis from a patient, so why are mental health diagnoses hidden from patients? Whatever. On that note, I’ve never been on medication for any other mental health issues, but I would really like to try medication for ADHD (assuming that’s what I have), since I’ve already taught myself how to cope and function on the outside, but it’s still a huge struggle on the inside. I don’t want to struggle anymore.
As a person in my thirties, I have what I’ll describe as “abnormal, child-like tendencies”. One side of me is very adult, very responsible, and completely self-reliant. Another part of me is very child-like, playful, wildly imaginative. I’ve noticed that I respond well to toys meant for babies and young children. I like the variety of bright colours, the shapes, the different textures. Even my voice changes when I’m in this child-like state. I only show this side to people I’m close with and trust. I don’t do it on purpose, it just happens, and it happens more often when I’m upset (as in sad, not angry) or happy. I don’t know anyone else who is like this. I think it’s because of the physical abuse I experienced as a child, and mental and emotional abuse from childhood into adulthood (in case you were wondering why my parents never tried to get me help for this stuff as a child, they were… Doing other things). I think I was forced into adulthood too early, and my developmental needs as a child weren’t met at the appropriate time, and so I’m in this weird place of having these unmet needs from childhood that can no longer be satisfied, as the right time has passed, and so I’m kind of stuck… I’m not a doctor, just my theory. The reason I mention it is because I know ADHD is a lot more common in children, and that it can have some connection to development, so I thought that might be an interesting or relevant factor.
Most of the time, I think I have a good level of emotional intelligence, but other times, I really feel like I’m missing something. I can read social cues and facial expressions. I know what’s socially acceptable and how close to stand to people, and I actively practise empathy, but sometimes I feel like something is really off. I have no problem with people not liking me. That’s fine and normal, but I’ve often had the impression that someone likes me, and then all of a sudden, something changes and I feel like they don’t want to interact with me anymore, and I don’t know why. Did I do something wrong and not realise it? What could it have been? Is there some rumour going around about me and they’re avoiding me? Am I just being paranoid? This has happened more than once, and it’s the sudden change where I have no idea why that confuses me. Again, if I know why or for sure that someone doesn’t like me, I’m totally okay with it. But it’s when it suddenly changes and I have no clue why, when I wonder if maybe I’m not as good at these things as I think I am…
I’m very introverted. Not shy – introverted. As in, interacting with people and being sociable doesn’t give me energy, it drains me. That doesn’t mean I hate it or don’t see the value in it, but it’s a lot. It’s incredibly exhausting, and I love being on my own. I really need time to recharge, and I feel much better in small groups, and with other neurodiverse people. I can relate to them, and we understand each other. Related to this and the previous paragraphs in this section, I’ve never had many close friends. Plenty of acquaintances and people I like, but not many people I really let in or would ask for help, even though I would help them. Making friends is very difficult for me, even though meeting and talking to new people is easy. I really admire and envy people who can make friends easily, especially close ones. I don’t remember ever telling anyone I think I have ADHD before I decided to pursue a diagnosis.
I’m very creative, imaginative, and I love puzzles. I like to figure things out, find out how stuff works, build stuff, take it apart, find solutions. I ask questions all the time. All the fucking time, and I still have so many other questions that I’ve kept to myself because I know it’s a lot, and I’m trying to keep a lid on it. But I have so many questions. This is why testing suits me so well. There are always new things to learn and experiment with. I hate running scripted, manual test cases. I can’t think of anything else more mind numbingly boring in this line of work. I love exploring and taking different paths, finding new things. I feel like this is one of the few applications where the way my brain works is actually useful. Before I discovered quality and testing, the reason I left almost every job was because I’d done everything I could do, it wasn’t challenging anymore, and I got bored. I was good at the jobs, but I didn’t like them anymore once the challenge was gone.
I learned how to solve Rubik’s cubes recently. Cubes of 2×2, 3×3, 4×4 and 5×5. I’ve always thought they seemed cool, but as soon as I learned they’re solved with set algorithms and not pure logic, I was surely disappointed and disinterested. I learned how to do it recently because my partner was learning. Now that I’m good at the 3×3, it’s boring, and I do it solely for the movement. I like that I need to use two hands, so it keeps both of them busy at the same time. I was determined to figure out the 4×4 and 5×5 on my own, without checking or being taught how. I loved it. Now that I’m good at those too, I’m bored. The 2×2 is laughably easy once you know how; pointless. I play with the magnetic 3×3 because I like the sensation of the magnets. That feels good to me.
I love untangling things. Cables, necklaces, thread. It’s often tricky, but it’s satisfying. It appeals to my desire to do stuff with my hands, looking for a challenge, being really focussed on one thing, and achieving something straightforward, that doesn’t require forward planning or admin.
I did well in school, and I’m intelligent. I got good grades, and I score highly in intelligence tests I’ve completed as part of job screenings. But I only have “half a psychology degree”. I dropped out after my second year, because I don’t enjoy the format of formal education. I hate sitting in lectures for hours on end, listening to someone go on and on about stuff that they usually have never experienced in real life, rather only having seen it from an academic or research perspective. I don’t respond well to that. I’m a do-er. I learn best by doing things, and trying them out for myself. So I dropped out (despite doing well) to go and work full-time. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
I tried coffee for the first time in my life this year, to see if it would help with the tiredness. I’ve heard people describe how they can literally feel the caffeine kicking in, and that their heart rate increases. Apparently they feel something similar when drinking fizzy drinks (which also contain caffeine), and it keeps them awake at night if they drink it too late. I was really surprised by this, as I don’t often drink fizzy drinks, but when I do, I feel nothing. I expected coffee to trigger a response in me, since the caffeine content is higher and I’m completely new to it, but again – nothing. It hasn’t helped with my tiredness at all, but I have noticed that I’m more focussed for a short period after having it. The effect is quite mild / subtle, but I’ve been paying attention to it for a few months (I don’t drink coffee every day, or even every week), but it does seem to be a pattern that I’ve read could be relevant.
I’ve had blood tests and an MRI, and they all came back normal.
It Doesn’t Have to be ADHD
So I’m like 99% sure that I have ADHD, and I just become more convinced, the more I look into it. That being said, I’m not blindly fixated on the idea of it having to be ADHD. My main thing is that I’m struggling on the inside, regardless of how things look on the outside. I want treatment for what’s on the inside. If I get a diagnosis for something else, and treatment that still helps me on the inside, stops me from struggling, and changes my life in the way I truly think it could, I’d be happy. Ecstatic. From what I’ve seen, ADHD medication could really help with this, if that’s what I have. I also did a couple of online assessments for autism, for example, but they came back as unlikely.
Why It Will be Very Difficult to Get a Diagnosis and Treatment
- I know from repeated personal experience, and a doctor specifically telling me, that it’s very difficult to get a diagnosis for any mental health issue, especially if you’re functioning well on the outside (i.e., able to keep a stable job, manage your finances, haven’t had to take time off work)
- A lot of people, including doctors, don’t even believe that ADHD exists
- Especially in adults
- Especially in anyone who isn’t a boy (which has different symptoms)
- So even if you genuinely have ADHD, you might still not get a diagnosis
- Health insurance companies in Germany didn’t even recognise or cover adult ADHD until very recently
- It must be diagnosed by a psychiatrist in order to get treatment; a psychiatrist, not a psychologist or psychotherapist
- They are extremely hard to find in Munich, especially if you have public health insurance, as most are only private, and the public ones don’t have any appointments (a lot of places don’t even answer the phone)
- You have to go to one who takes public health insurance, or else the insurance company won’t cover any of the visits or treatments, even if you pay for the initial appointments yourself, so the insurance would be essentially useless and you would run out of money, fast
- Finding an English speaking psychiatrist in Munich narrows it down even further
- ADHD (especially in adults) is a specialist area, so not all psychiatrists have the knowledge or experience to make an assessment
- They are extremely hard to find in Munich, especially if you have public health insurance, as most are only private, and the public ones don’t have any appointments (a lot of places don’t even answer the phone)
- Even if you manage to get a diagnosis, most doctors are very reluctant to prescribe medication, especially stimulant medication
It’s now 0040 and I’m still writing. I’m sure this is making less and less sense, and I’ve missed out a bunch of stuff, but yeah. This is going to be really fucking hard, long, stressful, and very likely unsuccessful, but I really want to try. Even though everything about the process is exactly the kind of thing I really struggle with and find overwhelming, I have to try. There’s no other way for me to get the help I need.
Can You Help?
That being said, if, by any chance, you know of an English speaking psychiatrist in Munich who specialises in adult ADHD and accepts public health insurance, I would love to hear from you. Super unlikely, but who knows.
Feel free to also share your stories, but please leave out any ADHD / mental illness / neurodiversity denying or medication stigmatising BS. Not here for it.
Wish me luck!! This is the start of a super long, and rocky ride… Peace.
All the Times I Remembered Something Else and Came Back to Edit this Post
Edit 1: And by the way, I feel much better after brain dumping, even though I definitely need sleep now. I’m glad I did this, because I really want to refer to it when I finally get an appointment, so I don’t zone out and forget all the things I know to be true about what I’m going through, wasting all the time and effort. Final time check after reading it over once: 0137 (30.09.21). I spent 4.5 fucking hours hyper-focused on this, and missed messages in the meantime. Bed now.
Edit 2: Lolol “final time check”. It’s now 0225 and I am in bed, but I’ve already come back and added like three or four entire paragraphs with more stuff I forgot about earlier. Is this sufficient evidence?? Like, seriously…
Edit 3: 0307, added some more… It’s honestly better to just do it before I forget again, and get it out of my mind. That would distract me and stop me from sleeping more than resisting. I know it’s not good though, I have an early start.
Edit 4: 0334…
Edit 5: 0345
Edit 6: 0617, I came back and added more things I actually thought of last night, after I finally decided to draw a line and stop for the night. And then the first thing I did after waking up was try to remember, and add them.
Edit 7: 0739
Edit 8: 0801, I think I need to stop for today, and let myself go on holiday. I think the point has been made.