J'entends le A dans le TDAH-I représente l'angoissdecember 29, 2019
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How to get evaluation and potential treatment for ADHD-I, explained like I am 5 in the tiniest baby steps? Side questions, how to deal with self-doubt and concerns about judgment and medication side-effects?
About me: early 40s cis woman, unemployed, partnered but unmarried, Boston area. Long suspected I have inattentive ADHD. Currently unemployed, no health insurance. Only possibly-related issues are Gilbert’s syndrome, which causes occasional random fatigue, and undiagnosed-but-I’m-pretty-sure-I-have-it PMS depression. I’m also anxious a lot but it almost always seems linked to my inability to manage myself. Had a GP but haven’t been seen for a couple of years or more; not sure if I’m even still on his rolls. I’d be ok waiting until I get a new job to start this process but if there’s anything I can do now that wouldn’t be exorbitantly expensive, great. Either way I am super duper intimidated by all things healthcare from the logistics involved in finding a doctor or therapist (what kind? how do you find them? Do you just call them to make an appointment or do you need a referral? I hear they have waiting lists of months oh my god…) to dealing with anxiety around the process. I’m worried about being labeled a drug seeker and ruining my chances for future treatment.
I don’t really want to take medications of any kind, especially not for ADHD as I already have trouble sleeping. But at this point I feel like I’ve hit the wall with how far my own workarounds can take me. I’ve read articles and books and blog posts and tweets full of advice, some of which I have successfully incorporated. Despite this I feel like I’m constantly swimming against the current of my overall lack of focus and drive. If medication can help me stop wasting my time, I’ll try it.
What follows is a whole bunch more about me that might or might not be relevant.
Reasons why I think I have ADHD-I
1. Long history of disorganization going back to early childhood. Lots of comments from teachers to my parents about messiness, plus “not working up to my potential.” I remember school as a nightmare of physical papers everywhere, underused planners, assignments invariably done at the last possible second if done at all, and staying home “sick” for days even weeks due to snowballing anxiety over missed work. Unfortunately I have chucked all my old report cards so I don’t have any written records of this. Writing papers in college was the worst.
Counterpoint (?): I usually managed to get good grades anyway, expect in a couple of my worst subjects. I test well and scored high on the SATs. My mom once took me to a local learning center, when I was particularly struggling in high school. I was evaluated for a bunch of things but they didn’t diagnose me with anything. I continued to go for a while and it basically just served as a place to do homework under supervision. I got into a good college and got my degree without any special accommodations.
-> Counter-counterpoint: I think tests in institutional settings are so much easier than say, writing papers, because aside from studying, (which for me almost always consisted of cramming for a few hours before the test,) there is no need to organize or structure my own time, PLUS there are so few distractions at a school desk with nothing one test booklet in front of me in a blissfully silent room, compared to other distracting environments, many of which contain the whole fucking internet.
2. My younger brother was diagnosed as ADHD-H as a kid. I am pretty sure my dad has some flavor of it too, but he has never been evaluated. Unlike my little bro I was not hyperactive or disruptive, instead I was able to spend many hours reading and had no apparent difficulties concentrating in class. In retrospect, I was/am often only able to process verbal information about new concepts if I can take notes while that person is talking, or if they also include visual aids. Fortunately, most of school involved note-taking, and most teachers wrote stuff on the board and there was accompanying reading material so I muddled through. I relate so hard to
. About the reading for pleasure – I spend soooooo much of my unstructured time unable to pick a thing to do, and instead just do soothing activities like eating or reading all day.
3. I am still messy and disorganized, but I cope/hide it much better now. These days, I know I need visual order to be calm and that cluttered surfaces stress me the fuck out, so at home I take the time to tidy throughout the day. My apartment looks lovely to guests. But if you look inside my bulging closets, dresser drawers, handbags, cabinets, or personal paper files, you would see that there is no internal order. These spaces are chaos zones that I will clean out in twice yearly binges (after which things generally degenerate again in a week.) I spend more time hanging out in my living room than in my closet so I prioritize straightening the living room. Of course, every morning is terrible when it takes me thirty real minutes to get dressed because I can’t find a clean pair of leggings.
4. Same deal with work. My entire professional career up to now has involved administrative and project management work which has required a ton of organization and self-direction. Faking it till I made it luckily worked ok for a time, as I learned to use strategies such as blocking out my time and tasks every day, and “achieving through procrastination” by knocking out tasks as a way to avoid doing something else. But I would have bad days when hours would go by of spinning my wheels because I could. not. force myself to concentrate. (Negative credit to my incredibly noisy open-plan office.) I spent untold hours doing unreported overtime since it was often only possible to focus when the office was finally quiet, and I wasn’t receiving a new email every ten minutes. I want to never do this again. (Just to head things off – advice to switch careers/industries is not gonna be helpful at this time. Believe me, I have a good handle on what I am good at and while I know there are jobs out there in which I wouldn’t need to be organized or self-directed, those are generally an even bigger mismatch for me for other reasons. “Just work from home” is also not a solution since my home is tiny and full of its own distractions, plus not every organization allows/encourages it.)
5. I can barely keep up with the daily demands of life, let alone put in steady effort on passion projects. When I have free time I fritter it away. I have never had any long-term goals. People who can achieve things like getting graduate level education, buying a house or raising children amaze me. I can’t do marathons. But I am aces at taking on new challenges in little sprints, such as organizing a move, getting to a volunteer session if someone asks me to be there at a particular date and time, giving feedback on an essay for a friend that they are going to send in the next ten minutes, etc.
6. Things that help: getting better than adequate sleep every day. Very low-moderate amounts of caffeine. Unfortunately caffeine destroys my sleep, which is why I am super apprehensive of ADHD medication. It’s also really easy for me to have too much and tip over into hyperfocus on something I shouldn’t be doing (usually screwing around online.) Making to-do lists. Taking frequent breaks to walk around. Having regularly scheduled check-ins with supervisors. Working in the mornings or evenings (afternoons are terrible.) Working in quiet, boring, distraction-free spaces with good natural lighting.
Thank you for reading, and any help/hope you can offer!
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