Guess What?! (Ta-Dah) You’re ADD!
Sometimes, diagnosing ADHD in adults is hard because symptoms are masked. One woman tells how she found her AHA! with the right professional.
The most amazing thing happened after I quit my out-of-pocket therapist who Just! Didn’t! Get! what I had been trying to tell her for a year. (That sometimes I don’t know who I am when I wake up on an unstructured morning. That I have trouble sticking to routines she suggests and my days get away from me, or that I’m overwhelmed by all the wonderful things in my life.) Although kind and caring, she felt doubtful whenever we talked about ADD. She kept measuring me by the same confusing tests that required me to have been a problem child, which I never was.
On the day we parted ways, I flipped through my Attention Issues Class manual and found the name of a therapist in my health plan in another city that had been scribbled on the back. And finally, after years of educating professionals, on my nickel, about ADHD, someone saw me as a complete and complex person, and not a set of numbers on tests.
After just a short time together, Dr. Aha said what I already knew, “When you have problems, they are ADD problems, but you’ve developed so many successful ways of working with your mind and coping with your differences that your life mostly works (except when it doesn’t), and you don’t appear to have a disorder.” But he’d seen a lot of cases and saw me on the spectrum with (ta-dah!) combined-type ADHD.
“I can see why others wouldn’t catch it,” he also said. “Your symptoms hide under anxiety, but they also hide under competence, confidence, and wisdom.”
“Yes, sometimes I seem to have it, and sometimes I don’t,” I agreed.
“But inconsistency is the hallmark of diagnosing ADHD in adults,” he said.
I KNOW!!! RIGHT??? In college, my teachers called me “consistently inconsistent.”
I felt so relieved, so validated that a knowledgeable professional had finally seen me through my own eyes. (Driven by Distraction was already on his shelf; I didn’t have to loan him a copy.) He understood that my challenges with forgetting things, being confused, feeling disconnected, losing track of things, and having trouble starting and finishing things, were the cause of my anxieties, not the symptoms.
He asked the right questions. Like, “is your house a mess?”
“No, my husband gets us to clean it for a family fun time on Thursdays.”
“What did it look like when you lived alone?” (Clever doctor!)
“Creative chaos, so I’d have friends over every month to force myself to clean it.”
And then, “Do you fidget?”
“You don’t seem like you’re fidgeting”
“I hide it,” I said. “I am always clicking my teeth to a tune in my head.”
“And you’re getting my full attention, too,” he said. I just wanted to jump up and hug him. He understood that my symptoms disappear when I’m engaged in intense conversation.
I told him what my frustrated father once said about me, something that sounded a little mean but that really defined my Life Issue.”You don’t do anything half-assed. You do things four-fifthed assed.”
Dr. Aha smiled when he heard that. He knew what it meant. And, after years of trying to understand, finally I knew what it meant, too.