You’re Not ADD (Part 5): Want some Prozac?
One adult woman with ADHD tells her story of trying to find the right diagnosis, and fighting off offers of Prozac and anxiety meds along the way.
On my health plan, they have a process by which people are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD). First, you go to the 2-hour talk on Adult Attention Issues, where they pass out a test. Then you wait three weeks and they send you a letter. Yes, you have it. No, you don’t. It’s like getting accepted into college… or not. If you do, you get some meds and 4 appointments with a therapist who may or may not know anything about ADHD in adult women.
If, because they have awesome services in the Pediatrics department, you ask your child’s psychiatrist something like, “I think he’s this way because of me,” they won’t really talk to you; they’ll say to go stand in line in the Adult department. (If you cry, because you don’t understand and are desperate to ask questions like “is it because I was a terrible mother and could never teach him how to floss every night because I can’t remember to myself?” Well, they’ll close the door extra-fast.) So, you just keep worrying and having all these questions that no one will answer until you do all your listening first.
In the Adult Attention Issues session, which is standing room only, they describe every aspect of what it feels like to have ADHD. I sat through this meeting twice, five years apart, and had to sit on my hands to keep from raising them every two seconds to chime in with additional information, since it was all so familiar. The test is full of questions that make you sound like a loser, which I’m not. On some questions, I had to be perfectly honest and answer both “Rarely true” and “Always true,” since one answer is correct when I’ve got fun things going on in my life, and the other is correct when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I wanted to explain this to someone, but no one ever asked me what I meant.
The first time I went through the process, they said I was on the borderline, not “disordered” enough to have ADHD, and the psychiatrist kindly offered me some Prozac or other anxiety medication. But I am not a fearful person, I told her, just an overwhelmed one. I only really worry about one thing: can I keep my shit together without dropping all these balls I seem to attract? Besides, I am keenly aware of my body and highly sensitive to medications; I even ask the dentist for a half-dose of novacaine. So Prozac? Thanks but no thanks.
The second time I went through the routine, same story… except now you had to wait 3 months to talk to a psychiatrist if you were ‘borderline’. I decided to go ahead and take the 6-week Adult Attention class while I waited. It was all I could do, again, to keep from blurting out and being the cleverest one in the room. “When you have ADHD,” the teacher droned on, “you need to be entertained or you lose interest.” I wanted to bolt after twenty minutes of her slow-moving, monotone presentation. The woman next to me was just as agitated at the poor organization. We supported each other in chiming in. But the teacher said, “please hold your questions and comments until the end.”
One day I got a call, asking me not to return to class. I was baffled and hurt, feeling like I did in first grade when the teacher saw me as a trouble-maker after I screamed from a bee sting. The concussion had added to my antsiness, but was I really as disruptive as they said? Turns out they had intended to kick my confidante out of class for other awkward reasons, and the teacher (who assured us she didn’t have ADD), mixed us up. But I couldn’t take any more. They gave me a refund and I went back to square one.