Hello, welcome, take a seat. Grab a drink if you’d like and let me bring you up to speed. The current most significant problem with my ADHD is that it’s undiagnosed.
Despite working out that I probably have ADHD back in the latter half of 2021, I won’t get an assessment until 2024. Now, before you begin to lament the current state of the NHS (which generally I would not stop you from doing), part of that (but only part) is my own fault: I dithered over actually whether or not to go to a doctor about it until early 2022. When I finally went, however, I encountered my first problem: the doctor didn’t believe I could’ve gone this long with ADHD without it being noticed, a real smack in the face to the many people I know who didn’t realise they had ADHD until they were decades older than I am now. How he could’ve gone this long without being stotted in the mouth I don’t know – though, to be fair, maybe he hasn’t. After convincing him, I was shunted to a mental health team whom I had to convince I was in fact not “just depressed,” “just anxious,” or “just suffering from a personality disorder” (not that any of these should ever be referred to as “just”), despite the fact I probably would warrant depression and anxiety diagnoses, but that’s largely due to the undiagnosed and unmedicated goddamn ADHD.
Following that, it took four months for the initial letter to be sent – a letter that I never actually received, so obviously was unable to reply to. A lack of reply meant I was kicked off the waitlist, but no one told me this, so I wasted three and a half months thinking I was still on it when I should’ve been getting back on it as fast as possible. What makes it even worse is that the team is in fact meant to ring you two weeks after the letter is sent, to make sure you’ve received it – no points for guessing that they did not in fact do this.
Whilst I can joke about it now, that moment in the nurse’s office when I found out I had been dropped from the waitlist is one of the worst moments of my life. Not emotionally, though – no, I didn’t actually feel anything because my mind completely shut down. I stumbled out onto the busy street and spent multiple minutes just staring at the sign for the Costa across the street. I’d never noticed it was actually Costa Coffee, even though I’ve worked at a Costa (Coffee). My organs had been scooped out and spilled across the street in front of me. Legs disconnected from brain. All I’d been doing for years was stumbling along, gasping in as much as air as I could in the brief seconds I managed to beat the constant ensuing tidal wave of water. Getting this assessment had been the tenuous thread I’d managed to keep a hold of to show me the way forward. To remind me there was a way forward. I should’ve been getting an assessment within the next six months. Now it was gone.
After a two-week stint at home where I barely even ate or slept, I applied to join the waitlist again. I knew the waitlist time was growing exponentially so God knew how long it would take from that point, but it was better than not being on it at all. Well, that’s what I was told. Whilst still upsetting, any neurotypical person would have been able to reason that the assessment was still coming, they would just have to wait longer. Not me. Oh no. A massive part of ADHD is that time is considered in only two ways: now, and not now. The assessment was happening not now, and thus it wasn’t happening at all. It’s hard to explain how I simultaneously know that the assessment will occur, but also don’t know that. My best friend and I have the concepts of “intellectually knowing” and “emotionally knowing.” Intellectually, I know the assessment is coming. Emotionally, I don’t know it. My body, my brain, they haven’t caught up. I don’t think they ever will until the assessment actually happens.
Once I’d re-joined the waitlist, a new letter arrived at my flat just before Christmas, which I picked up just after Christmas despite not intending to return until the second week of January. I was just so eager to ensure I was comfortably within the four-week reply window. Shame the day I picked it up was the four-week deadline. The letter was actually dated the 29th of November. Dammit. (I must stress: whilst this was most likely a result of the postal strikes, I do not blame them even remotely. Yay for strikes! Yay for demanding better pay and working conditions! I must also stress I’m making light of it here, but I had a massive blow out panic attack thinking I was about to get kicked off the waitlist again. Fun!) I did sort it out (supposedly) with a couple of phone calls, but this was incredibly difficult to do, you know, on account of the ADHD. I also had to fill out a bunch of goddamn forms, a task that could not be more pitted against the disorder if it tried. Now I have to wait a year minimum, with no definitive end date in sight. The process itself should be the assessment: take multiple days to make a really important phone call? Die a little inside at the idea of filling out forms even though you’ve been desperate for them? Struggle with time? Congratulations, you have ADHD!
Unfortunately, the university will not accept this as proof of having ADHD. Only an official diagnosis will be accepted. Now, I get this, of course, but what I don’t think is okay is that the university will not offer any help until you have this diagnosis – oh, I tell a lie. The university suggests I take classes on time management and organisation, a recommendation I must admit made me foam at the mouth. That’s like refusing an asthmatic an inhaler and instead telling them to just take a class on breathing. Now I understand they can’t just immediately give you all the help of a diagnosed person because then everyone would start saying they’ve been staring at the wall for five hours straight but think only ten minutes has passed, or pacing for hours on the end because it’s the only thing that settles the wound-up toddler in their bones, but surely there can be some sort of middle ground? Surely something is wrong for me to have gone to the doctors, and surely they agree to have actually referred me for the assessment – and by God did I have to give them a lot of evidence for them to actually do it. An awareness that something is wrong should warrant at least a little assistance, but the university seems to disagree. This isn’t confined to ADHD. I have a friend with a physical illness that clearly constitutes a disability, but because the doctors cannot exactly pinpoint what is wrong with them, and thus cannot give an official diagnosis, the university does not help them. I assume the university does this on the basis that some “unworthy” person will lie. I do not care. I would rather everyone struggling with any form of disability got help, even if it meant a few people got it unnecessarily. But the university does not it see this way, so I will just struggle through the next two academic semesters minimum, as I have been doing, and hope I make it through. I have already dropped out of this university once due to ADHD, and I’d really rather not to do it again. But if I do, know this: it’s on the university.
P.S. stotted in the mouth means punched in the mouth. I can’t find a single thing that backs up this definition, but that’s what it means in south-west Fife – or at least means to me.
(Musings on Neurodivergency is a monthly column by Briony Taylor, exclusive to the qmunicate.com. Stay tuned for more installments!)