Here’s the thing: I don’t have an official ADHD diagnosis.
I fit all the diagnostic criteria; have since I was probably about seven years old. I’ve spent hours researching it, and the first time I stumbled upon a group for ADHD adults discussing their experiences, I legitimately started crying with relief and recognition. I’ve discussed my issues in depth with my PCP, who recommended I get in touch with someone about a potential assessment, because it sounded to him like there was a pretty high likelihood that I’d get a positive diagnosis. But I’m not officially diagnosed with ADHD.
There’s a number of reasons for that — primary among them is that I’m continually getting conflicting information about whether or not my insurance will cover the assessment (either entirely or in part) because it’s not directly impacting my career or employability, and therefore may not be deemed “medically necessary” (apparently the fact that I experience nearly constant existential frustration doesn’t matter so long as I am able to work, because surely that is the measure of my worth. But, anyway, that’s another rant for another day).
There is no doubt in my mind, when I reflect on my life and on my experiences, especially when I compare them to the experiences of other adults with ADHD, that I have ADHD. And yet, the fact that I haven’t had a professional diagnose me still, sometimes, gives me a horrible sense of imposter syndrome.
It’s bad enough that in 2019, people are still trying to delegitimize the condition — people think of ADHD as a childhood condition, or worse still, that there are so many who believe ADHD can be “cured” by eating certain foods or exercising (not to say exercisng can’t help some of the symptoms for some people! But it certainly doesn’t cure them), and, yes, people still claiming that ADHD doesn’t exist (it’s just kids being brats and adults being lazy — because you know how we lazy adults love to hate ourselves and live in a constant state of anxiety and confusion, right?)
But even once I push through all that BS (trying not to internalize it), there’s the uncomfortable feeling that my experiences aren’t valid (even as they match up, with textbook perfection, with the experiences of others with the condition).
If I really had ADHD, why wasn’t I diagnosed earlier?
(Probably because ADHD has historically been seen as a “boy’s issue,” and only more recently have people realized that the Inattentive Type is more prevalent in females than the stereotypical Hyperactive type).
Shouldn’t I have failed out of school (aren’t all people with ADHD “poor students”)?
(Oooh, hey, you’re forgetting those crying jags after every parent-teacher night where your folks were pissed because your teachers told them that I was brilliant, and had amazing things to contribute, but why weren’t the assignments getting turned in? And you were petrified to let them down, and got things in late, and did extra credit work, and thank God you were smart enough to ace most of the tests? Oh, and also, lots of people with ADHD get good grades; there are several first hand accounts in place like The Mighty and ADDitude Magazine trying to combat that stereotype).
I was never a troublemaker at school, either, shouldn’t I have been bouncing off the walls?
(See above, re: Inattentive type ADHD. My impulsivity presents in other ways, like starting fifty million projects, having manic periods of directionless energy/ambition, and becoming passionately involved in something before quickly losing interest).
Here’s something to remember– for every person diagnosed with ADHD, there was a period of time prior to their diagnosis. They still had ADHD during that time. A diagnosis gave name to their experiences, it did not give them validity. My experiences are valid. I know they are valid. I also know they match up with everything I’ve learned — from personal research, discussion with other ADHD adults, and fifteen years in Special Education — about ADHD.
Someday soon, I hope to sort this insurance BS out and get an official diagnosis.
Until then, hi. My name’s Jess. And I know I have ADHD.