ADHD plays a massive role in my life. I have difficulty focusing, prioritising and regulating emotions. Rationally I can distinguish between the washing-up and a burning house, but emotionally everything hits me just as hard. If I cannot move, fidget or talk to regulate my energy, I get an ache or itch in my body. I also have very little awareness of time. But being late or busy, that happens to everybody. It is seen as something you can control. If you cannot, society will tell you that you are whining or making excuses. And with that comes the self-reproach: I’m doing something wrong. And: what I feel is not legitimate.
When I was in my early twenties, I reported that I was having panic attacks to my GP. After years of treatment during which the symptoms did not diminish, I was prescribed oxazepam, a sedative. The GP suspected depression and suggested antidepressants. I felt that was not the right way to go. After years of searching, I saw a note in my file during a conversation with the nurse practitioner: ADHD? At home, I did an ADHD self-test on the internet. With the positive result, the GP referred me to a diagnostic centre where ADHD was diagnosed. I was glad to finally have a diagnosis. I suddenly understood where my feelings and behaviour came from. And I could do something about it, with medication and counselling.
In my childhood, the term ADHD was used at the GP’s office because of behavioural issues. I do not know why it was not investigated further. Maybe it was not very well-known, or maybe people thought it only occurred in men. Even today, ADHD is often overlooked in women because the diagnosis only looks at how it manifests itself in men, which is usually in external behaviour. In women, it can lead to withdrawn behaviour, similar to depression.
After the diagnosis, I received twelve weeks of counselling. But ADHD defines my life every day. When I’m having my period, my ADHD symptoms are worse, and the medication does not work as well. But no doctor or psychologist ever mentions this. I also wonder if it is possible for me to take care of a child because I am so easily over-stimulated. I would love to be able to discuss these kinds of life questions together with a sympathetic care provider, instead of having to figure everything out on my own.
Carly is 40 years old and works in the cultural sector