My better late than never diagnosis - Andrea's story (part two)
Women searching for an explanation for their symptoms often face misperceptions or professionals’ lack of understanding about women’s experiences with ADHD. Andrea Michaels knew that she behaved differently to other girls and she too struggled to be heard by her doctors. But why? In this feature, Andrea opens up about her decision to finally seek a diagnosis despite the resistance she faced.
Making the decision to seek a diagnosis
So, there you have it, my ADHD symptoms were being attributed to everything else but ADHD. To the best of my knowledge, I had ADHD, but I wasn’t being referred.
I went to my doctor again and I said “Look, this is what's going on, this is what people are saying to me”. My doctor came back and said “No, it's because of your anxiety. Yes, you are hyperactive, you've always been hyperactive”. My symptoms were always being attributed to my anxiety and they kept reaching this same conclusion. I remember my symptoms were attributed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) once but ADHD was still ignored as a possibility.
It wasn't until my son was diagnosed with autism and ADHD that I was taken seriously because it appeared to be too much of a coincidence. He behaved the same way I behaved, and he was diagnosed quite early on. When my son received his diagnosis I reached out to the Centre for ADHD & Autism Support (CAAS) and initially went to see them about support for my son. I remember one of the facilitators saying to me, ‘Andrea, I think you should come to the adult ADHD support group’. And I did. I'm sat there in my first session, listening to everybody and I'm thinking “I really do have ADHD”. I remember their Director of ADHD Services, saying to me that I exhibited classic symptoms of ADHD.
My ‘better late than never’ diagnosis
I went back to my doctor and talked through all my symptoms (again) and after being referred to a specialist last year, time I got my diagnosis. I know why I wasn’t diagnosed when I was younger because my doctor kindly told me. I was a girl and girls didn't have ADHD. He said it was seen as a ‘naughty boy syndrome’- girls didn't have these things – or at least that was the consensus back then. And while I was really hyperactive, I was also quite physically active; I was involved in lots of activities out of school which seemed to have masked my symptoms for the most part.
I also remember being the life of the party because that's what people wanted me to be like but, inside, it didn’t feel natural – I didn’t like being the centre of attention. I would find myself in a corner somewhere, hoping that the party was all over. This is an example of how girls behave in a certain way because we know what's expected of us. As girls, we tend to mask our conditions because we copy our peers. We mimic what they're doing around us. So, I would do what the other girls were doing and just follow in that sense and learn that this is how I'm supposed to behave. With boys, they don't do that (as much) and so conditions like ADHD become more obvious.
Now I'm part of the patients' group at my surgery and my area is neurodiversity. I talk to the doctors about it and what I think benefits parents and adults that are dealing with these conditions. I really want to help to make a change for the better, people like me need a voice...
Andrea was supported by the Centre for ADHD & Autism Support (CAAS). CASS provides a range of services to support anyone affected by either ADHD and autism. Led and run by people with first hand experience of the conditions they understand the issues facing their service users .CAAS are based in North West London and provide information, training, support groups and practical help.
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