Seeking answers - Andrea's story (part one)
Girls are statistically far less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than boys. It’s an important point that deserves continuous attention. –Why you may ask? We know the outcomes for those with ADHD are vastly improved for those who receive a diagnosis earlier rather than later, but ADHD in young girls is often overlooked and many are not diagnosed until they are adults. Andrea Michaels has been living with the condition all her life. Similar to many women with ADHD, the red flags were always there but never acted upon, until recently. Here is her story, her battle to receive an ADHD diagnosis.
Life before my ADHD diagnosis
Life before my ADHD diagnosis was very interesting. Looking back at when I was at school, I always got told that I was bright, but I never paid attention. I was destructive and disruptive. I think that sums it up, how typically ADHD I was, but at the time, this was viewed as naughty behavior.
I remember telling stories. I would bend the truth, but making it sound so elaborate and so great, just to draw people in. I didn't realize I was doing it. It's with reflection now that I know. I was also extremely disorganized, especially as I moved into teenage years and my early 20s, it became more obvious. Even getting ready, just to go down the pub for a drink with my friends, my whole wardrobe would be out all over my bedroom floor below my bed. I was never been able to tidy up the disorganization.
Moving from secondary school and into college was also a big change for me. I moved away from having a stable structure. At college, I was expected to organize my homework, do my own revision. It all went pear-shaped, but nobody noticed it. And I think it was because I was doing well in my classes, I was articulate, I knew the subjects well. Then, when it came to writing stuff down and producing homework, essays, doing exams - it all went horribly wrong. I was predicted really good grades. I think in my best subject (sociology), I was predicted an A grade and I walked away with an N grade.
I always said that something was different - I was different. I stood out and I knew I stood out. My parents could see that I stood out. There were certain things other kids were doing that I could do but I had no interest in - I just couldn’t do it. I remember my parents taking me to the doctor and saying, “Look, she's in tears, she's struggling, there's something wrong with her”. I guess that, being a girl, ADHD wasn't considered a possibility. They took blood tests, ran checks and in the end, they said “No, she's fine, she's healthy”.
My mum kept chasing the doctor because I was also having severe difficulties with sleep. I had nights where I didn't sleep at all but could still function the next day. Some days I would have a minimal amount of sleep - four hours at most if I was lucky. I remember one of my medical reports saying that the sleep difficulties were caused by deficits in executive function, but nothing was ever done about that. I was just given something that, back then, was the equivalent of melatonin. It was basically to calm me down to sleep, but they never looked at the mental side, the cognitive side of things...
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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Women searching for an explanation for their symptoms often face misperceptions or professionals’ lack of understanding about women’s experiences with ADHD....