by YDRF member Carla Morris
I’ve always felt different, but I didn’t notice how different until secondary school. I loved to learn and devoted a huge amount of time and effort to the things I found interesting. But what I contributed in passion and enthusiasm seemed to be cancelled out by a complete lack of organisation and focus. I couldn’t keep track of homework, deadlines, equipment, what to complete when or which thing to bring on what day. I felt like I was pushing my way through a dense fog whilst everyone else just strolled by. ‘Wasted potential’ was the scathing summary of every school report, whilst the number of after-school detentions doubled each year.
This feeling dominated the rest of my life, and just kept getting worse. By the end of secondary school, I’d been under CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) for two years after multiple self-harming and suicidal episodes, and I was prescribed Prozac. I hated myself because I didn’t understand why I found everything so difficult. After secondary school, I tried college and failed. I tried multiple jobs and would be fired within months for being late or being off sick too often. I tried University and dropped out after several months. I drank habitually for years, chasing dopamine highs on the weekend to escape the reality of ‘wasted potential’ still haunting me throughout my 20s.
Countless assessments, evaluations, therapies, mental health teams, medication changes throughout the years. Reframing my world to try and fit diagnoses that didn’t quite make sense. Side effects from redundant antipsychotics and antidepressants. Still struggling with the basics that other people didn’t even think about. I desperately wanted to ‘get better’ – but how can you get better if you don’t understand your own brain? (Note: despite having a care coordinator, meetings with crisis teams after suicide attempts, years of self-harm – I never once had a ‘crisis plan’ or even heard mention of it.)
One day, in my late twenties, a close friend tells me they have ADHD. She talks about the symptoms, and it isn’t a lightbulb turning on; it’s my own personal Big Bang. There are symptoms I’d never even heard about, just facets of my life that I thought were simply my own failings. Task paralysis, executive dysfunction, time blindness, emotional dysregulation – I’d heard them as ‘lazy’, ‘stupid’, ‘crazy’, ‘selfish’. Things to snap out of. These are words that I – and most adults undiagnosed with ADHD – hear every day of our lives.
It’s just after I turn 30 that I go through the nerve-wracking assessment with my GP in York, who then makes a referral. I fill in a multitude of forms. Eventually, about a year later, the assessment with the psychiatrist is finally happening – and after a very in-depth session, I am diagnosed with moderate to severe ADHD (inattentive type). The world shifts and I weep. I feel a deep mourning for the years I lost destroying myself and being destroyed by others for a brain disorder I was born with. But I also feel like my life has just started.
The psychiatrist recommends Concerta to help me with my symptoms. I go through a very careful titration period that lasts over a year – weekly checks of my blood pressure, my weight, my sleep, my emotions, my symptoms. We find the right dosage and gradually, things begin to change.
I’m 33 now. I am unrecognisable. I have been in my current job for a year and already received a promotion. I’m becoming heavily involved in Neurodiversity campaigning. I’m fixing all my health issues resulting from years of being unable to adequately take care of myself. I am confident in myself and my abilities. I have a ways to go – I suffered, misdiagnosed, for a very long time – but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, happier than I ever thought possible.
Diagnosis is not a luxury. It has allowed me to understand accept who I am and why. Diagnosis gave me community. It gave me access to medication and a way to live in a world that I didn’t know existed. Diagnosis saved my life. That is why it is a right, not a luxury.
To learn more about the pilot restricting access to diagnosis of autism and ADHD in York and North Yorkshire, visit our updates page.