I must admit, my hands were sweating a little as I sat in the doctor’s office. Being here was something I had run through my head many dozen times before. I had asked my DH to book the appointment, knowing that if it had been up to me, I would never have picked up the phone.
Would I Be Believed?
Even with all I had learned, I was nervous and unsure. Would I be believed? Would I be dismissed as not having ‘enough’ symptoms for a referral? And would my knowledge about my symptoms be seen as too much? Maybe it was all in my head – and everything I thought was perfectly normal. Even knowing those doubts were silly wasn’t enough to calm me completely. And yet, here I was.
“So, how can I help you today?” the doctor said, smiling a little. It was a beautiful, if cold day outside, but in the surgery it was lovely and warm and she was dressed just right, in a reassuringly plain cardigan and a no-nonsense button-up shirt.
“I think I have ADHD, and I need a referral to a specialist for an assessment.”
She nodded. It was not going to be a problem at all.
And as we talked, I found it easier to run through all the problems I had day to day.
The everyday struggles that I now knew was not a character flaw, but had a name.
Self-Discovery – These Things Had a Name!
How I would have to think about everything I held before I moved from room to room. How I had to visually check everything was with me and not left behind. Knowing that mindfully being aware of all my things before I exit a room was the only way I could limit the times I would leave something important behind.
How I had to write down a person’s name the instant I met them or I would not remember, ever. (Thank goodness for social media and little pictures with names.)
How I could rarely do important but boring things – even if it meant disaster, unless I was able to imagine the sadness and frustration of my family. How I used alarms and reminders to structure the day for me and my children.
Experience and coping mechanisms – almost but not quite unconscious – that let me almost function as a normal individual. Little rituals that mean I might only leave my handbag, or expensive music instrument, or child’s glasses or necessary medicine behind a few times a year if I was very, very careful. Every day. Every minute.
It had taken me quite a while to realise that everyone didn’t do these things. Years.
My Kids’ Diagnoses Kicked off My own Self-Discovery
And it only kicked off when my children needed help. When my son, and then my daughter were diagnosed with ADHD among a range of diagnoses, it started me on a steep learning curve. One that I re-embark on every day, as my assumptions about what ability and disability look like change, and change again.
It has been a journey of discovery, as I have let go of old fears and prejudices. To stop fearing the idea that getting a diagnosis would somehow limit my children, or myself, and put us in a box. That somehow, not knowing how they think and what they need was preferable to having a piece of paper with a medical label on it.
Labels Are Powerful
Over the years, I learned to listen to the niggle that something was different.
I learned that the only thing to fear about a label was the fear itself. (Thanks Winston).
And I learned that I and my kids will get labelled anyway – but those labels will be less than useful – ‘lazy’, or ‘disobedient’, or ‘wild’, or ‘inconsistent’ . . . or worse.
I learned about the wonderful calm that comes from having tools and strategies that work.
And I learned that labels are powerful, and enabling. We are fish that can’t climb trees, and that’s OK.
I learned that discovering my children’s quirks empowered me to find answers to my own difficulties.
And I learned that I do not need to live with the negative self-talk I adopted to ‘explain’ why I couldn’t do what others could.
As I got up to leave the doctor’s, referral in hand, she commented,
“Oh I see it now – you’re doing your checklist.” A little startled, I looked up and smiled.
Yes, yes I was. And that was just fine.