I finally worked up the courage to ask my GP for a referral to a Psychologist for an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) screening session, after struggling with textbook symptoms for as long as I can remember.

In primary school, I was just undisciplined, lazy, a “gifted student” who lacked the dedication to fulfil my potential.

In high school, I was just depressed, anxious, and “emo” - to the point of breaking the school’s record for absentee days (91 in a single year) while still being near the top of most of my classes.

As an adult, I was just unfocused, inconsistent, and unreliable.

This led to really poor mental health, which led to mental health care plans, which led to counsellors trying to give me new ways of framing the same shitty situations. I felt like an alien. I didn’t feel like I was incredibly isolated from people around me, other than the people I bonded with specifically over our shared struggles with undiagnosed ADHD symptoms - particularly members of the queer community.

But with everyone I looked up to growing up telling me I just needed to work harder, I kept pushing and struggling and burning out.

I thought it might just be anxious about money, so slowly got better-paying jobs. I thought it might be stress from turbulent living situations, so I moved out on my own. I thought it might be an addiction to work, so adopted a few dogs to keep me active and distract me from constantly working.

But even after all of those things, I was still struggling all of the time. And a lot of my friends haven’t made it that far. A few of my friends didn’t make it that far.

For a while, I thought I was just clever enough to keep my head above water despite everything. But now I realise it’s because despite undiagnosed ADHD I was given opportunities, flexibility, and the benefit of the doubt that isn’t given to everyone. I’m a young, 28-year-old, mostly healthy, white person, with a western name, who can easily pass as a straight white cis man in most situations.

My friends who were only diagnosed with ADHD as adults didn’t grow up wealthy. I do not think that’s a coincidence. My friends who didn’t make it to 28 weren’t given the same benefit of the doubt I have been afforded. I do not think that’s a coincidence. Health does not exist in a vacuum, and privilege seeps into every crevice and influences everything it touches.

Unlike a lot of my friends, and at any other point in my adult life, I was able to afford the upfront $950 fee and wait for my Medicare rebate. What happens for people who can’t afford that?

zoom-waiting-room

waiting to join a $1000 zoom call

I waited four months for my telehealth session. It went well. I saw Dr Steven Chau at The Melbourne Clinic who had been recommended to me by a lovely queer friend around my age who had recently been diagnosed with ADHD. It lasted a few hours. Dr Chau asked me about my experiences growing up, at school, and at work. What things are like for me socially. I told him as much as I could. Most of it was very hard to recall. A lot of memories I’d tried to forget.

I received my report in an email. ADHD, social anxiety, and maybe somewhere on the Autism spectrum as well. I thought of my queer friends who hadn’t managed to get an appointment with someone sympathetic to queer experiences and spent so much money only to not be treated fairly.

I went to my GP, did a blood test and an ECG, waited a few days, and got my Ritalin prescription. I slowly increased my dosage over a few weeks until I felt I reached a comfortable balance. Made an appointment for an Autism screening session.

Ritalin is helping me tap into that hyper-focus mode more easily now. Is this what day-to-day life is like for other people? It feels strange to be just able to be productive like this. I’m trying to cherish it. Other than that though I have a lot of homework to do. I still don’t understand why my brain is the way it is, what stimulates it and what makes it struggle. But knowing that some of those feelings have a name now has helped me finally feel like less of an alien. Less of an outlier. More human.

I’m trying hard not to revisit memories of having difficulty managing my workload in jobs, getting fired, and struggling to find employment again. Wondering what my life would be like if I had been diagnosed as a kid. When I told my mum that I had been diagnosed she said she had always had a hunch that I might have something. I wonder what life would have been like.

I’m trying hard to think about all the times my inconsistency and missed deadlines and lack of focus were met with opportunities and chances and grace. I wonder what life would have been like if I looked different or sounded different or was born in a different place. I wonder would life would have been like.

I’m moving forward with more of an understanding of my brain than I’ve ever had before, and I hope as many people as possible can have that same experience.

If you’re a queer person who hasn’t been able to afford to go through the process of an ADHD screening, please reach out. My email is contact at wolfjay dot com. I don’t have much money, but I do have a small community of people who care. I’d like to help if I can, in whatever way is useful to you. Thank you for reading this, and if you’re ever in doubt - please know that you are human and that you aren’t alone.