A week ago, I didn't have any thoughts on the matter. I had a lot of symptoms, but of what, I didn't know.
The primary manifestation, of which I have been acutely conscious over the past few years, has been that my concentration regularly lapses. This had been a source of significant worry, and led me to my GP, who in the first instance suggested a course of Prozac.
That had the initial benefit of me waking up far more alert in the morning, but had no significant effect upon my mood, or, more significantly, my short term memory and concentration - A locum went with my GP's backup plan of a referral to a psychologist, but, maybe because the locum didn't really know me, the referral was met with a letter suggesting that for someone in my age group, counselling would be the sensible route.
The counselling, at Insight in Dundee, was a fascinating experience, but while it may have made me more familiar with the concept of thought errors (automatic thoughts that we are all guilty of at times, contributing to exacerbation of stress), it didn't help my concentration, really. It may have helped my overall mood a bit, but I always felt that my low moods were more likely to follow concentration dips than vice versa, and so after a twelve week run with the very nice counsellor, we shook hands and parted ways.
The concentration problems have stayed with me, but a summer of things happening (one manifestation of ADHD would appear to be over-committing) meant that worry for myself went on the back burner as I threw myself into a variety of Union campaigns, the Yes campaign, organising a reunion of my old theatre company and a Christening.
So it was only this week past that I finally woke up in time to request an appointment with my GP to say that the problems were still there.
The appointment, which was twenty minutes late starting, ran on for about twenty-five minutes - I really like my GP, and talking to him is never a bad thing, but I do feel guilty for those who were waiting for their appointments, already delayed.
It was actually quite late on that he suggested ADHD as a possibility, although he made clear that I would need to be referred to a specialist for a diagnosis - I said that I would be keen to explore anything that might help, and he is referring me.
I came out of the appointment a little surprised, went into the office and had a wee chat with my manager to bring him up to speed - when I got home, after finishing my work for the day, I spent the evening reading up on adult ADHD, and did a couple of (not Facebook) online self assessments, which indicated that I am likely to have moderate to severe ADHD.
Amongst those things about me that I have always just thought were me being me, but which may rather coincide with ADHD symptoms are the following:
- A tendency to fidget terribly, bouncing my legs;
- Eating too much;
- Drinking too much;
- Talking too much (this one potentially cost me a really awesome job - the feedback was that I over-answered every question in my shotgun style and they had to struggle to pick out the key points);
- Impulsive spending;
- Impulsiveness in general;
- Impulsive romantic behaviour (OK, the psychology site said sexual, and that is true, but I'm blogging for a general, if small, audience, possibly including my family and probably including women who have been on the receiving end of this);
- A tendency to put off boring work till the very last minute;
- The aforementioned gaps in concentration/tendency to daydream;
- Starting too many projects in a blaze of activity, then losing steam;
- Depression following successes;
- Difficulty following instructions;
- Accumulation of "stuff";
- Insomnia (this is terrible for me);
- Difficulty waking up (even worse than the not being able to get to sleep);
- Addiction (so tempted to make a heroin joke here, but nah, just the cigs);
- Short term memory problems, and;
- Hyperfocus on things that engage me, not always positively.
This last one, for example, explains why I will read some books in one sitting, and some over six months or longer. It also explains the six months of my life in 2003 that I wisely invested in Tony Hawks' Pro Skater 2...
Basically, none of this excuses any of my more, erm, esoteric behaviour, but it may go some way towards explaining some of it.
It will probably take a while for an assessment to be arranged, and in the meantime, for the short term, I am going to have to think long and hard (something that apparently ADHD makes you try and avoid often) about what to do in the short term, until hopefully I get a positive diagnosis and treatment starts.
I've forced myself to be relatively decent at coping with waiting, and have moderated a lot of my more explosive tendencies, but I am really hopeful that if I do get the diagnosis and treatment, I may end up on a more even keel.
Part of me resents that this wasn't picked up earlier - the way my GP put it was that if you're bright enough to, despite any impairments caused by ADHD, get through school without terrible difficulty, then you're unlikely to be picked up - self taught coping strategies can actually hinder your diagnosis.
When I think back to my "academic" period, I can't help but wonder if I might have done a lot better had I been diagnosed and on an effective course of treatment then, but life has actually been pretty wonderfully kind to me since, and if I'd done really well and got a far better paid job, while the money might be nice, I wouldn't have met all the wonderful people that I am proud to call friends that I have met along the way.
Basically, what I am getting at is that I am probably going to need to make some changes in my life in the short term, and I hope you will all be with me while I do so.
If any of the above list, which is in my own words, seems a little too familiar (and hopefully nobody will be so awful as to say "well we all have problems getting out of bed in the morning" and think that proves anything other than that they are a bad person) then please do look into it for yourself, and maybe think about seeing your own GP. There is an awful lot to read online...
*Anybody thinking "But Hamish is a lazy so-and-so" here, the hyperactivity is my racing brain, not my rather adipose body. Actually, there is a suggested link between undiagnosed ADHD and obesity. And anyway, if you watch my legs when sitting still you will see them bouncing ridiculously after a while, no matter where I am. This annoys people in the cinema. And other places.