My ADHD Diagnostic Journey
January 27, 2023
I’ve struggled with my mental health all my life, and what conditions I may have burrowing inside my head have been a mystery to me up until this past year. Even though I have dealt with nearly debilitating anxiety and depression since elementary school, I didn’t get properly diagnosed until spring of last year (happy one year diagnosis-versary to me!) thanks to Bowdoin Counseling and Wellness Services. I thought my story was finally over, having received the proper prescription and a path forward, but that turned out to be far from the case. The SSRIs helped, no doubt, but I realized that I still had a lot of lingering questions.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) symptoms and anxiety symptoms seem strikingly similar. Some of my behavior, like fidgeting, the inability to focus, memory issues, having to constantly be stimulated and many more, didn’t improve much after nearly a year on my medication. After talking to some of my friends who also suspected they had ADHD, I realized how many symptoms I shared with them—symptoms I didn’t even realize were connected to ADHD.
Figuring out if you have adult ADHD should be categorized as a Hero’s Journey. I thought it would be relatively simple, just as it was when getting diagnosed with my previous conditions. I’ll have a chat with counseling, and then I’ll be set up! I even took the initiative to go to the Health Center and ask them what the process was. They just redirected me to counseling.
Turns out, I was incredibly wrong. I was met with the cruel reality that this process was expected to take 6-12 MONTHS! By that time my college career would almost be complete, and I had to force myself not to scream in the counseling office. They gave me the names of two places where I could get an ADHD evaluation nearby. I found that one of them didn’t take my insurance and the other did not have availability during the next 6 months. I realized then I had to take things into my own hands.
I researched for days. I learned what type of evaluation I even needed to do (a neuropsychological one), who could/would give me one and I left upwards of 10 voicemails. I looked into sketchy telehealth options from companies that barely had any information online. I even got ghosted by a doctor, and I will forever be bitter about it. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult to simply get tested for ADHD. It is just a test for a condition that many people suspect themselves of having. If I didn’t have my sheer grit and bitter determination, there would be no way I could get the needle moving on getting diagnosed. Our shitty healthcare system is lucky I’m stubborn.
One morning I got a call from an unknown number, and I picked it up, nearly slipping on the icy paths when I realized that it was a doctor calling me back about ADHD testing. She shocked me by saying she had availability next week, and test results would be back a week later. It felt like a Christmas miracle, and I almost immediately scheduled an appointment in my excitement.
She laughed and stopped me in my tracks. I was told that testing would be $1,100-1,300 out of pocket, and they do not have any insurance partners other than Medicaid. My excitement died, and so did my wallet because I have no idea where I’m supposed to get that money. After, I called my insurance company for nearly two hours, learning what a deductible was and procedure codes. I called my mom, and she told me to just do it. Either way, I was shocked that financial support would be unavailable for this diagnostic procedure.
And maybe after the $1,100 testing I will learn that I don’t have ADHD, but it shouldn’t be so fucking difficult to find that out. Many times throughout this process I felt as if I should just give up, that I’ve lived this long without knowing if I have ADHD and this process was so difficult that maybe the pain of living with it would be equal. I felt like something was fighting me every step of the way. But now, going through it, I feel like I’ve finally taken agency and stood up for my health, fought to be heard and will ultimately find out something important about myself.
Lexe Le is a member of the Class of 2025.
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