Written By: Amanda S. Johnson
✨ This post is the first in a two-part story. To read part two, click here. ✨
It took having a stroke for me to finally get my ADHD diagnosis.
No, that is not some “cute” euphemism for the PITA it can be to get an ADHD diagnosis as an adult woman; I literally had a stroke. At 38. For reasons no one is 100% sure of.
But that is its own story, i.e. not this one.
Anywho, after you’ve been diagnosed with a stroke, you get to endure lots of testing. Some of the testing is meant to figure out the cause of the stroke; the rest of it is meant to measure how much damage the stroke caused.
The second category of testing includes a full cognitive evaluation. They test just about everything: your memory, your processing ability and speed, your attention, etc. But since (most of the time) the neuropsychologist doesn’t have a pre-stroke baseline to compare your results to, they also tend to test for other things to ensure they’re not the reason for some of your scores. I specifically requested ADHD testing.
This was not the first time I’d sought ADHD testing. A couple of years earlier, I started having trouble at work and ended up needing mental health leave due to (what I now know was) overwhelm and impending burnout. I’d noticed many of my struggles resembled/coincided with ADHD memes, so I got a doctor recommendation from a friend with ADHD kiddos and went to see the man, ready to have a definitive answer only testing could provide. However, I never got to the testing part.
The doctor didn’t think I could have ADHD since I’d done so well in school, but he was willing to let me take the “long, expensive” tests . . . if I really wanted to.
I was (and still am) a single mom who didn’t have money to burn on expensive testing that insurance wouldn’t cover and that the doctor thought likely wouldn’t reveal an ADHD diagnosis. Add to that, I’d been tested three times in elementary school, but the school kept saying, “Nope. She’s fine.” So I accepted what the most recent expert said and went about trying to live my life while thinking all my symptoms were just personal failings. Perhaps I had peaked young in life and now I was just looking for an excuse to feel better about my ineptitude.
But social media kept insisting there was a reallygoodchance I had ADHD, and since it ran in my family, there was an even BETTER chance. Plus, I checked every single box for inattentive-type ADHD. Every. Single. Box.
Eventually, my job evolved from focusing on grammar and writing topics to drowning in spreadsheets and numbers. Numbers are my downfall. My brain does not work well with them, and while the spreadsheets would do the actual math FOR me, I still had to work very hard, very intentionally, and very slowly to maintain quality and accuracy. My work started falling behind, and it felt like no matter how hard I worked, I could not catch up.
Every time I finished with one set of numbers, another one was already past due. Amazing, brilliant, and KIND members of my team (including my manager and supervisor) did everything they could to help me out. I felt like a horrible burden and hated taking people away from their work to help me with mine; the last thing I wanted to do was contribute to someone else ending up in my position–behind and struggling.
I grew to hate my job. But it was a GOOD job for a good company with great people. And the work itself wasn’t super difficult, just ridiculously time-consuming (and therefore frustrating and stressful) for someone like me. I had additional stresses from my love life and my parenting life as well.
I remember sitting at my desk back then, swearing I could feel the steady stream of cortisol releasing into my blood.
And then I had the stroke, which my neurologist said was likely NOT due to stress. I was skeptical, but I also lacked an MD and years of medical experience, so I let that train of thought roll on through.
When my doc initially mentioned referring me for cognitive testing, I told him my ADHD story and suspicions, and I specifically requested ADHD testing since they were going to be mucking about in my brain anyway, and I could lump it in with the post-stroke testing the insurance would cover. He agreed and made a note in the testing referral.
So I went through all the testing, and two weeks later, the neuropsychologist diagnosed me with ADHD and some lingering stroke damage to my left hand.
I was both thrilled and relieved. It wasn’t all in my head (figuratively speaking); I immediately told my manager–who had already been incredibly kind and accommodating–and she told me I needed to send the documentation to HR so I could get any officially needed (i.e. doctor-prescribed) accommodations.
My neuropsychologist’s office was full of folks with ADHD (him included), so it took another six months of me regularly pestering the office staff to get official medical documentation.
Then it took me a month to be able to put everything together to make the accommodations request (because, you know, untreated ADHD and OVERWHELM).
Instead of receiving accommodations, I was told I needed to take my doctor-recommended two months of leave immediately (yes, the two-month leave that had been recommended SEVEN MONTHS PRIOR) and then file with the company’s disability insurance so that it could be a 100% paid leave if the insurance approved it.
To read part two, click here!
Meet the Author
Amanda S. Johnson
Amanda Johnson has a writer’s soul, an ADHD brain, and a sense of humor from her dad’s side of the family. She's a mom to a brilliant and hilarious boy, a labrador, two corgis, and a fluffy black cat. Amanda is insatiably curious, plans to never stop learning, and adores listening to and telling people’s stories.