“You look worried.”
He’s wearing a shirt with ice lollies on and I can’t help but notice it seems like this man has a thing for somewhat quirky shirts. I mean, that does make sense. Before I first met him, I was told he was rather… eccentric. But despite the quirky shirt making him look like a normal, down to earth human being instead of a somewhat intimidating looking consultant (let’s face it, normal suited consultants are pretty scary at times), nothing seems to be calming my nerves.
Of course I’m worried. The £600 cash in my purse reminds me that this is somewhat of a big deal.
I’m sat in a psychiatrist’s office somewhere in a well-to-do part of Birmingham. Private psychiatrist’s office, I should probably add. I’m here for answers, something the NHS has failed to be able to provide me with for 4 or 5 long years (I’ve lost count). Well, they did provide me with some answers back in May but those answers weren’t enough. That’s what bought me to this office in the first place.
I first met my psychiatrist in May, outside the isolation room in my local A&E, a day after presenting myself as suicidal to the ED. They’d fixed me up with a psychiatrist appointment for the next day- something I’d fought for, for a little while.
He’d provisionally diagnosed me with 2 conditions. He’d been the first person to listen to me and actually take on board what I was saying. I’d gotten so far I remember leaving A&E, going back to work and crying in absolute joy to my manager.
The joy was short lived because just a couple of weeks later, I was told that 2 NHS trusts had refused funding for a specialist assessment.
Realising that I probably had no hope left with the NHS (and my GP agreeing with me on that), I decided to make the leap and go private. I knew the psychiatrist I’d seen in A&E practiced privately so I reached out to him.
Wednesday 8th August he rang me back. I was at work and sat in the manager’s office, explaining what had gone wrong since I’d seen him last and listening to his solution. He could offer me an assessment on the Saturday. 3 days away. Without really thinking, I said yes and that was that. He sent me the paperwork I needed to fill in and on the Saturday morning, I headed up to Birmingham armed with a folder full of documents and a purse full of the last £600 I had to my name.
The appointment took an hour and a half. He read through the paperwork I filled in, asked me some more questions and then did a structured interview.
It took him roughly 30 minutes to come to a diagnosis but at the end of the session, I was formally diagnosed with ADHD. I’d had it all my life. The signs had been there hidden behind, what he thought to be, Autism.
I just sat and cried.
I knew this was coming. I already had the provisional diagnosis of ADHD and Autism from May. But somehow, an actual diagnosis of ADHD (despite saying I’m likely autistic, he couldn’t formally diagnose me because that’s a separate assessment) reduced me to a sobbing mess.
I’ve had ADHD my entire life. All 18 symptoms. I am, and always have been, riddled with it.
I’ve been failed and I’ve failed myself. Having Autism, I’d managed to hide the struggles of ADHD by learning ways to work around the ADHD red flags. I adapted to trying to be normal. Maybe if I hadn’t, I’d have been diagnosed sooner. This is how it’s been explained to me.
The wheels fell off at 13 when the stress of high school and academic work became too much. I assumed I’d become depressed, anxious and self harmed because of the bullying. No. That apparently only played a small part in my decline.
I sobbed to him. Sobbing that for 4 or 5 years, I’ve been saying the same thing to every single mental health professional I’ve ever seen. CAHMS, mental health nurses, doctors… only he listened. Why was I continually failed?
“Because nobody understands you. I do.”
It sounds so corny but he really does understand me. He seems to know my exact behaviours and thoughts that I’ve never disclosed to anyone. It’s unnerving, to tell the truth.
I start to sob more, realising that my fight with the NHS is over. I have my diagnoses. ADHD. Depression & Anxiety. And a provisional diagnosis of Autism. His full report may highlight more issues. But I no longer have to stamp my feet to try and get help. I no longer have to be laughed at when I say that medication or therapy isn’t working for me (never has and never will) because I will be given a treatment plan. I was right all along. Nothing they did worked. But because I’m not a doctor, I was dismissed.
The longest, hardest journey of my life is just days from being over. As soon as I have blood tests and my medical history is examined, I can start medication. I’ll see him again to discuss medication and any therapy.
As he says, I can’t stay angry at the NHS. We’re here now. We’re at the end of the road. That’s what matters.
I walk back through Birmingham to the train station, tears streaming down my face. I’m torn between happiness that I’m finally diagnosed, fear of being judged, hurt and anger at the NHS and just pure exhaustion from my fight. I had no words for Twitter, Instagram, my blog or my YouTube. That’s why I’ve been so quiet.
I have nothing to say.
My mind is just full of emotions and I can’t work out what I feel. I can’t tweet something and try to be normal because my life doesn’t feel quite the same anymore. Everything has changed. It sounds dramatic but it has, or at least is about to.
I feel like I’ve cheated a bit, going for private healthcare and this feeling has only been made stronger when I saw someone who said that if you can afford to pay for private mental health treatment, you can’t complain about your problems. Apparently you can now buy happiness. But I can’t afford private mental health treatment. I don’t have a penny of my own, earned money to my name. I have my overdraft and credit card but I’m not wanting any future financial issues. I’m now flat out broke.
I wasn’t rich enough to get private health care. I was desperate enough. And that’s not saying that you’re not desperate if you don’t go private because my god, if you can’t afford it don’t put yourself in debt for it! But you realise how unfair the system is when you get an appointment in 3 days instead of 3 years.
I’ve always struggled to trust health care professionals after my struggles with the mental health service. So for me to voluntarily go back to this psychiatrist and actually pay him… that’s a big thing. All my life, not even just in this scenario, I’ve struggled to ever trust people and I rarely say I trust people. I hate people knowing that I trust them because most of the time, they exploit that trust. Or make me doubt my trust in everyone else from that moment forward.
“Trust me. We’ll get you fixed.”
To which I replied, without any hesitation:
“I do trust you. That’s why I’m sat here with you for a second time.”