hi i’m from america, my situation was a little complex. took a while to get the right diagnosis. *long story incoming* i was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and adhd at 15 after an inpatient stay at a psychiatric hospital. i remember briefly taking medication and seeing a therapist, but then stopping and not going from ages 17-20. i didn’t really understand adhd and i truly believed i had bipolar disorder. i took myself back to therapy at 20 and i had forgotten that i had received the adhd diagnosis at 15. since i was going somewhere different at 20, they didn’t have my history, but i told them about the bipolar because i believed i was experiencing manic episodes. in my 20s, i cycled through different bipolar meds, therapists and psychiatrists on and off. i would always stop going and start back up again with someone else for various reasons like insurance, boredom, etc.
i had been in therapy for a while from age 25-27 with a therapist i really really loved and he was helping me so much, but i wasn’t on meds then. i finally went to see a new psychiatrist at age 27 when he suggested i might consider meds again.
that new psych at johns hopkins did an intake and then 3 monthly follow up appointments with me. at the 4th appt, she said “based on what you’ve told me and you’re history, i actually think you’re suffering from untreated adhd.” i was honestly shocked and angry because by then, bipolar was part of my identity and it was an explanation for my struggles. i questioned her judgement, said my symptoms were textbook bipolar, and she said “i just think you don’t understand adhd, the symptoms can be similar. and you’ve been self-medicating for years already with illicit drugs that don’t affect you the way they affect your friends, as you’ve mentioned.”
i said “i’ve seen 6 different therapists and 5 different psychiatrists before you who never mentioned adhd, only bipolar. why would i trust you over 11 other professionals?” i ended up leaving and never going back.
not long after, i switched jobs at work from a flexible one where i made my own schedule and was largely unsupervised and spent a lot of time socializing at the office, to a desk job requiring 8 full hours of attention at my desk. within 6 months my new colleagues were complaining that i was never at my desk, always wandering around, getti distracted, etc. they jokingly asked if i had adhd.
after realizing how impossible it felt to do my desk job, i thought about what the last psych said, and sought out another brand new psychiatrist at the johns hopkins women’s mood disorder clinic. a few months into her getting to know me, she agreed with the previous psychiatrist and diagnosed me with adhd and prescribed adderall which i’ve been on for a few years now. it immediately made a WORLD of difference - i’m 30 now and my work and personal life is so much better. it’s crazy to think i spent so long thinking i couldn’t get my “bipolar” in check because i had the wrong diagnosis all that time. but it happens a lot. thankfully in america, if you have good insurance, you can seek out whatever mental health professionals you want without a referral or waiting period. that’s how i switched so many times. i’m actually employed by johns hopkins, have been since i was 21, and we have a commercial private insurance plan owned by johns hopkins for employees specifically called “employee health plan”. so all of my doctors are part of the johns hopkins health system, and i don’t need referrals to them because i have johns hopkins insurance. i’m extremely fortunate, and not everyone in america is in this way. but if you “have the means” aka good insurance, it’s fairly easy to get diagnosed if you truly have adhd. for those without, it’s much harder because we don’t have universal health care here and the impoverished and vulnerable communities suffer 😢