I know I have ADHD. I’ve worked at embracing that, at changing the way I perceive things about myself because of ADHD, at being more patient with myself because of it. I write about it enough here, and share about it enough elsewhere (like Twitter and Facebook), that I’m cool with people knowing that I have ADHD. But, back in 2013 when I had my psychoeducational assessment done, the tests came back inconclusive for ADHD. They gave me specific points to work off of at school: try certain study strategies, receive accommodations, and consider ADHD medication to see if they alleviated my symptoms. I did all of the above—and they all helped. So, I became more certain that I had ADHD. After several months on meds, I became positive. But, I hadn’t seen it on paper. Paper really changes nothing, I know ADHD is real, I know ADHD in me is real, but paper told me my tests were inconclusive. And I think I needed paper to tell me, inside, even after two years on meds, that inconclusive was no longer the case. So I can finally stop those doubts.

Once a year, I see my psychiatrist. Yesterday was that day. I got a new prescription for Concerta, and asked her to fill out a form enabling me to access support services for students with disabilities, as I plan to return to school in the Fall(-ish) and study web development. Because that’s a good combo with a degree in gym, yeah? I hand my doctor the form, and she fills it out as I stare at her doggy in the corner (her name is Haley and she is cute. I was very excited that my doctor had her in the office today!). I quietly take my phone off the table beside the leather chair I’m sitting in and take this picture. (Haley came to visit me in the waiting room, too.)


I slide my phone back down, into my lap. Dr. G turns to ask me, “How severe would you say your symptoms are?”
“I thought that was a weird question–I really have no idea how to answer that.”
“Let’s see what psychology said.”
She flips through my chart, reads some pieces of my assessment to answer the question, and continues on with the form. We discuss my previous accommodations, she notes them down and asks me to review the form. Looks good (I realized last night that we forgot to note down the alternate format textbook accommodation, but that can be dealt with).

As I reviewed the form, though, I had to do a double-take.

Diagnosis: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. DSM-V Diagnosis and classification number: 314.00. Retinopathy. Symptoms: inattentiveness, distractibility, some impulsivity, [arrow pointing down] vision. Severity checkboxes. Mild, moderate, and severe with an X beside. X beside permanent condition.

Because, her classification of my ADHD (314.00 on the DSM-V, or “Primarily Inattentive”) as “severe” is a lot different from “inconclusive” that I previously saw in writing.

i would but just can’t seem / to ignore what i can’t see.

—cause, let it happen.

As always, this doesn’t define me, but helps explain me. Like many ADHD-ers, I just felt different for much of my life: it explains the frustration, the self-doubt, the guilt that was associated with not being all people thought I should be, the huge shift I’ve felt in my world on meds, the issues I had in school, the issues I had/have at times interacting with people, the sensory overload, all the freaking feelings that sometimes just overwhelm me. ADHD helps explain that. Those things are all a part of me, and so is ADHD.

Now I know that yes, I fit solidly into this obscurely shaped non-box that is ADHD. I think, maybe, that just knowing that will help me move forward a bit more now. Accept my quirks, accept how they fit into this journey, and to roll with it, ‘cause I’ve seen it not only in me for myself, but on paper for myself.

It’s complicated to coexist peacefully with something that is so much a part of me, but simultaneously has dramatically impacted my life in perhaps not the most positive ways prior to my diagnosis. I can’t do anything about that, though, so I’ll continue to own this piece of circumstance—even if, for today, I can’t grasp the “severe” bit. Though it doesn’t really matter anyways—it’s all about how I choose to see what I’ll do with ADHD today.

i used to blame the circumstance: now i see it’s in my hands.

—effect, let it happen. 

This is what ADHD looks like.

But, I am far more than ADHD.
And I’ll embrace the good that has come with those four letters, too.

5 thoughts on “it’s not a label, it’s a bridge (part two)

  1. 314.0 is a billing code. It doesn’t define you. You are not your diagnosis. You are Kerri. As is. 🙂 I know I know, it helps bring a face to ADHD, I do understand the advocacy piece and support that, but don’t let a billing code matter. I have seen many billing codes try to stick to me without success. I no longer think twice about them. Chance of misdiagnosis looms large.
    Until then, so glad the meds help, the doc filled out your forms for what you need. Yay for your choice for future study!

    1. I mostly just find it interesting to have something slightly more concrete than “inconclusive” in front of me, you know? 😉 like I said, it doesn’t mean a lot one way or another, I know who I am, but it’s another piece I can be more sure of in this crazy story :).

      I’m curious, from your perspective, how is it that they gauge severity? Like I wrote, I thought it was an odd question, but I’m curious as to how medical people reach those conclusions, even just for forms such as these. It applies to, of course, many other medical conditions, but how does it fly with ADHD?

      And, thanks! I’m waiting for an email from my accessibility counsellor at the college (ie do I hand the form in to them and then register or vice versa?) and then I should hopefully be rolling by mid-September, unless other things come up!

      1. Severity is often best defined as mild, moderate or severe based on the diagnostic criteria. I think, but am not sure, ADHD must have a description in the DSM for a certain number of issues to be present. I know asthma has this. If you are dealing with symptoms each and every day then you are severe. It all comes off of DSM guidelines. Some diagnoses the code changes with these extra descriptors, ie 314.1 for mild or 314.3 for severe, but I don’t know that to be true for ADHD.

        Just looked it up. Have to have 5 of the 9 listed to have ADHD–Inattentive. You should google it because CHADD has a PDF that is linked on Google. 🙂

  2. I wish I could bring my dog to work!

    Also, yay school! What kind of program will this be? Another BA? And MA? A certificate program? You can do it!

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