I got diagnosed with A.D.H.D. during my last year of coursework.
How I came to the diagnosis is a real-life story that Black women often face, and scholars have spilled much ink to trace everything from HeLa cells to calls for medical professionals to listen to Black women talk about their bodies. This is my story with misdiagnosis, one I share because, not surprisingly, we learn more from other Black women than we do from doctors about our medical needs.
TikTok has consumed the last year of my life and I have found myself finding content that resonates with me. One of my favorite things about the app is learning about neurodiverse people and how they manage their day-to-day lives. Indeed, social media has become a hub for folks to connect, communicate and share resources that may not have been accessible otherwise. SuperNovaMomma on Twitter was tweeting one day about Black women getting evaluated for Autism, ADHD, and ADD. I found myself interested in the conversations and headed on over to TikTok to see if I could find more videos of women talking about being diagnosed with ASD or ADHD in adulthood.
Tell me about a time you were misdiagnosed with a mental illness and had to get re-evaluated? I’ll go first.
At 25 years old I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 disorder. At that time, I had been let go from my teaching job at a local charter school because I was too “outspoken” (read Black) and I had other stressors that young professionals experience. My wonderful boyfriend at the time, now my husband, offered to pay for me to see a therapist. I really loved going to therapy and eventually, I was sent to a psychiatrist who quickly diagnosed me with Bipolar 2. Over the next 5 years, I would try a host of medications and continue with therapy religiously but would never feel quite stable. I thought it was me.
Coming across that Twitter thread and those TikToks made me want to get re-evaluated. A lot of the symptoms such as “working as if you were on a motor”, “interrupting people”, “emotional outbursts”, and insomnia due to “racing thoughts” were starting to interfere with my work, school, and relationships. I found myself being more irritable and isolating myself because I felt like something was “wrong” with me. I wasn’t aware that I had been misdiagnosed yet but due to the very lackluster relationships I had with previous psychiatrists, I thought it would only make sense for me to seek out another opinion. My therapists really encouraged me to look into getting re-evaluated because even they were not completely sold on me just having a Bipolar 2 diagnosis. I was on a lot of medication, seeing two therapists a month, and using all of the tools they equipped me with but I still felt sad, hopeless, and internally frustrated. I knew that if I did not seek another opinion this could be my daily emotional status and I did not want to feel that way. I wanted to enjoy life and be able to cope in more healthy ways.
Going to a new psychiatrist was nerve-wracking but I tried to look at it as going to get a check-up for my brain like I would for the rest of my body. My health is very important to me and I know what it feels like to be unstable and unhealthy. I have other chronic illnesses and I have to be mentally well in order to reduce my own stressors which can lead me to hospitalization. This became a life-or-death moment for me. I had to ask myself if I wanted to be distressed or if I wanted to at least try to figure out what was REALLY going on. I chose the latter.
But here’s the reality with mental health: most of us aren’t sick. We are neurodivergent. Nothing was wrong with me because nothing is wrong with me. I had ADHD and I got my diagnosis at the beginning of the Fall semester. The relief I felt when I started my new medication regime, found a Black woman psychiatrist to add to my Black Lady Therapist Dream Team (that is what I call my 3 therapists) was extremely comforting and affirming. Since then, I have been so much more gentle with myself. I have also found some new tools that have helped me focus, lean back into my healthy friendships, and connect with new people who are neurodiverse Ph.D. students like me! Getting a full evaluation is not a quick 15-minute visit, but our lives and health are worth the time. If your doctor or nurse does not take time to listen to your concerns, evaluate them, and work through them with you, get a second, third, and even fourth opinion. Don’t be afraid to seek help and don’t be afraid to put your needs first. If you’re in college or graduate school, you likely have access to free or reduced-price therapy on campus and their offices have resources for off-campus treatment. Ask your friends for recommendations. Be the one to help minimize stigmas around our physical and mental health and health care. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t leave some of my new favorite resources -- sharing is caring! Here is a shortlist of things I have added to my toolkit so far. I am steadily testing out things and seeing what works best for me. I suggest you do the same and share what works with us here -- or if you’re feeling the trend, hop on TikTok and talk about it! Also, you don’t have to have ADHD to incorporate these things into your own life! I believe in a life of leisure and convenience! You deserve nothing less!
Texts to read:
Apps to try:
Planners to try:
About the Author: KáLyn Coghill is a scholar-activist currently enrolled in the Media, Art, and Text doctoral program at Virginia Commonwealth University. She teaches in the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies department. Her courses focus on race, feminism, girlhood studies, literature, and hip-hop pedagogy. KáLyn has a first-author publication in the International Journal of Linguistics and Communications titled “A Seat at the Table: A Repetitive Narrative of Abuse” which investigates digital violence on Twitter and its impact on celebrity Leslie Jones during the 2016 Ghostbuster movie release. KáLyn is DBLAC's networking advisor, a board member of Neighborhood Access an accessibility consultation firm, and a full-time Fundraising Coordinator for the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project, a local abortion fund in Richmond, Virginia. She is also a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. and is serious about sisterhood and service! Learn more about KáLyn by visiting her website: www.kalyncoghill.com.