Disclaimer: That's So Chronic is dedicated to sharing personal stories. We are not advocating for any type of treatment, therapy, procedure, or intervention. Everyone in unique so please seek professional medical advice before making any decisions for yourself or for others.
If you’ve logged on to the TikTok app recently then chances are the algorithm has shown you a video about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or, more commonly known as, ADHD. Whether it be blinking in time to a beat, or putting fingers down if any of these ten things apply to you, the wave of ADHDtiktok has hit our feeds.
It should go without saying that social media should not be used in place of seeking professional medical advice, and filtering through the misinformation can be dangerous when you aren’t qualified to do so. But what if this information being readily available on our phones is actually helping people understand themselves and in turn prompting people to seek a diagnosis? With the recent media frenzy shining a light on the rise of ADHD on social media, I decided to chat to someone who after seeing ADHD on social media decided to take matters into their own hands.
Please note: some of this interview has had minor edits for clarity.
Tatjana has been diagnosed with ADHD. When we sat down to record her episode of That’s So Chronic, it had only been six months since she started pursuing a diagnosis. It was important to me that we talk through the episode first because I knew from my own experiences that sharing my diagnosis story only a few months after being diagnosed would have looked completely different from sharing it years later. That’s something Tatjana agreed with. “I’m not trying to come from a point of, well, I have all this knowledge about this. I’m definitely not an expert… It’s all just pretty fresh first hand knowledge, and I’ve discovered a lot in the past few months.”
It all started when she noticed Tiktoks, memes, and infographics appearing on her social media.
“I actually looked back through some Facebook messages and it was actually late 2019, so pre covid, pre lockdown, pre anything… I came across this, not really a meme, but there are a couple of different I guess ADHD cartoonists… and I saw this infographic and it was a drawing of those three different types…”
“And I sent it to my cousin… and I said, “this is crazy... Some of the things here really sound like me!””
Tatjana’s cousin initially dismissed her claims and told her not to worry about it. “I’m also a big worrier anyway. [I thought] she’s probably right. I’m probably thinking too much into it.” Tatjana smiles.
But then we fast forward to 2021, and Tatjana starts to notice ADHD TikToks as she’s scrolling. Similar to ones like this:
“It can be really easy - I think - for all of us to go “oh! I have 6 out of 10 of those things!””
But after scrolling and seeing more of these TikToks, Tatjana remembered back to that time in 2019 and couldn’t stop wondering. “One night I thought oh screw it, I’m going to take an online ADHD test.”
She found a test through an American ADHD website. Back in 2019, she said that she had ranked quite highly, so she was interested in seeing how she would go this time around. Perhaps unsurprisingly, knowing what she knows now, she ended up ranking high again.
I asked Tatjana what happened next. “I remember it being late at night,” she says, “and I was like screw it. I’m just going to find every free ADHD test I can find and I’m just going to do them all!” Tatjana ended up doing “about 6 or 7” focusing her search on ADHD tests for women and adults specifically. All of them resulted in high scores, and statements saying that they recommend getting in touch with a practitioner or speaking to your GP.
Which is all very well and good, but when you live in New Zealand with a broken (or perhaps extremely flawed if we’re being generous) mental health system, how does one even go about getting an appointment?
“I went to bed with that laying heavily on my mind and I woke up with what I now understand is an ADHD hyperfocus thing,” Tatjana explains that a lot of people mistake someone with ADHD as being unable to keep their attention on a particular task. She’s now learnt it can be the complete opposite. “If it’s interesting we can really lock on to it!”
So it was decided. Tatjana was going to get an assessment done. But how? She turned to old mate Google.
In terms of going down the public route, Tatjana explained that some people with who she had connected on Facebook and Reddit had said that they had had some issues. It appeared as though to get diagnosed publicly, your symptoms had to be really bad, and you’d be waiting for a really long time. But to go down the private route… It would be expensive, and the wait times didn’t seem to be much shorter.
But just how expensive are we talking?
“She initially quoted $1,400… And I think it ended up being more $1,500 - $1,600,” Tatjana said to my wide eyes and shocked face.
Thanks to the support of her family, Tatjana was able to pursue a private diagnosis. “I’m very lucky to have a supportive family who are there for me mentally and emotionally, but can also help with some financial support as well.” This is something she mentions multiple times throughout our interview, and it’s clear that she feels extremely grateful when she knows for so many this isn’t in their reality.
She learnt that you could either talk to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. She explained that if she decided to see a psychiatrist they would be able to prescribe medication immediately, and you would generally only need one session. However, with a psychiatrist, the wait times were proving to be much longer. With a psychologist, even though you may need more sessions (meaning more money spent) and medication would still need to be prescribed through a psychiatrist, the thought of receiving an in depth report and taking multiple tests to confirm the diagnosis really appealed to Tatjana.
She began the process of securing an appointment and ended up emailing a copy and paste email to every psychology practice that she could find in Christchurch. Nearly all of them emailed back with apologetic replies until one reply came through that shocked her. “I had a psychologist get in touch and she was like “hey generally I don’t have any availability and I’m actually booked out for the next couple of months, but I’ve just had someone cancel in a week and a half. Would you like it?””
“It was amazing… But at the same time, I was like oh woah. In less than 24 hours I had gone from I don’t know what ADHD is, I don’t think I have it, to here’s what it is, here's how the diagnosis works, and by the way we’ve got an assessment for $1500, do you want to take it?! And it was like oh, gosh, okay, yes, please.”
“And then it was this big pin drop moment… Is it really something that’s worth doing?”
Although it was a rollercoaster ride of emotions, ultimately it was something worth doing. Tatjana took the appointment and was eventually diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Her notes were passed on to her GP, who then passed them on to a public psychiatrist, and she was able to begin taking medication. Which, you guessed it, incurs another cost.
Tatjana has to pay for a new prescription every month, due to her medication being a Class B drug in New Zealand. If she sees her GP in person that could be around $50, and if she calls and gets a prescription emailed to the pharmacy, that’s around $20. Tatjana asked her GP if this was subsidised by the government in any way, seeing as it was a safety and security measure put in place by them. Her GP said that unfortunately, it is not. “[It] feels as though they should kind of come halfway in at least partially subsidising maybe a cheaper prescription cost… But anyway. At the moment that is just a reality.”
Thankfully, the medication seems to be working. “Starting that medication I was really nervous. But I took the first 5mg dose and I immediately felt so calm,” she laughs. “I ended up falling asleep for 2 hours!”
Things are finally starting to make sense for Tatjana. “My whole life I've felt kinda like everyone had this, like, manual... Especially as an adult, like, here’s How To Adult. Here’s how you pay your bills on time; here’s how you sort out your washing; here's how you keep yourself organised; here's how you don’t lose your keys... All of these things that for me felt so out of reach… And it's like everyone else had this manual and I missed out. But now I just realised that it wasn’t that they had some secret that I didn't know, it’s just that my brain works in a different way. And now that I know that I can help work to that.”
“It’s such a relief,” she tells me.
Tatjana is not the only one. Following an article published on September 17 from The Spinoff, Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick tweeted this thread:
After she discovered ADHD twitter, “it transformed my life and helped unpack years of beating myself up and, probably, misdiagnoses.” Swarbrick tweets.
I can’t help but think: if Tatjana had never seen an ADHD TikTok she might not have gotten a diagnosis of ADHD. She might not have been able to email her psychologist at the right place at the right time. She might not have started medication, and she might not have realised that we don’t have a How To Adult manual.
And that’s a lot of pressure to put on a social media platform. But I don’t think the question should be centred around “do we have a problem with sharing information and people self diagnosing on TikTok” but more, “why is it so damn hard to get a psychologist appointment in this country.”
You can listen to the full interview with Tatjana on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or anywhere else you get your pods, including a more detailed insight into the process of being diagnosed with ADHD, what ADHD even is, and how starting medication has changed her life.
That's So Chronic is a podcast produced and hosted by performer, writer and MS-er Jess Brien. Join her each week as she interviews guests from all around the world that are thriving - and sometimes only just surviving - with chronic illnesses, life changing injuries, and potentially disastrous diagnoses, as well as sharing conversational style episodes and everything and anything in our That's So Chronic world. Available on apple podcasts, spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.