5 Tips to Make the Wait for a Mental Health Diagnosis Easier
Waiting for news, feedback or test results can be a naturally anxiety-provoking time, to some extent. However, waiting for someone to tell you whether or not you have a condition that affects your daily living can be a whole other story. It can feel as if your life is in somebody else’s hands.
I have been diagnosed with various mental health conditions, so you’d think I know the drill by now, but somehow the process never gets easier.
At the time of writing this, I am waiting back on an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. It was quite clear at the assessment that the likelihood of me receiving this diagnosis was pretty high, though there is still that inch of doubt in my mind. If I don’t get the diagnosis, then I can’t get the care I clearly need. Ever since the assessment, I have been in rumination mode. My mind has been going over everything non-stop. It’s not healthy. I know I can’t change anything right now. I just have to wait. Still, it’s a painful process.
So, here are some things I have done or I am trying to do to make the wait a little easier. I hope they help you too or anyone you may know going through the same thing.
1. Ask questions.
Always ask questions. No question is a “stupid” one. Ask questions before, during and after your assessment. Anything you are unsure of, ask.
I made sure to ask how long it would be before I heard back after my assessment. Although it has been over double the amount of time they said; it’s still good to know how long to expect, so you know when to start chasing things up if needs be.
2. Follow up.
Since my assessment, it feels as though I have been checking my post every day to no avail — a seemingly dispiriting task I would not advise you to carry out. Instead, I would suggest you take appropriate action. If they said they would call you and they haven’t, then don’t be afraid to follow up.
It takes a certain amount of courage to seek help and make that initial step. Mental health services should recognize this. They at least should understand how anxiety provoking and detrimental it can be to leave service users in the dark after initial contact has been made.
In fact, the Royal College of Psychiatrists reports that long waits for mental health treatment can lead to divorce, job loss and money problems, with some service users waiting up to 13 years for treatment. This would be deemed simply unacceptable for physical ailments and also highlights why it is critical to follow up after an initial assessment, even if you feel like you are pestering them. Don’t get lost in the system.
The truth is it shouldn’t be down to the service user to chase things up, especially when we are the ones struggling in the first place, but sometimes we need to take things into our own hands if we want to see results.
3. Let go.
I know, I’ve just told you to follow up and chase the mental health services down. Still, at the same time, there is only so much we can do. At some point, we must recognize it is out of our hands now. Sometimes, you have to let go and have faith that things will turn out for the best. Meditate on that painful stuff. Talk to friends and family about the way you are feeling. Keep busy while you are waiting to hear back. Try not to obsess about your assessment because you can’t change what has already been.
4. Be aware.
Be self-aware. Keep track of symptoms that might be relevant for your diagnosis and watch out for anything new that may pop up. Again, don’t obsess about symptoms or diagnoses, like I am guilty of. Instead, become aware of yourself and your being. This can be useful so, if a professional asks how you’ve been at your next assessment, you can answer honestly.
5. Maintain hope.
Understand that getting a mental health diagnosis is a process and you are just at the beginning. Remember whether you get the diagnosis or not, you will be the same person.
For example, if I get my ADHD diagnosis then I will presumably get a care plan and be put on medication or offered therapies that are relevant for my diagnosis. In reality, it is a lottery, which is truly unfortunate and unfair for those who use the services. But I will still be Evie. Just Evie with a new diagnosis. Through my time in services, I have learned it is literally just another label.
However, because I know I am at the beginning of my journey and understand my life could change dramatically with the right care, I feel a sense of anticipation.
There is hope for the future. I just have to wait for it. I know that once I hear back, this lengthy waiting time will have erased itself from my memory; but it doesn’t make it right. Still, then I will be able to live my life out from limbo.
A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.
Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash