Amy Green: Navigating ADHD, Autism, and Weight Loss Surgery
Peta chats with Amy Green about her recent diagnoses of ADHD and Autism and her life-changing weight loss surgery.
Amy shares her insights on the interplay of her disabilities and how they make managing her mental and physical health challenging. She talks about the importance of understanding herself better and learning to find balance and set boundaries.
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Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to the I Can't Stand podcast. The podcast answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. My name is Peter. I have cerebral palsy and I'm your host this week. I have the amazing Amy Green. Amy has ADHD and autism. If you have a suggestion for a future episode of the podcast, please get in contact with me. My handle on Instagram is @Petahooke spelt peta hooke or you can send me an email email@example.com. Without any further ado, let's get into it.
Amy [00:01:00] Hi, my name is Amy Green. I live in Perth, Western Australia, on beautiful Wajuk. I work within the TAFE sector in installation design and I am Neurodivergent. So Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I am also a consumer of mental health and have diagnoses of depression and anxiety as well as binge eating disorder. So I've got a lot of acronyms and things going on in my life.
Peta [00:01:37] And tell me how you felt when you were diagnosed. Finally, Amy.
Amy [00:01:42] I was relieved, very, very relieved and really validated. Like I'd finally, you know, sat down with someone who said, I can see you and I can hear you. You know, in after a lifetime of kind of feeling othered And like, I didn't really fit in, that was, you know, really quite revelatory, I guess.
Peta [00:02:10] And I think it's great that so many people are being diagnosed with ADHD, particularly at the moment. It's really become a prevalent thing. I think it's absolutely fantastic. Tell me as much as you're comfortable. What was the process like to get diagnosed?
Amy [00:02:28] I kind of feel like I'm an exception to the rule when it comes to the diagnosis process, mainly because my journey, I feel that it's been really easy and simple for me, and I guess maybe that's just been put down to having a GP who is curious and open to kind of exploring those, those sorts of things. So yeah, personally for me, I walked in, said to my GP, Look, this is what I've been thinking about. I've done a ton of research because in classic ADHD, ASD ways, I've, you know, scoured the Internet for every single resource, every single diagnostic tool that you can imagine. I've gone and done it all. Read it all. The psychiatrist who I actually ended up with and have been with since. He's actually ADHD himself. So it's really nice to have someone in your corner who gets it. Especially when you start saying, you know, I've got all of these, you know, hundreds of thousands of, you know, voices or songs or quotes or, you know, movie lines in my head. And they're just they're all just yelling at once. You know, it's like being a bartender and you've got a million people shouting at you. You know, that's a lot of the time what it feels like in my head. So to be able to say that and not have the person sitting across from me going, Wow, this bitch is crazy and say, I actually understand this and this is why you're experiencing that. That was really validating and amazing.
Peta [00:04:16] Well, congratulations for knowing this about yourself and better understanding yourself. That's fantastic. How did you go? I'm going to say, quote unquote, coming out to your friends and family. Or did you need to?
Amy [00:04:31] My well, my immediate family and my closest friends, they knew that I was kind of wanting to go through this assessment process. And it was so funny. And I when I was through, because I was assessed and diagnosed and given my scripts and everything on that one day, it was like, Yep, you're definitely this you did help. And it was funny, though, because once it kind of said, yes, you know, we can see that ADHD. He kind of looked at Mom and said, Yeah, it's it is very hereditary. So essentially diagnosed at the same time, which just makes me laugh even now. In terms of coming out like I to my friends, it was, you know, yep, this is me. And a lot of them were like, yeah, you know, we kind of guessed because a lot of my friends, you know, surprise neurodivergent because, you know, birds of a feather flock together. In typical Neurodivergent fashion a lot of days. I must stop fully, not fully, but a lot at work. So not only am I just absolutely just exhausted after my work day. You know, I'm even more so because of, you know, kind of having to put on that. You know, I'm a fully functioning adult who knows what they're doing with their life. I don't at all. That's a lie. So, you know, by the time I come home and I want to scroll through social media and catch up with everything, I'm just I just do not have the energy. So I think it was maybe a month or so after my diagnosis that I was like, Oh, yeah, I should probably put something on social media.
Peta [00:06:22] There's another big part of your story that I'm super interesting and I would love to talk about if it's okay with you. You had weight loss surgery. How long ago?
Amy [00:06:33] Over two years now.
Peta [00:06:35] So what was that process like for you and how did you decide to take that step?
Amy [00:06:41] It was really scary. You know, at the age of 30, I had not yet experienced surgery or being under anaesthetic. And right from the start, I was adamant that I would die on that table the minute that, you know, I was under or that they were inside of me. I was really terrified that I would die. You know, I was 163 kilos. If you have never experienced being a fat person, you just you don't understand how hard it is to live in that body. And there's a lot of different contributing factors, you know, to to me, having gotten to 163 kilos. The process, again, you know, I feel like I'm just an exception to the rule for a lot of these things. The process was actually really easy. The first step I took was to contact my private health insurer because for anyone who's not aware, the particular surgery I had, which was the vertical sleeve gastrectomy, so they actually remove up to about 80% of your stomach. You know, it can cost anywhere between 20 to up to $35,000. So I contacted my health provider. The only way that they were kind of able to contribute to the costs was for me to get the the highest level of hospital cover possible. The waiting time, I guess the cooling period, I guess on on weight loss surgery is 12 months. So I did have to wait 12 months for that to kind of mature. And yeah, basically found a fantastic surgeon. It was a super serious step. But at 163 kilos, you know, I've I've tried everything. You know, I was 30. I look at diet culture, you know, if there was a diet, I had tried it, I'd done everything. And I would lose the weight by essentially starving myself and killing myself at the gym, only to then put it on, you know, twofold. So it was incredibly scary, but it wasn't something that I came to lightly.
Peta [00:09:19] And do you think your disabilities contributed to your weight management?
Amy [00:09:25] Look, looking back and knowing what I know now, I can definitely see how my ASD and ADHD contributed so significantly in the development of my binge eating disorder. You know, I'm very sensory with food, mainly textures. You know, I tend to stick to those, you know, quote unquote safe foods, which unfortunately sometimes they're just not the healthiest options, you know. So things like bread with, you know, your old faithful's Vegemite or peanut butter, you know, noodles, pasta, potatoes. As a child, you know, if things were touching on my plate, it was just a no, I could not do it. But then there's the restriction, you know, so I would hate this particular thing, but, you know, a specific vegetable, but not this one. The restriction side of diet culture as well. You know, I wanted to be skinny. I wanted to, you know, mimic and copy everyone around me. So I would just restrict and restrict. And like I said, I would I would starve myself. But, you know, that would be in public the moment I got home. You know, I'm back in my safe zone. I would just binge just out of control. And unfortunately, with autism spectrum disorder, there is, for me, the co-morbidity of Alexa Thye MIA. So I have this disconnect between my body and brain. You know, I don't know when I'm full. I wouldn't have that trigger, you know, to kind of say, you're a fool, you're going to be sick. As well as the repetitive side. You know, if we're talking about autism, I crave repetition. I love routine. You know, it's it's safe for me. I know that I'm going to get a positive experience from eating this particular thing because it's been positive in the past. So I'm super content to eat the same thing day in and day out. If it's my current fixation, I can go months eating the same thing every single day. And I even remember in my early twenties and I was doing some kind of crazy diet. But every single day at work for lunch, I would have a turkey and cheese wrap and I would have eaten that for well over two months. But then, you know, the ADHD comes in and, you know, after that two month period, my, you know, ADHD brain was like, okay, look, we need something different. We need variety. Let's mix it up. I can really see the, you know, the effect it had with with my eating disorder and and how it kind of got me to a point of taking that radical step of removing majority of my stomach.
Peta [00:12:25] Now that you know that you have autism and you have ADHD, how do you use that knowledge about yourself to better manage physical and mental health?
Amy [00:12:37] Look, I'm not going to lie. I still struggle, you know, I still struggle to manage my physical and mental health. They have these periods of, you know, weeks, months, days where I'm doing great, you know, great in terms of I'm making, you know, healthier food choices. I'm moving my body more. But then I do have those periods where I am in sensory hell. I am completely overwhelmed. And the thought of, you know, cooking a healthy meal or going for a walk, you know, taking the dog for a walk is just Mt. Everest. You know, it's impossible. I'm so overwhelmed often late because my attention is everywhere. I see and hear and, you know, sense the things that a tiny, you know, a very minute to a majority of people. But for me, I'm experiencing it all. And I find it really hard to to kind of turn that off, I guess. Knowing the why behind why I can't do that thing even though I know how to do the thing. I just can't do the thing, you know? So it's it's a it's a performance issue really with AZT and ADHD. But, you know, in managing my physical and mental health, I now kind of feel as though I've been given the grace to say no. No, I can't. Do you know X, Y, Z? Because if I do, it's going to push me into overwhelm. You know, I'm going to go into shutdown mode. Nobody wants me to be in shutdown mode. I don't want to be in shutdown mode. I am learning, I guess, to better read my body and myself. And as I said, just just kind of give myself the grace and honour myself and just say no and rest when I when I need to.
Peta [00:14:53] What do you wish people better understood about disabilities?
Amy [00:14:58] Number one, I guess, would be that a majority of the time people with disabilities just want to be treated like normal, average human beings, you know, regardless of whether it's physical or hidden. And I guess I can only speak for myself. You know, I can't speak for for any other disabled person. But, you know, we just want to be treated like everyone else. We don't need special treatment when I do, you know, share that I am ADHD or autistic. You don't need to change how you talk to me. I'm not a child, you know. I don't need to be, I guess, handheld through a lot of things. Like I can take it, you know, you don't have to treat me like I'm fragile. And number two, I just wish that people would. Assume competence. Whether someone is, you know, disabled or not, give them the grace of this person is competent until they tell me or show me otherwise, if maybe they are in a wheelchair like yourself. You know, I can't assume all the things that you can and can't do. You're fully capable until you tell me otherwise.
Peta [00:16:32] Is there anything you don't like about having autism or ADHD?
Amy [00:16:37] Do you mean aside from the perceptions society has about neurodevelopmental and psychosocial disabilities?
Peta [00:16:45] I'll let you interpret the question. Anyway, you like.
Amy [00:16:48] Laughs. But in all honesty, I mean, look, that is probably my biggest dislike when it comes to my disabilities. It's the. Oh, you don't look autistic. Or Oh, you're you're too smart. You're too successful to have ADHD comments. And for anyone with a hidden disability, it's almost like we have to prove that we struggle. I often say that, you know, I'm not autistic or ADHD until I am. It isn't until I negatively impact or inconvenience those around me that they go, Oh, wait a minute, we've got one of those people in our presence, you know, and it comes back to that. You know, we've got to treat her delicately. This is who I am. And. Those kind of comments just really minimise that experience and and the struggles that I have had to go through.
Peta [00:17:54] And is there anything you like or even love about having your disabilities?
Amy [00:18:00] I love that my brain is different from the quote unquote, neuro majority. I love that I am part of that Neurodivergent community. I see the world and see things in such a different. To me, interesting way. You know, sometimes jokes and sarcasm go straight over my head. You know, in those scenarios, when I'm around the people that I love, it makes them laugh, you know, because I say something that's completely off topic and, you know, they finally explain to me what it is. And I'm like, Oh, okay, why didn't you just say that? I have this opportunity to to bring joy and laughter to the people that I love, even if, you know, it's I guess I don't want to say side effect, but a symptom, I guess, southern of my neuro spicy brain. You know, it's I just love it. I love being different.
Peta [00:19:14] Finally, what do you hope the future will be like for people with disabilities?
Amy [00:19:21] I hope for radical systemic acceptance. A lot of the time we are. Not shunned, but just not thought of. You know, feeling as though we are othered, that we are an inconvenience. So. It's always a thought. You know, it's we're not an afterthought. It's just business as usual that those with hidden or physical disabilities are just always included without us kind of being over here and going, Hey, what about us? So I just really hope that as we kind of go into the future, that there's just that radical acceptance and it's the norm.
Peta [00:20:18] Thank you for listening to this week's episode. I hope you enjoyed it if you did. Can I encourage you to leave a writing interview on whatever platform you're listening on? I now understand you can even do it on Spotify. All writings really help me as far as getting feedback for the podcast, but also it allows for more people to find the podcast. As it turns out, in search terms more readily. I know I say it every single week, but I really mean it. Thank you so much for listening and then to next week. Have a good one, guys. Bye. I'd like to pay my respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, but especially to the band the wrong people where this podcast was recorded.