Coming to Terms with Adult ADHD

ADHD

Over the past year and a half, while the world has been falling apart around us, I’ve been falling apart personally. Well, I guess that’s only true of one of the two new major health diagnoses I’m dealing with. The other one has been plaguing me all my life – I just didn’t realize it until now.

I have ADHD.

TLDR; my story is outlined below for two reasons:
1. To fight mental health stigma.
2. Compulsive oversharing can be a characteristic of ADHD (and mostly, it’s who I am.)

If you read no further, please check out this article on Adult ADHD as well as this self-reporting tool – particularly If you’re a Gen-X or Millennial female who is living in a constant state of overwhelm; who never seems to be able to keep up no matter how hard she tries; whose memory fails her often; and who feels like she could really use some help.

If you think you may fit the criteria, please speak with your doctor or call a place like Centerstone at (618) 462-2331 to speak with someone. I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. This is my personal experience.

The Road So Far

If you’re on TikTok, you know how that algorithm just gets you. One by one, adults living with ADHD started crossing my FYP (For You Page) earlier in the year, and it felt like each one was speaking directly to me and my experiences. They weren’t the stereotypical male children with hyperactivity we thought ADHDers were in the 90s. Turns out, more adult women are being diagnosed with the disorder these days, right around my age, right when the pressures of life have become so overwhelming, it’s hard to continue “passing” like they’ve learned to all their lives. Turns out, a lot of them have the “inattentive type,” and won’t present with much hyperactivity at all.

For the most part, that’s me.

This ADHD creator was one of the first I came across, and her content really spoke to me.

Go read Dani Donovan’s story at https://www.additudemag.com/illustrating-adhd-artist-story/ and see more of her awesome graphics at https://www.adhddd.com/.

I was a good student. I made good grades. I never got in trouble, other than for chatting too much with friends. As I climbed grade levels, sustaining my attention in class became more and more difficult. I didn’t process lectures the same way other kids did because I couldn’t retain the information just by hearing it. Instead of being disruptive, I quietly filled notebooks full of doodles and notes to friends or I slept. Then I would take home every book in my backpack and catch up on the work of the day, on my own time. I was an awful test taker – my memory has always been HORRENDOUS – but I worked long and hard to submit assignments to make up for that, and it earned me good final grades.

In college, procrastination and overnighters became the norm. I taught myself to test better by taking extensive notes, writing and re-writing study guides. I learned I could remember things more easily by tapping into kinetic memory – through the act of writing. But more than anything, I learned I could learn better by doing, and in the newsroom I thrived.

I followed that high right into the field of journalism and then into PR, where no two days are exactly the same and every day is interesting. Longer term projects remained a bit of a struggle because they couldn’t sustain my attention effectively, but I learned to manage my time through extensive scheduling, both electronic and on paper.

Then I got married and we became homeowners, pet owners and parents. Then my oldest kid started school in the middle of a historic pandemic.

Everything had come to a head. I knew I needed help.

After my mom got COVID in November and I got quarantined with the girls over my 36th birthday, I saw my doctor about depression. I started getting treatment for that and began to feel better, but I suspected my issue might be something more. Treatment was taking the edge off and tempering my external reactions, but it wasn’t doing anything to address the stimuli causing my reactions in the first place. The overwhelm was still there. No matter how badly I wanted to clean my house, there were still doom piles everywhere, waiting to be sorted. No matter how badly I wanted to be there for my kids, I was so tapped out after a day of working that I needed to veg out in complete silence, or drown myself in mindless TikToks, just to get back to feeling human again. (Depression and anxiety are often comorbid with ADHD, btw).

This past month, a mental health practitioner with Centerstone heard me out and validated my concerns, which was life changing in itself. On top of that, I started treatment July 15, and my life is finally starting to feel like it’s getting back on track.

ADHD still comes with a stigma, and so does its treatment (amphetamine stimulants are often the first course of treatment). I hope that is changing, and that’s why I’m sharing my story.

We are not lazy, or unintelligent, or less than. We have our ups and downs. Our brains work a little differently, which sometimes can go against the grain and cause us to struggle. Sometimes we can thrive. But there should never be any shame in asking for help when something doesn’t feel right.

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