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1. What made you decide to have your diagnosis?
I honestly just thought I was this broken, lazy person who couldn't handle life the way that everyone else seemed to be able to. I was in the process of leaving my abusive husband at 32 and realized that, just maybe, all of these traits that he had told me for years were me "just not even trying", might be something medical. I research things like crazy and I came up with ADHD as a likely diagnosis. I went to see my general practitioner very much expecting her to tell me how off-base I was and to stop making excuses and just start being a productive adult. Instead, it turns out I present very high in ADHD, as well as generalized anxiety.
2. What do you do for a living?
Development Director for a national non-profit
3. What is your ADHD presentation?
4. How were your school years?
I was an excellent student from elementary through college, with a few obvious bumps in the road. My mom was a perfectionist and expected nothing less than straight-A's from me because she "knew I was capable of it", so that's what I did. I always procrastinated until the last minute in order to finish any assignment, and I'd always get reports from teachers that I spent too much time socializing, but I was doing well on my grades so people mostly just shrugged-off the other personality aspects I was showing. In college, if I was studying something I was interested in, I was OBSESSED. Grades came easy because I genuinely cared about the subject. For the boring or unimportant classes... I struggled HARD. I had to use masking and my social skills to help get me through those classes, and was just barely able to do so. My perfectionist tendencies were really being tried, because I just couldn't get my typical perfect grades at that level. However, once I got into my major, I felt I could breathe again. I loved what I was learning, and I retained the knowledge incredibly well.
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5. Looking back, what was an obvious ADHD trait in your childhood?
Talking REALLY fast (speech therapist couldn't help me at all with this one). Interrupting everyone and not being able to stop myself. Procrastination to get anything done that wasn't super interesting to me. Messiness/disorganization. Forgetfulness and inattention. And honestly, I am the most impulsive person I can imagine, and it's been that way forever.
6. Was it difficult to get a diagnosis?
Not really, once I knew what to bring up with my doctor. My therapist originally diagnosed me with OCD and I had been on medication for over a year with very little effect. After I did my research and brought up my findings and thoughts with her, she very much agreed and altered my diagnosis.
7. How did you prepare yourself for your diagnosis?
Honestly, I had to stop myself from getting overly excited about the possibility of answers and being able to manage myself better. I would have been so disappointed and confused if I hadn't been diagnosed with ADHD - getting my diagnosis confirmed so many things for me, and helped me feel like I wasn't "broken".
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8. How did you feel right after getting your diagnosis?
My doctor was excellent at asking for my opinion on medication, working with dosage to find what suits me best, and giving me the benefit of the doubt even though I didn't present in the ways she was "used to" with ADHD patients.
9. How do you feel about it now?
I feel excellent about my diagnosis. I finally feel understood, and I know that so many of my functions can be explained by my ADHD, which helps so much with my self-esteem.
10. Do you think you "look like" the ADHD stereotype?
I think I'm very skilled at masking, and my empathy (and trauma) makes it easy to read energies and spaces and to react accordingly. I think if you knew the symptoms and signs of ADHD beyond hyperactivity, I would be a very obvious candidate.
11. What are you struggling with because of your ADHD brain?
Things are a lot better not that I'm on a good medication cocktail, but my impulsivity is still a huge struggle. I lack motivation during work unless I'm focused on the areas that I find interesting, so I worry about my overall job performance. My forgetfulness, while getting better, is still really hard to deal with.
12. What are your ADHD strengths ?
My hyperfocus on certain things is a HUGE asset to any team I am a part of. I can punch out 8 hours of quality work in about 2 hours of focused time. I am sociable and enthusiastic and almost nothing rubs me the wrong way.
13. Did your ADHD diagnosis help you?
Oh very much. I'm so grateful I made the choice to get my diagnosis and to follow-through on a medication plan. I finally feel like I can start breathing again.
14. Do you feel your life could have gone the other way if you'd been diagnosed earlier?
Without a doubt. If nothing else, my sense of isolated "oddness" could have been curtailed by having a diagnosis. My mom and teachers and friends would have been able to understand me better and not expect my adaptation to certain situations. My marriage would have gone differently; it probably wouldn't have even happened.
15. What was your family/friends' reaction to your diagnosis?
My close family agrees whole-heartedly when I explained things to them. Most of them have also gone to their doctor and have gotten similar diagnoses - I had no idea we were all struggling silently with so many of the same issues and limitations. I've been very selective with my close friendships, so those that are in my sphere were so on-board with my diagnosis. They've already been amazingly patient with things that frustrate most people, like forgetting to respond to texts or my crazy impulsivity or interrupting them and talking a million miles an hour. Being officially diagnosed just helped them to see that there was a reason for my behaviors, and not take things as personally.
16. Do you have any comorbid disorders or neurological conditions?
Generalized anxiety, depression, and c-PTSD.
17. Do you deal with anxiety?
Yes, every single day. I'm on medication that helps when I'm in or expecting an anxiety attack, but mostly I've had to learn how to self-sooth and find techniques to regulate my nervous system. I've taken up meditation and yoga, and I have alarms to remind me to eat and hydrate, which helps manage that anxiety. I listen to meditative music at work instead of anything high-energy or distracting, and I do hourly check-ins and breathing exercises to bring my building anxiety down. And mostly, I've begun filtering the unhealthy people and relationships from my life. That alone brought my chronic anxiety WAY down.
18. Did people around you make you doubt yourself during your diagnosis journey?
My husband at the time did - he still thinks I lied to my doctor to get my diagnosis. Everyone else has been amazing and supportive and helped me feel incredibly good about myself and my diagnosis.
19. Do you ever doubt your diagnosis now?
Not for a minute.
20. How has the diagnosis changed the way you live?
I can finally "breathe" again now that I'm on my medication. I don't feel like a perpetual failure, and I can look at some of my challenges as manageable rather than insurmountable personality flaws. I've given myself more grace and am kinder to myself than ever before.
21. How do you feel about medication?
22. What was the thing that helped you most in your daily life?
Besides my medication, it was learning little tricks to get motivated and help my brain manage harder tasks. And finding a supportive partner that understands and supports me in my diagnosis without shaming or deflecting was HUGE.
23. What advice would you give someone who is wondering if they have ADHD?
I'd say do the research - there are so many online resources to tap into. But mostly, bring it up to your doctor or therapist. Don't be afraid to be "wrong" or feel like you're being burdensome by asking questions and taking up space. They work for you, and if you feel you aren't being heard or understood, find new practitioners that WILL listen to you.
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