Seven years ago I was sitting in a psychologist’s office and feeling pretty astounded. How could my parents, grandparents, teachers, camp counselors, friends’ parents, employers, etc. have missed this? How did I? How was I thirty years old and just then being diagnosed with ADHD?
The answer: ADHD manifests differently in women than it does in men and is more likely to be completely looked over or misdiagnosed. In my case, when I was in school, I was an excessive daydreamer rather than a hyperactive student. Since I wasn’t disturbing the class, my teachers were busy writing home to the boy’s parents that were. The notes to my parents often included remarks like, “Not living up to her potential” or “She isn’t completing her homework on a regular basis, how can we get her to care about her schooling?”
I did care, but I was bogged down with anxiety about being called on, crippling fear of test-taking, and absolutely no clue how time just seemed to pass me by.
I finished college, it wasn’t the easiest thing for me, and I vowed I was done with school. No more tests for as long as I lived! But as we adults know, just because you may not be getting tested on Calculus, you may need to pass a test to get licensed for a profession, or a certification. The fight or flight that I was feeling as a child hadn’t really disappeared even as an adult. In fact, it was just one of many symptoms that seemed to be affecting my life. My confidence was low because I grew to think I wasn’t intelligent because of my school performance, I seemed to be getting more forgetful as I aged, I had problems with follow-through, and lack of motivation.
I had been seeing a talk therapist for other aspects of my life, and in one session mentioned that I came across an article by Dr. Amen about women with ADD. I told my therapist that a lot of what I read really resonated with me. After that meeting, she referred me to the psychiatrist that diagnosed me. It was strange getting a diagnosis by someone that didn’t know me at all, and they asked me if there was anything I actually wanted to do with that information since I was already thirty years old and had clearly managed it in some fashion. Of course, I wanted to do something about it! If I knew in my school days the tips and tricks that I know now, I may have loved school. I may have even excelled.
At that time I opted to pass on the suggested medication and instead I hired an ADHD Coach. Yes, those exist! They taught me skills that allowed me to feel empowered by the creative ways my brain worked through problems and tricks for helping me to stay focused. I’m a strong visual learner. When my coach suggested timing my tasks with a visual timer I searched the internet and asked around and found the Time Timer. It is a tool that has endless uses and helps to keep my wandering mind on track.
For me, age has nothing to do with bettering my life. I have now, at age 37 advocated for myself and found ways to manage my ADHD. I am now the most productive and confident I’ve ever been. Bonus, now I have the tools to help my son with his ADHD.