I failed 10th-grade Advanced Academic English because of undiagnosed ADHD (and my teacher was particularly cruel, but that’s another story for another therapy session) and have spent the majority of my life feeling “other.”
- I’ve been very successful in my professional life but constantly struggle with feelings of laziness, apathy, and not being able to have “enough” of a work ethic.
- I’ve had a litany of hobbies fall by the wayside even though I hyperfocus during the “honeymoon” phase.
- I’ve often felt like I was the weird kid both in my childhood and still to this day (I am definitely still the weird kid) because of the way I speak and the things I say.
- I have an inability to properly care for myself, pets, or house. I get by, but my life would be in ridiculous shambles without my husband.
- I can spend breathtaking amounts of money in a heartbeat without care.
On their own, these seem like things we all cycle through at some point in our lives, which is why I understand how “sorry, I have ADHD” has become a trope much like “I’m so OCD!” in our vernacular. However, the trouble with actually having ADHD is that all of these tropes come together to create an absolute clusterfuck of a life that leaves you
feeling, knowing something is wrong.
I’m not here to gatekeep ADHD since we all have our own journeys with being diagnosed as neurodivergent but instead to just tell my story of living with it.
I was “diagnosed” first in 2016 by a psychiatrist who wasn’t particularly interested in prodding my issues or diving deep, so I got my little Adderall RX and went on my way, not knowing what I was trying to treat or how to determine whether or not it was an effective treatment. I eventually went off it and tried to do without.
My official diagnosis was in 2021 after a few tests given to both me and my husband (for perception correction…that’s my phrase; I’m not really sure what the official term is but hopefully you get my meaning) and exploring what ADHD is and how it affects me was a milestone moment in my life.
I read through most of Delivered from Distraction in tears. I sobbed the way I did when our cat died suddenly, it was intense. My tears were twofold:
- Pieces I didn’t know were part of the same puzzle finally came together
- No one had given enough of a shit to figure this out sooner. My parents, teachers, gifted counselor, whatever.
I don’t blame my mom for it so much as she had a stigma toward therapy back when I was growing up that I think a lot of people did in the ’90s. Mental health was even more taboo to discuss back then and going to a therapist was something to say with shame if you said it at all. Still, I wish she had been strong enough to put my well-being ahead of what other people would think.
Nevertheless, here we are and I can’t say my life has been horrible because of it; on the contrary. I’ve had a wonderful life that I am full of gratitude for getting but I know I had to do it all on “Expert” mode instead of “Easy.”
My current life with ADHD
My life has had to adapt so I could find ways to lower the resistance caused by ADHD. I’ve always been terrible at managing office hours and have been chastised repeatedly in my work life for being late. Now I’m self-employed and have a very flexible schedule, though I still have deadlines that need to be met.
My husband is well-aware of my issues and is probably the most patient person I’ve ever known. A lot of the potential friction that many couples deal with when one partner has ADHD is negated through keeping communication open, though I admit it’s not always an easy topic to cover. It takes a lot of understanding from him and effort from me to meet in the middle. Mostly, I’ve stopped seeking recognition for doing basic things that any other adult would do (household things) and he knows not to look for any sort of schedule for when things I’ve committed to will get done.
I also both crave and hate routine so it’s challenging to plan ahead in my life. I have a loose daily routine of walking the dog in the morning and afternoon while fitting in some productivity and then hanging out with my husband at night. Anything more regimented usually ends up not happening the way I envisioned. And yet I love my bullet journal, so who knows.
I’m currently medicated with 2 doses of Adderall: 10mg in the morning and 15mg of the XR (extended release) on days I have deadlines or other big things that need to get done. Keeping the 15mg as an occasional addition helps prevent my body from developing a tolerance and needing increased doses.
I have a team of mental health professionals behind me helping me to navigate this. In addition to my regular therapist who I see once a month, I also have a counselor who’s helping me with my binge eating disorder, and a counselor via KlarityADHD who handles my ADHD meds. I also realize having multiple mental health pros behind me is a privilege but that doesn’t mean it’s not expensive for me, either. The vast majority of my medical bills are mental-health maintenance-related so I’ve had to budget around that to make it work.
Advice I can give (that you probably shouldn’t take)
Or maybe you should, I don’t know. I’m not a professional so listen to people smarter than I am if you’re going through this.
Lean into your spurts of energy – I tried for so long to become more disciplined about when I did what and just always ended up feeling like I failed. Now, I pay attention to when I have the initiative to do something and I do it. Putting things off for a more convenient time (or whatever excuse I’m trying to use) typically results in things never getting done. Now, when I feel like blogging I write multiple posts in one go. When I feel like exercising I don’t let the lazy side whine me out of it and do the thing I felt like doing. Clean the house? Go for it. Do 4 of my client’s deliverables in one sitting? Sure thing.
Learn about what ADHD is and does – I too was someone who just thought having ADD meant being easily distracted and not understanding how truly insidious it was. Delivered from Distraction was a great resource for me, though I recognize I’m asking you to read an entire book. Do what you can.
Tell everyone – You know those parts of job applications where it asks if you have any disabilities they need to accommodate? I think ADHD is now showing up on those. Check that box and don’t be ashamed. I wish I had done that when I was working in an office; it would’ve made things much easier and I might’ve gotten less flack (or not, but at least it would’ve been on record). I’ve been in positions that were both at the bottom and head of departments so believe me when I say: No matter what the job is, it’s going to be much easier in your work life if you put all your cards on the table first. The same goes with family and friends; I told EVERYONE when I got my diagnosis. Even my mother-in-law!
Understand you’ve got a mountain of shit to climb to get medicated – Controlled substances and the ability to get them when you legitimately need them is no joke. I went one week without because of poor medication management with an old physician and the crash was hard. You’ll need to jump through way more hoops than seems fair, but there’s no way around it, currently.
Those who don’t have it won’t get it – You’ll probably face a lot of misconceptions and need to deal with “OMG I totally have ADHD, too! We’re so silly!” comments from people who are well-intentioned but overall ignorant. You don’t need to be the “Well, actually…” person if you don’t want to; it’s not your job to educate everyone. You can also totally be the person who explains what ADHD actually is, too. Pick whichever you want and whatever time you feel is appropriate but never feel like you need to be either.
Make your mental health a financial priority – Like I said, living with ADHD is not cheap. I was lucky that my health insurance covered Adderall because my other option was Vyvanse which ran to something like $300 a bottle. But I’ve still got monthly therapist visits, monthly medication management visits, and my bi-monthly appointments with my eating disorder counselor to pay for and none of this is cheap. However, the ripple effect my mental health has on everything makes it a priority in my budget and one I’d recommend you prioritize, too.
Don’t let yourself lose the ability to be an adult – Some days I think it’d be easier if I just gave up a lot of financial autonomy and let my husband run all of our accounts. It’d keep me out of trouble and away from being able to make impulse purchases, but would that really be for the greater good? I don’t want him to have to parent me, you know? That wouldn’t be sexy or fun for either of us so I’ve learned that I need to understand being disciplined around money is an issue for me that requires constant, intentional work.
Congratulations, you’re neurodivergent! – Hearing the term “neurodivergent” was a bit of a bummer for me the first time I heard it. Maybe you’re better at this than I am, but hearing you’re officially “different” in your brain was hard to hear. But that’s what it is and any sort of feelings I had on the term were my own internalized shit that I needed to deal with.