My Adult ADHD Diagnosis and My Takeaways

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This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered professional medical advice.

At the age of 33, I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). What I always thought were just my personality traits (*ahem* strengths) turned out to be symptoms of or coping mechanisms for my ADHD: extremely organized, always on the go, and super-focused, to name a few. But when the stress of motherhood, the chaos of moving houses, and the less specific job duties of a promotion came together, it was too much for my coping mechanisms to handle. I couldn’t focus, I was easily irritable, and many boxes from moving still weren’t unpacked six months later. It was actually when friends, family, and coworkers were surprised by my level of caffeine intake that I wondered if there was an underlying problem… Was I self-medicating with caffeine to stimulate my brain and help me focus on the task(s) at hand?

I took it upon myself to make an appointment with my primary care physician and asked for an assessment. After that appointment, I was referred to an amazing psychiatrist. She went through a series of questions with me that would have identified a number of neurodivergent conditions. Without question, she diagnosed me with ADHD. With my diagnosis, she described that ADHD often looks differently than how someone would typically imagine (e.g., the boy in elementary school who can’t sit still or stop talking and was always sent to sit in the hallway or principal’s office). I felt seen and understood. I want to share the top three things that I’ve learned on my ADHD diagnosis and treatment journey in case it helps anyone recognize this in themselves or their children.

Smart Little Girls Fly Under the Radar

My psychiatrist told me first that young girls, especially those with high IQs, go undiagnosed because they don’t act like the typical stereotype of someone with ADHD. They know how to cope, and they often take a lot of notes to help keep themselves in order. This was a huge “ding, ding, ding!” moment for me because, in school, I always had notebooks FULL of notes. I wrote every single thing down that a teacher or professor said or wrote on the board. And then, when I was studying for a test, I’d go back to those notes and highlight them and then REWRITE the notes in a slightly different format (often an outline) to help myself process the information again. Turns out, this is a sign pointing towards ADHD.

High Achieving Women Finally Get Exposed

The second fact I want to share came from an Instagram post by @adhdloyal. She shared that high-achieving women usually go undiagnosed until “very remarkable things happen that expose their ADHD.” Aha! That’s exactly what happened to me. I went my whole life without really noticing (or, at least, being affected by) my ADHD. I had one child and was ok. I had my second child, and I probably started losing my control a little more. But, after moving houses and getting a promotion, it was finally exposed. I couldn’t hold it together anymore, and my previous coping mechanisms would no longer work.

ADHD Can Be Disguised by Perfectionism

Perfectionism (like the note-taking habit I mentioned above) is my main coping mechanism with my ADHD. By setting extremely high standards for myself helps me feel like I’m proving to myself and others that I am capable and can do hard things. I try to keep my life together by being so organized with notes, calendars, reminders, etc. I can keep rejection (mostly) away by always performing well and pleasing others. I now understand that underlying my perfectionism is my ADHD brain, which isn’t quite like a normal brain, which helps me understand and be more gentle with myself.

Now that I’ve been officially diagnosed and am medicated (for me, that has been great and not scary at all.) Check out the science. The ADHD brain needs more stimulation/dopamine in order to actually settle down. With enough stimulation, I’m able to focus just enough to feel more in control of my mind); I’ve got a collection of articles and ADHD Instagram videos to laugh at with my husband or learn a little more about myself and this condition, and I am starting to feel more like myself. I hope that sharing my story and my “aha moments” helps someone else so that they can start to feel better and take back their life.

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