Originally posted 1.19.2023
When we are diagnosed with ADHD after a lifetime of thinking we were lazy, stupid, and didn’t want things bad enough, among many other lovely sentiments, very often we have this initial feeling of relief. Finally! This thing that makes your entire life make sense! You feel like you can breathe! However, for a lot of us that feeling of relief gives way to anger. We get a severe case of the “what-might-have-beens.”
The first time I tried to talk to a doctor about “focus issues” (I think that’s what I called it), I was blown off. I was blown off the other 3-4 times I tried to bring it up with various doctors over the years. I finally gave up at the age of 38 thinking I must just not “adult” well.
As I progressed into my forties I was struggling more than ever. Not only did my symptoms seem to be getting worse (thanks perimenopause!) but I was also having an existential crisis. I kept looking at my life and thinking, “Is this really all I’m capable of? I always thought I would do so much more with my life.” This was mostly in regards to my career and motherhood. I had no idea how much ADHD impacted every area of my life.
I spent my life hating myself because I couldn’t “do the thing” to make my businesses a success. I couldn't "do the thing" in a lot of areas of my life. I couldn’t follow through on anything long-term. Having kids added to the self-loathing. I felt like a terrible mom most of the time because of things like I couldn’t get myself to plan their birthday parties in a timely manner and they would be months after their actual birthdays, if we even had the party. I was terrible with establishing routines for them at home. So many things. Basically I spent most of my life feeling like I was drowning. I thought it was just me.
When I started to revisit the idea that maybe I had ADHD I was afraid to get my hopes up. I had had so many doctors tell me I was “fine” without even evaluating me. Why would this time be any different? With the encouragement of a friend I finally got assessed and diagnosed at the age of 49 - 30 YEARS after I first brought it up with a doctor.
I initially thought I could handle my ADHD on my own since I now knew what it was. I was very wrong. I was still drowning in overwhelm. Now I knew what it was and nothing had changed which made everything feel worse. At the encouragement of the same friend I decided to try medication. (I want to be clear, meds are a very personal decision. I am relaying my personal experience with them. I am not advocating for or against anything.)
It was once I started meds that I really started to get the “what-might-have-beens.” The first day I started my meds I thought, “Holy Shit!! This is what other people are like naturally? WTF! No wonder they get so much more done than I do!” I was so happy to have motivation. I was so happy to be able to “do the thing” without it feeling like torture AND also finish doing the thing. I was so happy to be able to listen to people without my mind wandering every five seconds. It was like a whole new world opened up for me!
Then it hit me… I thought about how different my life might have turned out if I had been given the tools I needed back when I was 19. What a difference this would have made! I spent my entire life thinking I was lazy, stupid and other horrible things when I wasn’t any of them! I got very angry. I was angry at my doctors for blowing me off. I was angry at the medical community for not acknowledging how ADHD impacts women until recently (and still not nearly as well as they should). I was angry at the people in my life for not saying something when they suspected I had ADHD (but really, how DO you bring something like that up?). I felt like everyone just let me flounder my entire life.
Through therapy and coaching I finally realized, over time, that
- I can’t change the past. Dwelling on it will give you no peace.
- All of my life experiences - good, bad and indifferent - have made me into the person I am today. As a friend pointed out to me, maybe I had to go through all the struggles, etc to prepare me for what was next for me. This was before I decided to work with ADHD women. I think she knew my path before I did!
- If I had been given all the tools, etc. when I was 19 I may not have ended up with my husband and therefore my kids. I kinda like them so I guess it was worth it - ha!
When I think back on all the struggles -
The times I blurted things out at inappropriate times…
The times I overshared and talked waaaaaaaaay too much…
My struggles with money…
My struggles with food…
My struggles with self-care…
My struggles with motherhood...
My struggles with business
Not being able to 'do the thing'...
Forgetting people, birthdays, etc…
So many things I now know are related to my ADHD…it can feel incredibly embarrassing and shameful. However, now I look back with kindness at the girl who always felt different and didn’t know why. I give that girl a hug and say, “You did the best you could with what you had and where you were.” Don’t get me wrong - I still struggle with a lot of things. Meds, therapy and coaching don’t cure ADHD. They simply make some things easier. But now I am kinder to myself. I give myself more space to explore new ways of doing things. I give myself grace when I fuck up. I have a much better sense of humor about it. Sometimes it takes a while to get there but I get there. I now look forward to creating new successes in my life. I look forward to each day instead of dreading it.
So as you look back on your life, remember - you did the best you could with what you had and where you were. I didn’t use to believe this. I think this was because I used to think, “I am capable of so much more than this. I just need to try harder,” for pretty much everything in my life so I assumed other people weren’t “trying hard enough” too. I now know differently and so do you. Forgive yourself. You deserve it.
Embrace your ADHD. Embrace YOU. Embrace your future.
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