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Breaking the Stigma of Adult ADHD

Updated: Jan 29, 2021



As I’ve learned, many adults learn about their own ADHD while seeking a diagnosis for their children.


When my son was diagnosed with ADHD in 2018, my life suddenly made sense. As my husband and I answered the medical assessment questions for our son, we quickly noticed that I needed to be assessed too. At the age of 48, I discovered the missing piece that helped me truly understand and appreciate myself for the first time - I discovered that I have ADHD too.


While having achieved a 25+ year global career as an executive in energy and technology, being an entrepreneur, having a healthy marriage and being a parent - balancing this with (undiagnosed) ADHD took its toll on me. The success on the outside didn't reveal the war and burn-out that I felt on the inside.


With an ADHD diagnosis, seeing the history of my life through a completely different lens was a rollercoaster. I felt everything from relief, elation, grief, anger, regret, motivation…


On one hand, I was grateful to know that my struggles with procrastination, time management, maintaining relationships, prioritizing etc. weren’t because I didn’t try hard enough - they were because no matter how hard I tried, my brain’s Executive Function wasn’t always responsive. On the other hand, I saw my ability to hyper-focus and deliver on things that interested me, to establish a vision and lead during times of disruptive change and ambiguity, and to quickly see creative solutions to complex problems were strengths because of my ADHD.


Looking back, the only thing I wish I could change is I wish I had known sooner. Long ago, I would have purposefully found coping strategies and mentors, I’d have confidently pursued what came naturally to me and I would have been much kinder to myself.


I would not change having ADHD for anything. While my brain may operate a bit differently than what’s considered to be “neurotypical” - I now love what makes it different.


The simplest analogy I can offer for discovering that I had ADHD is this:


If my brain was a car, my diagnosis felt like l discovered that the car I was driving on my daily commute was a Formula One race car, when I assumed that I was driving a ‘typical’ station wagon. I had never thought to get out of my car to notice that it was different than most cars around me. I knew that something was different, but I thought it was about my abilities – not my engine. A Formula One car and a station wagon both get you to where you’re going, but they perform very differently and are best suited to different conditions. Now that I know I’m driving a race car, I give my brain what it needs to let me “thrive while I drive.” Complex problems to solve, topics that interest me, ambiguity, finding relationships between people and ideas, creative solutions that might not work – but they also might just work, leading through change... That’s my racetrack.


I share my story in the hope of reducing the stigma associated with ADHD. Many adults don’t want anyone to know that they have a “non-neurotypical brain” out of fear of being judged, dismissed – or even fear of losing employment. Being that many of the greatest creative minds of our time share an ADHD diagnosis, this shouldn’t be the case. It’s not that we are broken – we simply have a nervous system that operates best in a different set of rules and conditions:


https://www.additudemag.com/secrets-of-the-adhd-brain/


 

In 2020, I co-created a local ADHD support group in Victoria, BC, Canada to provide information, share resources and create a community of people who can help each other navigate through their diagnosis, stories, emotions and strategies. What has surprised me the most is that this local, peer-to-peer support group is doubling in size almost every 2 weeks. The shortage of medical professionals and resources to support adults with ADHD is frustrating. What’s heart-warming is seeing the transformation in people. High-functioning adults from 19-80+ years of age are finding a sense of understanding and acceptance with each other. As we share stories and resources, people are finding their way for the first time in their lives. Many of us are not only adults with ADHD – we are also parents to children with ADHD and we are the children caring for our aging parents with ADHD.

NOTE: During my search for information and answers about ADHD, I noticed that the majority of adults who were listed as examples of “successful people with ADHD” were white men. This doesn’t support the true demographics. Stories are missing to teach, inspire and improve the lives of all people with ADHD. There are many reasons for this - the root causes of this bias leaving a significant population of children and adults “unseen, untested and untreated.” It’s important to me that a) more diverse examples of people with ADHD are shared b) more girls and women of all races are educated about ADHD and tested, and c) all people are equally educated, tested - and have access to affordable ADHD treatment options.





If you’d like to learn more about Adult ADHD, you can visit www.adultadhdvictoriabc.com. Even if you don’t live in the Greater Victoria area, you’re still welcome to access the resources that have been shared on this site.


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