I Am a Woman with ADHD

And I am SO tired of defending myself and my condition. Mainly that there is a condition called ADHD and that I have it.

Like many mental/behavioral conditions (not illness!), you are diagnosed based on your symptoms. Yes, we reduced or eliminated certain foods known to cause behavior issues. Yes, we’ve cut down on or eliminated certain activities known to trigger hyperactivity. But what remains are very constant reminders that our brains just don’t work the way they should.

In our house this manifests itself with plenty of “why can’t you just listen and do as your told” and tears for the Pumpkin, or “why can’t I just get it together?” and tears for myself. We all know what we should do but fail at following through every single day. And this is not normal or acceptable to live like this.

Nor, is it exceptional. We’re not alone and thankfully, there is an extensive support community for adults with ADHD. It’s through this community I became aware of how many people have the exact same issues and patterns in their behavior as those I experience and as my diagnosis became clear, more and more things started to make sense. I didn’t have to be so frustrated with my limitations and my mistakes. I learned to accept myself and to seek out ways others had worked with their challenges instead of constantly fighting an internal battle.

There are those that don’t believe I have ADHD, or that there even is such a condition. To help explain why I do, I refer to a recent piece from healthcentral.com, “Common Symptoms of ADD and ADHD in Women,” by Eileen Bailey. In the article, Bailey presents 19 symptoms that correlate with the overall classifications of behavior presented during the extensive analysis typically applied for a diagnosis of ADHD.

Of course, I understand everyone may feel like this once in a while, just like everyone gets gloomy once in a while. But, like depression, it’s a quantity issue. Of these, I don’t just have a few traits once in a while. I deal with just about every, single symptom in varying degrees, just about every single day.

So what is it like? Well, …

Feeling Low Self-Worth

The memory bank in my brain is a moving target. Like spaghetti on a wall, some things stick and most doesn’t. I have extensive lists, spreadsheets, endless sticky notes, and a filing system to help me stay on track. Still, things fall through the cracks leaving me with the uneasy feeling like I’m always missing something. It’s hard to have confidence when you’re worried about your memory, especially at your job.

Impulsivity often means I make poor decisions about my appearance. It was cute in college but now I’d like to settle into something sophisticated and It’s very hard to come up with a style and look I’m comfortable with. Sounds silly until you realize that I’m constantly ill-at-ease.

Lists, spreadsheets, calendars, and my phone help keep me from forgetting things. I love the camera – instant memory! Pinterest has really helped me keep from making impulsive purchases so I feel better about what I buy and really enjoy a new outfit or pair of shoes. For the past year, at the end of the day, if I like my outfit, I’ve noted it in Evernote. Now, over a year later, I have a rock solid collection of outfits I love which has decreased the stress of getting ready for work in the morning tenfold.

Hypersensitivity to Criticism

Knowing that my brain often misses things, or construes things in a way that may or may not represent the reality of a situation means I’m always expecting the worse. I also have a really nasty habit of anticipating what any/all possible negative criticism could come out of a situation and skipping doing things entirely because I’d just rather skip being criticized. The really funny part, is that once I have a good discussion with someone including constructive criticism, I end up feeling like I’ve learned something and am growing as a person. It’s irrational and I know it. I haven’t figured out how to get past this yet and still struggle.

Poor Sense of Time

I do OK with this one thanks to my trusty organizer. During my first month of high school, when I had to move from class to class, I constantly showed up at the wrong class at the wrong time. I learned pretty quickly to always have a written schedule laid out. And it has to be written. I don’t trust technology. Still, I tend to stay up later than I should which screws up my ability to get to the gym, which makes my entire day unbalanced.

Being Emotionally Charged and Easily Upset

With others, I’m fairly calm and reasonable. With myself, no. And, unfortunately, not with the Pumpkin. Her short comings are not minor set backs, in my head they spell certain doom for her future. It’s a daily struggle not to project my anxiety onto her.

If I feel like I’m getting upset, I write it down. 99% of the time, this practice calms me down and I see that my feelings are irrational, and if not, shows how I can present them logically. After years and years of arguments, I have learned to avoid arguing about anything before I have a chance to work it out.

Starting Projects but Unable to Finish Them

Oh yes. There’s never enough time. Of course, spending two hours on Pinterest when I could be doing something constructive makes me unhappy in the end but still, it just happens. In the past few years, I’ve learned not to bother starting projects and this is really hurt my need for creative expression. Still working on how to balance everything better.

Taking Too Much / Saying Things Without Thinking / Appearing Self-Absorbed / Seeming to Not Listen to People

I love a good conversation and meeting new people but anxiety from all of these issues has made me withdrawn and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much more reserved and introverted. At the same time, I am an extrovert and now am somewhat depressed because I’m somewhat afraid to speak with people.

It’s not that I’m rude but I have to be actively chatting quite a bit or I’ll forget what I was going to say, or start to space out right in the middle of the conversation. The worst is when this happens at a meeting, which it has.

To help with this at work, I always use a script when presenting and I take lots of notes. This way I can recall what someone said and wait until my turn to come in without losing track of the conversation.

Still, it remains a challenge and every now and then I have a low blood sugar moment and all manners of craziness and disorganized speech pours out of my mouth, which would be funny if it didn’t happen at work, in front of colleagues and superiors.

Difficulty Remembering Names

I have no idea what to do about this. It’s horrible, especially at work. I’ve met people several times, even had previous meetings, and I still can’t recall their names. Three years into my time at work and I’m only just starting to remember people’s names.

Poor Math or Writing Skills

Thankfully, I am OK here, with math because I trust math. However, with writing, I have to rewrite and revise many times, especially for work emails. And I can’t spell – at all – or copy edit. Thankfully, I have been lucky enough to have very good editors around me.

Engaging in Addictive Behaviors

There is an obsessive component to ADHD and if I can get hyper-focused on something, I can accomplish awesome things. It’s a blessing and a curse. For example, I have an obsession with control and order which overrides just about everything else. Do I have anxiety every time something doesn’t work out perfectly? Sure. But it’s the fear of losing control due to compulsive or addictive behavior that has kept me out of worse trouble.

Problems with Word Retrieval

Of course I know the right word. But that’s not the word my brain delivers up first. How’s that for undermining one’s confidence? And no, it’s not a blonde thing.

Poor Handwriting

I blame typing all the time on the diminishing quality of my handwriting. However, I’ve seen evidence of this with the Pumpkin who can’t write fast enough for her brain and really gets frustrated. Thankfully, she’s learning cursive and it’s really helping her hands catch up with her brain.

Difficulty with Boring, Repetitive Tasks

I am so lucky that my ADHD superpower is obsession with order. I can’t stand things to be out of order. Since most routine tasks involve putting things into order, I can channel this to get through otherwise boring things.

It’s also very hard to stick with routines, even when I like doing them, such as running, or for the Pumpkin, choir.

I’m also constantly uneasy about being stuck in a mortgage agreement for 30 years. Realizing I’m stuck in a commitment causes panic and this realization can be triggered by anything. Thankfully, I have lists of benefits of these commitments that I refer to to help get through those moments, not unlike a mantra. More importantly, this doesn’t include my marriage or having become a mom.

Spending too much Time Ruminating / Difficulty Falling Asleep and Waking Up

Rumination during my walk home is awesome. I’m too busy at work for my brain to misbehave. However, the minute I get into bed – whammo – and then I can’t sleep. This happens just about every single night. I am trying reading before bedtime to distract my brain.

Difficulty Making Decisions

I hate shopping. I know my impulsivity makes bad choices seem like good ones so I can’t trust my brain to make good decisions. Although Pinterest can be a distraction, it’s been very helpful in avoiding bad purchases. I don’t buy anything without consulting my boards since they’re more trustworthy that just winging it.

Grocery shopping is the worst because there are so many things to consider. It doesn’t sound bad until you realize that I get the same thing every single week but I still have to review all the choices every single week to see if options have changed. Lately, Frank has been doing the food shopping while I’m at church. He gets it done in less than the typical three hours it takes me and we’re all happier.

Difficulty Sitting Still

It may seem like I’m sitting still but I’m not. My legs are constantly swinging. I’m constantly shifting around. In a meeting, it’s very hard to conceal this movement but if you’re wiggling around, it’s distracting to others and they think you have to pee so you have to control it, which takes focus away from the issues at hand. The only time I’m able to sit still is when I cross-stitch or crochet.

For the most part, I’m OK with having ADHD and seem to be getting by alright. It helps that the entire family is on the same page and we can relate to each other.

Do I think it’s holding me back? Absolutely. It definitely gets in the way at work and socially. But, I’m trying to get through without relying on medication. That said, the symptoms are definitely getting worse as I get older and I may have to look to help one day.


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