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October 12, 2023

ADHD and Me

October is ADHD Awareness Month. Every day in my house is ADHD awareness day, but I guess if you’ve never had to think about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder then there are some things that we ADHD’ers would love for you to know. First and foremost, ADHD has had some bad press, and because of that there are some weird misconceptions regarding what ADHD is, so let’s get into some myth busting here.

There are three types of ADHD: Hyperactive, inattentive, and combined typed. I am inattentive type; my daughter is combined type. For me, this means that any hyperactivity is always going on internally. I am not bouncing around, and unable to sit still, but I am often thinking of at least 5 things at once…. unless I am in hyper-fixation mode…. which I will get into later. The inattentiveness means that I cannot (literally cannot) pay attention to anything that I don’t find interesting. I get bored very quickly, and I am easily distracted. For my daughter, who is definitely unable to sit still for long periods of time, and has excessive amounts of energy, her combined type means that she will bounce from one topic to another in conversation at lightning speed, she also has trouble with subjects that she’s not naturally interested in, and will hyper-fixate on topics to the degree that she once spent a summer leaning 20 something foreign languages (at age 8.)1

There is a common misconception that only boys have ADHD. This is simply untrue, and this myth has resulted in many girls and women being either misdiagnosed, or undiagnosed. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is very male leaning and is long due a revision. The male biases in the DSM are very problematic, and because girls (in general) are better at masking common ADHD traits, many fly under the radar, because they do not fit the standard ADHD stereotypes that parents and schools have become familiar with.2/3.

Most ADHD’ers can focus, in fact I hyper-fixate on topics or hobbies all the time, however, I have an interest based nervous system, so I must be really interested in something to create enough dopamine to focus or fixate on it. The stereotype is that we (ADHD’ers) are un-focused, but again, that is not true. Choose a subject I am interested in, and I will bore you about it for hours. I don’t naturally produce regular levels of dopamine, and therefore, finding motivation to do something can be problematic, but if the something is within my realm of interest then I can be unstoppable, even forgetting to eat or sleep I can become so hyper-focused. I really love hyper-focus mode, it is truly the only time that my brain feels quiet, and not busy with a million thoughts a minute. All feels calm when hyper-focus mode is engaged.

Not all ADHD’ers are the same, we don’t all have the same traits, humans come from varying backgrounds, and have learned different coping strategies for life. The stereotypes of ADHD being a naughty, messy, hyperactive boy are not true.  I also have obsessive compulsive disorder, and this has saved my ADHD arse from being messy and unorganized. My OCD wins over my ADHD all the time, and I am one of the least messy, and ultra-organized people that I know. This trait is not one that my daughter inherited, and her room looks like a bomb has hit it most of the time…. fortunately for her, my OCD can only take looking at that for so long before I intervene and go in and obsessively clean and organize.

ADHD is the reason I have had an interesting life. I have never been afraid to try new things and take risks. The impulsive streak that is deep within me to counteract overwhelming boredom has been a positive in my life. Friends have tried to talk me out of all kinds of things over the years, like moving to Italy when I had zero dollars to my name, or deciding to open a record store that was also a café in the heart of a conservative town or going back to school at the ripe old age of 46. These are just a few examples of how I have never been able to conform to “normie” expectations, and why my life has been richer for it. I have never stayed too long in a job that I hate, or a place that isn’t serving me. I like that I am not afraid of change, many people are. ADHD can be very tricky in school because school isn’t designed with neuro-divergent people in mind, and that can be a challenge to navigate, but the more of us that find ways of making it in academic environments, the more pressure there will be on institutions to shift the way that they structure learning. We ADHD’ers have always been here, struggling in the backgrounds of neuro-normative institutions, but I think now is the perfect time to speak up, come out of hiding, and shake things up. For the sake of all the “quiet, well-behaved” girls sitting in the backs of classrooms, staring out the window and not understanding why they are unable to focus like their peers, we must blaze a trail, and keep insisting on ADHD accommodations, and announcing our female adult presence in every-room. Hopefully, the more that we announce our existence, the faster society catches up, and moves away from their harmful, and enduring stereotypes.




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