My ADHD Story
There are a few locations, including this website, where I've told my story. They are all fairly short, however. This is a more detailed version, that goes more into the whys and wherefores of what lead me to the career of ADHD coach and overcoming my specific ADHD challenges.
When I was in my late teens I was diagnosed with depression and put on antidepressants. I waited hopefully for them to take effect, wanting them to alleviate the terrible feelings that were clearly causing the problems in my life. The deeply unpleasant side effects were all I noticed and I asked to be taken off of them.
While I still believe I was genuinely depressed, the reason the SSRIs had no impact on those feelings was they were stemming from my ADHD being undiagnosed and untreated. Some people need both medication and other interventions for ADHD as well as medication for depression. However, if the underlying ADHD is not recognized and treated effectively, those medications on their own will likely do very little.
I was finally diagnosed with ADHD at age 18, though this is an early timeline compared to a lot of stories I’ve heard since. My mother was the driving force behind it, as she was for the various paths to solutions my entire family found. Both my parents have ADHD, and my sister is on the Autism Spectrum. Neurodiversity is the air I breathe and the food I eat. It is who I am and rooted deeply in everything I know about the people I love.
After my diagnosis, I began applying all the strategies I could find to shore up the weakness I had discovered had their roots in ADHD. This mainly focused on my poor memory which remains one of the most obvious aspects of my neurodiversity. It has been a long time since I relied on my memory alone for anything of even passing importance. I use tools wherever and for whatever I can.
I had mixed results with the four types of ADHD medications I tried in the early days of my diagnosis. Some I am certain were placebo effects that wore off quickly. I was lucky enough not to have had any negative side effects from them. In the end, I decided to continue my ADHD journey without them. I am always supportive of friends, family, and clients who find medication to be helpful. It simply wasn’t a path that I (and roughly 15-20% of all people with ADHD) found helpful.
As I learned more about ADHD and how it manifested in me I began to get better and better at coping with adult life. I still struggled in some areas, as anyone will, because no treatment plan, no matter how holistic or comprehensive, can “cure” ADHD. Those struggles were and continue to include things like having a strong creative streak and multiple projects in mid-production. Being called “inconsistent” at the dead-end jobs I held, because of performing exceptionally in some areas and at some times, and poorly in others. This fed the belief I held in the past that I would never be able to earn a living and that I would be forced to rely on financial help (be it from family or government) for the rest of my life in order to survive. Emotions being the source of many challenges that continually have the potential to cause major problems in my personal life and relationships, if left unchecked. The tendency to become overwhelmed easily, even by so-called “ordinary” or “easy” things. My attention wandering and being pulled irresistibly toward the newest, most exciting thing, without regard for the boring basic things that support any person’s functioning. These things seemed like unchangeable aspects of my ADHD, not something I could do anything about, and therefore dooming me to suffering as a result.
All of this culminated in my early twenties when I found myself stuck, in every possible way, depressed, hopeless, and with an increasing sense of helplessness. This is a common story for people with ADHD. An increase in responsibilities, be it transitioning to high school or university, becoming a parent, getting married, or starting a new job or position causes a breakdown in the coping mechanisms that had been established. Earning a living at the dead-end jobs that had sapped my energy to an unbearable point seemed a foolish dream. Making good on any of the scores and scores of creative ideas I had was an exercise in futility. Even caring for the basic needs of my living space such as cleaning, tidying, and doing dishes seemed like an insurmountable mountain others were destined to climb, but not me. I tried not to think of the future, because I had no reason to believe it would look any different than my current, unbearable present.
One of the things that saw me through some of my darkest times were people like Dean Winchester, Thor Odinson, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Ezio Auditore. I am a huge nerd and geek and my fandoms were there for me when no one could tell me what was wrong or how to fix it. Superheroes, ghost hunters, assassins, and extraterrestrials alike continue to be an enormous part of my life and how I manage my ADHD. I also work with clients to weave their passions into their lives instead of considering them a cool side aspect and unimportant. Fun is an essential part of life, especially if you have ADHD.
Then my mother found me a person to work with who did something called ADHD coaching. I’d had a session with a coach before but couldn’t remember it well. Anything was worth a try, so I began seeing this coach every other week for months. At first, it felt like nothing was changing, like I was too stupid and weak to make my life worth living. I felt like the things the coach and I talked about weren’t gaining much momentum. Then, slowly, especially for me with my challenged ability to grasp the passage of time, things began to change.
I was doing dishes consistently. That was my first victory. I remember my husband’s grandmother telling me that you absolutely had to do dishes every day or you were lost. I assumed that that worked for her because she was much more organized and capable than me. But no! I was now doing dishes every single day, and if it wasn’t easy, it was at least doable. Unheard of in my life. It was still a struggle, but the understanding of my ADHD the coach was supporting me in building gave me something to push against, instead of feeling like I was flailing about in air.
Then something even stranger happened. Both my husband and my mother, separately, suggested that maybe this ADHD coaching thing might be something I could pursue. At first, it sounded crazy. How could I, the one who couldn’t hold down a job and was still up to my neck in ADHD struggles, support others to overcome those same struggles? The more I thought about it the more I began to feel that maybe these two people who were so different, and yet united in their love and support for me, were on to something. I decided to try.
The ADD Coach Academy was where I tried. Schoolwork had almost never ended well for me, nor had classes, and now I was signing up to do more of both. I was terrified I would fail miserably, because of my ADHD. As the weeks passed, and failure didn’t happen, I relaxed into the process, finding myself building strategies that would support me in the years to come. (All the ADDCA classes are on the phone, which enabled me to knit throughout. This is a habit I would not be without and enables me to focus on what clients are saying as well.) Then, before I knew it, I had passed, with flying colors, and could call myself an ADDCA Associate Coach. I’d never had any titles with my name before and I was stunned that I had achieved this. I’d applied myself, with the knowledge and skills I’d built with my coach, and I’d succeeded. Nothing before in my life had ever felt so wonderful. I could do the thing!
My trepidation when it comes to new things, like my next endeavor of building a business in spite of and because of my ADHD, has decreased drastically because I know “the secret”. In order to succeed with ADHD, you must acknowledge, understand, and work with it, augmenting the strengths instead of focusing only on shoring up the weaknesses. That was what had tripped me up when I first started to make changes to my life after my diagnosis.
Each stage of the work on my challenges builds on different levels and areas, and everything supports the whole. I am working on creating a network of interlinked and robust systems that ensure that any aspect of my ADHD that negatively impacts me is addressed. As I mentioned before, none of this has or can “cure” my ADHD or render it completely gone or even “totally” managed. Mental health management is a constantly changing and shifting thing. What I strive for is “good enough”, not perfection.
Major factors that contribute to this management being “good enough” are things like a calendar and task management system that not only function well on their own but complement and inform each other. I can with 95% certainty know what it is I need to do and what appointments I am committed to. Sleep and exercise are also vital areas of ADHD support for me. Getting enough sleep, from an early enough hour, and getting some cardiovascular exercise daily. Memory aids continue to be a core structure. Reducing the distractions I can control, such as those in my home environment and on my devices, has been amazingly helpful. And finally, having a job and career I am good at as well as getting the support I need for the aspects of it that I am not naturally good at. All of these combine and lean on one another to create a life I never would have believed possible when I was twenty.
I have gone from not believing I could earn a living to having a career that amazes me and fills me with gratitude every day. I am so grateful I am able to give this knowledge to and support others in building lives that, while bearing few similarities to mine, share the theme of working with instead of against ADHD.