I thought the days of spending six hours in front of a computer to write three sentences were over. I had my diagnosis. I started medication. I was so very wrong.
Before my ADHD diagnosis and treatment, my brain flooded with constant creative ideas. Ideas I could never execute or follow through. Most children have wonderful imaginations. How many plan neighborhood carnivals, newsletters, and bus schedules? How many beg their parents to take it to the village counsel meetings before the age of 12.? And that was only the beginning.
My father was ADHD though undiagnosed. But despite that, and my older brother’s diagnosis at a very young age, everyone missed both my oldest brother’s and my ADHD until adulthood.
My oldest brother and I usually got good grades. But we both struggled with social interactions. And English classes? Forget spelling and vocabulary for me. I only got through English by copying homework because it made no sense to me.
In a small town, everyone knows everyone. My hyperactive brother paved the way for me in school. My elementary and middle school teachers saw me as a “good” student. But I would get in trouble for so much impulsive, sensory seeking behaviors. Drawing on my skin. Chewing my hair. Shaking my legs. Blurting out answers. Tears, roughhousing, and more. Throughout my education, I felt I didn’t fit in. I had few friends and was often bullied. I remember crying almost every day on my walk home from school.
But the day my Jr. High English teacher called me “incorrigible” was a pivotal moment. I stopped caring about school and did only what I needed to get by. My teenage years veered into poor attitudes, bad behaviors and depression. Mental health became my focus and priority while ADHD took the back seat. But my ADHD never disappeared, and it made itself known in other ways.
I attended four universities. I also tried cosmetology and dental hygiene schools. I took jobs in construction, property maintenance and customer service. At 24, I finally landed at the college I would graduate from and found the prescriber that changed my life!
Life changed from night to day when I started taking a stimulant medication. I completely changed my trajectory in two semesters. In true ADHD style, after 7.5 years, I graduated with my BA degree with the cum laude honors. Of course, I only did it at the last possible moment. after the graduation ceremony & diplomas were already printed.
I made up my mind to further my education and work towards a master’s and doctorate. I moved to Chicagoland and — you guessed it — I worked at a veterinary clinic for 2 years. It turned into the longest lasting job I had ever held. I got to wear many different hats and the manager valued my skills! I didn’t work in the mental health field until 2011. That’s when I realized my passion was to work with others like myself. People with co-occurring disorders. In 2014, I finally returned to school for my Masters in Social Work.
I returned to school part time while working as a substance use counselor. In school I flourished. The school provided proper accommodations. The learning center helped me write and edit papers. And I received free psychiatric care. Master level classes challenged me and fed my curiosity. I had an endless desire to learn more. If it was a job, I would be a professional student!
It was 2016 when my interest in adult ADHD started and I sought out as much content as I could. I did my own research. And I attended many trainings about executive function and ADHD related topics. After graduation I worked full-time in the outpatient mental health therapy field. That’s when my ADHD became problematic again. And that was despite medication and doing what I love!
I was drowning in paperwork. I battled Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) and felt ashamed. I felt punished, socially and financially, for my differences and struggles. Differences that stemmed from ADHD and executive dysfunction.
I worked with my prescriber of over 12 years to find solutions. We tried new medications, and we sought new ADHD work accommodations. It was a rude awakening. Mental health workers and mental health organizations still saw ADHD as a behavioral problem, not a neurodevelopmental disorder. Most of my accommodations were either not accepted or promised and never provided. Stress and overwhelm made my executive functions worse.
Then COVID-19 hit. I caught my first round of COVID in February 2020. My job performance and productivity started to decline. I decreased my work hours, but they still expected the productivity of a 40-hour work week. I was beginning to catch up, but then I got COVID-19 again in December 2020. My health, especially my cognition, took a major hit and left me a COVID “long-hauler.” I started to explore ADDA’s website for my own ADHD support instead of for my clients.
ADDA has been the gift that keeps on giving for me and my journey with adult ADHD. I love the support groups and the amazing fellowship. The webinars and library of resources is invaluable. ADDA is an environment that normalizes adult ADHD and neurodiversity!
I have grown from my involvement with ADDA in ways I could never have imagined. I have even shared memberships with my family. I’ve encouraged friends to join. I’ve even asked friends to donate to the organization for my birthday. I love ADDA and the ADHDers (partners & parents too) I’ve found here. We all share the unique experiences that ADHD brings to our lives, and it becomes obvious why we all “get it.”