Kids Aren’t the Only Ones With ADHD
I Am One of the Lost Girls
When we hear ADHD we generally think of children, right? According to ADDitude Magazine, 4.4% of the US adult population has ADHD -- but only 20% of those people seek treatment for it. Most women are diagnosed with a mood disorder before someone catches our ADHD; one-third of us have anxiety disorders. Half have considered suicide. We have higher rates of anorexia and bulimia. And between 2008 and 2012, prescriptions for ADHD medication among 26-34-year-old women spiked 85%.
So at least someone’s paying attention to the fact that those of us with ADHD were undiagnosed as children. And now that we’re trying to hold down jobs and families, we need help. This is what happened to me. I was always spacey, always prone to outbursts in class, the type of kid socially behind the times. I couldn’t read social cues and as a result had few friends. I was immature and mildly wreckless, mildly disorganized but saved by a stint in a Catholic middle school which enforced hyper-organization.
Diagnosed with ADHD as an Adult
But when I hit adulthood, things got hairy. I was always the mom forgetting the diaper bag. If I didn’t forget the diaper bag, I forget to put clean diapers and wipes inside it. Or I forget a wet bag for my cloth diapers. Luckily I breastfed or I’d have forgotten the baby’s basic sustenance. I was still prone to interrupting my friends, to spinning grandiose ideas that never quite followed through. My house and car were a wreck -- I mean when you opened my car door, fast-food cups spilled out, and this was before I had kids old enough to make a mess in there. My house was in a perpetual state of disaster, which saw us buying new underwear because the laundry wasn’t done.
I cried about this to my psychiatrist, whom I was seeing for depression and an anxiety disorder. “Here,” she said. “You and your husband both fill one out. I think you have ADHD.” And I did. A raging case of it, in fact. So I started stimulant drugs: Vyvanse and Adderall. And they worked like the good fairy had swooped down to clean my house. Suddenly, stuff got picked up. Suddenly, my car wasn’t a rolling toxic waste site. Suddenly, I wasn’t forgetting all the things all the time. I slept better. Life is so much easier now than before I was diagnosed.
Recognize the Signs
Do you have an undiagnosed case of ADHD? It’s hard to tell for sure. But there are definitely signs to look for. Here are just a few tell-tale signs we adapted from ADDitude to help you out:
- Do you have issues dealing with money, mail, or other “stuff”?
- Do you often lose steam in the middle of the day, “feeling assaulted?”
- Do kids whining for “one more thing” drive you absolutely bonkers?
- Do you spend too much time just coping, looking for lost things, “catching up or covering up?”
- Do you often “feel like life is out of control”: like you can’t get hold of anything and everything is just whirling around and happening to you as if you have no agency?
- Do you think “you have better ideas than other people, but are unable to organize or execute them?”
- Do you feel like you’ll never meet your goals or your potential?
- Do people think you’re selfish because you never write thank-you cards?
When I read the list the first time, the last one made me break down. I remembered those thank-you cards for my wedding. I remembered spending a ton of money on nice stationary. I collated the gifts with the names and wrote something nice and specific about how we would use each one. I put them in envelopes. I sealed them. I addressed them. And they sat. And they sat. And they sat. And I’d see them and feel guilty and think, I’ll mail these soon. And I never did. I threw them out, crying, at our five-year anniversary.
October is ADHD Awareness Month. And it’s important, especially if you’re a mom and you think you have ADHD, to get screened and possibly treated. That doesn’t necessarily mean drug treatment, especially if you’re nursing. But it does mean that you get help managing your neurological difference so you can move through the world without feeling overwhelmed, trapped, and frightened.
It will help you be a better person. It will help you be a better parent. And in the end, it will help you accomplish your goals, whatever they are, and live a life free of shame and self-blame. It’s been a godsend for me. And it could be for you.