Diagnosis and treatment of attention deficit are keys to moving forward. Accepting your diagnosis and having the courage to own your symptoms and to discover your strengths will push you across the finish line. These inspiring women did just that — and were able to meet their goals and achieve career dreams.
Read how each “wonder woman” handled her diagnosis, developed workable treatment strategies, and had the resilience to get back up when life had her down.
A self-described scatterbrain who forged ahead to become a top actress in Hollywood
Michelle Rodriguez is known for playing tough, sexy women in the TV series Lost and in the Fast & Furious movies. In 2006, Rodriguez admitted she had ADHD in an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine. She said she decided against taking medication, but she was afraid that her attention deficit would thwart her career dreams. “I want to write and direct, but it’s not easy with ADHD. I have a hard time focusing when I’m alone. I’m a scatterbrain.” As it turns out, Rodriguez’s concerns were unwarranted.
During her childhood, Rodriguez’s family moved around a lot. She was born in 1978, in Texas, and she lived in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic before her family settled in New Jersey, when she was 11 years old. She dropped out of high school, but later went back to get her GED.
Any problems she had in school didn’t keep her from a successful acting career. After several jobs as an extra in movies, Rodriguez saw a notice for an audition in Backstage and took a chance, even though she had never before auditioned for a speaking role. She landed the lead in Girlfight, beating out 350 other women for the part. She received the 2001 Best Debut Performance Award at the Independent Spirit Awards.
When Rodriguez went on her second audition, she walked away with a part in The Fast and the Furious. She hasn’t stopped acting since, appearing in over 20 films and several TV series since 2000, as well as doing voice work for several video games. In 2005 she was in the cast that won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
Rodriquez has had rough times in her life, like many people diagnosed with ADHD. In 2006 she was charged with a DUI and, in 2009, she attempted to attack a photographer who got too close to her. By her own admission, she “partied hard.” Rodriguez discovered a pattern about herself: She rebels, realizes that she is hurting herself, and works to get her life back on track.
In 2013, Rodriguez told Cosmopolitan Latinas that she planned to take a break from acting to try her hand at writing and directing. “Sometimes you gotta believe,” she said. “And sometimes you may be wrong. But until you try it and put it out there, you can’t let anybody have an opinion about it. That’s how you get it done.”
A shy, withdrawn ADHD student who turned into a beauty queen and advocate
Brookley Wofford builds brand awareness through social media, public awareness campaigns, and multimedia platforms. She has worked with small start-up firms, nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies over her career. In addition, Wofford was the first columnist for Kaleidoscope Society, an online magazine created to empower women with ADHD.
Wofford was diagnosed with ADHD in second grade. Before the diagnosis, teachers had suggested that she be screened for autism. She was in the gifted program, read well above her grade level, but preferred spending recess in a quiet corner reading a book rather than playing with her classmates. Doing group projects made her so fearful that she sometimes had her mother pick her up from school rather than face them.
Wofford daydreamed when taking tests, doodling as if she “had no control over her pencil,” even though she knew the answers. She did better on tests when taking them alone in a quiet room.
Wofford’s mother wanted to know why her daughter struggled at school. When she found that her daughter had ADHD, many of her behaviors made sense. Wofford remembers feeling happy during the months after her diagnosis, and she blossomed socially and academically.
Wofford blossomed in other ways, as well. In 2012, she won the title of Miss Mississippi International, and, in 2015, she was crowned Miss Minnesota United States. Her program, “Unlocking Confidence Through the Arts,” is an effort to bridge the educational gaps of students with ADHD, especially those in low-income schools and in schools without art programs. She is also involved with Art Buddies and is a national spokesperson for Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD).
Wofford believes now that her ADHD gives her “a roadmap for success.” She uses medication, on a limited basis, and exercise and nutrition to curb symptoms. What helps her the most is art: being creative, helping others through Art Buddies, and being an advocate for the ADHD community. These activities relieve the stress that often accompanies her efforts to manage her own ADHD symptoms.
Wofford keeps a notebook of her success stories and photos of past moments that make her feel proud. When she doubts herself, she looks through the book to remember what she has achieved. This helps her look to the future with confidence.