Support & Stories

The Blessing of an ADHD Diagnosis?

ADHD symptoms are overlooked or ignored in too many girls and women. I know because I was one of those girls. After I was diagnosed with attention and learning issues in adulthood, my life began to make more sense.

Accepting My Adult Diagnosis of ADHD and Learning Issues
An illustration of a rainbow, representing the author's characterization of her adhd and ld diagnosis as "the port of gold at the end of the rainbow"

At the age of 40, I was diagnosed with learning and attention issues. It was something of a surprise. I had not been hyperactive as a child. I could focus when it was important. I had been a high-achieving student and relatively successful at work. So how could I possibly have ADHD?

As I thought about it, my diagnosis and my life began to make sense, especially when I thought how differently ADHD shows up in women.

In my elementary school years, I tried hard to be a good girl, but I worried about everything. Puberty brought social challenges and the feeling that I was going crazy. My high school years were filled with stimulation-seeking and self-medication, and using my body to seek approval. In the 1970s, who knew all this was typical of ADHD in girls?

[Take This Test: ADHD Symptoms in Women and Girls]

In college, I learned to compensate. Overwhelmed by course selection, I chose a major with classes pre-selected. Challenged by working memory, I wrote papers (no tests!). I over-committed to things I found interesting. Self-medication with stimulants led to a passion for coffee and cigarettes.

After graduation, I pursued passion-driven work, thriving when the workload varied from day to day. I managed well enough when I was not responsible for anyone but myself. But marriage and kids increased the pressure, and I hit the wall when my third child was born. Becoming a neurotic mother was my way of coping with ADHD. Then came the diagnosis.

I danced through denial, shame, disappointment, and regret, followed by acceptance, understanding, and — most important — learning how to consciously tackle each of my challenges. It was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

[Read This Next: You’ve Got ADHD — Now What?]