Support & Stories

5 Women with ADHD Who Are Changing the Conversation

These women powerhouses write, manage, and create — and they do it all with ADHD. Read how they take charge of their biggest challenges, how they came to terms with their diagnosis, and how they’re shining a light on the awesomeness of women with ADD, every single day.

Diverse group of grown women talking about what it's like to have ADHD
Diverse international and interracial group of standing women. For girls power concept, feminine and feminism ideas, woman empowerment and role cards design.

ADHD Wonder Woman #1: Gabrielle Moss

An editor, freelance writer, and author of Glop: Nontox!c, Expensive Ideas That Will Make You Look Ridiculous and Feel Pretentious, Gabrielle has written for many online and print outlets. She is an associate lifestyle editor at Bustle.com. She lives in New York.

Tell us what it was like being diagnosed with ADHD.

I was diagnosed in my late 20s. I was confused by the fact that I still had such problems focusing. I’d struggled with concentration my whole life, but adults had always seemed reluctant to examine me to see whether it was ADHD. Maybe because I was a girl and I got good grades. People assumed I wasn’t paying attention in class because I didn’t want to, and I didn’t know how to explain it.

My therapist urged me to get evaluated for ADHD, and my psychiatrist asked me how often I lost my keys. I suddenly understood this piece of my existence. It took a year to accept my diagnosis and to see that it was going to make things better.

What advice would you give your younger self?

To not listen to others’ advice and judgments. Teachers and adults said I didn’t focus because I was lazy or because I thought I was smarter than everyone. It did a lot of damage to my self-confidence.

What is the biggest challenge in your life?

I still struggle with focus, especially at work. In an open-plan office, with lots of conversations going on around me, I can barely reply to an email.

[Self-Test: ADHD in Women and Girls]

To stay organized, I have lots of hyper-specific folders on my computer, so I can find whatever I’m looking for. I have several organizational lists on my Google drive — what’s due when, where I am with projects. I also use Google calendar to plan every single event in my day. For focus, I have had good luck using white noise apps and timer-based list apps that make finishing a project feel like a game. I advocate for myself. I tell my loved ones when I have a big deadline coming up, and that I need to put everything toward that.

What is your biggest strength?

My ability to think quickly and unconventionally has been a huge asset, especially when it comes to writing humor.

What role has ADHD played in your success?

I credit ADHD for my ability to think outside the box. I take in a lot of information and details every day, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. It’s easy for me to dig around in my brain and find unusual ideas.

What is your favorite hobby or passion?

Reading for pleasure. ADHD helps me to immerse myself deeply in something I care about — reading for hours at a stretch is one of the greatest pleasures in my life.

Gabrielle’s Proudest Moment: My proudest accomplishment is the first article pitch I wrote at 28. Writing it and hitting send was the hardest thing I have ever done. Having the pitch accepted — and knowing someone out there thought I could write — changed my life.

Gabrielle was introduced to ADDitude by Kaleidoscope Society. Read Kaleidoscope’s full profile Q&A with Gabrielle here.


ADHD Wonder Woman #2: René Brooks

A mother of two, René is founder and editor-in-chief of “Black Girl, Lost Keys,” a blog that shares her experience of being diagnosed with ADHD and being black. It is a demographic, she says, that “is still skeptical about mental illnesses.” In addition to being a blogger and freelance writer, René owns and operates a virtual assistance company called Consonance Content. She lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Tell us what it was like being diagnosed with ADHD.

I was diagnosed with ADHD three times: at ages seven, 11, and 25, which was the age I started treatment. Due to the stigma attached to mental health issues, especially ADHD, in the African-American community, my mother did not want me to take medication.

As the responsibilities of life took their toll on me, I struggled with mood disorders and sought treatment. During a therapy session, I mentioned that I had been diagnosed with ADHD as a child. The therapist referred me to an ADHD specialist, and my life changed. I started treatment, and, a few years later, my blog, to chronicle what I experienced as a black woman dealing with ADHD.

What advice would you give your younger self?

That’s there’s nothing wrong with me. That everything I am so afraid of is going to turn out just fine.

[Free Resource: Yes, There Are People Like You!]

What is your biggest challenge, and how do you overcome it?

Distractibility. I run my own business, and my phone is constantly ringing. I struggle to stay in the present and avoid getting pulled in 10 different directions. I wear noise-canceling headphones and face away from doors and windows when I’m working. I work early in the morning, when things are quiet. I also ask my colleagues to email or gchat me, so they don’t disrupt my work flow. I respond to them later, after I have finished my work.

What is your biggest strength?

I come up with lots of ideas. In my work, creativity is important, and developing new ideas keeps the bills paid. Creativity also allows me to find unique ways to solve problems.

What is your favorite hobby or passion?

Writing and crocheting. During my teen years, I brought a crochet project to class. It helped me concentrate. At the time, I didn’t know it was a coping mechanism. The teachers were annoyed, and my mother was upset when she found out that I was making blankets in Spanish class. Crocheting helped me, though I didn’t understand why. Now I crochet whenever I want!

René’s ADHD Journey: I’m constantly learning new skills that have enabled me to go from being late to mostly being on time, from train wreck to semi-organized.

René was introduced to ADDitude by Kaleidoscope Society. Read Kaleidoscope’s full profile Q&A with René here.


ADHD Wonder Woman #3: Tiffany Jackson

A TV professional and a writer, Tiffany is the author of Allegedly, a novel for young adults, which was nominated for the NAACP Image Award. Tiffany received her B.A. in film from Howard University and her master’s in media studies from The New School. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Tell us what it was like to be diagnosed with ADD.

I was 16. Up until that point, I had only a 2.3 GPA, despite staying up all night studying. I pushed myself so hard that I had an anxiety attack the day before the SATs, and ended up in the hospital. I credit my mother’s tenacity for my diagnosis. She had an assistant who had ADHD, and she suggested that I be tested. My high school was resistant to testing, assuming I was nothing more than a failing black student. My mom persisted until the school relented. Before my diagnosis, my SAT scores were 940. After my diagnosis, I achieved a 1350.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Say something. I spent study halls in the bathroom, crying after getting back papers and tests that I had failed. I wish I had said, “Mommy, I’m really upset. Please help me” much sooner.

What is the biggest challenge in your life?

Overcoming shame and embarrassment when I was first diagnosed. Then, overcoming the shame and embarrassment when I had ADD moments at work. I decided to share my story so kids could see themselves in me and know that they can also achieve their dreams.

What is your biggest strength?

My imagination! It has played a huge role, not only in being a storyteller, but also in being a creative problem-solver.

What role has ADD played in your success?

Knowing I have ADHD makes me aware of my weaknesses, and I aggressively compensate for them by using the tools I learned in school and in my everyday life.

What is your favorite hobby or passion?

Traveling the world. I’m not sure if ADD plays a role in it, but I don’t go back to the same place twice. I want to explore the world. Culture fascinates me.

How Tiffany Sees It: Women with ADHD can support each other and not think negative things, like ‘I’m such a flake, what’s wrong with me?’ Instead, we can think, ‘This is who I am — I’m awesome and a hard worker, and I have great ideas, so deal with it.’

Tiffany was introduced to ADDitude by Kaleidoscope Society. Read Kaleidoscope’s full profile Q&A with Tiffany here.


ADHD Wonder Woman #4: Mariel Henkoff

An account manager at futurethink, which helps organizations solve problems through innovation, Mariel coordinates training sessions all over the world for clients. She spent her school years knowing that she was smart, but struggling with academics. She found out why as a junior in high school, when she was diagnosed with ADHD. Mariel lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Tell us about when you were diagnosed with ADD.

Because I wasn’t disruptive or hyperactive, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was a junior in high school, despite having struggled in school for many years. I started taking medication. The medicine and the knowledge of my diagnosis helped me a lot. Understanding why I performed and learned differently than my peers made me feel much better. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was learning.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Find other people with ADHD. As soon as I got to know people who thought and learned like me, I understood that my struggles in the past were because of my differences.

What role has ADHD played in your success?

It has taught me to be empathetic. I am in tune with how people perceive themselves and process information.

What is your biggest challenge?

Enthusiasm is my biggest challenge and my biggest strength. I get very excited about ideas and goals, and I forget to pare back my enthusiasm when talking to or presenting to people who don’t have ADHD. My enthusiasm can sometimes overwhelm them.

What is your favorite hobby or passion?

I have a lot of hobbies, and I change them frequently. Right now, I am having fun being a Google local guide. I search out new and interesting places and review them on Google.

Mariel’s Productivity Secret: A productive strategy that I used at my previous job is called ‘quiet hours.’ I would set aside three hours a day as quiet hours for my team. During this time, nobody in the office talked to each other unless a meeting had been scheduled. This kind of uninterrupted work time is when I tackle the big items on my to-do list for the day.

Mariel was introduced to ADDitude by Kaleidoscope Society. Read Kaleidoscope’s full profile Q&A with Mariel here.


ADHD Wonder Woman #5: Moira McGuinness

A content manager at the EPA, Moira wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until she was in her 40s. Her diagnosis helped her overcome the shame she felt over being unable to manage her day-to-day life as an adult. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

Tell us about when you were diagnosed with ADD.

I say “identified” rather than diagnosed. I was in my mid-40s. The quality of my work was declining and I couldn’t focus. I started searching for answers. I explained my symptoms to my gynecologist at a routine visit, who suggested I talk to a psychiatrist about the possibility of having ADHD. Once I gave my psychiatrist my full history, he confirmed that I had ADHD. Since I had suffered a traumatic brain injury as an infant, I asked him how I could tell what was “true” ADHD. He said it didn’t matter. It was such a relief.

What is the biggest challenge in your life?

Until I had my ADHD identified, I lived paralyzed by shame and blinded by denial. Taking medication gives me the energy I need to do what I can and the perspective to get help when necessary. Becoming aware of how shame operates with my inner critic was another breakthrough. I remember calling myself a “stupid loser.” I immediately recognized I had been doing it for years!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Practice mindfulness to cultivate self-awareness. Get curious about how your feelings manifest themselves in your body and your thoughts. That will help you discover what’s getting in the way of achieving your goals.

What do you consider your biggest strength? How does it help you?

Resilience and optimism. Whatever I didn’t get done today I believe I can and will get done tomorrow.

What is your favorite hobby or passion? Does ADD play a role in it?

Storytelling. I took a storytelling class a few years ago. Each of us had to develop a story and tell it in front of our friends. I told a story about how I struggled with self-image until I met someone at an ADHD conference who showed me how blessed I was. I’ve been hooked on storytelling since. I think ADHD enriches my empathy for other people’s struggles.

Moira’s Advice: Find a coach and a tribe of a few like-minded people to support you in your day-to-day life.

Leave a Reply