Guest Blogs

“No, I Am Not an Airhead. I Just Have ADHD!”

I didn’t think there was a reason for my behaviors, until my friend compared me to ever-forgetful Dory in the Disney movie.

Forgetfulness can be one of the symptoms of ADHD.
Forgetfulness can be one of the symptoms of ADHD.

I’ve always thought of myself as an airhead. From an early age, I struggled with forgetfulness and disorganization. When my issues inconvenienced others, I apologized for “being such a ditz.” I thought the “dumb blonde” stereotype was invented because of people like me. It never occurred to me that there was an actual reason for my behavior.

I thought it was just the way I was.

Until a friend and I took our kids to see the Disney movie, Finding Nemo. After the movie, we discussed our favorite characters. When I said I liked Dory the best, my friend laughed and said, “Well, of course you’d like her best. She’s the cartoon version of you.”

“But Dory can’t remember anything,” I protested. “I’m occasionally forgetful and somewhat disorganized, but I’m nothing like Dory.”

My friend stared at me. “Your forgetfulness is not an occasional problem.”

[Self-Test: Do You Have a Working Memory Deficit?]

“Everyone forgets things now and then,” I insisted.

But she shook her head. “No, not like you do. Yours is like ADHD or something.”

The conversation was my first inkling that maybe my disorganization and forgetfulness weren’t just “dumb blonde” syndrome. But ADHD? Wasn’t that for first-grade boys who can’t sit still?

I was in my late twenties and I was a teacher, for goodness sake. If I had ADHD, I would have known it long before now. But the research said otherwise. I learned that many girls with ADHD go undiagnosed because their attention problems are usually less disruptive in a classroom setting. I took an online assessment and determined that, like many females, my ADHD was the inattentive type.

[Self-Test: ADHD Symptoms in Women and Girls]

Giving my behavior a name brought a sense of relief. I wasn’t just a ditzy blond, or a space cadet, or a daydreamer, as so many teachers had labeled me in elementary school. My problems with disorganization had left me feeling like a failure so many times. Knowing there was a reason behind it all was like finally putting down the heavy baggage I’d carried most of my life.

I researched coping mechanisms and found that setting a timer helped me tremendously. I began using the Pomodoro Technique to focus on one task for a set time period. If I remembered another task I needed to do, I wrote it down and kept working on the first task. Before my ADHD revelation, I flitted from one task to another based on where my thoughts took me, and I never completed anything.

A family calendar has helped me a lot. My children are in several extracurricular activities, and I always struggled to remember who needed to be where at what time. Now my children are responsible for writing down their activities on the family calendar, so I have all of the information in one place. Every morning, I set alarms on my phone for the times I need to leave to pick them up from their activities.

Recently, I took my children to see Nemo’s sequel, Finding Dory. As I watched the little bluefish struggle to remember things, I recognized myself. But I also recognized myself when I watched Dory overcome her challenges and solve her problems in unconventional ways. She reminded me of myself, trying to navigate the waters of a life with ADHD.

[Free Resource: 10 Ways to Get Organized This Weekend]