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“You’re Not ADD (Part 4): You’re Fine”

They say attention deficit is invisible in girls, and now I understand why: we work our butts off to appear normal. One woman shares what it’s like to be considered “too functional to have ADHD.”

Reviewed on April 2, 2019

My personal opinion, as my readers have surmised by now, is that attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) is a brain type but not necessarily a disorder. I believe that, by choosing the right attitude, we can overcome our challenges and figure out how to live with our limitations. Or better yet, get our mysterious minds to work in our favor. I know that because I managed mine so well that even I couldn’t tell I had it!

As a child, I had grownups demanding and directing my focus. On my own, I had to learn ways to work with my quirks. I never in a million years imagined I had ADHD. I wasn’t hyperactive; I was happy. Having to come back inside three times before I was truly ready leave the house was normal in my family. I thought all young adults had chaotic lives – jobs that didn’t work out, moving 10 times in 3 years, romances in the double-digits.

They say ADHD is invisible in girls, and now I understand why. We care what people think about us and work our butts off to appear normal. We gather support from our friends and try to solve our problems. We focus constantly on self-improvement, and apply our anxiety to managing our symptoms.

I created a lifestyle that leveraged my chimerical focus. My freelance art and design business provided plenty of stimulation in short-term, one-on-one situations, where I could use my problem solving skills brilliantly and hyperfocus beautifully, working under pressure on a kaleidoscope of projects. As a new mom, I could move mountains during nap times.

But when I had problems, they were certainly ADHD problems. I’d put a positive spin on the lost days, the stupid mistakes, or the despair now known as RSD – but they are a fact. Therapists and coaches always helped, but the troubles always returned.

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When I’d be tested for ADHD, which happened several times over the years, I tried to be honest. If I’d had a good week, I’d answer no to questions like “I take on so many commitments that I can’t keep up,” “I can’t get things done unless there’s an absolute deadline,” “I have trouble keeping my attention focused when working,” and “I am forgetful in my daily activities” – even though the answer on another week might be TOTALLY!

My husband was no help, either. On the quizzes, he’d compare me to my other family members, next to whom I seemed incredibly sane and stable. And they never asked the million-dollar question, “Do you and your spouse fight constantly over the things she sort of forgot to tell you and the way she can never quite finish folding the laundry?”

So over and over I heard the answer: You’re too functional to have ADHD.

And for years, I agreed. Because I had the good sense to idiot-proof my life with spare keys. Because I had friends who, when I was in a mood and jerked them around, would forgive me. Because I remembered that bright days were always around the corner from bad days. Without a clock to punch, I could always take the extra time I needed to do the job right.

But I could never get the help I really needed.

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  1. Not to be rude, but I didn’t really get anything out of this particular article. I guess it was probably just supposed to be this lady’s personal experience.

  2. Leyla77 – I think the point of the article was to raise the awareness that ADHD can look (present itself) differently in different people. In addition, we as a society need to move away from the stereotype along with the stigma that come from people who really don’t understand what it is. Also, I think this woman wrote it to show other women that if they are experiencing these things, they are not alone, and there is help out there; that they don’t have to continue struggling to just “get through” life but to show them that they can live a full life and they are not less than. However, if you didn’t get anything out of the article, that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with that because not everyone is going to connect with everything.

  3. I resonate with the author’s thoughts of “lost days” and still struggle sometimes. This is an issue for women and girls because we are working to regulate ourselves based on many things but one major thing is the need to be perceived as “having it together.” I was always told I was mature for my age but it came out of stifling impulses to mot say or do awkward things in social settings. If women feel like the author they should know there are resources and help to understand and treat ADD as they see fit, medication/no medication, paying attention to the drivers of their behavior, or simply talking with a therapist to resolve or find better ways to deal with underlying issues like RSD or feeling like a failure. Good to bring it to light for women who may be looking here for answers on what is causing their difficulty.

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