“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.”
My personal opinion, as my readers have surmised by now, is that ADHD 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.
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.