I fell in love a few years ago with the show Orange Is the New Black. Yes, I promise this is going somewhere, stick with me.
One of the funniest moments in that show is when the main character Piper purchases a book to tell her what to expect when she goes to prison. She then tells a fellow inmate that she isn’t behaving the way the book said she would. Hilarity ensues!
Your Ultimate ADHD Guide
Being diagnosed with ADHD is a lot like entering unfamiliar territory, like a prison. The problem is, we don’t get a personal guide. So, like the great gal I am, I am here to give you an ADHD guide. I’ve also written some awesome guides to common ADHD problems. You can find those ADHD workbooks here.
We are going to focus on what to do when you or somebody you love is diagnosed with ADHD. It isn’t a ramen noodle packet like Piper was negotiating for on the show, but dammit it will have to do! Let’s go.
Step One: Get away from the web and get yourself an actual diagnosis
I consider myself an armchair psychiatrist, so I know how hard this is. I will head over to Healthline (even wrote for them) and run down the symptoms of every problem that you have and compile a diagnosis quick as a wink. . . but we can’t do that in this case.
The tendency of the general public to become doctors capable of diagnosis is pretty miraculous. (disclaimer: I realize that for many reasons, people cannot get to the doctor, and I’m not discounting that support groups may be the only way to cope. Do your best until you can get to the doc, no judgment here).
It is funny how a list of ADHD symptoms and a few anecdotes can make us forget that we have ABSOLUTELY NO MEDICAL TRAINING. I mean, we can barely put a band-aid on without getting it stuck on the wrong body part. If you suspect that you have ADHD, go talk to your doctor.
Certainly, the web and support groups can help you, but there are a few conditions that can mimic ADHD, such as PTSD or Bipolar disorder. Your distractibility could indicate ADHD or something else. If you don’t have ADHD, nothing in this ADHD Guide is going to be able to help resolve your problem.
Go talk to the doctor about that. I’ll be here diagnosing you using nothing but my life experiences and general opinion until you get back.
Step Two: Now that you have a diagnosis, get some support
When you’re first diagnosed with ADHD, you may find that your friends and family are. . . well, a little less than supportive. There are a few groups I have joined that have become a wealth of knowledge, support, and friendship with women who really understand the struggle.
I’ve listed them here so you can join and get yourself with some people who understand.
Because I feel so strongly about the importance of safe places for Black people of marginalized genders , I created one for those of us with ADHD. If you are a Black person of a marginalized gender, you can join The Unicorn Squad!
Fellas, don’t feel left out. You can join these groups if you’re ready to start learning more about your ADHD:
Step Three: Ignore the naysayers
Speaking of those lovely friends and family of yours, no ADHD Guide would be complete without mentioning your relationship with them. If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “You don’t have ADHD, you just need to . . . _____,” I would be a millionaire.
Fill that blank in with all manner of advice that you’ve already thought of, from list-making to buying a calendar and repeat until you’re ready to scream. Take a step back from your frustration for just a second, and realize that these people love you.
They don’t know, because you have never told them, about the hidden closet in your house filled with useless flotsam and jetsam from calendars, lists, and neurotypical advice that you have taken. . . though I hold a particular spot in my heart for The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. I also enjoyed this spin-off book modeled after Marie Kondo’s bestseller. You can also read about how the KondoMarie method worked for me.
Neurotypical advice isn’t going to work for you, my dear. Your family and friends love you, and because they love you, they want you to do well and be well. You coming home with a diagnosis of a disorder that sounds made up to them is not reassuring. That’s ok.
As you learn more about the disorder, you will feel more confident in what you need from them, what you don’t want to hear them say to you, and who you just can’t share that part of your life with.
Not everyone is going to accept your diagnosis and that’s ok because it isn’t theirs to accept or deny.
Step Four: Get yourself a good ADHD coach
Most of the time when you receive an ADHD diagnosis, you are leaving the doctor’s office confused. You’ll get a prescription and a vague direction about going to see a therapist or something.
That’s great, and there is a place for therapy. I have learned great skills and new confidence through ADHD coaching. In other words, the ADHD guide is directing you to go find an ADHD guide.
When you are looking for practical solutions to such questions as “how do I stop forgetting my notebook in the deep freezer because I was trying to write and cook dinner at the same time?” You need an ADHD coach for that.
Get your handy device and grab yourself some Google, now is the time to dig in. You’ll get yourself someone who can give you a crash course in the ways that YOUR ADHD works. If coaching isn’t an option for you, that’s alright too. Come to blogs like this one, re-read this ADHD guide as you need to. Do your research on overcoming symptoms and stay as patient with yourself as you can.
It is going to be a journey, but you’re going to be able to start moving towards recovering from a life filled with procrastination, frustration, and hopelessness. (PS- I coach and consult. You can get on my calendar at http://bit.ly/consultwithrene .)
Step Five: Forgive yourself for past mistakes
One of the things that many women with a late ADHD diagnosis struggle with is forgiving themselves for what they perceive as a failing on their part to live up to their potential.
People with ADHD struggle with shame and reliving times in their lives that they aren’t proud of. When you are looking at symptoms like time blindness, lack of motivation, distractibility, and a variety of life-altering roadblocks, it is easy to understand why.
I spent most of my formative years loathing report card time because I hated to see “does not perform to the best of her ability.” Umm, well, I kinda WAS performing as well as I could.
When you tie someone’s shoelaces together and expect them to run, that’s going to happen. The good news is that now the laces are untied, and we can lace them up properly to get you running.
As hard as it is to let go of the shame and hurt of the past, you can do it. Whatever happened in your life before is over and it is time for you to spend the time you have left becoming the best you that you have ever been. It’s going to be a journey, so get ready.
Step Six: Read every piece of literature you can
If you’re not a reader, but you don’t mind hearing stories, go listen to a podcast or get yourself an Audible subscription. In order for you to grapple with the challenges that ADHD throws at you, you’re going to need to see what is coming up.
Besides this ADHD Guide, there is a lot of great information available with the click of a button, or a walk around the library. Here are just a few book titles that are going to help you get started:
Driven To Distraction – Driven to distraction is a quintessential book on ADHD. In there, you’ll learn about how your brain is an expensive foreign car with really crappy breaks, and how you can get out of wrecks.
The ADHD Effect On Marriage –Melissa Orlov’s book will show you everything you need to know about navigating ADHD as a person in a relationship. Believe it or not, there are a lot of ways your ADHD may be messing with your love life. This is a great place to start learning about that.
Taking Charge of Adult ADHD– Another great book to get you started learning how to function well with Adult ADHD.
Tackling Your Time Perception Challenges Workbook – Written by yours truly, this workbook helps people with ADHD to explore their relationship with time and helps them to take control of their time management challenges. If you’re the person who sits down for five minutes and gets up an hour later, this is for you!
Everything You Need To Completely Clean With ADHD – It is one of the bestselling workbooks in the store, and with good reason. Cleaning with ADHD can present a huge executive function challenge.
Podcasts are also gaining a ton of popularity and you HAVE to give them a try if you love learning about ADHD. There are so many good ones, with people who are passionate about bringing the ADHD community together and reducing stigma.
I listed a few of my favorites here because I am a podcast junkie!
ADHD Rewired – Especially Episode 61 ( spoiler alert – I’m the guest )
See in ADHD – If you’re just dying to hear from me again, Listen to this episode.
ADDitude’s ADHD experts podcast
ADHD Essentials – One of my new favorites. . . annnnnd you can catch me on episode 42
Embracing Intensity – I had the pleasure of meeting up with Aurora on Episode 103 and we had such a blast!
ADHD Blogs and Websites
Let’s not forget blogs. The people who blog about ADHD put their lives on display so you can gain something from the shared experience. I absolutely couldn’t create an ADHD Guide without including them in it.
Here’s where I insert a shameless plug for Black Girl, Lost Keys but I’m clearly not the only game in town. Check out these other ADHD peeps!
These are some of the best minds in ADHD, and if you follow their advice, you’re DEFINITELY going to be heading in the right direction.
Step Seven: Monitor your emotions carefully
People with ADHD struggle with impulsivity, rejection-sensitive dysphoria, and anxiety. We are a BUNDLE of emotions, and that is ok.
Nobody has a right to tell you how to experience your emotions, but also please be considerate of the people around you. If you allow your emotions to control you, you’ll soon find yourself by yourself.
Do the very best you can not to make major life decisions or have discussions while you are upset. Allowing your emotions to control you can lead to trouble you just don’t need.
You’re not going to be perfect in this area because nobody is, but keep working at it and you’ll improve.
Step Eight: Let go of your need for perfection/neurotypical expectations
I know we covered the diagnosis part in step one, but I need you to understand that you have ADHD. It is a neurological disorder that disrupts your ability to do things in the way that neurotypical people do. That means you will struggle in the areas of time management, organization, and emotional management. There is NO cure for ADHD, meaning this is something you will be living with and learning about forever.
People will tell you that you shouldn’t use your ADHD as an excuse. Here’s the thing: ADHD isn’t an excuse, but it is an explanation for what you’re experiencing. You can live a good life with ADHD, but you are going to have to work at it. You are going to need support.
Dealing with difficult people can be intense; you’re going to learn to stand in what you know is true for yourself through this process. If someone doesn’t like that, screw them. This is your life and you need to be able to get through it with whatever help you have available.
Step Nine: Do not allow people to dictate to you whether medication should be used
I’ve never heard someone say something like ” you have high blood pressure, but that’s the way God made you. Don’t take those pills and allow those doctors to drug you up.” I bet you can’t recall anyone saying this either because it never happens.
I know that you want everyone to support and endorse what you are doing with your life, but you aren’t going to get the support you’re looking for . . . at least not at first.What will happen is you’ll learn your symptoms and improve.
Those people are going to tell everyone who will listen about how you have ADHD and you took medication. They’ll say they always knew you could do it. I know how unfair it feels to be judged for this. I don’t blame you for balking at the idea of facing ridicule for getting the help you deserve.
There’s not much you can do but succeed, and succeed you will. Take your pills, pay your bills, and leave the haters in the dust.
Step Ten: Be prepared for your life to change
Part of managing ADHD means that you’re going to have to make some changes in your life. Human beings enjoy comfort, we aren’t big fans of huge changes. Everyone can agree on that. You are going to have to change your entire lifestyle.
The way you think, the way you behave, the things you do during the course of the day? All of that is going to change in order to manage your ADHD.
If life with ADHD was easy to manage, we wouldn’t even need an ADHD Guide. Sometimes these changes are going to feel unfair, and you won’t like them. Sorry kid, those are the breaks.
Like every other curveball life throws, you’re going to have to learn to swing at it. Sometimes you’ll hit, sometimes you’ll miss, and all of the time you’ll be learning how to do better. Believe it or not, you’re going to conquer this thing as long as you keep trying.
There are so many things to explore now that you’ve joined the ADHD club. I’m hoping that if you can get started with these basics, you will be fine.
Use This ADHD Guide, come back to it often in order to help you remember what you need to manage. Get ready for the ride of your life!
Until next time,
Read more from Black Girl, Lost Keys
How An ADHD Diagnosis Transformed Me
ADHD Symptoms In Adults Aren’t Character Flaws
16 thoughts on “The Ultimate ADHD Guide – 10 Steps To Master Your ADHD”
Rene, thanks for the insightful post. My 12-year-old daughter has ADHD and I read everything that I can get my hands on in hopes of being a good support for her. I hope that she will grow up to be as kick-ass as you!
Kim, I am thrilled that the post was helpful for you and your little one! Us ADHD girls HAVE to stick together. 🙂
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I really love you. I are so brave and beautiful for writing all this information here. I am so deeply grateful to you for empowering me and others.
Thanks so much and can you take my last name off. Sorry
This goes for other cultures as well. Very good list
Thank you for reading. There are definitely cultural specific articles, but this one, in particular, is about ADHD in general.
I love this list. LOVE it.
I do wish people within the ADHD community could make space for those of us who have chosen NOT to take meds, though. Definitely folks who take meds run into #9 as you describe, and it’s absolutely out of line. You’re right: no one else should dictate whether you take meds.
But what I run into as someone who has chosen not to take meds (not for some woo-woo reasons–it’s an across-the-board thing, probably related to hypochondria; I’m labelled “medication averse” in my records,) is that I am welcomed with open arms into ADHD spaces–until it comes out that I don’t take meds. Then I am told I “can’t really have ADHD” because I don’t take meds for it. And I receive the same treatment from outside ADHD spaces: “if you’re not on meds you don’t REALLY have ADHD/anxiety/MDD.” I never tell fellow ADHDers “you don’t need meds.” I’m cool with meds for other people–but not for me.
I’m not internet-diagnosed. I’m honest-to-gods, two years of my butt in the chair before the therapist said, “Look, I’ve been thinking and researching…what if you have adult ADHD?” My ADHD is as real as anyone else’s, meds or no.
I never see any discussion about this on lists and whatnot, though. It’s always “take your meds” (which is a SUPER important message,) never “you don’t have to be on meds for your ADHD to be real” (which is a reality for more folks than me–for instance, recovering addicts of all types may understandably wish to avoid the typical ADHD meds.)
This isn’t to criticize your list at all; again, it’s really wonderful. It’s just to say “we’re out here in the squad, too, please extend us the belief and support we extend to you.” Med-less ADHD has been frighteningly isolating.
Hey there! Meds are a personal decision in my opinion. There are way too many people who are way too passionate on either side of the argument and I just don’t think either one is better. It is all about what works for the individual. Please excuse my delay in getting back to you, it has been a mad house.
Yes and thank you for saying this! And Rene, thank you for this article. I am an adult diagnosed late in life and working hard now to educate myself and help my boys who are now diagnosed.
B, I would love it if we could get in contact with each other. I am also unmedicated and it would be great to be able to chat with someone about that. Even if by email. I’m not such a phone person.
Again, thank you to both of you.