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Have you ever been to jail? Yeah, me neither. But I DO love true crime, and I make it a point to watch a lot of prison shows, like Orange is the New Black. Being diagnosed with ADHD is a lot like entering unfamiliar territory, like a prison. The problem is, we don’t get guides. So, like the great gal I am, I am here to give you an ADHD guide. 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, 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. It is funny how a list of 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
Ok, NOW you can come back to that Facebook Group we were talking about, and talk to some people. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great place to get information, it just isn’t the spot for you to be without a diagnosis (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).
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 women with ADHD, I created one. Black women with ADHD 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.
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 is not reassuring to them. 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 with a prescription and a vague direction about going to see a therapist or something. That’s great, and there is a place for therapy, but I have learned through ADHD coaching that therapy helps you heal the past. 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 and 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 patient with yourself if 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. 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.
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!
ADDitude’s ADHD experts podcast
ADHD Blogs and Web
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 have forever. People will tell you that you shouldn’t use your ADHD as an excuse. Here’s the thing: if you were blind and people saw you walking with a dog or using a stick, nobody would expect you to be able to manage without those things. You can live a good life with ADHD, but you are going to have to work at it, and you are going to need support. 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 have never ever in my life 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’s likely going to happen is that you’re going to use your medication, become so much better than you were before. Those people are going to tell everyone who will listen about how you have ADHD and you took medication and they always knew you could do it. I know how unfair it feels to be judged for this, and I don’t blame you for balking at the idea of facing ridicule for getting help with a medical condition. 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,