In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to share a bit about my recent ADHD diagnosis.
Yup! You read that correctly. At my big age of 37, I’ve been diagnosed with inattentive ADHD.
I would have never thought to seek an evaluation without reading about the experiences of other women online who have been diagnosed later in life.
For the first time, I have an explanation for why I think, work, and create the way that I do. It was eye-opening to learn that I’m not a serial procrastinator, lazy, or “just didn’t want it bad enough”.
At this point, it has been about 2 months since my diagnosis. I’m finally starting to settle in and figure out what type of supportive structures I need to have in place to continue growing my business while creating my best work.
On the podcast this week, I’m sharing my experience with ADHD in hopes of destigmatizing the condition. It’s really common but severely underdiagnosed in women.
I also want to bring awareness about ADHD to other creative entrepreneurs who might be struggling, know something is off but can’t figure out what it is.
What made me seek a diagnosis?
I’ve always procrastinated and had trouble focusing, most people do. However, I didn’t realize how bad it was until recently because I couldn’t snap out of it.
Earlier this year I became really frustrated about my lack of progress relaunching the Brilliance Lounge community. I had put so much energy and resources into it but I was making a snail’s pace on a project that I should have finished months ago. It didn’t make sense because I was still excited about growing the community. There has been no shortage of ideas but I was only able to do the bare minimum.
I thought I was just burnt out or hitting the pandemic wall. No matter how hard I tried I wasn’t able to get into a solid working groove. This dragged on for about 6 months. I had a day where I felt myself on the verge of a meltdown and I knew there had to be an explanation.
How am I managing my ADHD?
Medication! It works.
I personally feel like I need support getting focused and maintaining focus so I only take the medication when I’m working. I take the lowest dose and I don’t take it on the weekends.
Outside of that, I think I’ve created enough structure through routines and habits to run my household without any major problems. I’ve been doing it for years so I don’t see a reason to change that.
What changes have I made to my work?
I wasn’t shocked by my diagnosis. It makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve always joked that I easily fall down rabbit holes and my mind is never quiet. In some ways, the diagnosis has been a relief because it has given me an explanation for why I think, work, and create the way that I do.
I 100% attribute my ability to come up with ideas and create to my ADHD. My mind is always spinning and turning ideas over. The challenge that I constantly face is trying to prioritize which of my ideas needs my attention first and maintaining the focus long enough to get it done.
Someone on Twitter described ADHD as “an overabundance of attention without an ability to control where it goes”. This is the most accurate way for me to describe what it feels like, especially as a creative person.
Every idea is important. They all deserve attention and I want to create them all right now. Because of that, I struggle with estimating how much time things take me to complete them and I often don’t set realistic timelines for my work.
In the past, that has left me overwhelmed and burnt out. Imagine giving yourself a ridiculously short timeline to finish something and making it worse because you spent a large chunk of the time procrastinating. It is a recipe for failure.
Now that I recognize these as challenges, I’m working to build more supportive systems for myself. I still do a lot of my initial planning on paper. I’ve overhauled my project management system to make projects more granular so that I can focus on smaller chunks of work. This gives me more things to check off so that my brain gets those hits of dopamine it’s seeking. I’m also able to see more progress.
I have 2 hours of focus time every morning. This is when I work on the most important thing for the day. I try to time it so my medication is kicking in and at its peak when I sit down to work. I also work a shorter day. An 8 hour day is not realistic. No one can be productive for that much time. If I can get in a solid 4 or 5 hours of work, I feel happy with that.
I’m remembering to give myself grace. I was really hard on myself the first few weeks that I was trialing the medication. I would feel frustrated if I took my medication but wasn’t being productive. I felt like there was no excuse not to get my work done when I was technically able to focus.
What I’ve realized is I’m still figuring it out and taking the medication doesn’t stop me from being distracted. It will take time to unlearn bad habits and build new routines.
Mostly I feel thankful to have an explanation and the ability to better support myself. I don’t see my ADHD as a hindrance. It is the reason that I’m so creative.