Surviving ADHD as an Adult
So, you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, and you’re probably thinking, “What do I even do with this information?” If you’re anything like me, you’ll write a painfully funny standup bit about it and pray your doctor doesn’t ever look you up on YouTube. If public personal disclosure isn’t your thing, I’ve learned a few rough but realistic coping mechanisms for dealing with my newfound learning disability in an uncaring, participation-trophy-less world.
Do Your Research
I was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD at the age of 31, which meant I had a lot of re-learning to do about how society viewed ADHD and those who had it. I used to roll my eyes at a disorder for it being “hard to pay attention.” But learning that most people’s “annoying inconvenience,” manifested in me as a torturously difficult task, was pretty mind blowing. I also had to relearn that gender socialization makes the disorder less visible in girls and women because we’re basically taught that pain is not only normal, but also embarrassing. Getting your period? Save that cramping talk for the high school locker room where you secretly deal each other ibuprofin in exchange temporary social status. Thinking about sex? Well it’s going to hurt, but here’s a Cosmo article on how to keep a poker face when he re-enacts the last porno movie he stole from his parent’s bedroom.
For women, pain is just a normal part of life.
Remember that Doctors are People
Doctors are human beings, and thus prone to bias, sensitivity, empathy and callousness at the same rate as anyone else. Some of them want to help you, and some want to make money of prescriptions. If you go to a psychiatrist and they fixate on the one time you were depressed in high school because you found out Marilyn Manson had a girlfriend, and start talking about medication you never asked for, consider getting a second opinion. You’re the expert of your own story, and any doctor who tries to re-define your lived experience is going to be a bad time.
You Probably Have Some Other Shit Going On
If you got diagnosed late, chances are the effects of ADHD have manifested in other parts of your life. I had panic attacks my whole life but never could describe the sensation I was feeling, because I thought panic attacks looked like an epic meltdown like 2007 Britney Spears. But everything I felt was internal, because again, doesn’t it belong there? I treated my panic for about 5 years before learning about ADHD, and that panic attacks were my body’s coping mechanism. Ten years ago, when I was in college and the other kids were taking Adderall to write that last minute paper, I was using the homeopathic version: panic and adrenaline. Unfortunately, this does not make you fun at parties. I’ve had to do a lot of internal digging, and so will you. If you’re not in therapy already, get in there and figure why the hell you’re such a big hot mess.
You’re Still An Asshole
Look, it’s great that you now understand all of the shitty behaviors you’ve previously attributed to “just being an asshole” in your 20’s. Interrupting people, being flakey and noncommittal, impulsive behavior, etc. are all shitty social side effects of deeply manifested ADHD. It’s empowering to finally know the reason behind some of these reactions you have…most importantly, so you fucking stop doing them. Yes, you have a reason, but it’s not an excuse. Be ready to walk the line between acknowledging a disorder that has resulted in you mis-stepping socially, but also take responsibility for the impact you have on people. Manage meds, get therapy, whatever, but don’t take accountability off of yourself. ADHD doesn’t change the fact that constantly talking over people, being impatient or not reading texts thoroughly still makes you an asshole. Your friends have stuck with you this long (hopefully), so they’ll probably appreciate you appreciating their patience.