October is ADHD Awareness Month. I was diagnosed with ADHD (back then ADD, which is no longer a diagnosis) around age 7. I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman with ADHD-- what makes us different & what makes us strong.
Truthfully, there are so many things about ADHD that no one told me when I was young that I think especially apply to women who have diagnosed or undiagnosed ADHD!
Here are a few things I want to share about being a woman with ADHD:
Having a problem with focus doesn't necessarily mean we lack focus: Yes, I sometimes procrastinate & often struggle to complete tasks… but I think “attention deficit” is a bit of a misnomer. Many women with ADHD don't lack attention. We have an abundance of attention! The world asks us to go wide-- to perform a million tasks, to only learn enough to pass a class on a million different things…. but our minds want to go deep into the things we're passionate about. Sometimes the difficulty is that we get pulled out of our focus & are asked to change though processes so quickly.
Being high-achieving doesn't make it easier: In Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore tells Harry, “of course it's happening inside of your head, Harry. Why would that mean it's not real?” This reminds me of ADHD because learning differences & mental disorders are highly misunderstood or stigmatized because people don't understand that the brain is part of the body. There is no separation between mental & physical health.
The high-achieving women you know who have ADHD may still struggle at work, home, or in social settings. It doesn't make her less intelligent or capable…. but if we minimize the fact that there is a chemical difference in the beautiful organ known as her brain (involving lower levels of dopamine & serotonin), it may be harder for her to ask for help. ADHD Symptoms change with the menstrual cycle: In the Follicular & Ovulatory phases, estrogen is high & that gives you a natural boost of serotonin & dopamine. Women with ADHD may still notice symptoms, but this can give them a significant benefit in terms of feeling motivated, productive, less anxious, & overall in a better mood. In the Luteal phase, estrogen lowers & dopamine rises. Serotonin & dopamine take a significant dip. Our sex hormones are intertwined with our neurotransmitters. Women with ADHD can benefit greatly from having strategies that help them manage their energy, emotions, work strategy, stress, & even nutrition according to the different phases of their cycle.
We try really, really hard: Speaking of high-achieving women… If you have ADHD, you probably spend a lot of your brain power just trying to keep your shit together. For that reason, it may be really painful when someone close to you criticizes you. If you find yourself feeling anxious, judged, like you're being left out, or worried that you're a bad person…. This is actually a little-known symptom of ADHD called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria.
If you've been told that you're just too sensitive, that could be part of your ADHD. Also, your sensitivity can also be your strength! You're probably a fiercely loyal friend, empathetic towards others, & generous to your loved ones.
Can you relate to any of these? I'd love to connect with more like-minded, ambitious female leaders with ADHD! Send me a DM on Instagram or join my email list & let's connect!
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