How I discovered I had ADHD
Like many AFAB humans in their 30’s in the midst of a never-ending lockdown, I turned to TikTok for entertainment and like some people, I found myself resonating with a lot of content I was being fed by the algorithm. I looked at this with a dubious perspective. I was seeing myself mirrored back, but I was conscious that sometimes, when we see something once we start to see it all around us. I didn’t really take much notice of it, or take on the label (I’ve always been pretty anti-label until I collected a number of them in a short period of self-discovery) until I started to date online (for the first time in my life). After trying to connect with people both online and on dates, I saw a pattern I couldn’t un-see…. the people with ADHD, they were like me… we related in ways I couldn’t ignore.
I made a new friend during that time, and we deconstructed our entire lives together through (literally) hundreds of hours of voice messages (this is a pretty ADHD thing to do btw) and we both started realizing that we had been living our lives with ADHD. Around this time, my psychologist also brought up the topic of neurodivergence & I then started to really take this thing seriously. It didn’t seem likely, as I had not struggled in the way many with ADHD do (a post for another time) but it was clear that my way of thinking & moving through the world was undoubtedly neurodivergent. Since then, I’ve been diagnosed by two psychiatrists (the systems around this in Australia are a joke) and now proudly use this label to describe my uniquely ADHD traits.
Why I thought I didn’t have ADHD
I’ve gotten through life OK. I had a good upbringing that fostered independence (my psychologist might disagree that this is a good thing) and creativity. My parents were entrepreneurs, and while they worked a lot, I absorbed their ways of moving through the world by osmosis with a “you’re not the boss of me” attitude that my teachers hated but my parents saw as a sign of strength and individuality. Had I grown up in a typical household, at a typical school…. I think it would have gone a different way… but my childhood was structured in such a way that no one would have noticed if I were struggling at school, nor really seen struggling in the public school system as a flaw.
As an adult, I’ve been constantly told that I have unique perspectives, think in complex ways, see things that others don’t see. People have told me repeatedly “I don’t know how you manage to do it all” or “do you ever take time for yourself?” and have politely pointed out to me that I am not typical in my mannerisms or general ways of existing in space and time. I’ve never seen myself as less than, never seen others as my competitors or really cared what others are doing (hello again inattentiveness) and I’ve just pottered along doing whatever my brain has wanted, which conveniently USUALLY aligns with my business & entrepreneurial goals (much to the disappointment of the 11 pm version of me that would love to do a pottery class).
All this is to say…. I never would have thought I had ADHD because I never knew what ADHD was outside of the obvious presentation I saw in media growing up (about young boys). It’s like that phrase “you can’t be what you can’t see”… I never knew I had ADHD until I knew what ADHD was… and then, I couldn’t not see it.
Signs throughout my life that when reframed make it clear that I’ve always had ADHD
ADHD runs in my family
I have one brother diagnosed ADHD and another undiagnosed (and oh boy, did he meet the stereotypical (hyperactive & male) ADHD archetype as a kid… My father is an entrepreneurial creative force, my mother has a lack of tolerance for boredom & I’ve always moved to the beat of my own drum (and needed a playlist while doing it).
ADHD has a heritability of 70-80% so if your family looks ADHD, you probably are too… and, ADHDers tend to run in packs so your parents’ friends, and your friends often will be neurodivergent creating a little bubble around you of quirky and different individuals (this can make it hard to accept your neurodivergence because it can feel like “everyone does that” but one needs to look outside their circle to really gain perspective on this.
How my ADHD appeared throughout my school years
During Primary school, I was a good kid. I loved asking questions (this was encouraged in my primary school) and I volunteered for all kinds of extracurriculars and to help the teachers & other students during & after class. I was however very bad at doing my homework.
It’s quite common for girls with ADHD to fly under the radar in their younger years, as we’re often people pleasers, highly socialized to be polite & well-behaved, and we’re often the inattentive type of ADHD which is a little harder to spot (as the hyperactivity is internal not external).
During high school, I was a high-achiever, in the things I was interested in… and in those I was not interested in, I did the bare minimum to get by without drawing too much attention to myself (or by drawing a lot of attention to myself by way of questioning WHY, expressing my frustrations with injustices and inconsistencies in teaching & finding ways to engage in the content that worked for me).
I threw myself into running the rock-eisteddfod, I tried to run a school fete to raise money to be able to have a school musical, I quit school halfway through year 11 as I was unsatisfied with the education I was receiving and decided I would rather pay to send myself to do a year-long musical theatre course in the city (2 hours from where I lived) 4 days a week than waste my time learning things that were not valuable to me. I was lucky to have a supportive family and entrepreneurial nature which meant following my intuition (and my interest) was celebrated rather than smothered.
Many ADHDers are not so lucky. They may have high-masking or neurotypical parents or teachers who are not as accommodating to eccentric personalities and different paths forward. Many ADHDers don’t finish school, but many do… many go on to be doctors or educators, or creatives… we’re capable of doing whatever our brains are interested in (thanks hyperfocus).
How my career & school life were impacted by my ADHD
I threw myself into my passions & moved to the beat of my own drum. I learned ways of reframing situations so that I felt in control (taking myself to the deputy’s office instead of being sent there by teachers I was arguing with – for example) and my inattentiveness made it easy to forget whatever I didn’t see as important. I had natural talents in the arts, and so was just seen as a typical creative child who would go on to move in creative spaces, so largely no one cared if I was not academic nor encouraged me to be so.
I had no intention of going to uni, no direction besides being a star, and when It came to adulting, I found myself an unstructured workplace which took me in as the enthusiastic weirdo that I was and enabled me to continue following my gut and just do what I wanted to do, so long as it was helpful to the overall goals of the company (to make / save money). In that workplace, I learned so many skills, HTML, graphic design, how to create and run a mail house, work with developers, do sales, customer service & solve complex problems or create solutions that saved time and money for the company. No one particularly cared if I was sitting in the dark with the lights off, playing music, taking naps under my desk, or not following dress code as I was able to just do my thing (much to the frustration of others in the office).
However, when I outgrew this workplace (read ran out of interesting challenges) and wanted to go on to bigger and better things I was faced with a realization that I was completely unequipped to work in a normal workplace with KPI’s and Hierarchy… being a wildcard is fun and exciting, but it’s not usually a job description you’ll find on a job posting board…. so I became stuck…. then I found a shiny new toy to play with (in.cube8r) and tore my life apart to jump into being my boss and change my entire life.
Then, running my own business I’ve obviously been able to do things my way, and follow my latest fixations wherever they may go. This is both a blessing and a curse, as I know I’d be much more successful if I could focus on one thing at a time, but my brain was designed for curiosity, creativity & change…. so running my own business is a way to grab my ADHD (or it to grab me) and run with it.
Entrepreneurs are often ADHD due to a combination of factors. Firstly, individuals with ADHD tend to have high levels of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, which are essential qualities for successful entrepreneurs. Their ability to think outside the norm allows them to come up with innovative ideas and solutions. Additionally, entrepreneurs with ADHD often possess a high level of energy and drive, enabling them to work long hours and stay focused on their goals. This relentless pursuit of success is a common trait among both entrepreneurs and individuals with ADHD. Lastly, the fast-paced nature of entrepreneurship appeals to those with ADHD, as they thrive in dynamic environments that require quick decision-making and adaptability. Overall, the unique characteristics associated with ADHD can be advantageous for entrepreneurs, helping them excel in their ventures.
How my friendships have been shaped by my neurodivergence
I was constantly changing friends during my youth. I’d be exiled from the group regularly and not know why. I’d say the wrong things and come off as rude or argumentative when I was just trying to understand the social structures & hierarchies around me. My first relationship with a boy was a matter of convenience as my peers were all about dating and I wanted to fit in.
However, I was also very good at making myself needed and essential. In all of my school activities, I made myself an integral part of the team, and I was obsessive in doing what needed to be done to succeed. So I didn’t need to hang out with friends on the oval, I was busy choreographing dance routines in the library or helping to sort out the music room. I also worked from the age of 14, so didn’t have time to socialize outside of school times (this continued into my adult life).
It is a common experience for individuals with ADHD to face challenges in maintaining friendships. While my personal experience may not be entirely typical, as I have been fortunate enough to find a few fellow neuro-divergent individuals during my journeys who have become my closest friends, I can still relate to the difficulties that come with navigating typical friendships.
Although “social deficits” are more commonly associated with autism, individuals with ADHD often struggle with friendships due to tendencies such as being “unreliable”, forgetting to check in, talking excessively, or being too unpredictable for their neuro-typical peers. They may have trouble listening attentively, following conversations, or regulating their impulses, which can lead to misunderstandings or conflicts with their peers. Additionally, girls with ADHD may also experience difficulties with executive functioning skills, such as organizing and planning, which can impact their ability to initiate and sustain friendships. These challenges can result in feelings of frustration, isolation, and low self-esteem, making it harder for them to establish meaningful connections with others.
What ADHD doesn’t mean…
I could go on, but you’ve not got all the time in the world (and neither do I) so I will close this ramble off by getting to the point.
- Having ADHD does not mean that you are not capable of being successful
- Having ADHD does not mean that you cannot have close friendships
- Having ADHD does not mean that you cannot focus
- Having ADHD does not mean that you cannot live amongst the common people
- Having ADHD does not mean that you cannot achieve your dreams
But, if you don’t know you have it, and what that actually means…. you’re left reading a microwave manual to run an oven. If you don’t know you struggle with time-blindness, or prioritization, or emotional dysregulation, or object permanence, or working memory…
Why I got into ADHD Coaching
And this is why I became an ADHD coach. Because I want to help creative people like me, who have gotten through life by constantly creating systems and trying new things and optimistically reaching for the stars without a ladder. I want to help artists and entrepreneurs to learn how their brains work, unpack what neurotypical standards they are applying to themselves & create NEW systems & ways of existing that empower them to harness their neurodivergent traits to achieve the goals they have for themselves.