by Cynthia Hammer, MSW, Executive Director, the Inattentive ADHD Coalition
The ADHD Journey
Recently a woman with ADHD requested support from members of an online group. She wrote, “I am so tired of trying so hard. In spite of trying, my partner still feels I am not trying hard enough. He doesn’t recognize how difficult it is for me. I really feel like I can’t continue, that I can’t go on any longer. I can’t go on living like this. Of course, I wouldn’t do anything, but have any of you felt this way?
It made me wonder if I was fortunate to live for 49 years without knowing I had inattentive ADHD. What does learning you have ADHD do to a person’s beliefs about herself, when she is no longer a child, but yet not very old, when she has too many stresses in her life, even before learning she has ADHD? The diagnosis can prove too much to handle, to digest, to accept. Perhaps her diagnosis comes with the expectation of improvement, and the dismay is greater when improvement doesn’t happen.
Dealing with a Diagnosis
For some, their diagnosis is a relief. They finally understand themselves and the reasons for their struggles; but for others, the diagnosis is an additional burden, one more nail in the coffin of their inadequacies. Their deficiencies get magnified in their minds, particularly when they learn about people who surmount their ADHD struggles while they can’t get a grasp and move forward. They go online to find others with ADHD who share their unhappiness in order to temporarily feel better. They think, “I am not alone. Others are flailing the same as me.”
I become sad and discouraged when I read their posts. I know they don’t share their shortcoming as people might in a pity-party, just wanting to complain. I know they want to create better lives for themselves, to be better partners, better employees, better parents and better friends, but it all is too much, too overwhelming. There are too many things that need improving all at once.
I recommend patience. After I got my diagnosis, I kept telling myself, “Nothing has changed. You only have a name for what has always been. A diagnosis for ADHD, unlike the diagnosis for some conditions, means you can get better.”
But how do you get better? One step at a time. Your ADHD journey starts with one step, and then another step, and another step after that. Over time, your steps add up and you make significant progress.
What’s the first step?
What should be your first step? Think of the simplest thing you can change that will make the biggest difference. For some it may be getting to bed by 10 p.m. For another it might be eating breakfast every morning. For me it was returning my credit card to its “home” in my wallet. Until my first step became a habit, I didn’t attempt a second step. But achieving my first good habit gave me the confidence to create a second good habit. I learned to talk encouragingly to myself. I took my baby steps and became more confident with each step I took. Don’t rush your ADHD journey. Take it one step at a time.
Cynthia Hammer, MSW, is the founder and Executive Director of the non-profit organization, the Inattentive ADHD Coalition. It hosts the only website with information solely about inattentive ADHD: www.iadhd.org
Cynthia Hammer is the Executive Director of the Inattentive ADHD Coalition – www.iadhd.org.
She earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1972. For many years she was a stay-at-home mom raising three sons while her husband spent long days at work as a general surgeon. She started a non-profit organization in 1993 to help adults with ADHD, and she recently started a different non-profit, the Inattentive ADHd Coalition to create more awareness of Inattentive ADHD. Visit it here: www.iadhd.org