Me and ADHD

Other than a few close friends, most people in my life don’t realize that over the last month I’ve been on a complicated, intensely emotional journey of self-discovery.

I’ve discovered that I have ADHD.

Part One: The Journey to Diagnosis

ADHD isn’t something I’d ever even contemplated before, because like most people, I understood it to be a disorder you mostly saw in hyperactive little boys. You could identify a kid with ADHD because they couldn’t sit still or focus on lessons, they had boundless energy, and they got in trouble at school all the time. They were “problem children.” That wasn’t me at all. I excelled in school, loved reading at a young age, and was an all-around model student.

Sure, in recent months I’d seem some funny ADHD memes and tweets floating around and found them weirdly relatable, but thought it must just be a coincidence. Everybody occasionally leaves a burner on and explodes their hard-boiled eggs on the stove while they take a shower, right? Having twenty hobbies and buying supplies for all of them just for most of them to sit in boxes for years was a common quirk, right? I didn’t know what these things had to do with hyperactive little boys.

It all changed when a relative happened to ask me if anyone in my family had ever been diagnosed with ADHD, because she recently had, and she knew it was hereditary. I said no, but I was intrigued, and asked her to tell me more about it. She told me about some of the struggles that led to her diagnosis: being chronically disorganized, distracted, forgetful, and losing things, to the point where it interfered with her ability to work and parent effectively. She explained how girls and women tend to go undiagnosed because they usually don’t exhibit outward hyperactivity. Until recently, many clinicians didn’t even think to consider it in female patients. She also pointed me to research that showed a link between giftedness and ADHD in children, which often made ADHD harder to spot.

This all sounded alarmingly resonant. It felt like she was describing me. I was assessed to be “gifted” as a kid, but struggled to function in just about every other aspect of life. I had spent my whole life losing and forgetting things, and failing to stay on top of everyday tasks, always feeling buried by everyday responsibilities.

The spark was lit. I need to learn more. So I dove headfirst into research. (Well, okay, it started with watching hours-worth of Tiktoks from people with ADHD describing their experiences, and me silently weeping as waves of validation washed over me. There are so many other people like me! This is an actual Thing! Over time it gave me the vocabulary to start to do actual research).

A few weeks later I called my family doctor and asked to be referred to a psychiatrist. A week after that, I was in a virtual appointment talking to a doctor about ADHD meds. (Spoiler: it’s contraindicated in pregnancy, so it’s not happening anytime soon.)

This new information is changing how I look at my entire life thus far. It explains so much about why I am the way I am, why I struggle with things the way I do.

Part Two: The Emotions

It’s been so emotional for me because it turns out that all these parts of me that I’ve always been ashamed of (I’m forgetful, disorganized, lazy, clumsy, unproductive, distracted, absent-minded…I suck at being an adult, I can’t keep a job) have a neurological explanation.

I’m not a shitty person, I’m just neurodivergent.

(Just writing out this sentence made me sob with relief.)

I have a whole new vocabulary for explaining and describing my unique struggles, and it has changed everything.

I’m not stupid, I just have executive dysfunction, which makes it hard for me to prioritize tasks, keep track of personal items, manage my time, and remember instructions.

I’m not lazy, my nervous system just doesn’t produce enough dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for motivation. So I struggle to work up the energy to complete everyday tasks, no matter how important I know they are. I have atypical wiring — something called an interest-based nervous system – meaning I simply cannot be motivated by ordinary rewards/consequences, or understanding cognitively why something is important. I just CAN’T make myself do something unless I encounter very specific and stimulating circumstances to trigger that release of dopamine and get me off the couch.

I’m absent-minded because I have an inconsistent attention span. I can hyperfocus if my attention is activated by a momentary sense of interest, challenge, novelty, urgency, or passion; but I’m unable to focus on everyday details that don’t trigger these responses.

I cry all the time because due to my unique wiring, I regularly experience emotional hyperarousal, another feature of ADHD.

I’m messy and forgetful because my kind of brain struggles with object permanence and working memory. So I forget that things exist the minute they’re out of view, and I can’t recall basic instructions minutes after I’ve received them.

Having this new vocabulary helps me to understand how my brain works and why I behave the way I do. It explains how I can be a star student my entire life but then struggle to perform basic everyday tasks like keeping track of personal items, creating routines for myself, and keeping my house tidy.

Why a diagnosis was so important for me


It’s easy to be disgusted with myself when I misplace something important, come to the end a day without having accomplished a damn thing, or stumble upon yet another half-finished task that got abandoned when the dopamine ran out. Now I can offer myself some compassion, reminding myself that my brain has certain barriers in place which make these things hard for me.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you probably know I consistently struggle with feeling like a garbage person because I can’t seem to accomplish half of what a normal person seems able to accomplish in the same amount of time. Going forward, hopefully I can show myself a little more kindness.

A way forward.

Now that I am starting to understand what those barriers are, I can look for tools to help me overcome them. That could mean medication, and/or it could also mean seeking out apps, strategies, and therapies that are specifically designed to support neurodivergents (or just happen to be really helpful for us).

An opportunity for loved ones to have compassion.

Of course I can’t control how other people are going to react to any new information I can provide about why I am the way I am. But I hope it might help.

The other day, in a moment of frustration, Ben accused me of “not having any motivation, not being a go-getter,” and it really hurt me. These are real sensitive spots for me. Later he apologized, understanding (because I’ve explained it) that this is due to a real deficiency in my brain, not some kind of moral failing. “I know it’s not your fault,” he said.


I’ve recently connected with a couple of friends with ADHD, and started following ADHD Tiktok, Instagram and Twitter accounts. It has been so incredibly validating to hear their experiences that are so like mine. We send each other memes and share our latest ADHD mishaps (burned food we forgot about on the stove; important paperwork we left on the counter for months) and share tools we’ve found helpful. It just feels so good to be seen by others who get me.

Fun side note:

One of the hallmarks of ADHD is hyperfixation, which is an intense, prolonged (many would call “obsessive”) fixation on a certain subject or task; and my hyperfixation over the last month has centred on everything related to ADHD. I’ve hardly been able to think about anything else for the last month.  I have filled pages of my notebooks and journals with facts and observations about myself and the disorder. I could talk for hours about all the things I’ve learned over the last few weeks about brain chemistry, neurodiversity, motivation, and attention (but I will try to spare you most of it. Unless you ask. Then I will be HAPPY to talk your ear off.)

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  1. It’s always nice to see you’ve written a new post, no matter how far between they are! I started reading back in the crunchier days of the blog, drawn by that kind of content, and found myself sticking around and actually liking to read about stuff I probably wouldn’t have gone looking for myself. Until very recently, yours was in fact the only blog I followed. Thank you!

    I’m glad to hear you seem to have found some answer! I’ve been close to someone with ADHD for a few years, and reading stories like yours is always helpful in bringing new angles from which to look at things.

  2. Wait. What. I’m going to have to think about this.

    I am so glad you figured this out and it’s been helpful and validating for you! It makes such a difference.

  3. Coriander says

    I’m so glad these new understandings about yourself are resulting in you looking at you more gently. Your last post had some sad and noteworthy thoughts in it about your state of distress. I hope you and your wee little one are doing well, your big kids and fellow also.

  4. My son has ADHD and so I’ve been doing a lot of reading on it. I am convinced my husband has it too, but he was able to get through school without a diagnosis because he’s crazy smart and most likely had the inattentive type (same as my son) not the hyperactive type. Some resources I really like are ADHD Dude (FB/YouTube – this one is geared towards young boys), Black Girl Lost Keys (I think I follow her on Twitter but there’s also a blog), ADHD Experts podcast (a lot of them are focused on providers but there are some good episodes for lay people), How to ADHD (female youtuber), Superparenting for ADHD (book), and Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD (book).

  5. Heather H says

    I’m going through the same thing. I’ve recently gotten my ADHD diagnosis and gotten meds for it. It is life-changing to realize that life with the correct blend of neurotransmitters is actually doable? maybe even simple?? All of a sudden, people’s exhortations to “just get up and do the thing” finally- FINALLY- make sense. It’s finally an option to “just do it”, “just stop worrying”, etc. As I have anxiety and ADHD, I’ve now experienced this weird relief/frustration twice after getting a diagnosis and medication. Relief to be able to function ‘normally’ and frustration that everyone who makes it look easy doesn’t realize how much of their great routines and balanced lives is due to them hitting a brain chemistry jackpot and not due to any other reason.

    Much love from a reader who has been telling everyone “life is hard” since she was three. May it get less hard for you every day and may your increasing knowledge of yourself light your way.

    • Kathleen! Some friends of mine who knew a lot about ADHD had a kind of intervention for me a few years ago and it helped me a lot to learn about it. I was not able to get a professional diagnosis at the time (like you I was pregnant, so no meds, then we named back to the states so… $$$$$). It’s life changing to be able to remove the weight of guilt and shame, though. I have really enjoyed Sari Solden, Gabor Mate, and the ADDitude magazine with their expert forums and resources for learning. Enjoy the journey of discovering your “superpowers!”

    • Oh I’m SO encouraged to hear that, Heather! A lot of people have told me that meds have been life-changing, and the way you describe it gives me hope. Thank you. And I’m so happy to hear you’ve found something that works for you.

  6. Hi Kathleen,

    My husband was diagnosed with ADHD a couple years ago too. It really was such a huge game changer! I see someone already mentioned ADDitude Magazine, which is one of my favorite resources as well. Anyway, I’m here if you want to talk to someone! @rebeccavanvelzen on Instagram

  7. I know this is not the main point of this post, but congratulations on your pregnancy! I am a longtime reader (9 years or so) without Instagram so I had no idea you were pregnant. When I read this post I went and made an account so I could catch up on all of your updates. I am so happy for all of you! I have always loved reading your thoughts and following your story. I prayed fervently for Felix during his first years of life. I know you have mixed feelings about keeping this blog up now, but I just wanted to say if you ever decided to write here again I’d be thrilled to read, no matter how much your views have evolved over time. I’ll be praying for you and the new baby and that you will experience peace through the whole process. Lots of love to you and your family!

    • Thank you so, so much, Grace. I am unspeakably grateful to those of you who have stuck around through all these tumultuous years and continued to support me through it all. Thank you so much for your prayers and kind words. They mean so much.

  8. KATHLEEN QUIRING, It is nice to hear that you are communicating with other People With ADHD. I think it is a good choice. My opinion is that these people With ADHD will understand you better than others. Take love from a stranger. Stay blessed.

  9. Danielle says

    This post…. sounds EXACTLY like me?? I’ve literally never even had anyone tell me I might have ADHD, so it’s kinda mind blowing to relate so wholeheartedly to a post on it. I’m going off to research now, and grateful to have read this!

  10. You have given me some food for thought. A lot of symptoms I find in myself, being forgetful figures on the top and I am a legend of sorts in my family when it comes to forgetting things but there is no one else like me in the family. I will get myself diagnosed.
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