I worry about many things, and I probably fear more things than that. So when I find out that other worrywarts and anxiety sufferers are able to successfully overcome their struggles, I get excited. And I get motivated to push through my own fears.
And I don’t feel so alone. That’s because when you’re struggling with something, it’s natural to feel like you’re the only one on the planet with such problems.
Having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can certainly feel this way, especially if you’re a woman. (We typically hear more about boys and men with the disorder.)
Maybe you don’t know any women with ADHD. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by your symptoms. Or you don’t think you measure up because keeping a tidy household is impossible. Or you don’t think you’ll be able to do great things.
Recently I came across an excellent piece in ADDitude magazine that features seven successful women, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a professional organizer and a pediatrician, who are effectively managing their ADHD and thriving.
So, today, I wanted to share a few examples and excerpts from the ADDitude article to let you know that you’re definitely not alone — and that with treatment and effort, you can absolutely succeed. And even if you already know this (which is great!), you might need a reminder or two, from time to time.
Take the example of journalist Katherine Ellison (she’s the one who won the Pulitzer). Ellison wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until she was 49, but for a long time, she felt as though she was sabotaging her success. And it showed in her inconsistent work. She also had a tough time connecting with family, friends and even her son who has ADHD, too. Thankfully, in addition to treating her ADHD (with “metacognition, neurofeedback, meditation, exercise, taking medication occasionally”), Ellison channeled her struggles into a very positive venture. According to the article:
In the past, it was hard for her to listen to friends and family, but Ellison is now more aware of how she acts around others. She works hard to maintain the relationships in her life. Her book Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention chronicles Ellison’s experiences of trying to connect with her son, in spite of their both having ADD. “Accepting ADD and getting calmer has helped me be less reactive to my son,” she says. Ellison believes that finding one’s passion is key to managing a life with ADD. “I chose to do something that was perfect for the way my brain works.”
Because disorganization is a common symptom of ADHD, you might think that there’s no way that a person with ADHD could be a successful professional organizer. Well, you’d be mistaken. Robin Stephens is both a pro organizer and a wellness coach. She also struggles with bipolar disorder, which can certainly complicate things. But she’s learned to manage both disorders and uses a slew of organizational strategies to help her day to day.
As a girl, Stephens didn’t understand why she couldn’t sit still in class. She was also a perfectionist; she couldn’t tackle an assignment until the previous one was complete. As an adult, Stephens found out that she had bipolar disorder. Eventually, she discovered the link between bipolar disorder and ADD/ADHD. After several years of difficulty focusing on her new career as a wellness coach, Stephens decided to get evaluated for the disorder.
“It was absolute, total relief,” she says. “I’m a big believer that, if you know what something is, you can deal with it.” Because of her work with others who have ADD/ADHD, Stephens has strategies and tricks to help her manage her symptoms. She couldn’t get through a day without to-do lists, breaking larger projects into manageable chunks, and planning frequent breaks in her schedule. Two assistants help her stay organized.
Some women with ADHD feel a deep sense of shame when they can’t stay organized or accomplish certain household tasks. This can spill over into the workplace if you’re in a job that doesn’t suit your skills. Psychotherapist Sari Solden struggled with both. After getting her degree, Solden started out at a big family service agency. But she had a difficult time focusing and keeping up with all the paperwork and clients. Says the article:
Through her work, Solden started learning more about adults and learning disorders, and recognized her symptoms as attention deficit. Upon hearing the term “ADD” from a doctor, Solden felt relief. “It was liberating,” she says.
Now in private practice, and having learned to organize her professional and personal life, Solden is paying it forward. In her book Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, she explains the difficulties that women with ADD/ADHD face, and gives strategies for navigating society’s expectations. “Women with ADD have to understand that their brain works differently,” she says, “and not blame themselves.”
Solden says that finding other women with ADD/ADHD has helped her, because they understand how her mind works. “I learn from the women with ADD I work with. They inspire me.”
On a side note, education administrator Evelyn Polk-Green offered great advice for managing your ADHD:
“Figure out how the disorder affects you,” she says. “Then use your strengths to overcome your weaknesses.” This may mean asking for help when needed. “Choose a strategy — be it medication, therapy, or hiring a housekeeper — and stick with it. Your life will get better.”
Be sure to check out the entire ADDitude piece for more inspiration!
Below are additional resources for girls and women with ADHD:
- Psych Central’s ADHD from A to Zoë
- An online social network for women with ADHD hosted by ADHD experts Terry Matlen and Tara McGillicuddy
- ADDvance, a website from ADHD experts Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D, and Patricia Quinn, M.D.
- A guide at ADDitude magazine for women with ADHD