Me, Myself and ADHD
The road to learning that I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
By Alyssa Shaw
After the diagnosis
I now knew that I had ADHD but I had no idea what to do with that information. I embraced my diagnosis and wanted to learn everything I could about it. I felt extremely alone. I could feel in my bones how strong of an impact ADHD had on my life but not everyone around me could see it. I felt that I needed to speak with others who had the same diagnosis, people who understood.
I asked my psychologist if she knew of a support group I could attend. I scoured the Internet. Sadly, no such support group existed. My psychologist put me in touch with Nathalie Pedicelli from the local community who had wanted to start a support group. After speaking with Nathalie, we decided to start our own.
I am proud to say that, almost two years later, our support group is still running today. This support group is not only helpful for a committed group of attendees each week, but is one of the best things that I have done for myself. It is so nice to know that I have a room full of people who understand exactly what it is that I go through on a daily basis. We have also set up our group to support learning about where and how our ADHD shows up in our lives. Everyone is different and so is our ADHD. It is so important to identify our own ADHD symptoms so that we can set up support for ourselves. We acknowledge this and have experts come in and share information on ADHD.
I could feel in my bones how strong of an impact ADHD had on my life but not everyone around me could see it. I felt that I needed to speak with others who had the same diagnosis, people who understood.
A couple of months after my diagnosis I came across an online ADHD palooza. The palooza is an online event where many experts on ADHD speak about an ADHD related topic. Listening to the expert interviews made a huge difference for me; I learnt so much about myself. I was also extremely fortunate to be able to give myself the time to spend five full days in a row and listen to each of the talks.
The palooza helped me because it allowed me to understand all the different symptoms of ADHD. The biggest thing that I learnt about was rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD). Educating myself on RSD allowed me to understand and be mindful of my how it impacts me. Now when I’m having an “RSD flare-up” as I call it, I’m able to rationalize my emotions and tame my reactions. It has literally been life changing for me.
The Internet is a funny place. It’s filled with lots of information yet it’s hard to decipher what’s useful and factual versus what isn’t. When faced with an abundance of information, I have an extremely hard time deciphering what’s relevant and what isn’t. For this reason, my gut told me that in order to learn about my ADHD, I needed to find some sort of a school or program – something credible – to learn about myself. I am easily overwhelmed by information (a symptom of ADHD) so a program that divides up information into sessions or classes is extremely helpful for me.
Nathalie, the woman I started the ADHD support group with, shared a lot of ADHD information and resources with me. I am so grateful to her and everything that she has shared with me. I explained to Nathalie that I wanted to find some sort of place to learn about my ADHD and she had mentioned that there were some online classes available through ADHD coaching academies. After a lot of contemplating and comparing, I decided to enrol in the ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA).
‘I started to focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses and I now had a community of women who support each other through their experiences’
ADDCA has programs called Simply ADHD and Personal Transformation. It’s important to mention that these are not programs for coaching, rather for learning about yourself and your ADHD. These courses changed everything for me. I started to understand myself and I finally had an explanation for all my ADHD symptoms that I had thought were character flaws.
I started to focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses and I now had a community of women who support each other through their experiences. I now had names for my symptoms, like rejection sensitive dysphoria, time blindness, hyper focus, rumination, etc. These were big clues to my overwhelming feelings. It was like a gift! Knowing the name of my symptoms and getting to know my tendencies allowed me to understand and manage them. I now felt like I had some power!
The first implement that I made was changing the way I spoke to myself. I started to look out for words like “never”, “always”, “the worst” and “everyone”. These were my no-no exaggeration words that really made a difference in the way that I feel about myself and others.
Around this time I started an Instagram account and blog – dubbing myself Missleadingly ADHD. Both my blog and Instagram account played very large roles (and still do) in my journey since diagnosis. My Instagram account was a space where I could visually share what I learned about myself and ADHD. It was also an opportunity to chat with others who have ADHD. My blog was an amazing way to get my feelings out and into writing. There is something about having my feelings written out in front of me so that I can clearly see what I want and need and how I am doing. (If you aren’t into blogging, having a personal journal can be just as effective). My blog was also a way for me to share what I have learnt about ADHD. There are so many pieces to ADHD that most people don’t even realize.
One of the important things that I did for myself after my diagnosis is giving myself the permission to figure myself out. I dated myself rather than a boy. I started to learn my interests and gave myself the space to experiment with strategies and tools to help my ADHD symptoms. I’m going to take a second and tell you about one tool that has made a ginormous difference for me.
‘One of the important things that I did for myself after my diagnosis is giving myself the permission to figure myself out. I dated myself rather than a boy.’
I already spoke about the fact that I am time blind (a typical symptom for someone with ADHD). This means that I cannot sense time passing. Five minutes can pass or 30 minutes can pass and I have a hard time telling the difference. This makes it extremely hard to get myself ready and get out of the door on time. I discovered an amazing tool called a Time Timer, which allows me to actually see time. When I set my Time Timer I can see time moving out of the corner of my eye.
Another advantage is that I used to feel upset when my phone timer would go off because it was a surprise. With this handy dandy device, there are no surprises because like I said, I can visually see time running out. The anticipation that I am running out of time to watch my show or whatever else I am doing in my free time has greatly impacted the likelihood of me actually stopping my task and transitioning – moving from one task to another is hard for people with ADHD – into the next one. The key to the Time Timer is knowing how long it actually takes you to do tasks. I started to time myself to see how long it takes me to do things like dry my hair and do my makeup. This way I know exactly how long it will take and I won’t be late. I have charts for this that I use with my clients. (If you are interested, send me an email).
It is also really important to mention that from high school onwards I was a serial dater. I did not have the best relationships because I did not have any boundaries. I was the nice girl, I would go with the flow and then be upset that I wasn’t getting what I needed or wanted. I later learned that a lack of boundaries is something that a lot of people with ADHD experience. I did not respect myself so how could I expect others to respect me? We have a tendency to think that our partners are mind readers; we feel our own feelings so strongly that we think it’s obvious that they are feeling them too. In reality, nobody can read minds and thinking that our partners have that ability is a gross mistake (If you are a mind reader, I would love to meet you!).
Since dating myself and learning what it is that I want and need, I am now in a healthy relationship. I can clearly communicate what bothers me and what I need. I used to not even know that I was bothered until I was actually mad or upset. This was unfair to both myself and my partner. Also, I now better know what I want and what I am looking for in a boyfriend because I gave myself permission to explore my likes and dislikes. My current boyfriend and I have the same values and respect each other’s interests. Now that I listen to myself, I can in turn effectively communicate my needs to my partner.
‘My life has changed for the better since my ADHD diagnosis. I now have a much better understanding of the way that my brain works. I am not saying that life with ADHD is easy. It is something that I have to deal with on a daily basis.’
My life has changed for the better since my ADHD diagnosis. I now have a much better understanding of the way that my brain works. I am not saying that life with ADHD is easy. It is something that I have to deal with on a daily basis. The trick is accepting your brain as it is and getting to know how it works. Don’t forget, we are all amazing because we are all unique! Understand and embrace what makes you, you – ADHD or not. Thanks for following along with my story. I hope that I have shed some light on what it’s like to live with undiagnosed and diagnosed ADHD.
What’s next? Having been so positively impacted by what I had learnt about myself and my ADHD, I started to think about all the people out there who feel as lost, alone and misunderstood as I felt. After taking the aforementioned personal transformation and simply ADHD course, I decided to continue on and do the basic coaching course to become an ADHD coach. I now, as an ADHD coach, have finally found my place and passion in this world. I am no longer hopping from job to job. The key to finding my career was to listen to myself – and to use my own personal transformation to make an impact on the world around me.
I am excited to announce that as of November 19, 2019, I will be starting the family program at ADDCA. This is another coach training program designed for people who are already coaches to further specialize and work with kids, adolescents and their parents to navigate the challenges that ADHD can bring. I am so excited at the possibility of working with students and partnering with them to build their knowledge on their unique and wonderful brains so that they can make the same transformation I did.
Feature image: ELEVATE from Pexels
Alyssa Shaw, AAC is a Life & ADHD Coach who partners with her clients to understand their unique brain wiring and reach their full potential. Alyssa works with adults and young adults. Learn more at coachalyssashaw.com.