It has been my experience – both personally and professionally – that there are three distinct stages of ADD and ADHD recognition and acceptance for women.
Stage One: Nuts and Bolts – OMIGOSH, I have ADD! When women are diagnosed with ADD, there is often sigh of relief (“Ah, so THAT’s what it is. Thank goodness it has a name!”) followed by a dig-in-and-fix-it determination (“Let me try everything and see what works”).
Unfortunately the sigh of relief phase is usually quite brief.
The ‘let me fix it” stage is agonizingly long. Women read books on ADD, take a few of their children’s Adderall, talk to their doctor who refers them to a psychiatrist who may or may not know much about ADD. They scour the internet for help, seek out a support group for women or adults and find only a handful, usually not in their area.
They try medication, hate medication, give up on medication, get desperate and try medication again. Sometimes they are lucky enough to have a physician who is willing to run through the ADD arsenal again and again, fine tuning their prescription to the sensitive ADD body and brain. (That’s when medication works … and works well.) They try exercise, meditation, coaching, psychotherapy, vitamin supplements, balance therapy, yoga – you name it. Until they finally reach Stage Two.
Stage Two: “I’m stuck with ADD, but hey, I like myself anyway!” Yep, this is the reality of ADD phase when women recognize that ADD isn’t going away. In fact, it will be their constant companion for life. As that realization sinks in, there may be some depression or anxiety over the finality of the diagnosis. But there IS light at the end of women’s ADD tunnel.
The truth is that ADD offers – at the very least – a unique perspective on life, one that is sorely missing from other brain patterns. And as long as ADD will be their companion, women can eventually make it their friend, as well.
This is a phase of new awareness and acceptance about the highly personal idiosyncrasies of ADD. Women take another look at their own patterns of ADHD, often by looking back at the “aha” moments from their childhoods and adolescence. They can then apply those insights to create a different outcome in the present time (“I’ve always worked best under deadline pressure, so I can clear my calendar the two days before quarterly reports are due so I will finish them!”)
During this phase, women begin to trust themselves – a BIG issue among ADHD women. It’s only a tiny bit at first, then the feeling is stronger and more confident. That translates to a marvelous transformation in attitude from “there’s something wrong with me” to “there’s something different about me” to “there’s a lot good about me!”
One morning an ADD women in Stage 2 wakes up, smiles at her reflection in the mirror and winks: “OK, where are we going today on this wild and wonderful adventure known as My Life?” That’s the day that Stage Three begins.
Stage Three: Digging Deeper – “I deserve to live my dreams” Many women arrive in ADD-land accompanied by a cartload of low self esteem and buried aspirations, so Stage Three is often a complete surprise. The intensity of surviving day-to-day can be so taxing that some women have precious little energy left to listen to the songs that play in their hearts. Until now.
This is the stage at which ADDivas give themselves permission to be themselves in the world, to dance their own magnificent dance and to allow their tremendous gifts to be fully expressed. It can be intimidating for an ADDiva to hold onto her fragile self trust as she tests the waters of new adventure.
That’s why ADD women in Stage Three need a nurturing environment in which peek behind that dusty curtain that protects hopes and dreams. With their deeply-embedded memories of “tried and failed” forays into this arena, they may roller coaster from absolute optimism to complete despair. So they need constant (and authentic) encouragement from someone they trust.
The good news is that women can emerge from this phase with a renewed sense of purpose and passion. Women with ADD (and even those without ADD) begin to manifest their dreams. And isn’t that what life is all about, anyway?
I miss my Wellbutrin and long-acting ritalin. Due to a post-divorce depression, my latest anti-depressant EMSAM (an MAOI) doesn’t allow for stimulants. So I have to go back to the basics of what I have learned along the way (in ADD groups and coaching)without the help of meds. Mostly that I AM loveable and to be GENTLE with myself. (We can be our own worst enemies by being so hard on ourselves!)
Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my post, and for the words of encouragement and understanding.
Especially the understanding, reading your blogs was like reading about myself; piles, shoes, constantly re-organizing, can\’t keep track of time, bouncing from one thing to the next as it catches my attention. . . I could go on but I think you get my drift.
I\’ve been diagnosed for a couple of years now, a few months after my daughter\’s autism diagnosis, and haven\’t tried anything. My therapist was actually excited that I mentioned trying something – he must think I\’m really be a mess, lol – but I just wanted drug names to get an idea of what I\’m dealing with. He mentioned straterra, which didn\’t look so hot to me when I looked it up. I can\’t remember why because it was last night but I know I don\’t have a good impression. There was a Vy??? something that people on one blog seemed to like a lot.
The thing that worries me is that a lot of people say it wears off aroung 6 to 10 hours and evenings are when I really need to focus because everyone is home and they want attention but I tend to wander. Also, I sleep really well right now, for the most part, and don\’t want to lose that.
Ooops, someone broke something, I need to go.
Again, thank you very much; you helped more than you know.
Oh Lisa, my heart goes out to you! The decision about whether to take meds and how long to take them is difficult for all of us. In the 11 years since I was diagnosed, I have tried meds, given up on meds, tried them again and now have made an uneasy peace with them.
But my post about working through the self esteem issues around ADD doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want to or need to give up on meds. Sometimes we get to a place of self acceptance ON the medication — that can be part of the process.
Certainly ADD meds are serious business; they are controlled substances. But every single statistic and study I have seen about addiction and ADD meds indicate that there is a much higher level of addiction among those who are NOT medicated or treated for their ADD (keep in mind that can also mean nutraceuticals or change in diet or meditation or whatever works for you).
Your children deserve a mom who is present for them. But more importantly, you deserve a place of peace in your own life that allows you to be calm and…dare I say? …happy!
My experience with meds is that they do work but it takes a while to get it right – dosage, correct med or combo of meds. I wouldn’t give up my Wellbutrin for anything — it’s like putting on glasses for me. The stimulants I prefer to take on an as needed basis — short acting so I can control the effect a bit more. But that’s just ME…
Hang in there, Lisa. Your ADDiva sisters are standing beside you, feeling your pain and sending you courage and hope!
So, does this mean if I\’ve been told I have ADD and need to take meds, I should just skip it because I\’m going to quit them anyway? I\’ve been reading up on them and they seem scary and not very consistent or dependable. But so many people go on and on about how much better they are while the drugs do work. While I would love to keep track of time and not get distracted by every blessed thing and actually stay focused during a conversation, the odds of that actually happening with drugs don\’t seem that good. Plus, there\’s the risk of addiction. I\’ve never had an addiction but if something actually helped me get my act together, I can see how it would be easy to develope a dependancy. Plus, I\’m already taking Wellbutrin for Bi-Polar-ness and I feel as if that has taken away some of my personality (what can I say, I miss the highs but not enough to take back the life-is-not-worth-living lows) and worry that more medications will obliterate \’me\’ entirely. Then again, if it would make life easier for my family it might be worth that. Especially since my youngest has autism and really needs a parent who can give her the sturctured enviornment she needs. I try my best but my best truly isn\’t good enough and I carry a lot of guilt about that. Ok, I\’m stopping because I\’m going to cry if I don\’t.
AMEN!!!! You have hit the nail on the head!!!! It certainly brings clarity to my life and gives me something more to look forward to!!!!
Thanks. very helpful.
I really appreciate your vision in all this. You make so much sense.
Thank you so very much for sharing the stages! That is SO true! And thank YOU for providing the constant and authentic encouragement through the tools and retreats of the ADDiva Network! You are a God-send to the world of women with ADD/ADHD! As I recently heard someone say about you, \\\\