October is ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) Awareness Month.
Ironically, this is the first October of my life that I am aware that I have ADHD. My diagnosis anniversary is coming up on November 6.
My psychiatric ARNP supplied the missing piece of the puzzle during my appointment that day. Until about six years ago, my executive functioning and other important skills were sufficient and then, ohmygod, it was absolutely not. It was as though my brain had left me almost immediately at age 51. Friends who had been through The Change told me that they developed brain fog during menopause, too, and that everything would be ok when I officially hit that 12 month-no-period mark. (They were right, but it turns out it was a lot more than that.)
For those of us with a menstrual cycle, a slight shift in our hormone levels can wreak all kinds of havoc. These are most dramatic when we begin having a cycle in our adolescence and winding down toward the complete end of our cycle in mid-life. This is often when ADHD symptoms are most pronounced for us. We have ADHD because we have lower than typical levels of certain brain chemicals. These chemicals travel well with certain hormones, such as estrogen, and if there’s a change in estrogen, there will be a change in our already unbalanced balance.
The thing is, even though our ADHD may be blazing brightly at these times, our neurotypical sisters are also having anxiety, brain fog, or depression. Unless one has a practitioner who has ADHD on the list of possibilities, it will likely be missed. Who is really thinking about ADHD for a middle-aged and older adult anyway? The research has only recently found that a) males do not outgrow ADHD; b) there are actually three different presentations of ADHD; c) females can also have ADHD. (recently = 1980 to 2013)
Three presentations of ADHD:
- Famous original hyperactive-impulsive
- Combined – a twist cone of both flavors
Our symptoms are often labeled as rude, lazy, hyper, dingy, flighty, flaky, obnoxious, distracting, and not long ago “unable to learn.” When children are labeled as such in their early classrooms, it’s no wonder so many of us give up on school, have significant anxiety, severe depression, eating disorders, poor job prospects, get fired, zero self confidence, self-loathing – I could go on but it’s damn depressing.
A little understanding from neurotypicals goes a long way. From a 2013 article in Psychology Today, adults with ADHD share the following:
Like having the Library of Congress in my head with no card catalog.
Like driving in the rain with faulty wipers – moments of clarity and a lot of blur.
Like 59 televisions blaring in my head and medication turns off 58.
Like having a racecar brain with bicycle brakes.
Further along in this article, ‘Richard’ shares his experience. I have a few male friends with ADHD who easily could have written this about their own lives. It’s filled with guilt, shame, remorse, and extreme worry. Because our experience with ADHD is so unique and because our culture has wired us with gender roles, we rarely live up to those expectations. Please know that no one is harder on a person with ADHD than themselves.
A first-hand article from a woman’s perspective by June Sliny is linked here. Much of June’s experience is familiar to me.
If you suspect that you or someone you love has ADHD, there are loads of resources available for children, teens, and adults. There seems to be a strong genetic component according to the literature on the subject. Often adults are diagnosed when their children are or vice versa.
- Additude – great online and hardcopy magazine with loads of helpful information
- Totally ADD – putting a little humor and some pride into ADHD
- CHADD and ADDA are national support organizations – also with excellent resources.
Young, S., Adamo, N., Ásgeirsdóttir, B. B., Branney, P., Beckett, M., Colley, W., Cubbin, S., Deeley, Q., Farrag, E., Gudjonsson, G., Hill, P., Hollingdale, J., Kilic, O., Lloyd, T., Mason, P., Paliokosta, E., Perecherla, S., Sedgwick, J., Skirrow, C., Tierney, K.,Woodhouse, E. (2020). Females with ADHD: An expert consensus statement taking a lifespan approach providing guidance for the identification and treatment of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder in girls and women. BMC psychiatry, 20(1), 404. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-020-02707-9
Litman, E., “Women with ADHD: No More Suffering in Silence,”ADDitdude, Nov. 8, 2020.