It was May 2019, the moment when I learned I was living with undiagnosed ADHD-Combined Type. After 14 years of working with individuals with ADHD, graduating from NYU with a Master’s in Students With Disabilities, and going to therapists on and off throughout my life who diagnosed me only with anxiety, I had no idea that what I was struggling with so hard against was actually ADHD.
That morning when it all clicked into place felt like an epiphany; a moment of clarity where everything suddenly made sense. It explained why my working memory had always been so poor, why it would be hard to shift my attention from coaching sessions to mundane tasks like notetaking when working from home without warning or reason - and most importantly, why focusing for sustained periods of time on things that didn’t interest me had been increasingly difficult.
So after noticing I was sharing many of the symptoms that my adult clients with ADHD were experiencing, I decided to seek out help from a well-known psychologist who specialized in ADHD diagnosis and treatment, who I knew through my professional community. Before long she confirmed my suspicions - it wasn't all anxiety, but rather an undiagnosed case of combined type adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The news came as both a relief and a shock; finally understanding what has been going on for 35 years gave me hope that things could get better - but also left me feeling overwhelmed about my past and the challenges I was living with not truly understanding what was going on in my own mind. Years of therapy, crying, masking, avoiding certain social situations, and walking the school halls with anxiety (as a student and a professional) flashed before me. Oversharing with people who I trusted too easily, lead to bullying and failed relationships. In my professional life, I overworked to create an identity of being hardworking and I wanted to be liked by my superiors. I was trying so hard to figure out who I really was!
So what changed once I learned I had ADHD? What you might suspect from other people’s stories once they received an ADHD diagnosis was NOT the same story for me. I did not learn to create new routines that were tailored specifically for myself, avoid multitasking whenever possible, or learn to take regular breaks throughout each day, I WAS ALREADY DOING THIS!
What changed for me after my diagnosis, was an understanding of MY OWN brain, compassion for my past, and a stronger feeling of belonging to a community of like-minded people. I immediately realized that the people in my life that I was attracted to as friends, students, and clients, were like me. I realized all of this time that I was not only helping them, but I was helping myself!
After the diagnosis, I also tried taking Adderall at the recommendation of my psychiatrist, and it immediately helped! I was lucky that it worked right away for me without trial and error with different stimulants. This gave me a lot more confidence in my abilities and even socially, where I felt I was able to find my words in conversations a lot easier. My ability to truly listen to my tennis coach and partner also improved which made a huge positive impact on my tennis game.
Many of my clients and friends still to this day question whether I have ADHD since I have masked and overcompensated for so many years. Instead of getting offended by this, I tell them that all individuals with ADHD “look” different and that ADHD is an invisible disability. What I say to them, the results of understanding my own brain, and knowing I was living with ADHD all these years, have been nothing short of remarkable! Not only do I now have greater confidence and understanding of my brain, but my acceptance of self and overall well-being has drastically improved to make 2019 one truly memorable year indeed, including meeting my husband!
-ADHD Coach Brooke
Founder of Coaching With Brooke