It’s a lot of hiding. Dodging questions until you can’t dodge them anymore. “Why do you write everything down?” “Why do you drink decaf coffee?” “What’s with all the doctors appointments?” Eventually your tendency towards brutal honesty gets the best of you and the truth comes out. You pray that your latest confidant will understand. They do, more often than not.
A part of you wants the whole world to know, so that you don’t have to explain yourself over and over again. You want them to recognize when you’re having a Bad Brain Day, to know that you can’t always give 100%. It’s not an excuse. The volume in your head is just a little too high. You need a moment to breathe. To reorganize.
Work isn’t like school. There’s no letter from the disabilities office for you to hand to your professor at the beginning of the semester, explaining everything. There’s no parent-teacher conferences, no IEP meetings. Your mom can’t call your boss to tell him how your brain works. You have to advocate for yourself. But what if they don’t understand? What kind of accommodations can you even ask for? Will they see you differently? You replay nightmare scenarios over and over in your head and decide to just keep your mouth shut.
Some days you struggle, but you persist. You’ve accomplished so much and exceeded everyone’s expectations. You learned a language! You’ve starred in musicals! You earned a bachelor’s degree! You have a full-time job! And yet, you still feel like you’re fooling everyone. When you trip over a word. When something falls through the cracks. You have days where you allow the words from those first evaluations, from your third grade teacher, from the middle school Cool Girls, to make you feel small. Words from over a decade ago, when you were a totally different person.
Relationships are difficult. On the train to a party you fret over making the right impression, saying the right thing, not interrupting people when there’s something you just HAVE to say, not talking about yourself too much. Small talk is a drag. You’d rather discuss film theory or religion or how we’re all going to die some day but aren’t we so lucky to be alive at the same time as Patti LuPone? Or just look at your phone.
Some friendships move fast and furious while others get neglected. Old familiar faces of one-time best friends show up on your Facebook feed and you wonder what happened. Scheduling conflicts. You got busy. You forgot to text back. Things got too loud. You got distracted. Out of sight, out of mind.
It’s finding a community of wonderful, brilliant neurodiverse people in your travels and online. It’s those beautiful “No way, me too!” moments with coworkers and strangers at parties who know how to unlock your secrets. You compare diagnoses and medications and the alternative therapies your parents subjected you to before you turned 18. You start to get out of your head a little bit. You start to feel less alone.
Your Brain Brothers and Sisters show you that your diagnosis comes with superpowers and teach you how to unlock them. You teach yourself how to harness your hyperfocus and turn down the noise when you need it gets too loud. You learn how to multitask the right way, writing things down so you don’t drop any balls. You start a bullet journal. You buy a fidget cube. You lose it almost immediately.
You grow up. You gain perspective. It never goes away. But eventually, you learn how to be kind to yourself.
This is something I’ve wanted to talk/write about for a while, so it feels both great and scary to hit post. ADHD has been a part of my life since I was 9, so I have a lot to say on the matter. If you have questions/topic suggestions you’d like me to address in future posts, let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
I also recently got to talk ADHD with Zach Valenti on his podcast, focused.af. It was a really fun conversation and Zach is the bomb. Go check it out!