We are the lazy. We are the forgetful. We are the airheads. We are the failures.
We are the girls who were lost.
Diagnoses of attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) in children rise each year, but more unexpected is the rise in diagnosis of females, increasingly in adult women.
I was diagnosed at 34 years old. You hear ADHD, and an image of Tigger, the ever-bouncing tiger, springs to mind. You would be forgiven for asking how it could be missed, but girls tend not to present like boys. Girls are often inattentive rather than hyperactive, where their male counterparts are flinging rubbers in class, they are the ones gazing out of a window. School reports mentioning “daydreaming” and lack of participation. They then continue, often achieving good results, within the structured world of school. It is when that structure goes that the cracks begin to appear.
When ADHD girls are left to be adults, it becomes overwhelming. “Piles” is what most of us recognise. Piles of paperwork, piles of clothes, piles of dishes. ‘To do’ piles, ‘to file’ piles, ‘to forget it exists’ piles (that last one is what happens to all the piles once we’re used to seeing them). With this comes the anxiety, guilt, and self-reproach. ‘Everyone else’ can manage to wash, dry, AND put away their clothes. ‘Everyone else’ can pay bills on time. They can keep possessions without losing them. They don’t have the locksmith’s number stored in their phone. ‘Everyone else’ can adult. So why couldn’t I? Was I just lazy and a failure?
It was a chance article online that made me query ADHD, and things all slotted into place. I was terrified when I went to try for a diagnosis. I was asking the same thing that I have discovered many women ask as they go: “What if I AM just lazy?” It’s not as easy as just seeing a doctor though. Not all of them understand ADHD and can’t understand why we can’t just get into a routine. I mean, we did okay in school, didn’t we?
Diagnosis and then medication was life-changing. I came home and put my keys in the key place. I replied to school trips. I paid my bills. I could see the surface of my desk. The house became neat, my mind became settled. My grief was immense though. I grieved for what could have been, for the opportunities that I had missed, for the life I could have been living if I had known and been helped. Would I have gone to university at 18? Would I have sold my business?
There is still so much unknown though: 1% of ADHD research is focused on women. It is known that female hormone fluctuations seriously affect both symptoms and medication, yet it is just 1% of research. It is known how boys display ADHD, and that girls are somehow different, yet it is just 1% of research. One third of ADHD women have anxiety and depression, and half of those consider suicide, just 1% of research.
All isn’t lost though, as we Lost Girls are finding ourselves, we are also helping each other. Channels such as How to ADHD on YouTube offer not only practical help by ADHD people for ADHD people (and their loved ones), but also remind us that ADHD isn’t a terrible thing.
Once we learn how to work with it, we can find we are creative, resilient, inventive. I am only at the beginning of my journey, using my creativity and ways of looking at things from a completely different angle to change both my life. I went back to university with my newfound understanding of myself, I am succeeding, I am achieving. I can see so many paths in front of me where before there were only dead ends.
I look at my quirky, sensitive, distractible daughter, and I hope things will improve. For her to grow up to know that she isn’t lazy, forgetful, ditsy, a failure. She is none of those things. We are none of those things.
We are strong. We are creative. We are passionate. We are spontaneous.
We will raise our voices and be heard.
We will be found.