Shedding the Mask of Competency

First, drop everything and read this game changing article: “I Thought I Was Stupid”, The Hidden Struggle for Women with ADHD.

If you’re like me, it took a few tries and you found yourself wandering to and from the browser it’s displayed on. But as I read, I felt understood by these women who have similar struggles and harsh self-talk. This article was like a mirror- it showed me what I could not see in myself: the exhaustive effort to hide my ADHD symptoms had sneakily weaved itself into the very fabric of my being. And there it was- separated from me and looking at me straight in the face. It pushed me to be “twice exceptional”, setting and meeting goal after goal, but never staying still enough to enjoy a success. Never feeling fulfilled, I shamed myself constantly for not being more grateful of the life I’ve worked so hard to build. Maybe this constant void that I was trying to fill with being busy was a symptom of my ADHD, and maybe that didn’t make me a bad person.

Figure 1. Emo picture from the internet.

This article made me realize that I don’t have to be persistently apologetic about the symptoms of my disorder. I will forget meetings, I will appear scattered, I will lose my keys, and my phone will often be dead. I will act like an excited, tail-flailing dog when you walk through the door, and bombard you with questions about your day. I will pace around the house while cleaning, and I can guarantee that the round-about way I get my chores done would both baffle and annoy most people. These are the realities that I no longer have the energy to hide now that I know there is a name for it. It’s okay for me to get up and walk around during a conference. It’s okay for me to scribble in a notebook. It’s okay for me to tell people that I might need some extra help in certain areas. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t want to be perfect. I can’t be perfect, because no such thing exists.

Figure 2. A weird hot mess and starting to feel okay about it.

Since opening up about the diagnosis, I’ve received a thousand acts of kindness. Today at least, I’ve given myself permission to shrug it all off. To let it go. To release the very real tension in my neck and shoulders from holding everything up so high for so long. I have an honest desire to design my life by embracing the ADHD, instead of continuing to punish myself over and over for not conforming. I’m in the process of getting my health coverage beefed up a bit so that I can continue to see my therapist, and add visits to a chiropractor, massage therapist, and occupational therapist to see if there are new ways to bring happiness and ease into my life. It’s really nice to feel this good again.

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