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If you received an ADHD diagnosis later in life, I’m sure that like me, you had more questions than answers, and a lot of unprocessed emotion.
In this blog post, I’ll share some valuable insights and practical tips, based on my own late in life diagnosis and formal ADHD coach training, to help you navigate this new chapter of your life.
Not All ADHD is Created Equal – You are Unique + so is Your Brain Wiring
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is often misunderstood. It’s not simply a deficit of attention, but rather a dysregulation of attention. This dysregulation affects our executive functions, which are responsible for various cognitive processes such as planning, organization, emotional control, working memory, problem-solving, and more. It’s important to note that not all ADHD is the same, and everyone’s experience with the disorder is unique.
An Adult ADHD Diagnosis Comes with a Lifetime of Emotions to Unpack
Receiving an ADHD diagnosis can stir up a mix of emotions, and that’s completely normal. You may feel sadness, grief, or even anger. It’s essential to give yourself space and time to process these emotions. Mourning what could have been is a natural part of the process, but try not to get stuck in a victim mindset. Instead, focus on what you can do moving forward and embrace the potential for growth and improvement.
When I first got my diagnosis, I had a strong mixture of sadness for what could have been, but also a sense of relief that I wasn’t “Stupid”. Now that I’ve had a few years to process the news, I’m grateful to know what I know because that’s how I can start to live better.
Educating Yourself about ADHD
Knowledge is power when it comes to managing ADHD. Take the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the disorder and its impact on your life. Understand the specific executive functions that you struggle with the most and identify areas where you need support. Remember, not all advice will work for everyone, so find what resonates with you and experiment with different strategies.
That said, I highly recommend avoiding influencers or experts that have a negative focus on the disorder. I’m not suggesting that it’s all fun and positivity, but focusing on the bad parts isn’t helpful and it can often make you feel worse about who you are.
Strengthening Your Executive Functions
While ADHD presents challenges, it’s important to know that your executive functions can continue to develop and improve over time. Be patient with yourself and focus on strengthening (or outsourcing) the areas where you face difficulties. This can involve mental exercises to enhance memory, focus, and attention or implementing external systems and tools to support your executive functions. Find what works best for you, whether it’s using productivity apps, creating routines, or seeking the guidance of an ADHD coach.
Managing Comorbid Conditions
Something to keep in mind, is that ADHD rarely travels alone. Many of us also have comorbid conditions such as depression, anxiety, OCD, or autism. It’s essential to recognize and address these conditions alongside your ADHD diagnosis. Seeking therapy from a trauma-informed professional who understands ADHD can be incredibly valuable in navigating the complex emotions and challenges that may arise.
The more you get to know about your conditions, and the best ways to work with them (instead of against them) will help you live with way more peace and well being. Trust me on this! I know from experience 🙂
What about ADHD Medications?
Medication is a personal choice and should be discussed with a healthcare professional. It’s not for everyone, but it has certainly helped me.
I think the two important things to know about ADHD meds is that:
- It’s not a “fix”. It will help you function better and perhaps be more focused with your attention, but it doesn’t suddenly make you a different person (nor should it, as you are amazing as you are). If you want to change certain behaviors or habits, your meds will help you pay more attention to those actions, but you still need to do the work to make the necessary changes.
- If you decide to take meds, that’s your business. Unless you are a minor, in which case, your parents would have to consent, but as an adult, you can make this choice for yourself and also keep it to yourself. I share this as many of my clients feel shame around taking meds and it’s absolutely nothing to feel ashamed about. If you fear that there is a stigma to taking medication, then you’re directing your wellbeing on false information. Do what’s right for you!
Cop a Positive Attitude
While receiving an ADHD diagnosis can be overwhelming, it’s important to focus on the positive aspects of your journey. ADHDers possess unique strengths and perspectives that can be channeled into personal growth and success. Surround yourself with supportive communities, whether online or in-person, where you can connect with like-minded individuals who understand your experiences. Embrace the idea that you can thrive with ADHD and build a fulfilling life that aligns with your values and goals.
Along those same lines, be mindful of the folks you follow in social media. Sometimes using humor to cope with symptoms can be cathartic, but if you follow people who are constantly pointing out the struggles and negative aspects of ADHD (even if just to get a laugh) it can start to shape your perspective in a negative way. That’s completely unhelpful in my opinion.
The Final Word on Late-Diagnosed ADHD
Receiving an ADHD diagnosis can be absolutely life-changing. Once you’ve given yourself time to process your emotions, start looking for ways to improve your situation. Find other ADHDers to connect with (we’re super nice!) and find ways to compensate for your executive dysfunctions, either by taking courses, reading books or hiring a coach to help you navigate your goals and desires.
I hope this has been helpful! If you’re newly diagnosed and you have specfic questions about ADHD, feel free to drop them below.