The final assignment that I was writing about ADHD. Thank you so much everyone who contributed, some people were merged into one.
We are the lazy. We are the forgetful. We are the airheads. We are the failures. We are the girls who were missed. Diagnoses of attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) in children rise each year, but more unexpected is the rise in diagnoses of females, increasingly adult women. I was diagnosed at 34 years old. You hear ADHD, and an image of Tigger 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. That picture is my desk. Well, my desk when I haven’t had my pills for a day or so. 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 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 everything 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 ok 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? Laura’s daughter is fifteen years old and has had trouble with school all her life. She has been labelled as a “naughty” child, as though she wilfully disobeys the rules. They have suggested anger help, parenting courses, different schools. But not once did anyone look and say ADHD. A boy exhibiting the same behaviour would have been noticed, they WERE noticed, and yet the transfer of the behaviours to girls just wasn’t considered. Ella was diagnosed with depression, atypical depression, dysthymia, generalised anxiety disorder, and even PTSD, all of which were treated to no effect, before someone finally suggested ADHD at the age of twenty four. The same stories echo round, Sarah was diagnosed at fifty-two, when her daughter was being diagnosed. She not only felt the missed opportunities of her own life, but that of her daughter who had been displaying the same symptoms for thirty years. 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 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.