Too often girls and women with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, are overlooked. The condition certainly affects females but sometimes presents in different ways from the traditional ‘hyperactive, impulsive’ presentation associated with boys and they may slip under the radar. ADHD is a lifelong developmental condition, and for many the symptoms can continue right through adulthood. Effective, evidence-based treatments for ADHD exist, but a missed diagnosis, or even a misdiagnosis, and hence a lack of treatment, can have a profound impact on an individual’s wellbeing and life.
Inner West Mum Elise Kumar was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 30. Since receiving that diagnosis, Elise says that not only has she gained a far greater appreciation of herself, but the treatment, including medication, has transformed her life for the better. This week in the Inner West Mums group, Elise wrote passionately about her experience in a comment on a related post. We felt her message was so valuable we asked her if we could share her words here too and she kindly agreed. For those considering seeking a late diagnosis, according to Elise, any age is a good age for diagnosis!
‘My ADHD gives me a wonderfully creative brain – I am great at problem solving as unique solutions just seem to “come” to me. I am an incredibly fast learner able to make connections between different things very quickly and see the whole picture. I am so creative with a million stories running through my head.
‘And I could barely use any of that because ADHD drained my motivation, my drive, my diligence and my perseverance. I had a million ideas but no ability to put any of them into action. The moment something got even a little bit difficult I dropped it. I couldn’t “push” myself as I had nothing to push with.
‘I was crippled with anxiety, depression and doubt. I had a brilliant mind but struggled at university having to change my major several times and failing subjects over and over. I had so many ideas for things I wanted to study, so much passion … but no ability to stick with anything long enough to go anywhere with it.
‘When I was 30 I was diagnosed with ADHD and I started taking a very low dose of stimulant medication. It made a profound difference to my life. My depression and anxiety vanished, I was suddenly able to sleep at night – and through the night. Something that had eluded me all my life. I can suddenly pick an idea and follow it to the end. I am still just as creative, my ideas are just as great; what I have gained is the ability to choose one idea at a time.
‘Things that were always too overwhelming for me to manage: housework, friendships, work, study … are now doable. If I meet someone new I can grow a friendship with them instead of forgetting them and neglecting them because I got stuck playing a computer game for 6 months.
‘I can now read novels. I have started writing the novel that I have been thinking about writing but never gotten around to for more than a decade.
‘I am going to get my driver’s licence. I now have enough attention span and concentration that I feel confident I can drive without being a danger to myself and others. I am 35 and I have had my learner’s permit for nearly two decades … Do you have any idea how trapped I have felt unable to drive because I couldn’t hold my attention in one place long enough to know I wouldn’t just run into another car?
‘To anyone reading this who wonders if they have ADHD I beg you to get treated. My life has opened before me like a flower and suddenly all of the “potential” I could never reach up to is before me. It is never too late.
‘I wear glasses because my eyes don’t focus properly. Nobody tells me to “accept myself” and put up with poor vision. My brain doesn’t focus properly either and my stimulant medications are simply “glasses for my brain”.
‘A base level of functioning doesn’t have to be the best it gets. I don’t study or take exams but my medication helps me do the following things that help my life in profound ways: sleep, eat, regular meals, meditate every day, hold down a job and perform well at my job, keep up with the housework, keep up with my social life, be present with my son, be present with my husband, be more mindful in general, and eliminates my anxiety and depression.’
If you believe that your child, you or your partner may have ADHD, speak to your GP for a referral to a specialist for assessment and, if relevant, diagnosis and treatment.
If you would like to learn more about ADHD, here are some excellent resources:
Cover image © Zenina/123RF Stock Photo
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The Boy Who Loves School: An ADHD Story
Something to Embrace: Autism Acceptance with Princess Aspien
An Extraordinary Child: Our Family’s Autism Journey