I was recently diagnosed with ADHD.

At the grand old age of 45.

If you haven’t heard of it before, that stands of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - a disorder that affects the functioning of the brain and includes symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

I’ve found it uncharacteristically difficult to talk/write about, but I’m sharing it here in the hope it might be of help (even just as a reminder that everyone has their ‘things’ to deal with).

In this special podcast episode, I share the story of how I discovered I had ADHD and why I believe it's my secret superpower as an entrepreneur.

{Click on the player above to listen to the podcast episode and/or read on for a detailed overview. Scroll down to the bottom to read the show notes including all the links mentioned in this episode}

By the time you get to the end of this post, there’s a good chance you’ll be thinking one of three things (or maybe all three).

  1. But I do those things too
  2. But you don’t seem the slightest bit ‘hyperactive’ Janet
  3. ADHD isn’t real...it’s just your personality type

So, to put it into context...yes we all do some of the things I share with you here sometimes. What makes the difference with ADHD is (a) the frequency with which the symptoms occur (b) the extent to which it affects your life.

It’s also worth mentioning that ADHD shows up differently in different people….particularly in girls and women (which is why it’s often missed). For example, the hyperactivity and/or restlessness can be mental rather than physical (as in my case).

And while educational/professional achievement in people with ADHD is often lower, it can show up in high achievers too. In fact the ability to 'hyperfocus' - to zone in on a particular area of interest and block out everything else - can be EXACTLY the thing that helps you to become a high achiever (another reason why ADHD can get missed).

I always felt there was something a bit ‘different’ about how my brain worked - but like many people - I associated ADHD with hyperactive teenage boys, so never imagined I could have it.

Then I stumbled across an article about women and ADHD and thought…’oh my God, that’s ME.’ I spent the next year or so reading and researching, which is what, eventually, led to me getting tested and getting a diagnosis.

My ADHD symptoms

To put my symptoms into context, here are some of the questions I’ve grappled with pretty much all of my life:

✔️ How can I be such a high achiever at things I find interesting but suck SO badly at those I don’t (which is VERY apparent from my school reports)?

✔️ Why can I concentrate for hours on things I’m interested in - to the point where I lose track of time - but struggle to pay attention to anything that doesn’t?

✔️ Why am I so bad at ‘life stuff?’ Paying bills, booking/cancelling appointments, ordering groceries, cooking….

✔️ Why do I get so excited about new things….then struggle to finish them?

✔️ Why am I so bad at friendship? Remembering friends' birthdays, sending baby gifts, asking after them when they’re sick, turning up to social things…well maybe not bad, just inconsistent...

✔️ Why am I such an impulsive spender (but never seem to learn from my mistakes)?

✔️ Why am I so brilliant with words...but frequently get muddled up with numbers and dates?

✔️ Why do I leave everything until the last minute? In fact, why does leaving it to the last minute sometimes feel like the ONLY way to get it done?

✔️ Why do I struggle so much with detail? To the point where starting a project with lots of moving parts or instructions to read feels PHYSICALLY painful?

✔️ Why can’t I hold down a job or even stick working in an office with other people for more than a few weeks at a time?

✔️ Why do I get so BORED of everything so quickly: meetings, relationships, social events, small talk, projects...?

✔️ Why do I sometimes make such impulsive decisions? Decisions that can blow up relationships (friendship/work/family)...often on a whim?

✔️ Why am I SO damn sensitive? To the point where a cross word/brush off from a colleague/friend can put me in a dark place for weeks on end…

✔️ Why am I a compulsive workaholic who works longer hours than anyone else I know (often to achieve the same results)?

✔️ Why don’t I enjoy holidays/days off like other people seem to?

✔️ Why can’t I SWITCH MY DAMN BRAIN OFF?

All of which I now realise are symptoms of ADHD.

Why you don't have to be hyperactive to have ADHD

If you’ve worked with me and/or are a friend, you may be surprised by me sharing this.

Because I probably come across as pretty calm, right?

I generally don’t pace the floor, interrupt people when they’re speaking and/or talk incessantly (well, only sometimes ) or any of the other stereotypical symptoms of ADHD.

The only thing you might have noticed is that sometimes I talk a bit fast. And - if you’ve worked with me, you’ll also know I THINK fast. Which can make it hard to keep up at times...

But I wasn’t bouncing off the walls as a child/teenager (and nor do I do that now). So I had no reason to believe - and nor did anyone else in my life - that the things I describe above were anything more than personality quirks.

Relationships is the area where I struggle most. While I LOVE people, I find navigating the unwritten rules of friendship - and particularly female friendship groups - nigh on impossible.

Maintaining female friendships often involves doing things you don’t want to do - or that bore you - just to be accepted. Which I’ve learned doesn’t work for the ADHD brain.

I’ve been dropped from numerous female friendship groups over the years for not playing by the ‘rules’ (or at least it feels like I have - but that might be down to Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, which comes hand in hand with ADHD, but I’ll save that for another post!).

Which means life can feel a bit lonely at times.

While I have tons of acquaintances, I only have a handful of really close friends. Generally driven, ambitious women like me. Or men. Because both are unlikely to get offended when I forget to message them back, say/do the wrong thing or disappear for a few months because I’m engrossed in work or a new hobby. Because that’s all I can manage without messing things up.

Until recently, I saw my inability to maintain deep and long-lasting friendships with women as a character flaw. In fact, I’ve spent countless hours pouring my heart out to my mum about it over the years. Now I realise this is probably down to having a different kind of brain... which kind of helps a bit.

Coping Strategies

Work-wise, I’ve completely leant into my zone of genius (writing, communicating, creating content) and outsourced the things I find hard. And I love what I do, which means I rarely have problems paying attention to work stuff.

Life wise...I kind of bumble along, trying - and often failing - to create systems to keep me organised. But I still get far too many fines/charges for forgetting to pay things. I’m still impulsive with money, but because I earn more these days, it’s less of a problem. Which means I no longer have any debt. Although, if my income changed, I know that’s something I’d have to watch out for.

I’ve learned that the ADHD brain only has two modes: ‘now’ or ‘not now’ - which means you can’t draw on a previous experience like most people do (for example, getting charged for going over your overdraft limit because you bought something you couldn’t afford). Which is why you keep repeating the same mistakes - over and over again - much to the frustration of family/friends/colleagues.

Relationships are the area where I struggle most. While I LOVE people, I find navigating the unwritten rules of friendship - and particularly female friendship groups - nigh on impossible.

Maintaining female friendships often involves doing things you don’t want to do - or that bore you - just to be accepted. Which I’ve learned doesn’t work for the ADHD brain.

I’ve been dropped from numerous female friendship groups over the years for not playing by the ‘rules’ (or at least it feels like I have - but that might be down to Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, which comes hand in hand with ADHD, but I’ll save that for another post!).

Which means life can feel a bit lonely at times.

While I have tons of acquaintances, I only have a handful of really close friends. Generally driven, ambitious women like me. Or men. Because both are unlikely to get offended when I forget to message them back, say/do the wrong thing or disappear for a few months because I’m engrossed in work or a new hobby. Because that’s all I can manage without messing things up.

Until recently, I saw my inability to maintain deep and long-lasting friendships with women as a character flaw. In fact, I’ve spent countless hours pouring my heart out to my mum about it over the years. Now I realise this is probably down to having a different kind of brain, which kind of helps a bit.

Next steps

This is all quite new to me, so I’ll leave it here (and I’m also a bit bored now).

I’m just starting out on this journey, so I still have a lot to learn. I spent the first few weeks wondering whether the test was ‘wrong’ and worrying about whether people would think I was jumping on to some kind of trend/bandwagon (ADHD is really common in entrepreneurs).

Once I’ve got my head around it, I’m sure it’s a topic I will revisit again - especially once I’ve explored different treatment options. But I wanted to share this with you in case it was helpful in any way.

And it goes without saying that while living with a restless, racing mind isn’t always easy (in fact, it can feel unbearable at times), it is almost certainly responsible for some of the things I’ve achieved in my life/business.

Over and out.

Podcast Shownotes

  • Why I recorded this bonus podcast episode (1:35)
  • My ADHD symptoms that led to my ADHD diagnosis (5:49)
  • Why I always just accepted my symptoms as personality quirks (9:15)
  • How ADHD has affected my ability to form close friendships (11:01)
  • Why ADHD symptoms show up later in women (12:24)
  • How I struggled at primary school with sensitivity (14:01)
  • How I lost interest in certain subjects at school (18:08)
  • How I started enjoying school when I could focus on the subjects I was good at (20:43)
  • Why I found university boring and it didn’t do much for me (22:50)
  • Why I struggle with small talk especially at events (23:59)
  • How I couldn’t stop spending money when I was younger (25:54)
  • When I realised that teaching wasn’t right for me (28:50)
  • Why freelance journalism was a really good fit for me (30:48)
  • How I got interested in entrepreneurship and online businesses (34:02)
  • How I struggled with being a mum and making connections with other mums (36:12)
  • How ADHD leads to hyper-focus and can make you lose interest in things (39:53)
  • Why I decided to find out if I had ADHD /  I started to question why I couldn’t enjoy time off (40:22)
  • Why it’s about the frequency of symptoms in an ADHD diagnosis (42:18)
  • How I’ve managed my business around my symptoms (43:05)
  • How ADHD hyper-focus has really helped my business (45:16)
  • Resources to understand more about ADHD (47:10)

Resources

Tracy Otsuka Podcast 

Jessica Macabe How to ADHD 

A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD 

Taking Charge of Adult ADHD 

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