I felt that I was functioning relatively fine most of my life. Sure, I looked at other people and thought “why does organizing tasks or remembering appointments seem so easy for them?” But I, like many people with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), chalked it up to not trying hard enough, or my most unhelpful cognitive distortion, “maybe I am really just stupid.”
I, like so many other adult women diagnosed with ADHD late in life, have developed many strategies and systems to help with execution functioning deficits. Below is a list of executive functioning challenges.
Executive Function Challenges with ADHD
· Time Blindness (unrealistic ability to understand time, how long something will take)
· Time management
· Inhibition or impulsiveness
· Concentration or focus
· Juggling memory
· Difficulty with transitions, context shifting
· Follow through and task completion issues
· Self-awareness, introspective
· Easily overwhelmed
· Difficult time asking for help/advocacy
· Resistance to an non preferred task
Learning How to Cope When You Have ADHD
The “manageability” that I constructed made me always dismissive of any underlying suspicions that I had ADHD. Even though I am a licensed therapist, I still didn’t want to admit or see the signs that I had ADHD because I thought, “I’ve coped with it for 40 years so what does it matter now if I’m diagnosed?”
Most of my life, I wondered why I couldn’t just heed the constant advice I heard such as: “Just try harder” or “You just have to focus” or “Just slow down and listen” and “just write it down”. My internal dialogue and every part of my being believed I was stupid and less than.
Once I had children (I had my first at 39), I noticed the challenges with executive functioning even more. I attributed it to just having “mom brain.” Does this sound familiar to anyone: My three-month-old son and I are going to Target for some sanity. I literally ran into the house 4 to 5 times (sometimes after pulling out of the driveway and then pulling back in) because I I kept forgetting my purse, or the diaper bag, or remembering to actually put diapers in the diaper bag, or my phone or a bottle of breastmilk or the stroller. Yikes, by the time I figured out that I was ready to go, he needed to breastfeed again, so why go at all!
Or how about this one: My two kids are elementary school aged, which, before COVID, came with a slew of birthday invites. In the beginning of trying to organize all these parties, my daughter cried a few times when she was all excited to attend a party, and we showed up on the wrong day or to the wrong place (the bouncy place in Golden instead of Littleton). Even if I told myself, “I read the invite 4 times, I got it down,” I still would mess it up somehow.
After a few times of my daughter experiencing my disorganization with parties, she started saying “it’s okay mom, we’ll just go tomorrow” or other thoughtful words to help me not stress. Of course, I felt horrible! Now it was affecting my kids, I had enough! I picked up the phone to call for help, but, guess what, I still never followed through with actually attending the appointment.
At the beginning of COVID, ADHD finally started affecting all aspects of my life. All my
“systems” had to change because of the switch to working from home. I now had to navigate computer-based therapy and how to homeschool. I hit a wall and felt that I was drowning. I FINALLY picked up the phone and got help. For me, help was finding a psychiatrist and a therapist that works with ADHD. I also recently started looking into ADHD coaches and online support groups. I found and still find that support seems to be the most beneficial coping strategy. Support helps me “reset” and stop the negative thought patterns. Support helps normalize and validate strengths of ADHD and challenges.
ADHD in Women
Interestingly, ADHD shows up much differently for women, which is why it is common for us to be diagnosed later in life. We are very good at navigating through life with our own adaptations and managing systems. What typically brings an adult woman in for treatment is having similar experiences I mentioned above.
Transitions Trigger ADHD Symptoms
Adjustments to high stress, trauma triggers (often ADHD and trauma go hand in hand), adjustments to big life changes, changes in support (starting college and not having your parents help “organize” your life), having children (not able to use old coping skills that worked, due to newborn demands), relationships ending (again losing support system that may have helped you stay organized and on task) or the emotional drains of relationships ending and not having the bandwidth “to deal.”
All of the above mentioned can be the cog in the train tracks that send you seeking therapeutic or medication management support. ADHD may not even be in the forefront of why adjusting is so difficult. Maybe you focused on possible depression or anxiety (often present with ADHD).
Your Next Steps
I hope together we can change the stigma with neurodivergent disorders. The more education and support we can provide one another the stronger we become. We are driven by brains that are motivated by our interests and passions, which is a strength. We seek support, find new systems that have helped others with ADHD, and keep “resetting” and “tweaking” when these systems indelibly fail.
If anything in this article resonates with you and you’re searching for ADHD support, you can make an appointment with one of our ADHD specialist therapists, Marie Clyne or Kristen Dammer. You can learn about how ADHD affects you, without shame, and how to navigate your life more easily by understanding how to better use your strengths.
How We Can Help
You are not alone.
If you are looking for general support, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:
Contact us today for a free 20-minute phone consultation
Begin your journey towards a calmer, more relaxed life
Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:
Here at Catalyss Counseling, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Kristen Dammer believes in addressing the whole health needs of you as a person, and her dedication, creativity, and flexibility as a therapist are her greatest strengths. Her holistic approach to anxiety, grief and trauma helps you feel in control and creates a welcoming environment for you to share your vulnerabilities, fears, and experiences. She is trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and uses it to treat anxiety and trauma. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.