Moira unpacks how, despite appearing highly capable, her traits of leadership, organization, helping, intelligence, and high expectations were all used to hide her struggles with ADHD. Moira speaks honestly about her most common struggles and no longer trying to hide them and giving up self-blame and judgment to make room for a better life with ADHD. Expanding the conversation about how ADHD is experienced is important because incorrect or limiting beliefs about ADHD impact our chance of a correct diagnosis, treatment, and quality of life.
Moira Maybin 00:00
Today we are talking about not fitting the mold. Something most of us with ADHD can relate to. How do we expand the understanding and perception of what ADHD is and what we can do about it? If you have ADHD, or know anyone who does, you're going to want to hear this because it starts with our awareness and considering the experiences of others. I learned this the hard way. I don't want that for you. For show notes and information on this topic visit ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com.
Moira Maybin 00:33
Hey there, welcome to the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle, a podcast for those of us with ADHD, who have had enough with trying harder and want to reduce frustration and overwhelm. It's time to literally put on our own oxygen mask first, so we can finally breathe and make it possible to show up in our own lives without guilt or shame. Join me as we dive into the stories, adventures and mishaps, all while trying to make sense of the published research that could make your tomorrow a more ADHD friendly day. I'm your host, Moira Maybin, a woman mom, an educator who had no clue about my own ADHD until I was 45. I suspect many of us have asked the same questions I did over and over again. Why is life so hard? Why does it seem easier for literally everyone else? There are things that I wish I had known about my ADHD sooner. Now that I know what those things are. The knowledge allows me to make different decisions to make my life better and more ADHD friendly. I finally understand that to live well. My lifestyle is not negotiable. It has to work for me, and it has to be healthy. And Yep, it's got to be ADHD friendly.
Moira Maybin 01:39
Unless you are a white seven-year-old boy bouncing off the walls, you don't fit the media narrative for ad. So essentially, that means all of us because seven-year-old boys are only that for one year. And ADHD exists in all genders, races, colors, ethnicities, abilities, ages, and socioeconomic status. In my own family, each person's ADHD is more distinct and complex than how it is stereotyped. This can create a problem. If people don't know we have ADHD, do we tell them? If they know, are they operating under misconceptions or myths about what our ADHD experience is? Do we also judge and shame ourselves because of how we understand our ADHD? When you are chronically overwhelmed in your daily life, and it feels like you're walking through water, what can we do? What do we do even if you're looking for help, and you can't find it or answers or when they're incorrect, incomplete or limiting beliefs about what ADHD challenges and abilities are? What then, especially if it impacts our chance of a correct diagnosis, quality of life, health and treatment options?
Moira Maybin 02:44
Well, for me, I'm doing what comes naturally, I'm talking, I'm learning and I'm working hard to be seen and heard as I've spent too long feeling unseen and misunderstood. I'm talking about my lived experiences and journey with the hope that it both helps myself and others. There are so many aspects fundamental to ADHD that are less talked or known about. ADHD symptoms can be misleading and confusing. Most of us, including clinicians don't know how to recognize the variety of ADHD symptoms, particularly if that person presents as highly capable. And that has a critical effect on our well-being.
Moira Maybin 03:19
Despite having a good career as a teacher. I never felt successful or good enough. I worked extremely hard to keep my struggles and pain hidden unless in the privacy of my own home. Then I could melt down, get angry at myself or loved ones, overeat or withdraw. The struggle and toil were incredibly detrimental to my physical and mental health. Unrecognized and untreated ADHD has a severe negative impact on our stress and emotional well-being. It also leads to a constant assault on our self-acceptance, self-worth and self-esteem. How come it took so long to figure out I had ADHD? Especially when I work in education, a field that works alongside the medical community and parents in identifying ADHD?
Moira Maybin 04:01
Well, I did not see myself in those checklists or descriptions. Even as someone who was looking for answers, who attended repeated training and did a master's degree in many aspects of ADHD. I also used checklists for my own kids for each and every developmental milestone and disorder, I didn't think of ADHD and completely missed it in my kids too. I was monitoring for learning disability due to family history. And that's how we got to ADHD.
Moira Maybin 04:27
The first place I recognized my ADHD was an Ari Tuckman’s book, More attention, Less deficit. I saw myself in example after example of Adult ADHD. It was as clear as day. It was such a great read and I highly recommend. It's even written somewhat ADHD friendly. My next step was Sari Solden and her book Women with Attention Deficit Disorder. I had a similar profound experience as she held up a mirror to many of my own experiences, thoughts and emotions. Here was my ADHD. Yet even so the truth is that I am not what most people think of or picture when they hear ADHD. And yet I believe my story is more common than that we can often feel so alone. I think that's because we're also hiding, and we don't recognize each other.
Moira Maybin 05:14
I also don't fit the stereotype of women with ADHD. There is a lower rate of impulsivity and hyperactivity in girls and women with ADHD, and a higher likelihood of having inattentive symptoms, its challenge is directing your attention. I like to think of it as whatever is going on in our heads. Our interest or pursuits are way more interesting than what others expect or want us to pay attention to. There's more to attention direction than that. But it's important to know it doesn't mean having an inability to pay attention. It's a challenge in directing attention. That's true for me, but I also have combined presentation…. which means hyperactivity, and impulsivity, but not like how it presents in males. I most definitely have never been described as an energizer bunny. My whole life, I have been told that I'm too busy, and that I was always on the go but I wasn't bouncing off the walls. My hyperactivity and impulsivity are really tied together. A lot of people think, talk, move, and do things too slow for me. And as a result, I would jump into conversations impulsively, My dad was a slow talker and hated me guessing the end of the sentences. But I kept doing it over and over even in the same sentence. I would talk so much my brother and sister got me my own phone line when I was 14. Now I avoid phone calls like the plague, I would blurt into conversations. So I wouldn't forget what I wanted to say. Or because I was so excited to contribute. Yes, that excited feeling like I could explode. When I was younger, I could talk and listen at the same time, which drove my teachers crazy. Because when they would ask me what they said, I could tell them.
Moira Maybin 06:50
I can still think and talk at the same time. Which means as I am sharing ideas, often without pause, I may not get to fully express one idea. Before I've already thought about how to change it. And I'm going on to another. I can remember from a very early age, going into situations prepping to hold myself back and monitoring the ebb and flow of participant involvement, to not dominate with my eagerness. I learned that skill so well that I was told that I could help in group because I could get it going if it needed to and I would always be willing to start. I worked at one school where there was a quiet teacher named Wendy and I go into staff meetings repeating to myself, be Wendy be Wendy then someone would say something that I felt I had to respond to, and at my hand would go. I'd also feel frustration, remorse, disappointment and self-criticism at my lack of control at not being WENDY
Moira Maybin 07:45
Now I know that being hyper verbal is a very common trait in females with combined presentation, as is hyperactivity in our thinking. But it's not the common presentation for females with ADHD. If you remember my impulsivity, blurting is one of my biggest challenge, especially when I am feeling emotional. All of us with ovaries and ADHD are biologically and neurologically different from our male counterparts. Research shows that women and girls are subjected to gender-based socialization, a unique developmental path that results in hiding and internalizing our symptoms with increased levels of shame, loneliness, and frustration. One byproduct is that women and girls are highly motivated to compensate for their ADHD challenges so we can hide better. This makes it even harder to readily see our ADHD symptoms. unless you know what to look for. For me, I use my love of learning, desire to please and help to try and fit in. I'm also motivated by challenge and had a strong desire to know why and how people do what they do, particularly me and my own brain. One reason for this was to figure out the quickest, easiest and most interesting way to do anything. If there's a shortcut, I'd like it please, I’d look for hacks inside of the people, places and environment where I did well.
Moira Maybin 09:19
Okay, so we've established that on the surface. I don't look like a female with ADHD, or the ADHD portrayed in the media. Do I fit in with the late diagnosed? They are known for having increased struggles in self-acceptance, self-worth, or self-esteem. Hmm, I think most people who know me wouldn't say these are my issues. unless I've been listening to this podcast. Once again, it would seem I didn't fit the mold, but hold on here. Let's explore this a bit.
Moira Maybin 09:46
For most of my life. I've had recognition for my contributions, commitments and ability. I received the service cup award at my high school graduation. I'm often described as being strong and highly capable with leadership skills, intelligence, extreme organization and having high expectations. Those all sound like good qualities, right? Does this sound like ADHD or someone who has a hard time with their self-worth? Bear with me here, let's go a bit deeper. Remember that female homework motivation to compensate? It turns out I can translate how those glowing attributes were actually tactics designed to hide my struggle ADHD. On my wall when I was young, was the English nursery rhyme about what little girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice. It did not include loud, bubbly, mischievous and curious. So early on, I knew I didn't fit the bill. I was desperate to be well thought of, so if my personality was big, I was going to be the good version of big--the Bionic woman, Wonder Woman, or Superwoman circa 1970s. These women had amazing capabilities, they could solve any sort of problem and didn't need help from anyone. Okay, great. I had my script for that one. So I'm super independent, and will learn/know/how to do all the things, I was often able to use my intelligence and problem solving skills. But I honestly thought this was the way to go. Talk about putting a lot of pressure on myself.
Moira Maybin 11:17
Leadership skills. Yes, I like leading, but not always. And when I stopped to think about it, there are a lot of other reasons why I'll step up. Leaders are usually held in high regard. So that would help me feel good about myself. I hate waiting and inefficiency, because that often leads to things going slowly or more waiting. So being involved gives me more to do with that time, and maybe even a voice in the pace, direction or activities. It could keep me out of a task of responsibility that I might actually hate and find very hard to do. The last thing I wanted would be to let people down or disappoint them. So getting in early to help shape my involvement would allow me to create a better fit for myself. Yes, it also meant more responsibilities, more time commitments, and more demands on me cognitively. But typically, I was trying to move away from less desirable things. Even if having more on my plate wasn't what I always wanted or had a larger cost in another way.
Moira Maybin 12:11
What other people saw as high expectations for myself or others was never really that it was my attempt to try not screw up. If I checked, double checked, did everything well and thoroughly, then I wouldn't get something wrong, let someone down or get in trouble. I didn't expect other people to be that way. But I guess if I'm wanting the things that I'm involved with, to be thorough and complete, and we don't always do things in isolation, I can see how that would come across. I didn't realize that everyone didn't live that way until I was in my mid 20s. And it came as a surprise. This way of thinking is essentially perfectionism. I could describe it as a drive to be on top of all my responsibilities and know all the required things while keeping all the balls in the air. I not only had to have all my ducks in a row, they needed to be groomed, wearing bow ties and be stapled to the floor. This was a way to try and protect myself from failure or recrimination while also seeking validation. At what cost an impossible task. Anxiety is providing the fuel and the whole experience leads to irritability and flexibility and exhaustion that can take all the fun out of a girl that's for sure.
Moira Maybin 13:20
Organization is an interesting one. It has been a survival tactic. Clean and orderly spaces are calming to me. I get stressed out when I don't know what is going on where things are or what is expected. Remember those ducks in a row? I have spent countless hours organizing my space and task sometimes to only reorganize them again when it doesn't work. People often commented on how organized I was. I always took it as a negative that it meant that I was too fussy. Then I realized they were complimenting; I had no idea. The next awareness was that it was a need for me that I would become irritable and overwhelmed by the additional burden of mess. It was another job to do. And as someone who is chronically overwhelmed, it always felt like the straw that was going to break the camel's back. So I thought it was best to stay on top of it all the time, which was also exhausting.
Moira Maybin 14:06
Lucky me as a filer, someone who prefers to file and put things away. I married someone who is a Piler. He is happiest when he can see everything, he owns piled up around him. For me piles equal chaos and not being able to find a thing. In fact, the psychologist who diagnosed my son said she didn't think I had ADHD because I was so organized. My compulsive need for order developed out of something I learned post ADHD diagnosis, I can become disorganized very easily and quickly and that leads to distress. At the start of a school day my desk would be clear with only what I needed for the day in strategic locations in order by 3pm. My desk was a chaotic pile of the day's debris and by products before leaving. I would sort through sift and reorganize to get ready for the next day. If I don't put things down in the same place every time, I can't find them, I put things down and have no idea where they are. I am constantly looking for my glasses and my slippers, I buy multiples of whatever is possible to do so. So I can have things at the point of views and not have to move them around, I can see why some people like piles. But for me, having systems, homes, at a regular time to tidy up and organize helps keep my stress and anxiety down. I've also learned to stay out of my husband's office, As well, since knowing I have ADHD and developing other ways to support and take care of myself, I have become much more relaxed and more okay with being less organized. It's taken time but I don't expect myself to have my shit together anymore, or even pretend to. Talk about creating an impossible task for myself. And it's reduced so much anxiety, by giving myself that permission. Also, I will never live in an open plan home again, I want my kitchen and my children's bedrooms out of my line of sight. If I do not want to deal with them. I am now okay if the dishes sit overnight, or all day, or even now for a few days. For me that is progress. There are more important things to spend my time on. I used to think I would get everything else done first, then get to the stuff I wanted to. Life doesn't work that way. I do still prefer a clean kitchen, but not at the cost of me or my relationships. Not worth it. I know that for many. This isn't a typical view of an ADHD challenge. Aren't we all messy and disorganized? Yes, I can be very easily. And I probably even now put way too much effort into trying to cope with it. But that's where I'm at.
Moira Maybin 16:35
I've never really unpacked all of these things at one time or place before. I think it's clear that I really spent many years feeling like I wasn't good enough that I had to work harder, do more, be better change myself, you name it. It all adds up to struggles with self-worth, self-esteem, and self-acceptance that I am now finally dealing with. Its people who are perceived as highly capable that are one of the hardest groups to be diagnosed with ADHD. Getting my diagnosis was a turning point in my life. And at the same time, I was learning about all the challenges associated with ADHD it didn't sound good life with ADHD sounded hard. And I've had enough of that.
Moira Maybin 17:16
One of the first things I worked on was getting better at paying attention to what was really going on for me, instead of putting all my energy into hiding or blaming myself, I don't fight against it anymore. And I hide it even less. Now I am more able to share what it is like when days are just hard. I suspect that you might recognize some of these, I have an understanding that I am different. And I can also feel disconnected and dissimilar. Sometimes it's just some of the time. I know other people feel this way. Most of the time, I've also experienced the magic of what it feels like to be with other neuro diverse people. Yet for me, I can feel alone in a group when my brain is so busy, convoluted and darting everywhere that I can't enjoy people or the conversation. It's hard to speak even harder to listen. I used to use talking as a defense tactic to avoid having to listen to what someone else was saying. As I felt like I just couldn't take in anymore. My ADHD imagination can run wild for both good or evil with so many subsequent what ifs or case scenarios that I feel compelled to think through or plan for. It's the same thought process that leads to great ideas. But it can also create great anxiety and challenges if you're expected to be interacting with others. When I can't sit still any longer or stay at the table because I'm on the edge of my seat feeling compelled struggling with waiting or wanting to go to the next thing.
My energy is either on or off and off, used to always mean exhausted, then I would lay down, I prefer to lay down and when I read or watch TV, and I recently figured out why that I didn't know how to physically relax my body sitting in a chair. So I don't find it comfortable or restorative in the way others do. I had gotten so used to my body being uncomfortable. And when you can't sit comfortably, it's hard to slow down to take care of yourself or relax,
My senses can become overloaded at things most people don't even register.
A few years ago, I was having a test on my ability to focus. My intention was to focus to do the job of circling all the correct letters. And suddenly I would think about the book I was reading or telling the examiner but what I had just thought, or how would be boring to mark this test or imagining the conversation we would have when we were done.
And then I don't trust myself, because I've gotten it wrong so many times, I can question and doubt myself, I'll check other people's perspective. When I don't trust mine. I worry about offending people unintentionally, and then I can even bang into them like kids do. Well, that turns out that there's a visual processing disorder that lots of people with ADHD have. And I'm going to talk about more of that another time. And sometimes there just seems to be more hard things or things that are just super boring with no end in sight. The laundry will never be done and there are always dishes and meals to cook.
Moira Maybin 20:04
There were two things that helped me make fundamental changes and shifts in my life. The first one was joining Eric Tivers ADHD Coaching and Accountability Group. That decision has led to countless positive change and events in my life over the last week, it helps me align my goals and intention, including spending the time on the things I want to and doing what I can to make my life less complicated and taxing. If we are able to help ourselves and then help each other, live a life that is more friendly to our constant companion, our ADHD, then it becomes mutually beneficial and reinforcing.
The second one was a commitment to find out what I needed to do to minimize my ADHD. This is the big deal. Because it turns out when those of us with ADHD, develop our self-compassion, our self-acceptance, our self-worth, and our self-advocacy skills, our life outcomes are the same as those without ADHD. So it's not actually about finding the best planner or app. It's not about getting rid of hiding, changing, or training away or ADHD. It's about acceptance, compassion, advocacy, and a sense of worth for ourselves. For me, that especially includes how to stop and take care of myself and get some rest. As someone who has always tried to push through.
I am done trying harder. But I still need help. I'm reminders with this a few years ago, I committed to trying differently. Now I realize I'm also committing to doing less so that I can have the space and time to truly build the skills, practices, priorities and lifestyle that helps me align my goals, beliefs and intentions with my actions and day to day life. It's an ongoing process, learning what my capacity is, and how to live within it. And that is really freaking hard. I am learning when to challenge myself and when to be kind and give myself a break. My mental health is getting the support it needs. And in doing that, I'm making good progress on changing ways of thinking and doing that no longer serve me, I continue to try or tweak supports to help ease my ADHD challenges. Having back surgery in the fall of 2020 has meant that right now I have the gift of time to pay attention to my body to help it heal and for me to finally give it the attention and care it deserves. Creating an ADHD friendly lifestyle requires persistence, time and support, to be able to accept and have compassion for ourselves and to believe we are worthy of being considered first in our own life. This requires support over extended time to develop skills, and then our challenges can be diminished no matter what your ADHD looks or feels like knowing that we are not alone. And that there is a greater combination of things we can do to treat ourselves as a whole person is so important. This podcast is to help adults with ADHD build our knowledge and skills and community. I am following my heart spending time doing what I'm passionate about and letting go of what doesn't work for me. I wish the same for you.
Moira Maybin 22:56
Okay, here are the main takeaways from today's episode. Number one, there is a media narrative for ADHD that does not fit most of us. ADHD exists in all genders races, colors, ethnicities, abilities, ages and socioeconomic status. Number two, expanding the conversation about how ADHD is experienced is important because incorrect or limiting beliefs about ADHD impacts our chance of a correct diagnosis, treatment and quality of life. Women with ADHD tend to have a lower rate of impulsivity and hyperactivity, and a higher rate of inattentive symptoms than do men. Women with combined type ADHD can present as being both hyper verbal and hyperactive in their thinking. All of us with ovaries in ADHD are biologically and neurologically different from our male counterparts. Women and Girls are also impacted by gender-based socialization that results in hiding and internalizing our symptoms, increased levels of shame, loneliness and frustration, and a higher motivation to compensate for ADHD challenges. To try and meet gender-based expectations. Those of us who are late diagnosed have increased struggles and self-acceptance, self-worth, or self-esteem. All of these factors, combined with people's own lived experiences can lead to distinct and unique experiences of ADHD with common underlying challenges for all of us, developing self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-worth, and self-advocacy skills are key to foster and then from there we can develop skills and practices to help diminish our challenges and pursue our dreams. Thanks so much for listening today. I can't wait to continue the conversation.
I hope you enjoy today's show. This is the place for the late diagnosed women, moms professionals. Those who want to understand ADHD be heard and know they're not alone. An ADHD friendly lifestyle builds our ability to take care of ourselves and use our unique strengths and talents to create a lifestyle that works for us.
Moira Maybin 24:50
I'd love to know your thoughts about today's episode. There are lots of ways to get in touch. You can check out my website, ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com or comment below on this podcast. All questions will be anonymous, respected and appreciated. And I can't wait to continue this conversation with you. But please remember, I am not a doctor. And the information presented in this podcast doesn't replace the individual recommendations from your healthcare providers. You can help by sharing the podcast with the people in your life by taking the time to rate review and subscribe to the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle on iTunes, or the podcast player of your choice. I'm thrilled to be part of the ADHD rewired Podcast Network. Every week you can find new episodes of ADHD reWired with Eric Tivers sharing interesting interviews and stories. Will Curb has amazing tips and insights at Hacking your ADHD. Brendan Mahan hosts ADHD Essentials focusing on families, parents and educators. And my fellow Canadian MJ hosts ADHD Diversified, where she's diversifying the voices and experiences of ADHD and mental health. All of these podcasts including the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle, are available to everyone, everywhere, podcasts are available. You can join all of us at our live Q&A every second Tuesday of the month at 10:30am. Pacific to ask us questions. Go to ADHDrewired.com/events to register. Thanks for listening. Stay tuned for the next episode as we work to build our ADHD friendly lifestyles together. See you later.