Finding meaning in the imperfections of ADHD

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It was a year ago this week that my therapist first suggested that I could have ADHD. So in that way, I consider this my first year of having ADHD but I also recognize that it’s been along for this ride I call life since the beginning.

Endings and beginnings are natural places to stop and reflect and I really wanted to take a moment to do that today. There’s nothing really all that special about today though it is the last day of 2020 and frankly, 2020 can kiss my ass, so you can rest assured that I will be ringing in 2021 with appropriate enthusiasm. But as far as my life goes, today is just another Thursday.

As 2019 was drawing to a close, my life felt like one of those scenes in the movies where the pilot looks left and sees the engine on the left wing sputter and die and then looks to the right wing just in time to see the same thing happen again. It was that feeling of inevitable doom that ultimately led me to seek therapy and set me on the path to discovering I have ADHD. So 2019 wasn’t exactly a stellar year for me.

Of course 2020 has been a shitstorm. I can’t even begin to list all of the crap we’ve dealt with this year, from the Covid-19 pandemic to murder hornets. My only wish is that an election cycle never again hit during a pandemic because I felt like a captive audience for the never-ending press coverage and that wasn’t nearly as entertaining as watching The Tiger King.

But 2020 has also been a year of self-discovery and growth for me. I saw my therapist regularly until the shutdown began. I was able to get an official diagnosis of ADHD Inattentive from a psychiatrist and that opened the pathway to medication. That journey has been fraught with frustration as well, but it’s a story for another day.

The most important thing I did in 2020 was to connect with the ADHD community. More than therapy, doctors, and any medication you can find, connecting with other ADHDers has made the biggest impact on how I manage my symptoms and learn new ways to get through the challenges that ADHD brings. The support that I received from our community from Day 1 was amazing, and I could think of no better way to repay that than by paying it forward.

As much as 2020 sucked, it is also the year that I: started ADHD surprise (the blog and later the YouTube channel), and I have worked with some amazing people to create the ADHD Support Group on Discord, We Are ADHD, and I recently joined the Camp ADHD team.

I will not make any claims on perfection. Finding out I have ADHD has made me scrutinize my life and my actions more intensely than ever before. It’s also forced me to see the beauty in imperfection. I read Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly this year and she shared something I have really tried to take to heart: “Perfection is the enemy of done. Good enough is really effin’ good.”

It’s important to know and understand your imperfections. Goodness knows I have a lot of them. But knowing what they are isn’t enough, and the point isn’t to dwell on them…this just sends an open invitation to RSD, anxiety, and depression to come to the table and discuss your imperfections with you at length.

Imperfection is part of being human and makes sure life is interesting. When you roll up a new D&D character, it can be tempting to try to make someone who is simply great at everything–I mean, isn’t that what we all really want?? But if every roll went your way, and everything you tried was simply a success, your D&D play would be very boring and your life would teach you nothing.

I used to coach scholastic chess and I was fond of telling my players that with each game, you either win or you learn. Of course they wanted to win every game they played and there is nothing wrong with that desire. The reality though is that not every game will be won. And when you lose, it’s your opponent showing you a weakness or imperfection that they found. By beating you, they have literally shown you where you need to improve.

So while it is very easy to focus on our imperfections in non-productive ways, I challenge you to shift your perspective just a bit. I do want you to learn where your rough edges are. Learn where you need help and support and then go get it when you need it. Find good partners, friends, and colleagues who will benefit from your strengths and who can help support you where you are weak.

When you’re stuck fixating on your flaws, take a moment to recognize the opportunity that they present for beauty, growth, and connection with others. Managing ADHD is a constant struggle, but there’s no rule that we have to face it alone. There are plenty of DREAD pirates out there happy to help you navigate the choppy seas of life.


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Which ADHD symptoms are helped by Medication?

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I have been working on this post for a very long time. Medicating ADHD is a divisive topic to begin with, and then the combination of millions of unique ADHDers using a wide variety of medications meant that writing a post like this would need a very thoughtful approach.

I originally began this as a discussion on Twitter back in January. If you prefer hearing about what specific people have experienced using specific medications, this is a great thread to get you started:

But as good as that thread was, it didn’t feel like something I could really turn into a blog post. So last summer I introduced the #ADHDmedsMegaPoll on Twitter, in which I asked for ADHDers who have used medication to treat ADHD to rate the effectiveness of their medications on 20 common ADHD symptoms. I received over 850 responses to each question, up to 1300 on the highest! If you’d like to read the original poll and see the responses for each symptom, you can see it all here:

What we can learn from the data

I am so excited to finally have data that I believe I can share in a way that will be meaningful for just about everyone! For each symptom, I asked folks to determine if their medication 1) Helped significantly, 2) Helped a little, 3) Didn’t help, or 4) Made the symptom worse. I converted all responses to a numerical equivalent, and created a scale to rate the totals. What follows is a summary of the data that tells you and me which symptoms of ADHD we can reasonably expect meds to help with.

The Near-Guarantee! | 1.25 or higher

These symptoms had overwhelmingly positive responses, with greater than 88% of respondents reporting positive impact from medication. When you find the right medication and dose, you can have a high degree of confidence in seeing improvement with these symptoms.

Maintaining attention on boring tasks – 1.46
Concentrating on conversation – 1.37
Follow-through and finishing projects – 1.34

The Good | 1.0-1.25

With these symptoms, most respondents saw some improvement, but with a much smaller percentage claiming significant improvement. When you find the right medication and dose, you should be able to expect some improvement with these symptoms.

Avoiding/delaying tasks – 1.19
Leaving your seat – 1.08
Distracted by activity/noise – 1.05
Impulse control – 1.02
Organization – 1.01
Making careless mistakes – 1.00

The Okay | 0.60-0.99

In this range, more respondents saw improvement more often than not, ranging from 52 to 66% positive responses. While the results stayed overall positive, there were a significant number of responses indicating no improvement. Even with the right medication and dose, you won’t necessarily see much improvement with these symptoms.

If you’re not having success with some of these, you may try another medication, or it might be a great opportunity to build some positive routines to support yourself, like carrying a notebook where you write down things to remember or keeping a fidget in your pocket so you can pull it out when needed.

Remembering things – 0.86
Regulating emotions – 0.85
Waiting your turn – 0.73
Misplacing things – 0.72
Feeling restless/fidgety – 0.72
Fidgeting/squirming while sitting – 0.69
Feeling driven like a motor – 0.66
Interrupting others while busy – 0.63

The Bad | 0.59 and below

These were the worst rated in the bunch, with the majority of the responses being negative, indicating that medication ether did not help, or actually made the symptoms worse. My best recommendation with these is to find a good friend who can help give you a good nudge when you need it. If you have any great tips for working with these, please let us all know in the comments below!

Finishing others’ sentences – 0.51
Talking too much – 0.44
Difficulty relaxing – 0.35

So now what?

Please remember that we are all different, and each medication is also different. Some folks had marked improvement even on the lowest rated symptoms on this list, while others struggled to find relief with the highest. Take this for what it’s worth, simply a guide for what you might hope for. My meds journey is far from over, and it’s terribly frustrating at times. But I don’t want to waste hope on improving symptoms that aren’t likely to be improved through medication, and that’s what I wanted to pass along. Where you can most likely find hope.

What do you think? Does this list reflect your experience? Has it been different for you? Please share in the comments below or add to our conversations on Facebook or Twitter.


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ADHD Voices: Jasmine

Photo courtesy of Jasmine @ADHDwithJayDee

Hello! I’m Jasmine. I am a 32-year-old mom to a 17-month-old daughter. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD-Inattentive, literally like 6 weeks ago.

My experiences with school

As a kid I was in the gifted program but always did poorly. My backpack was a mess and I often lost my homework, if I even did it at all. I got in trouble constantly for talking and being a distraction. I remember always doing so poorly in standardized tests in school because I couldn’t sit and focus on such a long test so I would just fill the bubbles in randomly and then daydream.

In college, I got through classes by eating snacks and obsessively taking aesthetically pleasing notes because it helped keep me engaged with what was being taught. Procrastination was my specialty. I always told myself next time I would start earlier so I wouldn’t be stressed but night after night I’d find myself at midnight with a Redbull ready to take on my next all-nighter. For my senior thesis I had 6 months to work on my paper, I of course wrote it in a very panicked 2 week period right before it was due. My grades were okay and in 2018 I graduated with my Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration.

Parenting struggles

That year I became pregnant with my daughter. When she was born is when things with my ADHD got REAL. I really struggled when she was a baby. The things I struggled with were things I had always struggled with but now they were multiplied by 100. As I have now come to learn, parenting requires A LOT of executive function, and I had none.

Doing everything was hard.

I was lucky because from an early age my daughter slept really well. But I somehow always felt so exhausted. I couldn’t get myself to want to do anything. Taking care of myself and my daughter became so difficult.

In December 2019 I was put on Lexapro for postpartum depression. The medication helped with my strong feeling of overwhelm, but I still felt unmotivated and distracted. I had once described to my partner that I hated how messy my room was and that I wanted to clean it but I could never get myself to do it, and maybe I was just lazy. My room was a disaster, my car was a mess, my work life was struggling, and I still had no energy.

Getting closer

One day I came across a Facebook article that was talking about executive dysfunction and everything just clicked. I spent the next week reading everything I could about it and it all resonated with me so much. That’s when I began to suspect that I had ADHD. I read books, listened to podcasts and joined Facebook groups and everything that was mentioned about ADHD just felt like it was me. Everything felt as though I had written it myself. I had finally found my people and it felt good.

Then I began the process of getting a diagnosis. I spoke with a psychiatrist and told her everything I had been experiencing…and…she said I had anxiety and prescribed me anti-anxiety medication. I felt a bit discouraged and like I hadn’t really emphasized what I was experiencing. A week later she did a follow up and I told her that the anti-anxiety kind of worked, my mind was still in a million places but now I was less stressed about it being all over the place.

Finally…the right diagnosis

She then referred me to a nurse practitioner that specializes in ADHD. That is when I received my diagnoses and I was prescribed Adderall XR. I was concerned about starting a stimulant medication especially with my history of anxiety. However, the medication has been life changing. I actually have experienced less anxiety since taking the medication. Although I still have stress at work, it feels as though my mind is better able to process all the things I need to do.

Around the time of my diagnoses, I began working with an ADHD Coach. My coach has worked with me in different areas in which I have struggled in. I definitely recommend a coach to anyone that asks about one. My coach has been able to teach my techniques that work specifically with how I think. Social media has also been amazing for support. I’m part of a few Facebook and Reddit groups. But my Discord ADHD family is my biggest support. It’s amazing being able to share struggles and triumphs with this group of women. We have a channel dedicated to body doubling which has helped a lot of days when I am struggling to get work done.

Right now my main focus is finding more and more information that I find helpful and finding ways to share what I have learned with others. I’ve been active on twitter with the ADHD community and have also begun writing articles for things that have helped me. ADHD is hard but with the right community we can build and learn from each other. 


If you’d like to connect with Jasmine,
she can be found on Twitter and on Medium.


ADHD Voices is a series dedicated to sharing the stories of folks like you and me who have ADHD. Posts in the series are written by guest authors, sharing windows into their lives and struggles, written by them, for you and me. If you’d like to share your story, please contact me on social media or through my email, ADHDsurprise @


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