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. 

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

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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 @ gmail.com

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Looking for more great ADHD content?
Check out all of Jamie’s platforms:

ADHD Voices: Patrick

Photo courtesy of Patrick Cornelius

My name is Patrick Cornelius. I’m 41 years old. I’m a professional saxophonist, composer, and music teacher. ADHD behaviors are baked into every facet of my personality, from the way I speak to the way I work and the way I live and the way I love. I used to consider many of my ADHD-influenced personality quirks and idiosyncrasies to be shortcomings or moral failings. I know I don’t have to tell most of you about the feelings of guilt and shame that often follow typical ADHD behavior patterns.

I was diagnosed as a child

I don’t recall ever learning precisely when I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. I think it must have been pretty early, like in Kindergarten or 1st grade. I’ve had conversations with my mother in which she relates being asked to withdraw me from several different preschools in San Antonio, TX due to my inability to conform to school behavioral expectations. 

Yes, behavioral expectations. IN PRESCHOOL. 

Anyway, I can remember having to remember to take my twice daily doses of Ritalin as early as 1st grade and as late as 7th grade. What I remember most about having to take medicine is actually not remembering to take it, and the resulting panic I would feel when my mom discovered several untaken pills rattling around my backpack at the end of the week.

In my family, my older brother was the gold standard for academic excellence, and frankly I was never going to truly be able to measure up to his accomplishments with my hopelessly ADHD-addled brain. But I didn’t know that, thankfully. I resolved to work hard and do better. BE better. I was convinced that I could WILL myself to excellence. But believing that meant that I couldn’t take Ritalin anymore, because taking it meant accepting that I needed help, and I didn’t want help.

I had a pretty successful high school career. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA near the top of my class, won a National Merit Scholarship and several awards for music and academics. I even managed to have a few girlfriends (this would have truly shocked Middle School me more than ANYTHING else). Looking back, it’s pretty amazing that I was able to pull off so many academic successes, because frankly my ADHD symptoms never really went away, and nearly derailed many papers, research assignments, and tests. 

I used to think procrastination was just something that everybody did. Sure I knew that there were highly motivated and organized people out there who got all of their assignments done ahead of time and somehow still found the time to be fabulous at everything else in life, but I really thought that the kind of procrastination that I ended up committing (and STILL DO, dammit!) all the time was common. 

But wait, there’s music!

Let’s back up a little. How did I manage to excel at music throughout high school with such reckless productivity habits? Doesn’t improving at playing an instrument require consistency and patient persistence? Why, yes. Yes it does. That’s where the famous ADHD superpower comes in. I know it needs no introduction.

I started taking piano lessons at 4 years old. I was more interested in playing with my piano teacher’s cat and infant son than in my lessons most of the time, but eventually I learned to make at least some effort to pay attention and practice regularly at home. By the time I was 11 or 12 years old, I had attained some technical facility.

At 14, moving to a new middle school to begin 8th grade in a new town (and country) left me with a choice: take gym class or take band. Tough choice, right? Haha, no. I caught on quickly due to my previous knowledge of music reading, theory, and fundamentals. And the saxophone, an instrument designed as an amalgam of sorts with an eye towards ease of learning, provided me the perfect platform to be a quick study.

I lost interest in the piano. As is so often the case, quick successes lead to increasing enthusiasm, and playing the saxophone became my hyperfocus obsession. This continued throughout high school and college and still persists to this day. I have always been able to shut out everything else when it’s time to practice and devote all of my mental energy into practicing and composing. 

College

My college experience was different from my high school experience. It was worse…but that’s a little misleading. I still ended up graduating Magna cum Laude from Berklee College of Music and Summa cum Laude from Manhattan School of Music. But my productivity and behavioral patterns never improved.

In fact, the freedom associated with having complete personal decision making authority brought even more psychological headwinds. I always had time for my hyperfocus “crush:” practicing, perhaps even more time than I was honestly able to spare. Meanwhile assignments that I was less than enthused about from classes not devoted to playing my instruments fell by the wayside until (almost always) the night before.

I remember writing an entire 17 piece big band arrangement in the 24 hours before it was due. This was before the widespread use of music notation software, so I had to write out every single part and recopy the score in ink. By hand. Ugh. Somehow, I was always able to be successful. And every single time, I told myself I would never let this happen again. And yet, it always did.

Managing ADHD in middle age

This struggle has remained the same over the years. Every writing commission, arrangement for a performance, collection of new tunes for a recording session, job application, grant application, etc. has been finished no sooner than a day or two before the due date. In fact, I’m finishing up this blog post days after I promised to send it to Jamie (insert even bigger facepalm than the one up above). HA.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have gone outside and downstairs to the basement to put the laundry in the drier, then realized in horror (thanks to the stink of mildew) the next morning that I never pressed “start” on the machine. That I would go to the store and come home with everything EXCEPT the one item that I needed to get in the first place. That my wife would give me three simple tasks to do and I would have to come back to her two minutes later and ask what the first two were.

I used to think of these episodes as moral and personal failings. I allowed those thoughts to define how I felt about myself. The very pursuit of excellence in any endeavor, particularly an artistic one where you yourself are the product, inevitably leads to some measure of self-criticism. That’s why recognition and success or failure can often seem so damn personal.

If a concert I’ve given or an album I’ve released gets a bad review, it’s literally ME that’s getting the bad review. At least, it feels that way most of the time. I always try to remind myself “We are more than what we create,” but honestly keeping that in mind when the chips are down is aspirational at best. Stack decades of self-doubt caused by behaviors beyond my control on top of all that, and there’s a sure-fire recipe for depression. And I was often depressed.

But anyway, things are different now.

It has been 9 months since I stumbled upon adult ADHD support communities and podcasts on the internet. Connecting with and learning from all of you has completely changed the way I see myself. Yes, I have ADHD. I have always had it. Other members of my biological family have it. My daughter has it. It’s a big part of who I am, and I’m not ashamed anymore. Being able to speak about this freely and publicly (sometimes VERY publicly) has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. It’s also helped me become more productive, more honest, a better father, and a better husband.

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If you’d like to connect with Patrick,
he can be found on Twitter and Instagram
or through his website, http://www.patrickcornelius.com/

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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 @ gmail.com

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Looking for more great ADHD content?
Check out all of Jamie’s platforms:

ADHD Voices: Sheena

Photo courtesy of Sheena Howard

My quick reflexes that come from laser sharp focus helped me save my son’s life when he was 18 months old. I have been reading since I was 3. I read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein when I was 10. My uncanny ability to pattern human emotions and energy has led to an enormously successful 15 yr career as nurse and health care leader.

When sitting next to strangers or standing next to them in a line, they somehow trust me enough to share their biggest secrets or their private thoughts…This has happened so many times my wife says I should write a book called “The Shit People Tell Me”.

Humour transcends suffering; I can somehow figure out the funny in the darkest part of peoples’ suffering and make people laugh. I’ve been praised for my abilities to perform well under pressure and pull brilliant solutions out of my head at the 11th hour.

And yet…

I was kicked out of the special once-per-day “enrichment” class in Grade 2 because I asked too many questions. I can’t call to order a pizza because I have to think about too many things at once. I count with my fingers and just recently discovered that 8+4=12. I can’t make my brain find simple words like chair or plate but I can speak like a snobby, academic asshole. 

I don’t know my multiplication tables…that sucks for a nurse…because, you know…people die from med errors. I nap at work because I get bored after 3pm. Replying to texts and emails makes me want to poke my eye out with a pencil. 

I used to think…What the hell is wrong with me?

Diagnosis  

Our eldest son’s pediatrician was the one who diagnosed me with ADHD. After confirming his diagnosis, she leaned over and said “So, you know you have ADHD too, right?” I looked at her and said “No fucking way.” Verbal impulsivity is part of my profile. 

I was diagnosed with ADHD-Combined Type and dyscalculia (think of it as dyslexia with numbers) when I was 38 years old and I was pissed off. The months after my diagnoses were filled with anger. I was angry about all of the shame I felt right straight through from Kindergarten to my university graduation and into my work as a nurse.

All I could think about was how much shame I felt as a result of my struggles in school. I felt so different from my peers and remembered in detail how all of those bloody stupid adults told me that I was “not trying hard enough,” “not working up to my full potential,” “easily distracted,” “too imaginative,” and “too talkative,” despite my success in school. 

Well, except for math. I cheated in math.

The sting of shame has followed me for as long as I can remember. I was never smart enough, clever enough, quiet enough, gentle enough or good enough. And I was really upset thinking that things could’ve been better and I asked what so many of us adult ADHDers have asked…

Could things have been different for me if I’d been identified earlier?

The answer for me was…likely not.  

After Diagnosis 

I really don’t think things would have been better for my spirited, loving, anxious, empathetic younger self. Being diagnosed with ADHD in the 80s as a girl would have carried much more stigma than it does now. No one knew what to do with us then. 

In fact, I think that my ADHD helped me nurture my “screw you all” attitude. That combined with my ability to make friends contributed to my resiliency. Had I been diagnosed back then, that would likely have been dragged out of me and I would be left more broken and shameful and struggling to put myself back together – likely trying to do that with booze and pot. Damn it. 

I couldn’t blame the adults for missing it. And it would have likely made me worse off if they did. Shit. I just wanted to stay in my self-righteous pity-party. That felt really good. 

Now what?

My wife gave me the answer. She asked me “Why don’t you work on embracing it? Your ADHD has given you so many amazing traits. Why don’t you celebrate them instead of cursing them?” Growl.  Sometimes she makes so much sense I want to call her a jerk. 

Our son was really the reason I began to embrace my diagnosis and start to heal my shame. We were working hard to help him understand and believe he was bright and not broken. Creative not crazy. Strong and not stupid. I couldn’t help him believe those things if I could not believe it for myself.  

So, I told him I had ADHD too and my wife told him about all of the amazing things I had done and could do because of my ADHD and how she was so happy he got my genes. That is what helped. Seeing my son’s relief that he wasn’t alone and seeing myself through my wife’s eyes gave me permission to really see myself and the gifts my ADHD has given me; for the first time ever.

And the shame started to melt. 

And because it melted, I went back to school and got my Master’s degree. Graduating with distinction in the top 1%. Screw you Mr. L who said I would never graduate high school…whatever, I am still angry with a few of the adults. 

And now I am a female entrepreneur. And I can embrace my choice to treat my ADHD with medication. And my eldest son can talk about his shame freely and we work through it together.  And now my youngest son and my wife have been diagnosed with ADHD.  And because my shame has been replaced with gratitude for the gifts my ADHD has given me, I can wholeheartedly support them to see the gifts ADHD has brought to them. 

Now that I know I have ADHD I can harness my strengths and use them to work around my limitations. I am not too sure I could’ve done that as young girl or even as a teen. The gift of finding out in adulthood is that I am not at the mercy of the beliefs and worries of adults who may or may not have been able to help me. 

I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years living in awareness of my ADHD will bring. I will be 60-something and I really hope it means I can order a pizza. 

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If you’d like to connect with Sheena,
she can be found as @SheenaLGHoward on Twitter
or through her website, http://sheenahoward.com/

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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 @ gmail.com

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Looking for more great ADHD content?
Check out all of Jamie’s platforms: