Maybe you’ve read the articles, taken the assessments, and self-diagnosed. Perhaps your primary care physician or psychiatrist has diagnosed you, or you’ve gone through a psychological exam. However you’ve gone about it, you have ADHD.
You’re now part of a percentage of adults who struggle daily with impulse control, activation, decision making, and comorbidity with other disorders.
ADHD doesn’t always make life easy. But your diagnosis isn’t committing you to a life full of suffering. So, congratulations to you on discovering who you are – it’s a great first step. You have a glitter brain and I want you to recognize it can do great things!
But what comes next?
Feel All Your Feelings
I was angry when I was diagnosed. Angry at my parents, teachers, doctors and friends for missing the signs. Angry at my DNA, at my genes, at my brain. Angry at the world for giving me an unfair shake. Angry at myself for not figuring it out sooner.
I let myself be angry. Not out loud; it was quiet anger – I didn’t want to put blame where it wasn’t due or say anything I couldn’t take back later. And I knew my anger wasn’t all rational. But I’m glad I let it run its course because that anger was just one of many emotions on the way to acceptance.
So, feel all your feelings. Angry, sad, hurt, frustrated, relieved. All of them are valid during this time.
There is so much information out there about ADHD. Books, articles, blogs, podcasts, webinars, research studies. Do yourself a favor and learn about your condition. Learn what causes it and how it manifests. Cry when you read stories that you relate to so hard it hurts.
If you’re here, check out the Resources category. I’m posting about all of the above weekly, plus support groups, coaching, and social media recommendations.
This step will allow you to understand what parts of you are the ADHD, which is really important for the next step.
You are not just your ADHD. You have ADHD, and it’s likely been (unknowingly) a large part of your life since childhood. But you’re more than your brain function. You are your interests, your empathy, your love, your dreams, your ambition. You are a whole person with a vivid personality.
Forgive yourself for every moment you thought you were lazy. For every moment you beat yourself up for not accomplishing a goal. Forgive yourself for not doing more with your life. For thinking you’re weak, or pathetic, or worthless, or slow. Forgive yourself for not being at the same place as your friends. Forgive yourself if you feel behind your colleagues.
Know that you have ADHD and it’s probably caused you a great deal of pain. Stop being mad at yourself because you didn’t do it purpose.
Learn About Your Options
You don’t have to take medication. It helps a lot of people, but not everyone chooses to take that path and no one can make you choose it. You have autonomy over your body and brain.
To get a prescription, there are several types of medical professionals you can talk to, including a psychiatrist, a primary care physician or general internist, or a nurse practitioner. In most states, a psychologist, counselor or social worker may be able to treat your ADHD but cannot prescribe medication. If you live outside the United States you may need to do some additional research on how to get a prescription and treatment.
ADHD medication isn’t like other medications you might take. You don’t see a doctor, get a prescription, take it as directed, and ride off into the sunset. Medication management is a key part of the process.
ADHD medications come with side effects that need to be observed, your dosage may be increased slowly over time until you find the right level, and you may need to try more than one medication until you find the right fit.
If you’re going to choose medication, patience is so important. It could take six months to a year before you find your groove. Don’t let this discourage you, because you never know – you might get it right on the first or second try! Just set a realistic expectation for yourself.
Get the Right Support
Medication can help relieve a lot of your most difficult manifestations. It can help you regulate your emotions, focus and slow down.
Medication can’t love you though, and it can’t sing your praises. It can’t always lift you when you’re down, it can’t point out your strengths and it’s not going to hug you on a bad day.
Ask someone for help in getting through this transitional time. That may come in the form of a therapist, counselor, social worker, friends, family, mentor, and/or coworkers. It might be a Facebook group, a slack community, a reddit forum, or neurodiverse Twitter (see what #neurodiversesquad and #ADHDlife are up to).
It’s up to you to decide who can help most, but make sure someone you trust knows what you’re going through. This isn’t something you need to go through by yourself.
Rinse and Repeat
Continue to feel your feelings, read, forgive, and discover. This isn’t a linear experience and while your diagnosis may feel like a definitive start, there’s no definitive end point.
ADHD is big and it might feel scary but you’re not alone. There are endless resources and tons of people ready to help you get through this time!
If you need help and don’t know where to look, tweet using #GlitterBrainBlog and get recommendations for great ADHD and neurodiverse Twitter accounts to follow!