My name is Jenn (short for Jennifer) and I have ADHD.
I was diagnosed when I was 26 years old and spent majority of my life before that wondering what the big secret everyone else seemed to know that I didn’t. I used to think I was stupid or lazy – even with evidence to the contrary, I believed this about myself for a long time because I was always failing at what seemed to come easily to everyone else.
To finally know that my ‘normal’ wasn’t the same as the people around me (my neuro-typical friends and family) was incredibly validating. But I still felt very alone and misunderstood.
The more I tried to learn about ADHD and access help and support in real life, the more I found that this was a common problem for many Adults living with ADHD, that there is a lot of stigma attached to ADHD – and it is not taken seriously enough for something that can be so debilitating. There is definitely a lot more support out there for children (still not enough but it’s noticeably more than there used to be) which is great – but those children grow up to be adults living with ADHD. Adults now having to go into the world without the support of their schools or parents, the structure and routine that some of the children with those privileges thrived on.
So what is a undiagnosed adult who missed out on that supposed to do? Well first I sought to learn about this disorder in all ways possible to try make up for this lost time. I hyper-fixated on my ADHD. There are amazing resources on the internet. ADDitude magazine for example, being great for learning the basics. Then I watched educational videos on YouTube – lecutres by Dr. Russell A. Barkley (I highly recommend) and videos by fellow ADHDers like Jessica McCabe from ‘How to ADHD’. All I had to do was apply what I learned and I can get on with life, right? It was a start.. the more I knew, the more equipped I felt to navigate this ever persisting obstacle of a Norepinephrine deficit.
But I still struggled with so much of the basics. No amount of try was getting me to hold down a stable job, have happy and healthy relationships with those important in my life, conquer my mountain of washing, still starting and not finishing a million projects and ultimately I was still depressed that all this effort seemed to result in nothing.
It took me about 5 years to truly accept the reality that all these issues was my ADHD. It’s not that ADHD is me, it’s just that my brain is wired differently, that I am neuro-divergent. I had been fighting against and resisting my ADHD like I could fix it and make it go away. I wasn’t working alongside my brain, I was at war with it.
So I reached out to my peers. Joined some amazing support groups. Read about other peoples experiences. Learned what worked for them, tried it myself, found out what worked for me. Accommodating my ADHD instead of forcing myself to do things that I could not. No more self sabotage and forgiving myself when it didn’t work instead of punishing myself for ‘failing’ yet again.
And that led me up to 6 months ago, I left yet another job. One that I thought accommodated my mental health, by working in mental health – doing peer support as a volunteer (that turned into paid work eventually). But I found that my creative problem solving well of energy was drying up by topping up others. I had nothing left. As much as I enjoyed this role, I was still taking away from my own self care.
I needed to find a middle ground. And I wanted to help others like me (Something I actually wanted to do and kept me motivated!), so many who’s stories and experiences I’ve read & related to, and was validated by – without sacrificing my own well being and continuing to work alongside my brain. So one day (A month or so after I quit my last job), I hit the record button on my phone and made a video talking about my ADHD. Sharing that I still didn’t know what I wanted for my life, that I wish this could be a job or that I could pay it forward some how. To end the stigma and break down the walls and barriers that living with a mental health disorder brings. I wanted to finally be understood.
And thus my YouTube channel ‘Jenn has ADHD’ was born. I edited and uploaded my first video that same night. Told no one who knew me but shared it with my support group peers. Everyone was so encouraging. So the next day and the next, for 21 days straight I made videos documenting my ADHD and my struggles. As much as it was an external way of me looking at myself and figuring it all out, I was getting feedback that it was helping others feel validated and less lonely too.
Although the vlogs were keeping me accountable, my well of creativity again was drying up – how can I keep making content about ADHD while looking after my ADHD. Memes. The other validating and relatable content that I consumed and gave me comfort that I wasn’t alone at 3am in the morning. So I created a Facebook page that accompanied my YouTube channel for that very purpose. To share content I knew would help myself and others. And now creating this blog feels like the next step. Why stop at memes and vlogs! I figured I am having so much fun doing this and I am actually reaching people and giving them moments of peace, lets write some articles too!
Is this my latest hyper fixation – absolutely. But is it a negative one? No way, I feel like I am in a much better place than 6 months ago, the moment I decided this is what I wanted to do. I like peer support but in real life it takes a lot from me to be physically present. In this form on social media, creating content, memes and videos, I give what I can when I can and that in turn adds value to someone else. Some one, maybe feeling I like I did at the start of all this with my fresh diagnosis – maybe they don’t have to go through a 5 year battle with themselves and find information out there that clicks and articulates their struggles. Knowing they aren’t the only one, that there is someone else who 100% gets it.
So here I am, typing out my experience yet again hoping there is a gold nugget of hope here for some one. Or for me when I re-read this a million times to make sure it’s ‘perfect’. I am always learning about myself and my ADHD – but from here on in, I hope others will too, that I won’t have to explain myself any more because people will understand that, Jenn has ADHD.