Where do you go when you feel scared, confused, and lonely after a life-altering diagnosis? For many people, the answer is…online. In WH’s 2021 Owning It series, you’ll meet nine self-starters who used social media and digital tools to seek solutions and community they couldn’t find elsewhere. Barriers, cymbalta discount programs broken.
A few years ago, I was in law school, and I was really deeply struggling. I noticed that the level of stress that I was feeling seemed disproportionate to that of my friends and colleagues. No matter how many times I read a flash card and wrote the information down, I couldn’t remember the information on it. I rarely finished tests and I was always the last one out of them.
I questioned if I just wasn’t as smart as my classmates. I had massive amounts of anxiety, and was starting to feel depressed, and so I went to visit the school counselor. I’m lucky that she recognized that what I was talking about seemed to fall under ADHD. I remember always having a fuzzy understanding that I had been diagnosed with ADHD as a child, but I had sort of forgotten about it. Still, I told the counselor that ADHD didn’t apply to me. I thought it was that stereotype you hear of a hyper 12-year-old boy who can’t sit still—I didn’t even think it was something that impacted adult women.
But then I went down a rabbit hole, learning everything I could about ADHD. I read articles, watched YouTube videos, and joined a Facebook group, and I was mind-blown by how much I recognized myself. By the time I visited a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with ADHD during my last year of law school, I knew I had it.
What I found online had helped me feel less alone, and encouraged me to speak up about my own experience—both to the things that I saw represented and to some of the things that I didn’t find to be represented at the time. In January 2019, I decided that I wanted to create an Instagram account about ADHD, called @authenticallyadhd, because I craved community, and I wasn’t seeing myself fully reflected in the ADHD community that existed at that time.
I share my journey, as well as posts about things that are hard with ADHD (it’s not just you who has a hard time closing cabinets), reminders for people with ADHD (it’s okay to struggle more during a pandemic), and what I often see ADHD look like (being chronically overwhelmed and hypersensitive, for example). The responses are beautiful. So many people comment and message me saying they feel seen. It feels so good to be able to provide that validation for people, and it also allows me to mirror that back to myself.
I’m working toward a certification in ADHD coaching, and I created an Authentically ADHD private community with virtual sessions and workshops. It’s become so clear that I’m not only building a community for everyone else, but also for me to be a part of.
One of the deepest wounds with ADHD is shame, and the community has been so powerful and helpful for me in my healing journey. In my experience, there’s nothing more powerful than being surrounded by other people who get it.
This article appears in the March 2021 issue of Women’s Health. Become a WH Stronger member for a print subscription and more great perks now.
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