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I am a therapist in Austin and have ADHD, and I want to write about what this experience has been like for me to help others who are also on this journey. Let me first start with the frustrating aspects and then move to the positive. Today I am getting ready to fly to Florida for a trip to see my grandmother, and it brings back memories of my last trip there. The last trip where I left my luggage at the airport. You would think that when you fly into a town, you would go and grab your bags and head to your hotel room, right? When I opened the trunk of the rental car and pulled out my sister’s luggage, and that’s when I noticed mine was strangely absent. I looked at my sister who was warm in response and said, “Packed light, eh? Don’t worry about it. We can either run to the airport tomorrow or buy something at Target if you need it.” I felt my self-esteem dump from my chest to somewhere filled with stomach acid and shame. How could I have done this? I felt so frustrated with myself.
For years, events like this haunted me and felt like more evidence of why my brain was fundamentally broken. My first two years in college were filled with disaster scenarios like this. Frequently I had tests I was surprised about, papers that I was unaware of being due or scrambling to complete, and appointments that I missed or was late to. Friends would even ask, “Are you going to be here at noon my time or noon your time?” This always implied 30 minutes to an hour late. The whole notion of adult life seemed to be impossible as it was filled with so many balls you had to juggle, and I seemed to be struggling with basic juggling. For many years (K-12, much of my 20’s and early 30’s) I felt a sense of doom due to my ADHD. I had all of these wonderful ideas, but the process of making them come to reality seemed impossible. 9-5 office jobs felt enslaving and working for myself was challenging due to difficulty creating structure. Dating in my 20’s was exciting until I realized that when things got serious, they would likely pick up on my dread of the future.
So, how did I improve? It was a lot of small steps, and this fight did help things to change. What started to kick in was a bit of a self-esteem backup generator of sorts. In the example of what happened at the airport, I slowed down and went over the code to see where the bug was. I arrived at the airport in Florida. I was most concerned the carry-on that I had (it had my laptop and charger for my phone), meeting my sister since we were both flying in from separate locations, and getting the rental car. I went back to the airport in my mind and realized the waiting for my sister and her having a carryon had thrown me off. At the end of the day, it wasn’t a big deal. I went to Target about bought a new shirt (which was needed and helpful), and the hotel gave me toiletries. I also mapped in what I would do differently next time. I now create a Todoist trip checklist and have all of the previously mentioned items in it. Slowing down and troubleshooting is a big part of building better processes that make sense to the distractible brain (Smart But Scattered is a great resource for adults).
So, how have I dealt with this in my adult life? It is something that I constantly have to debug, and it’s an ongoing process of evaluating what works and what doesn’t. That said, I continue to grow from the struggle. The biggest piece of advice I can give to others is to try and be patient, do not let it destroy your self-esteem, and reach out to others for help if you need it. If you liked this post, check out some of our other posts on Communication Strategies in ADHD Relationships, Tips to Overcome Autism and ADHD, and How to Boost Self-Esteem in Kids or read about ADHD Counseling. You can also contact us to make a counseling appointment if you or a loved one need assistance with managing ADHD.