The Know-It-All Who Didn’t Know by Sandra


When I first got diagnosed with ADHD just over two years ago, my therapist told to me about something she and her colleagues dubbed “The Three-Year Reckoning.” They gave it this name after noticing it happen time and time again in their practice; things finally starting to fall into place for their clients after their ADHD was diagnosed and treatment followed. Slowly but surely, they start to become the version of themselves they have always wanted to be and let me just say, wow, am I in the thick of it now!

It all started for me at the age of 39, when I was diagnosed after my ex-husband and daughters were, as it often happens with women. In fact, most women don’t get diagnosed with ADHD until about the age of 38 and there I was, another statistic for the research papers. My official diagnoses are combined ADHD, social anxiety related to performance and a math learning disability called Dyscalculia. And while it was a relief to finally be diagnosed, that grief that so many ADHDers talk about was also very real and it shook me to my core.

In my advocacy I call it “The Sixth Sense Effect,” that moment you realize it was ADHD all along. Stupid, stupid ADHD screwing with me, my family and everything around me! I had countless sleepless nights rewinding and overanalyzing the movie reel of my life and ruminating about what could’ve and should’ve been had I been diagnosed earlier.

Could school have been easier for me, and would I be smarter and or successful today as a result? Could I have pursued a job I would have loved in journalism or entertainment if I didn’t struggle so much with RSD (Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria) and performance anxiety? Could I have saved my marriage if I got my control and anger issues in check sooner? Could I have been a better mom who didn’t rage so much and not have traumatized my kids the way I did? Let’s face it ladies, we could “shoulda, woulda, coulda” ourselves to death but it’s not something I recommend because we can’t change what was or what could have been. We are here now; things cannot be erased and all we can do is move forward with grace.

So, in true ADHD fashion, I moved forward in fast forward and hyper focused hard. The difference was that this time, the focus was on ME. What a notion, huh moms? Giving ourselves the time and attention we need to get better? And what I learned quickly is the more I looked in the mirror, dug deep and devoted myself to my own treatment with medication, therapies and an intense devotion to improving and maintaining my physical health, the faster it all got better for my daughters too.

If you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming you know a thing or two about neurodiversity and how it’s genetic and tends to cluster in families, friend groups and work groups. There was even a study done on it recently called “Birds of a Feather” that proved just how prevalent it is. And it makes sense, doesn’t it? People with different brains being drawn to one another for just that reason? Yet when I talk to the women in the support group I run and as I continue to advocate, I find more and more that it’s often the atypical control freak, ultra organized, chronically overwhelmed and emotionally unstable neurodivergent moms who are the ones that are diagnosed last. We just learned to mask it so well that we can even fool ourselves. This is why I can’t stress enough how important it is for ALL family members to be screened once one is diagnosed.

My first day on medication was wild. I had that typical first experience of it kicking in and my world being rocked. Not everyone has that experience but, in my case, it’s exactly how it went. Within one hour of the meds kicking in, I felt the tension leave my body and it was quiet. Like, really quiet. I felt calm, focused, less agitated, less anxious, clear minded and moved through my day with ease. I remember crying myself to sleep that night at the realization that after trying so many things for so long; therapy, antidepressants, getting healthy and blowing up my life, this was one of the things I clearly needed all along. Yet not one of the 4 therapists I went to saw it in me, even the one that noticed it in my ex after meeting him only twice. I was angry and sad, and it was in that moment I knew I would never shut up about it so let me hop up on my soap box real quick and allow me to remind you all of a few things:

We HAVE ADHD. It’s IT and not US that trips us up from time to time. It doesn’t define us; we didn’t ask for it and we don’t deserve it. These are our symptoms, not our personality and we’re not bad people, moms, dads, or friends. It is possible and up to us to take control of these symptoms, though, and this I know for sure. Not all the way and we’ll never be perfect but with ADHD being one of the most treatable disorders in the world, as full-blown adults it’s our responsibility to treat the symptoms as best we can with the resources we have. Our diagnosis is an explanation but not an excuse so if you learn anything from reading this blog, I hope it’s this: pursuing a diagnosis and treatment is worth it, things can and will get better, and you’ll never regret it.

I must say I’m still pretty bitter about it being missed in me my entire life. We tend to ask ourselves things like how the hell did the doctors and therapists not see it? Was it not obvious? Do they not know enough about it? How did I, the world’s biggest know-it-all, not know!? I guess the short answer is that it’s just not obvious for most girls and women who tend to be more internally hyperactive, inattentive and daydreamy but I can assure you I am NOT. From the day I shot out of the womb, I was loud, hyperactive, charismatic, funny, quirky and unique. I’m a first generation Canadian, raised in a very strict home in the 80’s so ADD, as it would’ve been called back then, wasn’t something anyone around me would’ve heard of. And being the bright, cunning, resourceful girl I was, I flew under the radar for a very long time.

And about that Three-Year Reckoning I wrote about earlier? Here’s a not-so-comprehensive list of all the things I’ve done since diagnosed just over two years ago:

  1. Became a huge advocate in the workplace, speaking in front of as many as 300 people at a time.
  2. Killed it in interviews and finally got that dream job offer and a huge raise.
  3. Became a certified life and wellness coach.
  4. Started a support group in my hometown for women who are neurodivergent, or support loved ones who are.
  5. Volunteer at a local senior’s home, an adult day program and a home for kids with complex medical needs regularly.
  6. Host a monthly youth Neurodiversity Night at my local youth centre.
  7. Was a guest on NewsTalk 1010 to talk neurodiversity.
  8. Did a podcast and slated to do more.
  9. Lost the last of my excess weight.
  10. Walked over 2,000 kms in 2023 alone.
  11. Ran my first 5K in Toronto, in support of ADHD at the age of 40.
  12. I don’t scream when my kids spill things and hardly ever go to bed angry anymore.
  13. I do standup comedy!! And have even had a few paid gigs.
  14. Wrote this blog.

I’m pretty blown away by this list myself and almost in tears as I’m getting it all down. I take all the time in the world to list my to-dos and should-dos but have never actually sat down to list my “have-dones” until now. Please don’t tell my therapist, she’ll kill me! She’s told me a million times to write them down and shove them in my face, all the things I’ve accomplished and am proud of. But I’m just not the journaling kind. Maybe this is my cue, though, to get at it and finally put some pen to paper and write a book or something. I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll get to it some day.

Lastly, I want to mention, for anyone who resents the use of the term “superpower” when it comes to ADHD, let’s agree to disagree. I’m no dumb dumb and well aware my untreated ADHD effed up my life more than it helped it and ADHD itself is not a superpower. But when we can get the symptoms in check, all the amazing things that usually come with ADHD can help us soar, no doubt. Those we can use as superpowers and promote them as such, especially to instill some confidence in our neurodivergent youth who need it so badly right now.

I know I wouldn’t be the person I am or be where I am today without my ADHD and I can say with 100% certainty that if given the option, I would never give it back. I am the coolest, most fun mom, the most loyal and ridiculously funny friend, an intensely loving and giving human being, devoted to making a difference and doing good in the world. I’m hella intuitive, creative and capable of balancing much more than the average human because I’m not your average human. Sure, I probably screw up and act out more often than others do. But now that I’ve learned to quickly repair and forgive myself and others, I’m learning to love me and my unique brain more and more each day. We’re a pretty cool pair, my brain and me. Stuck with one another for all of eternity. And I’m okay with that. Very okay with that.

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