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Host Laura Key and the ADHD Aha! team have been blown away by all of the thoughtful and candid emails we get from our listeners about their own ADHD “aha” moments. So with their permission, we’re sharing a few of them on this episode. Find out which ADHD symptoms some of our listeners have struggled with — and what their path to ADHD diagnosis was like.
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Share your story, too! Email us at ADHDAha@understood.org.
Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host.
Hi, everyone. We have a very special episode for you this week. In fact, I'm thrilled to say that it's an episode about you. Since we started "ADHD Aha!," we've gotten so much wonderful feedback from our listeners. Hearing how much you relate to or learn from the stories we're sharing is truly my favorite part of hosting this podcast. It reminds me why we created the show, and it motivates the team to keep going. So for this episode, I'd like to share excerpts from some of the letters. And by letters, I mean emails that we've received. You're going to hear some new voices. These are all Understood team members speaking, and they're going to be reading the excerpts with the author's permission.
Our first letter is from Melissa. Melissa wrote to us saying she grew up a quote, goody two shoes who was unknowingly struggling with perfectionism and anxiety. Hey, that sounds like me. But like many of us, the pandemic heightened her mental health struggles to the point that she sought out therapy. And even though she felt like her anxiety and depression were improving, something else was bothering her.
"Melissa": One day, while scrolling through Instagram, I stumbled upon a post from a woman who had just gotten diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 26 and was sharing her experiences and struggles. My first thought was, "How come it took people so long to notice? How did she find out now at 26?" I myself am a 24-year-old and have been a preschool teacher for five years. It bothered me that nobody had raised any concerns. Little did I know I was on the same boat. Through further investigation, I realized I could relate to about 90% of the ADHD symptoms found in women. I was dumbfounded. I'm supposed to be one of the professionals who can recognize what this looks like in others and yet couldn't see it in myself. After being evaluated by my therapist and psychiatrist, it was confirmed: It was and still is a crazy "aha" moment. I am still trying to understand myself, and I'm not sure what to do half the time. But your stories inspired me and I hope mine can inspire others too.
Laura: Melissa basically just summed up why we call the show "ADHD Aha!" It's so easy to overlook or brush aside ADHD symptoms, no matter how much knowledge you have about ADHD. It often takes hearing about someone else's story, someone you relate to, to spark your own "aha" moment, which is essentially what we're trying to do with this podcast. Thanks so much for writing in Melissa.
Before we get to the next listener letter, I have a request. By the way, don't you just love it when podcast hosts chime in to ask you to do something? This episode is all about what we've been hearing from you. And the more that we hear, the better we can make the show. That's why we put together a survey that's really easy and quick to fill out. You'll find it at u.org/podcastsurvey. That's the letter U, dot org, slash podcast survey. Check it out if you can. And thanks again. Now back to the listener letters.
This one comes from Terry, who got her ADHD diagnosis the summer before starting graduate studies to become a pediatric speech-language pathologist. Terry told us that she started and stopped college many times and finally managed to finish by, quote, white-knuckling my way through sheer force of will. Right on, Terry. But while waiting to hear if she'd gotten into her grad program, she decided it was time to get evaluated for ADHD.
"Terry": I remember thinking, so there is something wrong with me. That may sound completely politically incorrect, especially coming from someone who specializes in working with children with disabilities. So let me explain. I grew up in a home with a self-taught engineer dad and a fourth-grade teacher mother, who both told us we were all smart and could accomplish anything we set our minds to. And for the most part, we, I believed them. They were my parents, after all. But all the struggles I had with homework, math, writing, they felt extremely real too. I couldn't figure out how to reconcile these seemingly true but contradicting facts about myself. I felt like an unsolvable math equation. I was two plus four equals eight. My diagnosis justified that and said yes, two plus four never equals eight. But here's the other two parts. Now you equal eight. You're whole. Well, I was never really great with analogies, but hopefully you were able to follow me with that one. My diagnosis made both sides of the equation make sense, reconciling these two irreconcilable pieces of myself — that I was both smart and I struggle with things. In my home and in my head, I believed I could only be one or the other. It never occurred to me that I could be both.
Laura: Terry's email reminds me of stories from a bunch of guests we've had on the show. I think about, for example, Dr. Kojo and how intensely he pushed himself to work harder and harder and harder until he got diagnosed. I think about writer and mom of four Jen Barton, who was coping with anxiety but still had a sense that her equation, as Terry calls it, was off until she was also diagnosed with ADHD. And I think about myself in both of these ways, never giving myself a break and telling myself to just try harder. And then getting my anxiety under control only to find that I still simply couldn't focus. Thanks for writing in Terry.
Our next letter is from Taryn, who says they were recently diagnosed with ADHD at 33. They describe starting medication as, quote, the single most life-changing decision they have ever made, and they're grateful for it. But they say they're also grieving deeply for the years they feel they've lost.
"Taryn": I first asked my doctor for help with my mental health at the age of 12. She told me it was just teenage hormones. In high school, I spent so much time in the counselor's office. In college, I started therapy and medication. I've tried at least eight medications, and I've gone through so many diagnoses. I think about all the things that could have been different if I had gotten the right help sooner. I could have been a better friend, a better partner, a better child, a happier me. Part of me is really sad and really angry, and I feel super left out of the ADHD narrative. Everywhere I turn, there are people talking about how ADHD is positive for them in some ways. I feel that ADHD has been almost entirely destructive for me. But thank you for your podcast. I've listened to about half of the episodes so far, and it's been very helpful.
Laura: Taryn's letter is so important. We try to show a diversity of experiences on this show. The positives, of course. But we don't want to gloss over the hard stuff and the difficult feelings that can come with an ADHD diagnosis. So thanks, Taryn, for your candor.
This next letter comes from Daisy, who tells us she started the process of being evaluated for ADHD two years ago. She says that trouble managing emotions and other ADHD symptoms made it hard for her to grow up in a family that prided themselves on being unemotional and, quote, strong.
"Daisy": Rejection sensitivity was one emotion I constantly had that I could never explain to people. Whenever somebody said to me, "The worst they can say is 'no,'" I would immediately respond with, "Exactly. That's the absolute worst thing they can say to me." I could never understand why the word "no" was like a knife in my heart and caused me to immediately start crying. I felt silly and childish that I could not handle rejection, because that is a basic life skill. But something inside me could not connect the logic in my mind to what I physically felt in my heart when rejected. About two years ago, I randomly came across a blog talking about rejection sensitivity, a term I hadn't heard of at the time, and its relation to ADHD. As soon as I read this person's experience, I had my "aha" moment. Because I'm a young adult female, everything I had known about ADHD was based on the typical myths and stereotypes that dominate much of the public perception. I now had an explanation for why my entire life, I was afraid to ask for help, could never focus on a lecture for more than a few minutes at a time, or constantly forgot things people asked me to do. But it also explained why I have such intense passions for the things I love, why I experience a wide range of emotions, and why I feel uniquely me.
Laura: We haven't talked a lot about rejection sensitivity on the show yet, but we have talked a lot about and we'll talk more about ADHD in girls and women and how symptoms so often get overlooked or swept under the rug. Trouble managing emotions as a lesser known symptom of ADHD. And if girls or women struggle with it. They're far too often labeled as just being too sensitive or too dramatic or too emotional. Thanks, Daisy, for your letter.
Hearing from you all means so much to me. I love the community we've built around the show. But before we go, my amazing producer, Jessamine, who makes me sound way better than I sound in real life, is going to join us quickly for something fun. Hey, Jessamine.
Jessamine: Hi, Laura. We have gotten so many awesome notes from listeners. I figured we could just share a few of the shorter one sort of rapid-fire style.
Laura: Ooh, I love that. Let's do it.
Jessamine: All right, so here's the first one. "I can't believe how much the people you're interviewing are describing my life. It's like they're reading a book about my past."
Laura: Oh, that's nice to hear.
Jessamine: I like that one. This one is, "I recently found your podcast when looking for resources for students, and it has felt like another absolute 'aha' moment for me."
Laura: Yes, that's what we're here to do. I love it. Awesome.
Jessamine: "This podcast is so helpful to feel heard and seen. It makes you feel like you aren't alone in coping, and that you have peers who truly understand the dynamics of ADHD and the moving parts that come with it."
Laura: Oh, I love that. I feel that way every time I have an interview with someone. I get to experience that over and over again. So I'm with you.
Jessamine: "It has brought me comfort and community that I didn't know I was seeking."
Laura: Oh, same here.
Jessamine: "Laura, I can't express how validating and healing it was for me to listen to your 'aha' moment. It came at a time when I needed it the most, and yet I didn't even know I needed it."
Laura: That is so nice to hear because I was so anxious about sharing my own "aha" moment. You know this Jessamine. Remember that very first episode?
Jessamine: Oh, yeah.
Laura: Oh, I'm glad that it resonated.
Jessamine: Tough place to start. Your first interview was, you know, yourself. But it was a good one.
Laura: Yeah. Me crying about myself. Oh, my gosh. Thank you so much, Jessamine, for that. That's so motivational. And I hope it motivates you as well, because you are a huge part of the show and working with you is so much fun.
Jessamine: Yeah, I really love working on the show and hearing how people connect with the interviews and feel less alone or more understood by the show is honestly my favorite part.
Laura: Well, I think we're going to wrap it up there. Thank you to everyone who let us share their words on the podcast today and everyone else who has written in. And if you've listened this far, I'm assuming you're enjoying what you're hearing. I would love it if you would rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and other platforms. This helps more and more people find the show and have their own "aha" moments. Thank you also to my fabulous colleagues, Briana, Justin, Eleni, and you too, Jessamine, who were the voice actors you heard in this episode. And thank you all for listening. If you'd like to share your "aha" moment or anything else, please email us at ADHDAha@understood.org.
You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDAha@understood.org. I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.
Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at understood.org/mission. "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine.
Jessamine: Hi everyone.
Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening.