Read an Excerpt
Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD: Beyond Piles, Palms & Post-its
By Terry Matlen, Peter Welleman
Specialty Press, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Terry Matlen
All rights reserved.
From Me to You: Validating Your Experiences
In the ten years or so that I've been talking to adults who have AD/HD, I've been listening intently to their struggles, noting their solutions, and collecting their insights. When I decided to share this wisdom with others through the vehicle of this book, I sent word out via email announcements, my newsletter, my presentations, and word of mouth that I was looking for tips from women with AD/HD. They were invited to email me or fill out a form on either my Web site or my colleague Tara McGillicuddy's Web site and hundreds of tips came rolling in. (Please note that only the first name, last initial, and location were used for those who sent in a tip but didn't respond to my request for permission to edit their submissions. Only the first name and last initial were used for those who failed to respond to my request for additional information such as location.)
By compiling years of accumulated knowledge from my clients, women all over the world, and top AD/HD experts in the field who have found ways to live successfully with, or in spite of, their AD/HD, I hope to encourage other women with AD/HD like you to find happiness and success in your lives. There is nothing more empowering than knowing that you aren't alone in your struggles. In Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD, you will experience a powerful connection with women worldwide who share the very same trials.
Many adults with AD/HD have lived for years in shame, depressed that they can't do what for others seem to be such simple things. This book fills the void by offering pragmatic, concrete solutions to daily problems, submitted by women with AD/HD for other women with AD/HD. With a dash of humor and an artillery of weapons to accomplish your goals in bold, creative ways, you can now move forward with confidence. You will become more capable as a mother, spouse, daughter, friend, co-worker, student, and more. You can reach your fullest potential, both personally and professionally, by becoming more efficient and productive. As AD/HD expert, Dr. Ned Hallowell says in his book Driven to Distraction, "ADD adults need lots of encouragement. This is in part due to many self-doubts that have accumulated over the years. ... [they] whither without encouragement and thrive when given it" (Hallowell & Ratey, 1994, p. 246).
Reading these tips from fellow women with AD/HD will not only offer real tools for living that can boost your confidence but will also relieve the guilt and anxiety so many have when they feel they don't measure up to the norms of today's society — the woman who can — and should — "do it all!" These proven gems will help you get through the piles of laundry on your floor to the piles of paper on your desk with a feeling of accomplishment, knowing that you fought the good fight.
A common complaint from women with AD/HD has been that husbands, parents, siblings, friends, bosses, etc. don't believe that they truly struggle or that their challenges are authentic. If they only tried "harder," they could do it. As the emails started pouring in, it dawned on me that with this book, women with AD/HD could now proclaim that they are not the only ones who labor over seemingly simple tasks. Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD is proof, validation, that others are similarly challenged and have found solutions. Like the well-titled book by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo, You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!, we are not any of these but rather women whose neurology sometimes gets in the way of our daily lives.
Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD is your manual, your guide. There's no need to read it cover to cover; just look up your trouble spots in the index as they come up and see how others have handled similar roadblocks. By the way, you may be wondering why I chose Beatles' titles for the chapters in this book. They symbolize for me my own struggles during a turbulent adolescence when my deep loneliness, anxiety, and pain were brightened and relieved by listening to — and learning to play — Beatles' songs. While other teenagers were out socializing, I spent most of my after school hours as a loner, playing guitar and learning songs to ease the hurt of not fitting in. The titles remind me of where I was then and how far I've come — it truly is a "Long and Winding Road."
The next chapter is an introduction to some of the symptoms of AD/HD that you won't hear from your doctor, as well as a deeper dive into how such symptoms can impact the lives of women with AD/HD and those they love. The following chapters present survival tips from many women with AD/HD around the world and cover a range of advice on how to deal with issues such as the following:
Paperwork at home and at the office
Planning and executing meals
Social situations and relationship skills
Paying bills on time
Organizing and cleaning the house
Clothes shopping and wardrobe advice
The final chapters offer humorous anecdotes, tips from professional coaches and organizers, personal insights from AD/HD experts, and a list of ADD-friendly recipes, as well as a comprehensive resource list of books, Web sites, newsletters, and more.
By the time that you've picked up this book, chances are that you have already been diagnosed with AD/HD and are on a treatment plan. Although this book is geared for women like you, it may also be helpful to any harried woman living in the twenty-first century, including the following:
Stay at home mothers
Creative, non-linear thinking women
I invite you to share the journeys of these creative, bright women, note what has worked for them and to try out some — or many — of their ideas yourself. Use the worksheet at the back of the book to add some tips of your own to refer back to or please send your tips to my Web form at: www.addconsults.com/book.php for a possible second edition to this book.
One thing I routinely remind my clients of is that although AD/HD can interfere with daily living in a big way, it isn't a death sentence. Learning coping mechanisms and strategies can take you far in your journey from just surviving to embracing it, as Sari Solden describes it in Women with Attention Deficit Disorder (1995):
Embracing all of what you are is one of the important keys to heal self-esteem wounds, to improve your mood by improving your self-talk, and to give you a strong sense of an inner core that doesn't reel from shame when ADD symptoms still inevitably occur. Embracing helps you move through the "grief cycle" to a deep sense of acceptance and beyond, to actual enjoyment of your ADD and your creativity. (p. 205)
Celebrate your differences, for you truly are unique. Keep in mind, too, some of the lighter sides of living and coping with AD/HD. As one woman with AD/HD says, "It's like carrying around a 24-hour party in my brain!" When you're having your own AD/HD moment, instead of agonizing over what you did wrong, remind yourself that it's just your AD/HD kicking in. As my husband is fond of saying, I make the only roast that tastes like sliced wallet. Years ago that would have crushed my then fragile self-esteem. Now, it has become a family joke. You may not be the world's best chef, but maybe you are a gifted poet, a loyal friend, or a creative artist. Though research studies haven't yet proven this, I've found in my own clinical work with women with AD/HD, that they tend to be the most sensitive, creative, warm, and funny people I've ever met. So don't compromise your core being. As Judy Garland once said, "Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."CHAPTER 2
Carry that Weight: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You
By the time that you've discovered this book, you've learned that AD/HD does indeed exist and that it's not only about little boys in school who can't sit still and who throw spit balls behind the teacher's back. You may know now that your daily duels with paper piles, "creative" time management, agonizing social faux pas, and inconsistent attention are not weaknesses, personality flaws, or the result of poor parenting. Perhaps you've gone to a mental health specialist and have been officially diagnosed with AD/HD. You now have a working definition of it, a fairly good understanding of the cause and effect, and a course of treatment that often involves a combination of the following: counseling, medication, support such as AD/HD coaching, and education. If you're really gung ho, you've read some of the more popular books on AD/HD on how to organize your life in ten easy steps. The books are great — but still ... something is missing from your "toolbox" — something that explains all your little quirks and foibles, but more importantly, the differences you've felt your whole life.
Have you wondered all these years if you are the only one on the planet who faces these situations?
Why can I see your mouth moving but can't hear any words?
Why do I have panic attacks in the mall?
Why does my skin crawl when I am touched in certain ways?
Why does the thought of going to Disneyworld make me feel nauseated instead of excited like everybody else?
Why am I unable to put together a single outfit when I look through my closet filled with blouses and skirts?
Why can I obtain a college degree yet can't figure out what to cook every night let alone remember to get the ingredients while at the grocery store?
Why, in social groups, am I unable to get the words out that are floating around in my head?
Why does the sight of a pile of dirty laundry make my heart palpitate?
The core symptoms of AD/HD described in clinical journals and books include inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity . Another symptom of AD/HD often seen in both men and women is disorganization. This is one that helps explain why women with AD/HD struggle with seemingly simple tasks such as picking out clothes, keeping their home in order, handling paperwork at their jobs, etc.
Being a woman with AD/HD can cause impairment in many areas of one's daily life. This can be due to the core symptoms of AD/HD and the effects of associated conditions (anxiety, depression, learning problems, etc.) that are often found in people with AD/HD. Take a look at the many ways this can impact your life:
Hypersensitive to criticism
Emotionally charged; easily upset
Tendency to ruminate
Poor sense of time; often run late
Start projects but can't seem to finish them
Take on too much both personally and professionally
Difficulty making decisions
Get confused when more than one person is talking
Can't filter out sounds
Need extra time to process what is being said
Can't remember the theme of a movie within minutes of leaving the theatre
Forget the details of a book you just read
Splintered skills: brilliant in some areas but severely challenged in others
Poor sense of direction; can't read maps or blueprints
Struggle to visualize things (out of sight, out of mind)
Difficulty remembering names
Say things without thinking, often hurting others' feelings
Don't seem to hear what others are saying
Talk too much
Talk too little; can't figure out how to enter a discussion
Don't "get" jokes
Can't say "no"
Hypersensitive to noise, touch, smell
Clumsy with poor coordination; always bumping into things
Difficulty falling asleep and difficulty waking up the next morning
Tire easily, or, conversely, can't sit still
Experience severe PMS
Poor math and/or writing skills
Problem with word retrieval
Have difficulty with boring, repetitive tasks
Difficulty with self-control in areas such as shopping, eating, gambling, sex, Internet usage, television, movies and videos.
In Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, Sari Solden, calls AD/HD a "hidden disorder" and beautifully describes the inner lives of women who still struggle with a healthy self-concept, though they are capable in so many ways. "Women with ADD often live in a secret world. ... Their inner world is a place that outsiders couldn't even fathom, where the simplest activities — getting dressed, planning the day, or running a simple errand — are extremely difficult and frustrating" (p. 50).
Without proper treatment, women with AD/HD can live a lifetime of self-loathing, under achievement, anxiety, and often even clinical depression. Women need to be more proactive and find the help they need in order to stop the cycle of misdiagnosis and "sub-optimal" treatment. The following paragraphs elaborate on some of the experiences that are routine for women with AD/HD but that are rarely directly connected with this condition.
For some women, socializing is one big can of worms with anxieties that range from simply holding their own in a conversation to knowing what to wear. Others avoid social gatherings because they tend to miss social cues, making them feel out of step and embarrassed. And the thought of entertaining at home is out of the question because of the piles of clothes, dishes, papers and assorted knickknacks.
Ultimately, many women with AD/HD suffer enormous losses in terms of developing and maintaining social connections. Intimate relationships present their own set of challenges. Many an AD/HD woman finds herself bored in an intimate relationship and sabotages it only to find herself in a similar situation with a different partner down the road. Marriages are often strained for a number of reasons. She may find it excruciating to endure certain aspects of physical intimacy due to the many hypersensitivities listed above. Even the lightest touch can cause some to react as if they are hearing fingernails scraping across a blackboard — it can literally be painful!
If a woman chooses a job that is not "AD/HD friendly", she could experience a great deal of stress. Distractions at work, procrastinating on important projects, generally feeling overwhelmed — these are all potential roadblocks to a woman advancing her career.
Parenting is just as challenging as any career but has much higher stakes: the health and well-being of those she loves most. If a woman can't organize her own life, how is she to manage her children's belongings and daily activities? Mothers who regularly "check out" while daydreaming often feel a "dis-connect" with their family. Children mistakenly interpret that as their mother not caring. When you throw the likelihood that one or more of her kids will have AD/HD into this mix, things become even more difficult.
Meal planning is another area in which women who have AD/HD typically do not shine, though there are definite exceptions. Some women with AD/HD are gourmet cooks; they have found a way to express their creativity in the kitchen and thrive on multi-tasking. But for most it can be an overwhelming aspect of their every day lives since it involves so many separate tasks. Think about all of the cognitive skills it requires that women with AD/HD typically struggle with:
Making decisions: deciding on all the elements that go into a balanced meal (protein, vegetables, starches, etc.) let alone what flavors go well together!
Memory: remembering to purchase all of the essential ingredients during the first trip to the grocery store.
Excerpted from Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD: Beyond Piles, Palms & Post-its by Terry Matlen, Peter Welleman. Copyright © 2005 Terry Matlen. Excerpted by permission of Specialty Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.