Will People Think I Am A Cheat? Being An Openly ADHD Woman

I didn't finish high school.

I've run my own businesses on and off since I was seventeen.

I graduated from CAL with Scholarly Distinction.  I was a Haas Scholar in 2004-2005.

I have a Masters of Science in Education with specializations in online learning, courseware development, and andragogy.

I was recruited by (a then much smaller) company called Google.  As a Learning Designer at Google for almost three years, I worked on several successful flagship development and technology programs.

Will people see my bona fides and think that I did it all on drugs?

I've taught, published and researched in the topics of peeragogy, stress management, complex adaptive systems, and pro-social behavior. I even dabble in a little neuroscience.  I've lead innovation workshops and lectured around the world.

And, I found out at 37 years old that I have ADHD.

Now that I am open and blogging about my experience in hopes of writing a book, I have to wonder...

susan kelly

Will people see my bona fides and think that I did it all on drugs?  Will people assume I "cheated?"  And, if I had done it all on stimulants prescribed for ADHD - why would that even matter?

The fact is that I flew under the radar and remained undiagnosed until my late thirties for many reasons, not the least of which is being a woman who seems to have a substantial chunk of my s**t together.  I never understood how much harder I was working or how much more creative I needed to be about managing my life.  I just built a strong muscle for workarounds and life hacks.  Throwing autoimmune issues, neuropathy, and endocrine problems into the mix... well... I had a lot to work around.

I had very little idea of what I was really working with in terms of my neurodiversity.  Meditation and therapy only half worked!  Of course!!

I did the proverbial wall.  At full velocity.  Repeatedly. 

I also shook it off repeatedly.

Without a diagnosis and the helpful context it brings, I learned the hard way how to discern and ride the inevitable ADHD emotional regulation waves with at least a little grace.  I had no idea what they were. I just knew that I had to decide if I wanted to treat the very real waves as the truth or not.  I got more skillful as I practiced.

I hit the proverbial wall. At full velocity. Repeatedly. I also shook it off repeatedly.

I have yet to really dip my toe in the stimulant pool proper, and I am happy with how I am doing.  That's not everyone with ADHD.  The stigma I see coming back at me is fascinating.  I am a grown woman being lumped in with already ridiculous stereotypes based on privileged grade school boys.  I am getting hints of resentment for my access to pharmaceuticals that would potentially enhance my performance - even if I don't use them.  And, why would it matter if I did?

People say things like, "But, you don't seem like you have ADHD."  What does that even mean?  Who is this ADHD archetype that I am being compared to constantly?  Do they have a blog?

"You're not living the prehistoric lifestyle, so ADHD clashes with your life now. That's the problem. ADHD evolved for nomadic lifestyles."  Am I a cave woman?  Is that just something people hear and remember because they think it sounds clever, true or not?  Is ADHD really clashing with my modern life, or is the modern life not working that well for anyone?  Was I really born a few thousand years too late?

Or, are my ADHD traits really, really good for me at this exact moment in human history? Maybe I am right on time.  Maybe my ADHD genes started expressing because they are needed right here, right now.

Maybe my ADHD genes started expressing because they are needed right here, right now.

I think I'm fine.  I'm good at creating solutions that work for me is all.  That's what I'm up on, reliant on.  It's just me.

My process now is to get better at designing my life by knowing how to wield the benefits of my ADHD and cover my bases where needed.  My mission is making my performance more consistent.

I'm healthier and better than ever because I am still willing to work at least twice as hard.  I get to work even smarter now.  I did amazing things before I knew that I have ADHD, and I will do even more as I sync up new strategies that work with my neurodiverse brain.  There are lot of tools I've made for myself over the years that hid my ADHD from myself and the world.  They still work for me.

Imagine what's possible now that I understand what I'm working with and how to use it in my favor.