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When I was six my grandfather would tell me, “Wow you were born to talk. We should get that on a shirt just for you!” At age 10 my dad bet me $20 I couldn’t stay quiet for 20 minutes ($1 a minute at 10 was a huge deal), I lost that bet within 30 seconds. Later in my adult life my staff bio once read, “A customer once told her she should start a podcast because of how many things she has to say.”

Now most of these comments were made in a way that seemed to be friendly, a joke even. But they have stuck with me to this day and now looking back were the signs pointing towards ADHD that got overlooked. I hope this serves as a resource for parents with a chatty daughter, teachers that have one female student who cannot complete their work on time, and other trusted adults who are wondering if one of their AFAB youths are “quirky” or if they are just another overlooked diagnosis.

The Phrases that Shaped Me

  1. “You were born to talk!”

This phrase at one point was deemed a family gene. Most of my relatives seem to talk a lot. But I was a different breed. I could spend my entire life telling a story or “listening” to one. Listening is in quotes because truthfully, I was just waiting for my counterparts to finish their point so it could be my turn to speak again. 

Sign # 1: I was hyper-talkative. Which typically girls are encouraged to be, it’s good if we are chatty or overly friendly! But at what point is it a concern? In my research I’ve found countless articles that describe what it means to be hyper-talkative, I even found a Reddit forum titled “How to stop talking? : r/adhdwomen”. One symptom of ADHD in girls that appears differently than boys is hyperactivity. It may present as verbal overactivity, including talking excessively, interrupting others, monopolizing conversations, and not letting others talk. 

The Solution: While it may seem like there is no true solution to talking a lot, I’ve noticed that through movement I can activate the same reward centers of the brain that are activated when talking about oneself. Whether it be through an early morning surf session, a run through the neighborhood, or even a quick yoga flow I can move through tasks at hand a bit easier. 

  1. “Please clean your ___.”

Fill in the blank with: car, backpack, bedroom, desk… They all fit. I shared a bedroom until I was 18 years old and for the life of me I could not keep my side of it organized. My sister was very Type-A, everything had a place therefore everything went in that place. I, however, found it easier to make small piles of things around my side that made sense to me. I didn’t fold my clothes or put my school books away when I was done with them, they just sat in stacks around my living space.

Sign #2: An inability to stay organized. The tools that I was given to stay organized did not fit the toolbox they were placed in. While color coded systems and designated drawers may work for some people, it was not for me. So how do you fix this? You find the right toolbox. What does that mean? Find what works for you!

The Solution: As an adult my organization skills have drastically improved, so much so that my parents have asked if I have hired a housekeeper. My keys to success have been to work with my brain not against it. I have simplified my belongings and have adopted more of a minimalist lifestyle. I still make piles, but I have more open shelf space so I can easily keep my living areas tidy, while keeping everything within eyesight. I have also adopted my sister’s “everything has a place” mentality. Instead of just letting every flat surface of my house become a drop-zone, I have created designated and functional spaces for items that frequently end up in the same spot. For instance, my shoes typically litter the hallway by my front door. The solution — a 6-cube organizer for me to easily place them. Again, make the system work for you, it may not always be pretty but if it works – it works!

  1. “Better late than never.”

I was late for about 90% of my teenage years. Whether it be getting to school, submitting assignments, returning a phone call or text message, arriving at sports practice, work, or even just hanging out with friends. I was even late for my own college graduation! No matter what I tried, I could not be anywhere on time. The motto of my life had become “better late than never.” 

Sign #3: Poor time management. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be early or on time even, there was just something that stopped me from doing so. Whether it was time blindness or thinking I could get somewhere faster than humanly possible, one of the two always had me running behind schedule. 

The Solution: There are a few things I have put into practice that have helped me become the type of person that is 5 minutes early. I learned how to set realistic time goals for myself for certain situations. This has helped me understand how long it takes me to complete tasks and plan my schedule accordingly. I have started using a timer in my daily life which allows me to get things done in a timely manner and avoid the hyperfixation rabbit hole. I’ve also incorporated a time buffer around events so I won’t make myself late unintentionally. These things may seem small, but they’ve made a huge difference in my life.

  1. “School is not her strong suit, but ___ is.”

Another fill in the blank, here you could put any of my special interests and it would fit. From a young age my family was hopeful I would go to college based on athletic achievements and not academic. From late homework assignments to missing class, school and I did not always get along. I was too distracted during class to take adequate notes, I was too overwhelmed at the thought of re-reading them to even study, and if it was a subject I didn’t immediately find interest in I felt defeated. During my teen years my disinterest in completing assignments was deemed as laziness.

Sign #4: I struggled to complete tasks. The thought of finishing one thing meant that I would have to move on to another. For individuals with ADHD if a task is inherently boring, dopamine levels are so low that their brain is unable to “activate” to do the task. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do it, I physically couldn’t. So my short term solution was to start a little of each one in hopes of making them more interesting. 

The Solution: I have taken a mixed approach to solving this problem, but mostly attribute my success to learning how to set realistic goals. I still use my “little at a time” strategy for large tasks, but I have learned to format them differently. For instance, I used to block off my calendar to say “Write Half of Blog,” but I’ve learned it is better to be specific. So now I will put something along the lines of “Find 5 symptoms of ADHD that you had as a kid.” A small goal that I know I can achieve.

  1. “She is just soooo emotional.”

I cry at commercials, videos of dogs, songs on the radio, the thought of my partner having a good day. When I am sad, frustrated, angry, anxious, and happy, I cry. Even the smallest thing would be a mountain for me emotionally. So for many years I wore the badge of sensitive — and not in a good way. I felt ashamed of my emotions. My desire to be normal was real, I wanted to react and feel emotions the way all of my friends did. 

Sign #5: I am hypersensitive and because of that I cry easily. Hypersensitivity can appear in a multitude of ways, just like all other ADHD symptoms. Typically individuals who are hypersensitive are highly sensitive to physical (via sound, sight, touch, or smell) and or emotional stimuli and the tendency to be easily overwhelmed by too much information. And this dysregulation can cause a reaction that may not be perceived as “normal.”

The Solution: First, I embrace the joy of feeling deeply. I wear my badge of “sensitive” like a gold medal. I have also learned emotional coping strategies for my otherwise dysregulated emotions. Things like revisiting a situation at a later time, taking a moment for deep breathing when I feel overwhelmed, or identifying the facts have all helped me improve my emotional resilience. 

Through this journey, I’ve learned that understanding oneself and finding strategies that work uniquely for each individual are paramount in navigating life with ADHD. May my story serve as a resource and source of encouragement for others facing similar experiences, offering hope and guidance along their own paths of self-discovery and growth.

Interested in learning more about how to navigate ADHD? Visit our Alumni and Family Resource page.