The Truth about Black Women and ADHD

By Heather Macon

Some days I wonder how I will find the energy to be present. The simplest noises bring an excruciating level of irritation quite hard to describe. I keep track of daily tasks with my iPhone notes app, a daily planner (I must have a gliding ballpoint pen), and my preferred color of hot pink post-it notes. Let’s not forget to mention the daily mind tussle I play with procrastination. Most days, I remind myself, this is all a part of the process. When I first reached out to my new psychiatrist for medication management, I didn’t know what to expect. Memories of my childhood quickly visited me as I began to have overwhelming thoughts about the financial cost, stigmas around medication, patient/doctor connection, and even “Is something wrong with me?”

Being diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at 29-years old came as a shock. For years, I’ve been treated for depression and anxiety, at one point even told, “This comes with all the recent transitions you’ve experienced since graduate school.” I felt like therapy session after therapy session and multiple doctor visits, my concerns weren’t being addressed (in the way I needed them to) or improving, for that matter. I often felt misunderstood, not taken seriously, and wondered if feelings of grief and confusion would be consistent with my daily life.

Last fall, I struggled to keep up in my doctorate program, balancing a full-time job, experiencing continuous traumatic experiences, all while trying to maintain an achievement status, one I had been conditioned to maintain for years. Being reflective on what I once thought ADHD was and seeing how the behaviors had shown up over the years in various family members, I thought, “How could this be?

After my initial assessment and evaluation, I was diagnosed with ADHD. Even though things began to come together and make sense at that moment, I bawled my eyes out. I believe the tears were tears of grief escaping, disbelief, and oddly this feeling of “I’m finally going to get the adequate help I need.” The first step was the honesty I faced in therapy which began my Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), then my decision to seek medical help.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve consistently seen a Black doctor (and Black therapist) who have been supportive throughout this process. I’ve maintained a routine with my medication, and it has disciplined me to pay better attention to my appetite. I don’t have an appetite most mornings, but I try my hardest to eat a balanced breakfast and practice mindful activities before leaving my home. Not only have I gained a better understanding of myself and what regulation of my feelings & emotions mean, but I’ve grown in my knowledge of ADHD. My reading knowledge on the subject matter has increased, and over time my curiosity continues to grow. I am grateful for my resources, the growth in productivity, and my health since initially seeking help.

What I find most important during this continued journey is my courage to seek help. I’ve strengthened the concept of “it’s okay not to be okay.” For years, I’ve adopted this unhealthy mentality of maintaining strength to keep up during each transition. I’ve put that to rest. Now, I ask for help when I need it. I recognize when things aren’t working for me, and I pay attention to my patterns. For me, I’ve made peace with my condition. What matters to me most is self-accountability and self-discipline. Being responsible for my healing and happiness is what I am working toward daily, taking the active steps to maintain peace where I can. I remain consistent with my medication, healthy lifestyle habits that work for me, and I strive to maintain appropriate boundaries with myself and others. I often communicate with my doctor when things are going well and when things aren’t going well.

My condition doesn’t define me.

Therapy for Black Girls

“Having ADHD, and taking medicine for it is nothing to be ashamed of [and] nothing that I’m afraid to let people know.”

Simone Biles, 2016

“I was diagnosed with ADHD twice. I didn’t believe the first doctor who told me, and I had a whole theory that ADHD was just something they invented to make you pay for medicine, but then the second doctor told me I had it.”

Solange Knowles, 2018

Heather Maconis a contributing writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. Heather is a creative who enjoys art in all forms. You can follow her on Twitter @HJanaii.

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