Zoë learning to play bass; being an unconventional ADHD woman at age 52

Zoë learning to play bass ©Photo by Jake Chegahno 2011

Before my diagnosis (at 47) I spent decades wondering why I couldn’t do what other women did. You know: really complicated stuff like getting to work on time; finding a skirt and a top that matched; or high-functioning things like throwing a party or holding down a job.

And keeping a tidy, organized house? Forget it.

When I first discovered how my ADHD had left me in the dust when it came to dusting, I found it kind of depressing.

Officially, we’ve dropped the expectation that women must do it all: housework, childrearing, social organizing, etc. But let’s face it – most of us still try. If 9-to-5ers without ADHD lament not being able to keep up, try being me. (That was rhetorical, unless you’re a masochist.)

Admitting defeat…sort of

Prior to diagnosis, I’d adopted the persona of an eccentric renegade. This was my way to save face while admitting to myself that I’d never be as organized or competent as other women. On the inside, I had a secret agenda. So secret, in fact, that even I didn’t know it.

After my diagnosis, I realized that I’d been trying to live up to societal expectations, while pretending I didn’t care about them. Secretly, I wanted to prove that I could get a house, a husband, a career, a life – I’d show ‘em! But I’d do it my way. Ha!

ADHD as liberation

Frankly, Scarlett, I no longer gave a damn!

Finally, with my ADHD diagnosis, I could let go of all of that and discover my own priorities. I understood I wasn’t like everyone else, nor could I be. I let go of arbitrary goals and got to work on my own. I breathed a sigh of relief as, for the first time in my life, I didn’t care if I was different. Frankly, Scarlett, I no longer gave a damn!

Now, I’m ok with wanting to write a screenplay more than wanting a big screen tv; with having a lawn gnome but no lawn. It’s ok that I’ve never been to a spa; that the only time I’ve ever worn a seaweed masque was while trying to outswim a jellyfish.

Modelling self-acceptance

I want girls and women to have choices. Women’s Lib gave us the vote, but it was ADHD that liberated me from gender stereotypes. By necessity, I’ve had to look beyond them. By temperament, I don’t fit them. By choice, I reject them.

We DO have a choice!

I’ve always worried about the effects of the portrayal of women in advertising; the social pressure to conform to female stereotypes; and the sexualization of girls at younger and younger ages. Now I see that in some ways, being born with ADHD has given me a unique opportunity to model alternatives for girls and women, whether or not they have ADHD.

Before my diagnosis, I thought of myself as less than other women; now, I won’t allow myself to be less than I am. And if that means less housework and more air guitar, I think I can live with that.

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