Changing the Narrative for ADHD Women

ADHD women talking together changing the narrative

changing the narrative for ADHD women

Part 1


Changing the narrative for ADHD women is complicated.

Actually, changing the stories we tell ourselves is never easy, even without the presence ADHD.

Everyone has a unique set of life experiences and genetics that determines how we define ourselves. And as we age we develop a set of beliefs about where we fit into the world and how the world functions.

Since you have ADHD you probably** also have some wonky beliefs about yourself, and what you are capable of. 

The goal of the next few articles is for you to begin actively questioning the narratives you hold for yourself.

I’ll be using some of the, “radical” ideas in Dr. Michelle Frank and Sari Solden’s newest book to demonstrate. (affiliate link. see my full disclosure) 

when did you know you were different?

I host an ADDA discussion group on the Radical Guide, so I get a window into the lives of women who want to understand themselves, and change the narrative in their heads.

In the first session I always ask, “How many of you knew you were different years before you were diagnosed?”

Most women with ADHD confirm that they knew they were different as children, decades before they were ever diagnosed.

You probably have at least one story from your childhood when you were asked to behave or respond in a certain way, and you just KNEW you couldn’t do it.

Women and girls aren’t supposed to be, “different.”  And brain-based differences are usually invisible to everyone but us. We can feel it intuitively from a young age.

You knew you weren’t like the other girls.

It’s certainly a radical idea to think that perhaps we are NOT required to meet society’s expectations for women. And even more radical to stop hiding or disguising who we are.

Despite all the platitudes on Instagram you aren’t sure it’s safe to be yourself or show people the, “real you.”

In the past, you’ve been met with disapproval, criticism, or even outright rejection.

The world doesn’t always understand how ADHD shows up in women.

ADHD Symptoms

The Radical Guide isn’t just about the symptoms of ADHD.

The guide is based on the “radical” idea that you don’t need to change or fix yourself. In fact, you can learn how to be yourself.

I recently told Sari Solden, “I’ve always looked at ADHD as a part of us, not the whole picture.”

Women are entirely too complex to be defined by ADHD.

You and I are much more than just a set of behaviors and emotions that add up to a diagnosis.

The inability to regulate ourselves is extremely frustrating, and we spend a lot of time noticing ourADHD symptoms and feeling their impact.

Think of ADHD as the outside edges of a puzzle.

If you don’t put together the outer frame it’s much more difficult to complete the whole puzzle. But the outer edges are certainly not the most interesting part of the picture.

This is a very humanistic view of ADHD, and one that I think is helpful when working with ADHD women.

We are not defined by the ADHD diagnosis, but by our choices and actions.

In order to change the narrative, we need to take a step back and look at the whole person.

Zooming out

Sometimes we need to zoom out and get more of a bird’s eye view so we can see more clearly.

Changing the narrative around ADHD requires us to think about the long game. (Inspired by this post on Raptitude.)

You and I spend a lot of time thinking about how ADHD makes us different.

Am I doing enough? Can people tell I’m not like other women?

Am I capable of change?   Can I become the person I want to be?

We are in our homes, in the middle of a pandemic, thinking. Our brains are very busy thinking and worrying right now.

You might be thinking about your personal struggles and challenges. You might be worrying about your career, your marriage, or your mental health.

Zoom out from these worries for just a minute.

Your neighbors have their own struggles. They are scared, as well.

Your family members and friends are thinking about the, “stuff” in their lives, too.

Everyone is up in their own head all the time!


Life feels very intense for us because we are seeing the world through our own ADHD filter.

Keep zooming out and you will start to notice that ADHD is not the worst thing that could happen.

Yes, untreated ADHD impairs our ability to become the person we want to be.

So do a myriad of other conditions, mental health and otherwise.

According to some experts, ADHD also puts us at risk for a shortened life span.

But when you look at the bigger picture you realize we are much too complex for us to focus solely on this diagnosis.

“We can’t see the picture when we’re in the frame.” (Solden,Frank p. 94)

Maybe you feel like you’ve been judged harshly.

Or maybe you feel like a victim of ADHD.

I get it. I have those days, too. Sometimes life is a shit show.

But worrying and self-flagellation never gets us anywhere.

We are stronger together, and together, we are changing the narrative for ADHD women.


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