The Invisible Life of ADHD Women

woman at laptop looking discouraged

ADHD women are invisible in the world.

Not because you can’t see us, but because you can’t SEE us clearly. Many of us live in the margins because we have never found our footing.

Watching everyone else seemingly get everything they want and feeling like nobody notices YOU can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t feel comfortable being seen, but your attempts to assert yourself are met with eyerolls and deep sighs.

It’s not just masking and covering up your symptoms.

It’s the fact that so much of the work women and mothers do can’t be measured and is not supported by society. And when you have a brain-based difference you tend to fade even more.  You work twice as hard for less reward. And nobody notices.

ADHD women are invisible

 

The invisible life of Addie Larue

Ok so this is a work of fiction, but it makes me think about how many ADHD women feel totally unseen. It’s a case of fiction imitating life. Affiliate link please see my full disclosure.

Addie wants her freedom, and to be her own person. And like so many nonfictional women, she knows that there are consequences to living your own life and making choices that are counter to what the world expects.

In exchange for her soul, Addie avoids marriage and being stuck in the town where she grew up.The most obvious consequence is that every person Addie meets forgets her as soon as she is out of sight. They forget her face, her name, and that she ever existed.

You might know this feeling in reverse.

Going through the motions of your life, playing the part, you become invisible. You deliberately hide parts of yourself in exchange for acceptance, and a life that is supposed to make you happy.

After many years of masking, it’s not uncommon for ADHD women to feel totally invisible.

People talk about time blindness with ADHD, but what they don’t talk about is the feeling that time is flying, and you have no control over your own life.

Time flies when you’re invisible

“Blink and half your life is gone. I do not want to die as I have lived.” -177

It’s not just time blindness. Or losing hours or days or getting hyperfocused or distracted. It’s also not about misjudging how long it will take to do something. The strategies and apps solve an immediate problem, but not the deeper one.

You’ve probably heard that some of us cannot feel time. I disagree.

I’d argue that you simply feel time differently. 

ADHD is such a mindf-ck sometimes.

It seems impossible to get from point A, to point B. You cannot recall past learnings to apply to your current situation, and the future is a fuzzy concept. The idea of leaving your mark sometimes seems like a cruel joke.

You are aware that time is passing. If you weren’t you wouldn’t spend so much time thinking about time and how you’re using it.

ADHD is not the result of a lack of faith, or bad parenting, or bad choices. But there is a sense that you could do so much MORE in the world if you could just figure out how to do things your way.

You feel restless and discontent, but you continue going through the motions and trying to fit in because it’s the safest thing to do.

This tension is felt by you alone, nobody else can feel it or understand your experience.

We feel too much

Most ADHD adults would sell our souls if it meant we could have a more comfortable sense of being here, alive, and enough.

I sometimes say, “ADHD women can see inside the matrix.”  Meaning you can zoom in and out in a way others cannot, so you sense danger like a gazelle in the bush. Some people call this RSD, I tend to think it’s more about self-protection.

Think about how single women in their forties and fifties are perceived. If she doesn’t desire a partner and a family, people assume she is selfish or has some personality quirk that makes her undesirable. There’s something wrong with her.

Now imagine how that must feel for the millions of single women over forty in this country.

The world has a hard time understanding perspectives that are new to them. All they can see from the outside is behavior, they don’t know what’s happening under the surface. And they’re not really interested.

No wonder ADHD women feel unseen, misunderstood, and invisible in the world.

 

Invisibility

The biggest challenge we face as a species is the idea that we know it all.

Take the current pandemic – half of the US thinks that it’s not even real. Mostly because a virus is invisible and intangible, and our minds cannot grasp something we can’t see, touch, or feel.

ADHD is the same. Logically, people think they understand what it is. There are thousands of videos, podcasts, and social media posts every single day. The noise is deafening.

In practice there is no understanding of ADHD.

The diagnosis itself presents barriers to self-awareness regardless of how much social media, YouTube, and podcast content we consume. For this reason you’re always putting out fires as they erupt.

I hear the world should be more “ADHD friendly.” And I don’t disagree, but it brings up more questions than answers. Firstly, who gets to decide what ADHD friendly means?

People have trouble accepting things they don’t understand or can’t experience for themselves. Since ADHD is an invisible to everyone but you, your experience of it is yours alone.

Here are the bullet points:

  • Women are set up to fail

  • It’s not about the symptoms

  • Masking and hiding parts of ourselves sucks

  • ADHD makes it hard to be the best version of you

  • You feel time differently

  • People have trouble understanding what they can’t see/feel/experience

 

ADHD women are invisible (a lot of the time).

 

We’re capable of so much more. Certainly more than what we show to the world.

It’s hard to truly live authentically when the expectations are so unreasonable. But for every judgey asshat there are ten genuinely good humans out there.

If you want to feel less invisible, and more in touch with YOU, check out the ADHD Enclave. It’s a thoughtful, safe community to discuss the issues facing ADHD women.

ADHD Enclave community logo

If you want something with more privacy, check out my coaching services.

 

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