Finding out that you have ADHD is an emotional experience with lots of highs and lows. Leading up to your diagnosis, you might feel like something is wrong with you, but you don’t necessarily understand what it is. Then, you feel a rush of relief when you receive that diagnosis because you realize you aren’t crazy. After that, you learn all about the disorder, what your diagnosis means for you and the people around you, and how to help manage it. You feel great! After all of this time, you finally have an answer to what has been blocking you from doing your best.
Then, there’s the letdown. Being chronically ill isn’t fun. While you may feel great about finally having an answer, you soon discover that having this condition means that you’re going to have to manage it — possibly for the rest of your life.
That’s when the relief may be replaced by frustration.
Many people think those with chronic illnesses use it as an excuse or a way to get out of doing work. They don’t get to see how it impacts you on a daily basis. They don’t know how irritated you may feel with yourself for not being able to just be normal.
Chronic illness isn’t a temporary thing — the clue is in the name, it’s here to stay. And you have to make sense of your life with this new reality that you never wanted.
If you’re struggling to come to terms with an illness for which there is no cure, you’re not alone. It can take a long time to accept and properly manage a chronic condition. Here are some things I’ve started doing to come to terms with my ADHD diagnosis.
1. Stop treating your illness as a character flaw
I have found myself continually apologizing because of my illnesses. This puts me in a position where I feel inferior to the people I’m interacting with.
Doing this also caused me to remain in friendships and business relationships that I wouldn’t have stayed in so long because I kept second guessing myself.
Yes, my illness may cause occasional confusion. But it isn’t a moral failing, and it doesn’t make the viewpoints or opinions of others more valid than my own.
2. Learn everything you can about your condition
How would you know how to take care of yourself if you don’t take the time to educate yourself first?
A diagnosis is what happens in the doctor’s office. Actual life is waiting for you once you leave.
Your doctor can tell you what to expect from the disease and tell you what and how much medication to take, but your own personalized issues are something that only you experience. That means it’s time for you to roll your sleeves up and go to work.
Research patient experiences and studies, and sign up for an association that is well-known for advocating for those with your condition. It can be time-consuming, but it’s worth it if you want to be an effective advocate for yourself.
3. Be patient during the learning process and the bad days
Sometimes I think I have my ADHD all figured out. I’m managing the condition with my doctor, I’m sleeping well, I’m identifying triggers, and everything is going smoothly. And then everything changes, and I have to start all over again.
It isn’t just you. Your body will change with the seasons, with the amount of stress or turmoil in your life, and as a natural part of the aging process. You’ll need to be aware of this, and give yourself space to process the changes.
You’re also going to have days where you want to conquer the world, but your body just won’t be up for it. That’s perfectly fine. Listen to your body, and learn to trust what it’s telling you.
4. Ask for what you need from others
I have spent — or should I say wasted — a great deal of time trying to be an island unto myself. I was raised to value my independence above everything else, and I have long resented my need for help.
But, through all of this, I’ve learned to stop pushing people away who are only looking to help me.
A big part of asking for help is also knowing what you need. Nobody can help you efficiently if they aren’t certain of what you need.
After an ADHD diagnosis, you’ll likely feel an array of emotions. It’s normal to feel relieved, and it’s also normal to feel frustrated.
It may take a while to get used to a new way of living. But by doing research about your condition and asking for help from others, you can learn to feel more at ease with your diagnosis.
For more information on how to manage ADHD, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
ADHD-US-NP-00037 DECEMBER 2018