Stages I Went Through Before Accepting My ADHD Diagnosis
After being diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), I went through several stages before coming to full acceptance of ADHD. I don't know what it is about life after an official diagnosis, but I experienced everything from liberating aha moments to depression and despair.
Everyone processes their emotions differently post-diagnosis—so I thought it would be helpful to share my timeline for those who've been recently diagnosed and/or struggling. The stages are listed in the order they were experienced.
Stages of Accepting My ADHD Diagnosis
- Freedom -- For the first few weeks post-diagnosis, I felt like I could finally breathe. All those years of procrastinating and missing deadlines didn't mean I was "lazy," there was actually a reason. It was freeing to ditch all the negative labels that crushed my spirit and were assigned to me since childhood.
- Anger/blaming -- Once things began to settle, and certain moments started to make sense, I experienced a lot of anger. I became angry at the adults in my life who I personally felt were responsible for my wellbeing (parents, teachers, etc.) because the signs were there. But I've since been able to extend them grace because we know so much more about ADHD now than we did some 20 years ago.
- Wishing I'd known sooner -- I think many adults who receive a diagnosis later in life can all agree on one thing: they wish they'd known sooner in hopes of changing the outcome.
- Wanting to know more -- Following months of regret, I spent much of my time conducting research and reading journal publications from various psychologists. I wanted to know all there was to know about ADHD, so I spent hours exploring random ideas and topics like ADHD and genetics to hopefully help me come to accept my ADHD diagnosis
- Self-loathing -- Unfortunately, all that knowledge I obtained turned into almost three months of paralysis. I couldn't do much of anything besides lay in bed and pity myself. My home was a mess, I lost my sense of self, and my life spiraled out of control. With the help of my (now) husband and therapist, I was able to slowly regain normalcy.
- Denial -- Denial was perhaps the most harmful stage of them all. During this time, I convinced myself that ADHD wasn't real and stopped taking my medications against medical advice. I struggled with the decision to medicate or not to medicate. I found that minus the side effects, I function better when medicated.
- Finding community -- Once I accepted that I functioned better with medication, I sought out community. When you lack close connections with others who also have ADHD, I'll admit, it starts to get lonely. Finding friends who have ADHD and sharing our experiences gave me the green light I needed to feel safe in my own skin again. Whether it was through social media or webinars, meeting people, and learning how they tackle everyday struggles was a game-changer for me. Who would've known that both men and women avoid having company over because of the mess? I found my people.
Coming to Acceptance of ADHD
Coming to full acceptance of my ADHD diagnosis was a process that wasn't always fluid. I bounced back and forth between blaming my parents and denial often. But once I saw people like me who were happy, I was able to drop my expectations of how ADHD ought to look and found ways to navigate my new reality.
How did you come to accept your ADHD diagnosis in adulthood? Share your stories in the comments.
Ansah, T. (2020, August 12). Stages I Went Through Before Accepting My ADHD Diagnosis, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingwithadultadhd/2020/8/stages-i-went-through-before-accepting-my-adhd-diagnosis
Author: Tonie Ansah
I never learned to deal with ADHD. I learned to accept it.
Omg. Just realised I have ADHD, this is me 100%. Been through all those feeling in the last few weeks although not denial - doubt, but not denial
For me after the diagnosis and taking medication that worked for me, I was still skeptical despite all the research I'd done. I had also self medicated on minerals and supplements which worked well for me, throught the years as well as other crutches such as nicotine and caffeine., despite that fact I was unaware I even had a disorder.
I decided to cut out all nicotine and caffeine, quit all supplements aswell as my meds for a few months and meet my adhd head on. An it was not pretty, that's when I accepted that I had this condition.