Hi, I’m Jenna Kutcher. I lose my phone at least 3x a day and if you listen closely you can hear my Apple watching pinging to find it. I procrastinate on life admin things to the point where opening an envelope stresses me and causes anxiety. When I finally do the things that I’ve put off for too long like unpacking my suitcase or applying for my passport renewal, I berate myself that it took me so long to do something so simple. I create unnecessary stress for myself and others in my disorganization or inability to complete tasks with a lot of details. I function well with little piles of the things in my life and struggle when things are put away. I am Jenna and I have ADHD and today’s epsiode is alllll about that.
The beginning of my ADHD journey
I had honestly never considered ADHD for myself until I invited Tracy Otsuka, host of the podcast ADHD for Smart Ass Women, onto the show in the spring of 2021 (you can listen to our conversation in Episode #461 here). I was so interested in everything Tracy was saying about ADHD, and the moment we stopped recording she said to me, “Jenna, you do realize why I wanted to come on your show, right?” Turns out, she strongly believed I had ADHD after years of listening to this podcast and hearing all the strategies I have to use in order to be productive and effective. I have to say, I was so relieved she said something, because while I had gone into the interview with this lens of curiosity, I came out of it thinking, ‘wait a minute, was all of that about me?’
This started me on a journey of introspection and self-discovery, and now, a year and a half and many eye-opening conversations with my family later, I officially have a diagnosis to confirm what I’ve known all along: my brain works differently. Some people might look at an ADHD diagnosis as a negative thing, but for me it has been so affirming and empowering. My diagnosis has allowed me to dive into the content with a lens of ‘this is me’ and what I’ve learned so far has made me feel not-so-crazy for some of the things that I’ve struggled with my entire life.
What ADHD looks like in women
I’m still at the very beginning of my journey and have a long way to go in learning about ADHD, but I wanted to start talking about it now because it’s already been so life-changing for me and I know this information will resonate with some of you out there. The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that 50-75% of adult women with ADHD have been left undiagnosed until adulthood and are three times less likely than males overall to receive a diagnosis according to the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. We tend to show more inattentive and internalized symptoms, and because of that our behaviors often don’t match up with the stereotype of a hyperactive boy zipping around the classroom. Some of these symptoms include:
- Difficulty paying close attention to details/making “careless” mistakes (Everyone experiences inattention or forgetfulness to some extent and it’s a normal human experience, the difference for ADHD is it’s more severe and frequent, and impacts our daily functioning)
- Organization difficulties, such as time management, keeping workspace/home clean, or organizing tasks and activities
- Easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
- Forgetfulness in daily activities, such as paying bills, meeting deadlines, going to scheduled appointments, or returning calls
- Trouble making decisions
- Procrastinating/doing things last minute
- Difficulty regulating emotions, especially when stressed
Once I learned about all the ways ADHD shows up in women I realized how much I had been beating myself up for exhibiting these symptoms my whole life. I now see that there is nothing wrong with me and it’s never been a matter of not trying hard enough, my brain is just wired differently than a neurotypical brain with its own strengths and needs, and that understanding alone has completely transformed my relationship with myself.
ADHD as an entrepreneurship strength
Tracy’s whole thing is about leaning into your ADHD areas of genius, and now that I have a better understanding of my needs I can see these strengths more clearly. I believe I’m successful because of my ADHD, not in spite of it, and my unique brain has led me down this incredible path of entrepreneurship that I’m on. There is some interesting research showing that there is this tendency for ADHDers to be self-employed or an entrepreneur, and it makes sense when you look at our strengths. We’re highly creative. We’re really good at starting things. We get laser-focused on the things we’re passionate about. We don’t love the constraints of time and schedule and structure. It makes sense that a lot of us become entrepreneurs, where we’re in control of our schedule and our work and we can allow ourselves to dive deep into those obsessions.
That’s not to say it isn’t also difficult having an ADHD brain – trying to get myself to go to the post office or pay a bill is like pulling teeth – but I can also see all the ways my traits have been pivotal in my success, and this newfound awareness is bringing a whole new level to who I am.
I hope that this conversation lets you into a little bit deeper part of my life these days, but also maybe unlocks something for you like Tracy did for me unknowingly over a year ago. There is something so affirming when you learn more about yourself and your specific body and your brain and I feel like it gives you more ownership with how you want to move through life and leverage it as your superpower.
Diagnosis and final thoughts
I feel like I am just uncovering the tip of the iceberg in what this is, what it means for me, how it shows up, and how I can use my ADHD strengths, and I’m so excited to do more episodes on this topic the more I learn. If you are somebody who’s reading this and thinking, ‘oh my gosh, this sounds exactly like me,’ I would just encourage you to dive further into the research and, if everything still resonates, start taking those next steps toward a diagnosis if you’re able to. You can listen to the full episode and check out Tracy Otsuka’s podcast ADHD for Smart Ass Women to learn more about how to pursue an official diagnosis.