August 9, 2022

Should You Tell People About Your ADHD?

It can be hard to decide whether or not you should share your ADHD diagnosis with the people in your life. Is it their business to know? Will it help or hurt the relationship? This is one of the questions that we get asked most often, and so I wanted to share some tips to making the decision!



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Kristen Carder

Welcome to the I have ADHD podcast, where it’s all about education, encouragement and coaching for adults with ADHD. I’m your host, Kristen Carter and I have ADHD. Let’s chat about the frustrations, humor and challenges of adulting relationships working and achieving with this neurodevelopmental disorder. I’ll help you understand your unique brain. Unlock your potential and move from point A to point B. Hey, what’s up?

This is Kristen Carter and you’re listening to the I have ADHD Podcast, episode number 171. I am not medicated yet, y’all. I’m only half caffeinated. But I am 100%. Ready to roll? So let’s go. How are you? Happy Summer? It’s really good to be here with you. I’m kind of giggling this morning. It’s early. I didn’t get my work done yesterday. Is that relatable to anyone? Anyone at all? I send my podcasts editors, my raw recordings on Thursdays. It’s the deadline. It’s what we’ve done for a year and a half. Now, here’s the problem yesterday, I didn’t get it done. And today, I’ve got a lot of stuff going on. My kids need rides to all the places because you know, it’s summertime and I’m a mom. And so here I am. It’s 8am Totally fine. It’s not super early, but I am I’m still waking up I don’t really like to eat until like 10. So, which means I don’t take my meds until 10. So anyway, we’re doing this unmedicated. We’re only half caffeinated. And we’re doing it because we didn’t get everything done yesterday. And sometimes that just happens.

I wonder how much drama you have when that happens to you. When you miss a deadline. I’m curious. It used to send me into a spiral where I would totally beat myself up and be like, Oh, I can’t believe you did this again. You’re never gonna learn blah, blah, blah. And now my brain. I’ve really overcome that spiral. And I can just be like, Yeah, I missed a deadline, it happens. I become a human. Not only am I human, but I’m a human within each team. So it’s no problem. Yeah, so 8:12am It is a foggy, Pennsylvania morning. It’s not looking great out there. But that’s okay. It’s still warm. It’s not freezing. So I’m okay with it. I’m coming at you today with a really important episode on whether or not you should tell the people in your life about your ADHD diagnosis. Now, I was actually going to rerelease an old episode on this topic, just as a part of my summer space making, you know, you know how it’s gone. But when I went back and listened to that old episode, I just really didn’t resonate with the tone that the old version of me brought for this episode, as much as I would have liked to anyway.

So like three years ago, me she was nice. She was very well intentioned. She knew a lot of stuff, but she didn’t understand nuance, and she didn’t really understand empathy in the way that I do now. And let me tell you a little secret, I have a very low tolerance level right now, for people who don’t understand nuance and empathy, especially people who are in the public eye consider themselves to be leaders or teachers. So that includes me, and instead of releasing an old episode, in which I didn’t feel like the tone was on point, I just decided to have a redo. How many of you could use a redo in your life, you know, I just want to let you know, it’s never too late for that. Like you can start over anytime you want. And you can start over as many times as you want. I’m just saying, there’s no rules. When it comes to this stuff. You just get to decide to reinvent or rebrand, or redo stuff in a way that feels more aligned with who you are now, anytime you want. Okay, so back to the main event. One question that we get a ton here at I have ADHD is should I tell my friends and my family about my ADHD? Now, I want to remind you that episode 155 is what is ADHD? And how do I explain it? And that’s a really good episode, I highly recommend you listen to it for all the details of like, a simple explanation of how to just tell somebody about ADHD.

But this episode today is not so much about what HD HD is or how you explain it or summarize it, but rather, should you tell your friends about it? Should you tell your partner should you tell your boss now this can be really complicated, right? So you get a new ADHD diagnosis or maybe you’ve had your diagnosis for decades, but you’re just really big And into embrace it, and learn about it. And you are really identifying with it so much, and everything just begins to make sense. You feel like your whole world lights up like, Yes, I understand myself so much better now. And it’s such a game changer. Or maybe you receive a diagnosis and you’re completely devastated. Like, you’re experiencing massive amounts of grief and anger and regret, for not having the privilege of being diagnosed sooner. But whatever it is you’re experiencing is big, right? This is big. And as humans, we are wired for connection. And we’re wired to be a part of a community.

So of course, you want to share this information with people. Of course, you want people to understand the ins and outs of your brain and recognize the symptoms and impairments and bring a level of validation to your experience and just have a deeper understanding of who you are. And what makes you you. That’s so normal. So it totally makes sense that you’re considering the question, should I share my ADHD diagnosis with this person? So I’m going to give you a few ways to think through how you can make this decision? The first thing that I would suggest is, I think you should ask yourself, what you’re hoping to gain from telling this person? And are they capable of giving that to you? So like, what are you hoping to get out of this conversation? Why do you want to tell them just take 20 seconds, that’s it, it’s not going to take long just you can even pause this episode just for a second and ask yourself, why do I want to tell this person it really still just breathe? And try to like deep within figure out? What is it that I’m trying to get out of this conversation? All right, do you have your answer? Maybe the answer is so that they can understand me better, so that they can affirm this diagnosis or who I am, or so we can have a deeper connection, because I want to process with them.

Or maybe you want them to like let you off the hook for some things. And that’s totally valid to Now my next question is, are they capable of giving you what you want? Does your history with them, everything you know about them, indicate that they’re capable of giving that to you? Like if you’re hoping to gain validation? Does the person have a history of being good at validating you? If you’re hoping to gain connection? Does the person have a history of being able to connect with you? If you’re hoping to gain understanding, does the person have a history of showing understanding and being able to really empathize with you? Sometimes, all right, actually, like a lot of times, we want something from the humans in our lives, that they’re simply incapable of giving us. We want validation from people who don’t know how to validate. We want empathy from people who don’t know how to empathize, we want understanding from people who’ve actually never understood us. So in this moment, I invite you to reflect on your relationship with the person that you’re considering chatting with you about your ADHD diagnosis. And I want you to assess what you’re hoping to get out of the conversation, and whether or not they have a history of being capable of giving that to you.

Now, everybody’s answer is going to be different. There’s going to be like 20,000 people 20 to 30,000 people listening to this episode, everybody’s answers going to be different. And that’s totally fine. This is a completely personal decision. And you can still choose to share the information with them. Regardless of what your answers to these questions. That’s still your choice. It’s totally up to you. But what I want from this exercise is for you to go in with realistic expectations, that you’re not hoping to get something out of the conversation that the person is literally not willing, not able not capable of giving you. All right.

Okay, next, I really encourage you to spend a little bit of time learning about ADHD and maybe you already have, but let’s say you’re brand new to your diagnosis. Just gather a few key facts before you begin to talk about the diagnosis. If your diagnostic experience was anything like mine, your doctor likely didn’t tell you much about ADHD and what it means to have ADHD. So the responsibility is on you to spend some time and energy to discover what ADHD is, and what the key factors of the diagnosis mean for you, personally. Okay, now, I have so many episodes on this topic, and I want to shout out episode 155. Again, what is ADHD and how do I explain it because I I think that that episode will be really helpful to you in broadening your understanding of this disorder, and being able to explain it to people. And in addition, I do have a psychologist approved list of symptoms on my website, I have adhd.com. And there are some really good books out there as well, like Barclays book taking charge of adult ADHD. And the combination of all of this can really help you have a deeper understanding of the disorder and an ability to talk about it. My point here is that the responsibility is on you to know just a little bit about ADHD before you start talking about it to others. Many people, especially in the US have such a shallow understanding of ADHD. And sometimes these people have a harsh opinion about it.

For example, there’s so many stigmas and misconceptions out there, surrounding the disorders such as, like, oh, HT, is overly diagnosed, everyone gets diagnosed with ADHD. Not true. Or, like, every kid has been prescribed ADHD medication, it is way overly prescribed. This is also not true. Or ADHD is for kids, and they grow out of it by the time they’re adults. So adults can’t have ADHD. Not true. Or, you know, these are some of my favorite ones. Like people just say things like, you can’t have ADHD, if you’re a woman, or you can’t have ADHD, if you’re highly intelligent, or you can’t have ADHD, if you’re successful, or you can’t have ADHD, if you’re old. All of these are completely untrue. But they’re commonly held beliefs by the general population. So you, you just may want to prepare yourself a little bit for some pushback from, from the people in your lives who love you, but who just don’t know much about ADHD.

So if you choose to tell people about your diagnosis, just be willing to have a conversation, be willing to receive a little bit of pushback. Now, pushback doesn’t necessarily mean they’re invalidating you. They may just be wanting to gain more understanding, they may have a legitimate question, but be prepared for that as you go into these conversations. Okay, so that leads us right into the next point. Many of us ADHD errs feel that we need other people to affirm and validate our experience, in order for us to make that experience real or legitimate. I’ve been so so so so so guilty of this in my own life, and like guilty isn’t the right word, because obviously, this isn’t a crime or anything. But it has been my mode of operation to look to the important people in my life, like my parents, or my friends, or my husband, to affirm and validate my experience and my truth, in order for me to truly consider whatever that truth is as legitimate. So this looks like receiving a diagnosis from a medical professional, but then questioning it when a parent or spouse says, you don’t have ADHD, or you don’t seem ADHD to me. How many of you struggle with this? As if you need a parent to affirm what a doctor has already told you? But we want that affirmation don’t we? Had? Dang, I crave it. I really crave it, I want that validation. I really, really, really do. It’s so hard for me to believe my own truth without somebody else first affirming it.

But I’m beginning to learn that this is because of childhood traumas and the ways in which our families operate in emotional immaturity and codependency and blah, blah, blah, lots of therapy talk. And y’all know I’m not a therapist, it’s really important that you step back just for a second and ask yourself, do you really need your parent, or your sister or your spouse or your friend to legitimize your ADHD? The ADHD diagnosis that you got from a mental health professional? Do you need your mom who’s an accountant to validate that? Do you need your husband who’s a teacher to validate that? Do you need your sister who’s an artist to validate your ADHD diagnosis that you received from someone who was trained in how to assess for the disorder? And if so, if you’re like, Yeah, I do. Why that’s a really important thread for you to follow. Now, I just want to take a moment here and say, let’s say that you don’t have access to medical care. I know that I have listeners all over the world in all different socio economic statuses and some of you just don’t have access to a diagnosis. But you’re listening to this podcast, you’ve probably done a crap ton of research and you’ve self diagnosed yourself. From reading books, and through information you found on the internet, through podcasts and all of the different ways that you’ve researched.

Do you need your friends or your family to affirm your own self diagnosis, even though you’re the one that’s been hyper focusing on research, and reading and listening and learning about ADHD for hours, and hours and hours. So this right here, this wanting people to affirm and validate my truth before I can really feel like my truth is real. This is one of the biggest areas of growth that I’ve gone through in the last year. And truthfully, it’s really only been in the last year, I have decided that I get to establish my own legitimacy. I have the right to my thoughts. I have the right to my feelings, I have the right to my diagnosis. I have the right to my own beliefs. And I don’t need anyone else to affirm them. In order for me to feel grounded in my truth. I don’t need anyone else’s affirmation. In order to feel validated in my diagnosis. I want it let me be clear, let me be very clear, I want it you better believe that I want it. I freakin crave it.

Okay, I crave that affirmation, I crave the validation. But I’m doing the work of trusting my own thoughts, trusting my own feelings, trusting my own assessment, my own diagnosis, my own everything. And this is deep work. This is very, very, very deep work, but it is work worth doing. So this brings me to a really key point that might be a little bit hard to hear. So just take a deep breath, maybe give yourself a little hug. Here it comes. It’s actually your job to validate your own diagnosis, not anyone else’s. For some of you this is extraordinarily difficult because of your life experiences and your traumas and your long held beliefs. And I want to honor that. And I also want to shout out those of you who are higher functioning on the ADHD spectrum. Because I know a lot of you really struggle to identify with the diagnosis because your quote unquote, not that bad. I see you, I understand that. Some of you have grown up in homes where you were never allowed to talk about mental health. And you had to think the same way as your parents in order to be accepted. So choosing to go outside the herd so to speak, can feel really, really dangerous. I honor that.

But I do encourage you to build up your own evidence bank for your ADHD experience, and really consider the people who you are looking to for validation. Most of the time, they’re not trained healthcare or mental health professionals, are they? Now I know they’re not? No, the answer is no.

So here’s how we’re going to end this episode. Before you go and tell people about your ADHD, I want you to be able to finish this sentence. You ready? Here it is. I know that my ADHD is real because that that that you fill in the blank. I know my ADHD is real because you fill in the blank. It might take you a little while to figure out how you want to finish the sentence, no problem. But it will help to make you super resilient to anyone’s reactions to sharing your experience with them. So should you share your diagnosis with the people in your life? The answer to that question is, I have no idea.

I have no idea.

The truth is that it’s your information, and no one else is entitled to it. But it makes sense if you want to share it with people, because humans are wired for connection and community. You can keep it to yourself, or you can scream it from the rooftops either way is totally fine. But if you do choose to share, make sure that three things are happening. First, you have realistic expectations about the person that you’re telling. Second, make sure you have some ADHD knowledge in your back pocket. And third, make sure that you’ve already decided in advance that your diagnosis is real and valid. All right, my friends, we got through it unmade can’t talk unmedicated an unknown caffeinated and you know sometimes that’s just how we roll. I cannot wait to talk to you next week. I’m sending you a big fat hug. If you’re being treated for your ADHD but you still don’t feel like you’re reaching your potential you’ve got to join focus. It’s my monthly coaching membership where I teach you how to tame your wild thoughts and create the life that you’ve always wanted. No matter what season of life you’re in, or where you are in the world focused is for you. All materials and call recordings are stored in the site for you to access at your convenience. Go to Ihaveadhd.com/focused for all the info

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