It happened again today. I slipped up. I accidentally mis-scheduled an interview with a colleague and showed up exactly two days late. Oops. I feel awful. I hate it when things like this happen…letting someone down is the worst for me.

I know what happens next. I will apologize profusely, tell her this sort of thing rarely happens, and thank her for allowing me to reschedule. I know the drill, because actually this sort of thing is happening more and more.

Hold on, before I am tempted to go into a litany of the things I mess up, let me back up and explain.

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I wore dresses to school every day except Friday. Friday was “casual” day, so I wore slacks. Like proper girls of that era I wore a slip under my dress and being the second girl in my family I would get hand me downs from my sister. And like most hand me downs, initially my slips were a bit large and long and would literally slip down and start showing beneath my dress. I was constantly checking and rerolling the waist band to keep it “from snowing down south” a phrase Australians use for this common slip showing dilemma.

My ADHD is like that. I’ll be going along through my days thinking that everything is tucked in, loose ends rolled up, things running smoothly…and then, bam…there it is again. My ADHD slip is showing and it seems I am the last to realize it.

You may not know this, but only recently was I diagnosed with ADHD. Amazing, I know…but true. My colleagues’ and kids’ response to my official diagnosis has typically been “duh…of course!” Not that the diagnosis was a surprise to me, but it has definitely been a feeling of “slip” dé ja vu…realizing that I was probably the last to notice what was obvious to everyone…that my slip…err ADHD…was showing.

It’s actually quite common for women in mid-life to be first diagnosed with ADHD.  Like everyone who is eventually diagnosed with ADHD, we were born with this brain style. It’s just that an individual’s tipping point, the point when they aren’t able to compensate for the ADHD symptoms any more, is different. For women, it’s a hormone thing. As we all know, menopause brings with it physical changes in our bodies. And for women undiagnosed with ADHD up to this point, the biological dip of estrogen in their body means that there is also less estrogen available in their brains to help bind dopamine to the receptors. Less dopamine means less activation of the frontal lobe. Less activation of the frontal lobe means more executive function challenges, impulsivity, hyperactivity and distractibility. And often the first time in their lives, mid-life undiagnosed ADHD women start to “slip” up and begin wondering what the heck is happening. Luckily for me, because of my work with persons with ADHD, once my “slips” started to impact my life I picked up the phone a made a call to my doctor.

Yep, I am officially diagnosed with ADHD and despite my conscientious intentions and best efforts to check and recheck my calendar, clocks, lists and alarms, I will probably continue to slip up from time to time and let people down every now and then. It’s not an excuse, just an explanation.

If you are like me, a woman in transition between the ages of 35-60, recently diagnosed with ADHD hoping to keep your ADHD slips from showing here are some ways I have found that help:

  • If you think/know you are/have gone through menopause and are experiencing an increase in misremembering, distractibility and lack of focus, make an appointment with your health care provider to get a baseline level of your hormones checked. For some women, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is all that’s needed.
  • If you were diagnosed earlier in life with ADHD and are using medication as part of your management strategy and are noticing a reduction in the benefits of your medication…make an appointment with your health care provider to check your hormone levels. It is possible that lower levels of estrogen are impacting the effectiveness of your medication.
  • Get enough and consistent sleep! Second only to medication, sleep or the lack of it can significantly affect how we experience our ADHD. Despite the challenges of sleep and the lure of middle of the night productivity, getting consistent restful sleep will result in a reduction of ADHD symptoms.
  • Keep time in your face always. At a minimum you need at least one clock in each room that you can see at all times. This includes bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, mud rooms, basements and even walk in closets!
  • Revisit what worked in the past to keep you organized and on task. A significant difference I am still adjusting to is using an online calendar so my team can access it as well. It’s great that technology allows these options, however in the past I was a pen and planner gal and not utilizing that tactile method any longer has had its drawbacks. Time for me to pull out the planner!
  • I won’t pretend to be the best exerciser, but I know without a doubt that exercise provides a plethora of benefits to ADHD brains. Movement increase dopamine in our body and oxygen to our brain. Not to mention keeping that muffin top from turning into a bundt cake.
  • Make time for what energizes you. This is perhaps one of the biggest changes I have made recently. Realizing the increased chance for an ADHD slip, I find that making time daily to do something that energizes me provides the brain fuel I need to focus on things less interesting.

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