How an ADHD Diagnosis at 41 helped Toya take the leap

Leap day has a special meaning for Toya. A freelance writer, concert producer and events coordinator, she felt like she was bumping up against an “invisible wall” for many years, until she was ADHD this past February 29. This year she has taken a huge leap forward in her life and took the time to share her story with us.  

Toya Haynes, 41
Freelance writer working on the dream
Somerdale, NJ
Age of ADHD Diagnosis: 41
Combined subtype

How did you find out that you had ADHD?

Two years ago, I fell into a really deep depression because I had so many things that I wanted to accomplish, but I felt trapped. For most of my life I have felt like there was this invisible wall that I couldn’t get through to reach my potential. I felt like I was letting so many people down because I just couldn’t figure my life out. It got frightening for me and I moved back home to live with my parents so that I could get mentally and emotionally healthy. Soon after I moved, a close friend of mine told me that her boyfriend was diagnosed with ADHD. When she told me his symptoms, I realized that ADHD was not at all what I had always thought it was. After doing research for about a year and hearing others stories about living with ADHD, there was no doubt in my mind that ADHD could be what was holding me back from fulfilling my dreams.

 

How did you feel once diagnosed? What was the experience like?

I was diagnosed on Leap Day of this year! That day is so significant to me because having ADHD but being unaware of it had been a life long struggle up until that point. Finally understanding what ADHD was explained so much about my life growing up. One way I describe being undiagnosed is that it feels like going through a room full of spider webs in the dark. It’s frustrating! As soon as my psychiatrist diagnosed me, you would’ve thought she said that I had made the top 12 on American Idol, I shouted for joy! Knowledge is indeed power. I can definitely say that February 29, 2016 was the day that I leaped forward in my life.

Leap Day Pic

Being diagnosed with ADHD helped me, but I still needed to know that having ADHD wouldn’t stop me.

If it weren’t for my discovering Kaleidoscope Society, I would have felt hopeless.  To see other women with ADHD thriving; smart, successful and creative women, really gave me the confidence I needed.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to help women with ADHD. Girls often go undiagnosed because their ADHD symptoms are somewhat different than boys. That’s why it’s important that these types of communities exist.

 

What advice would you share with other women with ADHD?

Don’t be ashamed if you feel like there are things you need to do for yourself that may seem a little “extra.” For example, I used to be ashamed about certain things I need to do to help keep me on track: a wall calendar, big colorful reminders, healthy eating, etc. I was really kidding myself whenever I didn’t write something down and would say “Oh I’ll remember that!” Be patient with yourself, especially if you’ve been diagnosed later in life. You have to adjust your mindset and ways of doing things that you’ve had your entire life up until that point. That takes time. Don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed! I remember one time I went to get a pen to write down directions and someone told me not to write it down and to just listen. I wish I could go back to that person and say, “Excuse me? You don’t know my life.”

There’s no need to be in denial about your challenges. Do what you have to do for YOU and make it fun!  Yes, ADHD is exhausting at times but it can also be a big colorful life that never has a dull moment.

 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

That’s a great question. I actually went through a short grieving period after my diagnosis for “Little LaToya.”

I wish I would’ve loved her more. I would tell her that she’s not only smart, but also that she is brilliant, beautiful and uniquely gifted; to take time with herself and to love herself because she’s going to get there.

My self-esteem took such a terrible beating for so many years because I didn’t understand why I was having the challenges that come with having ADHD. I’m currently healing from that, thank God. I’ve decided to love myself extra hard now to make up for all those years. I definitely owe that to myself now.

ToyaNYCPic (1)

 

What are your favorite strategies for staying organized?

The Pomodoro Method is a life changer! 25 minutes doing one thing and then 25 minutes doing the next thing and so on with a break in between. I get bored so quickly so it puts me in the zone. I like using this method for when I have to write and do research because I write about a number of topics. By the time I come back to a task, I usually have a fresh idea. It keeps things interesting. I also like to use that method for house cleaning and organizing because it keeps me from making it an all day event. I’m still getting the hang of it.

Pomodoro Technique

 

What’s your next adventure?

I’ve decided to go back to school to study broadcast journalism and get my BA. I am currently a writer and I really want to be a traveling TV reporter.  Lord knows I can’t do cubicles! I dropped out of college early and threw myself into internships because internships give you hands on learning.  I just couldn’t handle the responsibilities that came with attending college while having an un-diagnosed attention disorder.

Since I have undergone treatment, I have such a thirst for knowledge.  I never thought being a student again would ever be possible, let alone becoming an entrepreneur.  I am so excited about learning!   Reading so many stories of successful women with ADHD, specifically journalist Lisa Ling who was diagnosed at the same age as me, has given me so much hope.

Also, I want to get more involved with helping others, particularly women, who are suffering in silence due to their mental health and/or not taking the time for self-care.  That was the most important thing for me in getting diagnosed. I cannot wait to get out there and help others in their journey!

Diagnosis Day (1)
Can you relate? Share your comments below or join the conversation on our Instagram Page. You can also learn more about Toya on her blog www.whatsgoodtoya.com.

 If you’d like to share your ADHD story with our community, contact Nicole [at] kaleidoscopesociety.com!

8 Comments

  • Chelanna says:

    I was just diagnosed last week. I never knew that this might be the cause of so many problems. I wish I could go back in time and cut myself some slack. I just wish that my younger self could have been allowed self-acceptance. I am so grateful for the diagnosis. But bitter that I wasted so many years in therapy for anxiety and depression that were really just caused by severe ADHD.

    • Gloria says:

      I completely understand and feel the same way. I was even contemplating suicide but I refused to end things so easily. Im going to beat this thing and finally live my life.

      • Laura says:

        Thank you for staying with us!
        Jesus has great plans for us, and our lives! I’m thankful I didn’t have to live one moment longer being undiagnosed. Diagnosed age 43. <3 U Gloria!

    • Hi Chelanna, wow you were just diagnosed? How did you find our site?
      Bittersweet is such a good way to describe an ADHD diagnosis later in life. I was diagnosed at age 29, and part of me wishes I could go back in time too and use the knowledge to avoid some of the loneliness, confusion and impulsive decisions. A part of me is grateful for all those experiences though because they have made me the strong and resilient woman I am today.
      How you are doing now that you are 2 months out?

  • Gloria says:

    Wow what a great story. I am 42 years old and have not officially been diagnosed yet but have a great notion that it is ADD. Next month is my appointment and I will find out. This disorder has really affected my entire life and I will not let live in silence any longer. I am currently planning to start a women’s support group and how to shine light on this epidemic disorder in women. Thank you for creating this awesome online magazine!

  • An says:

    Was diagnosed 2 years ago and it is so liberating. Just like you, I am going back to studying, so much better equipped and in the know about my needs for healthy and structured living. And not ashamed of it. When I get my diploma ( no ifs) I will go and thank the doctor who helped me on this track …

  • Constance McGraw says:

    Thank you , Gloria and others for sharing your stories. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was 25, but never really took control of it until I was 28. I remember feeling like I was coasting by in college, without ever actually applying myself to the work. I just could not bring myself to delve into it, and on rare occasions when I did, I was sloppy about it. I think I started feeling blows to my self-esteem when I landed a job as a research assistant for a laboratory at a University. I just kept doing sloppy work, running experience and thus research, and feeling like I couldn’t learn it. I felt stupid and incompetent. My boss was not sensitive and several times asked me if I had ever had a full-time job before. I kept falling short of my goals and decided to meet with a treating psychologist. She recommended a high-dose of daily Vyvansse, which made me productive, but also gave me so irritable when I was coming down, as well as appetite loss and weight loss. I gave up and stop taking it. I still performed poorly at the lab, until the very end. I was almost fired a few times and had to defend myself.
    I changed my scenery and job and applied to grad school. During graduate school, I actually made it through to the near end without medication. Although I did well, I probably was not able to reach my full potential and was so bored with the classes. I finally saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with mild depression and moderate to severe ADD. I think they went hand in hand for me; constant feeling restless, not good enough, impulsively buying things and making poor decisions. Today, I take half a pill of Vyvanse every other day and things are going much better.

    Although I have a great job, at times, I still struggle with basic prioritizing and organization skills. My coworkers have been very helpful in my training, and things are slowly getting better. Just today, though, I spilled water all over my work bag, on my computer, files, and completed voting ballet. Sometimes you just gotta laugh it off. So glad for this sharing space.

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