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
Age of ADHD Diagnosis: 41
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!