I remember feeling like an impostor when I was younger. I was held back in second grade. In high school, though I was in a lot of higher-level classes, I always felt like I was working harder than anyone else. Reading took much longer for me, it seemed. I’d read a paragraph and think, “I have no clue what I just read.” I’d skip ahead, never read directions, and make a lot of careless mistakes.
In my junior year of high school, I was taking two Advanced Placement courses and was on the soccer and dance teams. I’d get home after practice and would have a ton of homework and no idea where to start. I had no organization or time-management skills, no ability to prioritize. I’d get started on one subject and think, “This is taking forever. I’m never going to get any of this done.” Then I’d be paralyzed and stress out, cry, take a break, and come back and be even more stressed because I hadn’t gotten anything done.
That’s when my mom took me to see a psychologist, and I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I was 17. My doctor prescribed medication, and my mom hired what would now be called an executive functions coach.
My coach taught me how to plan my time. She had me organize every 15 minutes of my day. She showed me that I could complete all my work and explained strategies for reading to help me remember things better, like previewing chapters and not just jumping ahead. She taught me to break big tasks into small ones, how to stop procrastinating, prioritize, start a task, focus, and finish. I started using a planner to organize everything. The medication helped as well.
I’m also really lucky to have an amazing family who was very supportive. My mom would copy pages from my textbooks because I couldn’t write in them, and then she’d sit with me as a silent partner while I worked.
I continued to take medication through my junior year of college and apply the executive function skills I’d learned. I became a teacher and then an executive functions coach, where I taught kids how they could improve the skills that I had learned. I’m 30 now and run my own company, an educational nonprofit that helps parents improve the academic lives of their children.
Once I was diagnosed, it kind of empowered me to think, “So I have ADHD. I’m smart and capable. I have something that’s holding me back, but I can create strategies to help me overcome it.” I don’t feel like an impostor anymore.
“For me, not feeling like a failure and taking the medication when I need it are key.”
“I can’t say enough about having a really great support system. I had great teachers. My parents and my husband have been very supportive.”
“Being self-aware and embracing all parts of myself, including the ADHD, has been very important in my success.”
“Practicing executive function skills was a huge part of my success. Know that adults can have coaches, too.”