I will be the first to tell you that I have never studied psychology in an academic capacity, not in the slightest. When I began working as a receptionist at Maple Leaf Clinic a little over a year ago, I had a very basic framework of personal, independently acquired knowledge on different mental health conditions, learning disabilities, and genetic syndromes; however, this obviously didn’t cover the full range of things our clients experience. Early on in my time at Maple Leaf, I made it a priority to educate myself on as many of these topics as possible so that I could better understand and help our clients within my capacity on the administration team.

During my research, I came across resources that covered topics related to adult ADHD, including articles about the ways in which ADHD presents and manifests differently based on gender. One of the articles detailed Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) – a phenomenon experienced by some people with ADHD, and especially common in women. RSD is not a formal diagnosis, but a manifestation of one of the symptoms of ADHD, emotional dysregulation; it can be described as a severe emotionally or physically painful reaction to real or perceived rejection, criticism, or teasing. As I was reading some first-hand accounts of people describing their experiences with RSD, it struck me that I have had very similar experiences with my own mental health, but had attributed it to my previous diagnoses of anxiety and depression – both of which are highly comorbid with ADHD. While I do not think that self-diagnosing mental health conditions based solely on online resources is a legitimate method, having this realization definitely made me start thinking more in-depth about getting an evaluation to further understand myself and my potential neurodivergence.

While reading various articles and resources, I also learned that there are three subtypes of ADHD – predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and combination. My perception of ADHD growing up was heavily skewed towards the hyperactive/impulsive presentation of ADHD, which at the time was thought to be much more common in boys. Reading more about the inattentive subtype helped me to better understand how complex ADHD can be, and how varied it can appear in different cases. I was able to link my own experiences in adolescence and throughout my young adult life with the symptoms associated with inattentive ADHD, socially, academically, and internally. Things that I had chalked up to being the product of being labeled a “gifted student” at a young age – high levels of perfectionism coupled with crippling procrastination, the inability to stick to deadlines, remembering trivial details while forgetting important tasks, for example – began to make more sense.

The cumulative result of my self-lead research into ADHD and the following eureka moments I experienced was that, somewhat predictably, I set up a time to meet with my Primary Care Physician to discuss whether he thought my suspicions were warranted; not only for the benefit of the relief that came with a confirmed diagnosis, but also in the event that, if I decide to return to college for further education, I will be able to pursue the academic support I so desperately needed years ago. After a brief evaluation, which will be followed up with a more comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation in the near future, I was ultimately diagnosed with ADHD (Inattentive Subtype), and could put a name on the behaviors that I’ve had since childhood, which I can now manage and understand. It may not have been a diagnosis I’ve been expecting or anticipating for years, but it was something I fundamentally needed nonetheless.

So, why share all of this with you? Because I believe that talking openly about mental health and learning how it affects myself and others has been highly integral to my own journey, and perhaps hearing my perspective could play a part in helping someone else understand their own perspective a little better. My advice for anyone who resonates with my story is to follow that hunch, find reliable and credible resources, and consult with a professional; a diagnosis can make a world of difference.

Jenna D’Olivo

Administrative Assistant – Maple Leaf Clinic