How Do I Accept My ADHD Diagnosis?

The other day I got a question from someone in our busy-awesome community that gave me pause. 

He asked, “How did you achieve acceptance of your ADHD diagnosis?”

While the question seemed straightforward on the surface…once I sat down to draft my response, the complex layers revealed themselves. 

woman at laptop looking frustrated

So rather than writing a thesis-length email about my journey toward acceptance of ADHD I thought I’d share my experience on the podcast with our entire community.

Because regardless of where you’re at in your ADHD journey, working toward acceptance is critical.

This process can happen in many layers – whether you’ve been diagnosed over the past few years, you’ve known about your ADHD since childhood or you’re just beginning this journey of discovery.

You can listen to the episode above or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:   

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

In This Episode 164: How Do I Accept My ADHD Diagnosis, You’ll Discover:

  • Why it’s powerful to find acceptance in your diagnosis
  • The eight stages I experienced in my own journey of ADHD acceptance
  • How to learn from my stages and apply what’s supportive to your life

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Episode #164: How Do I Accept My ADHD Diagnosis? (Transcript) 

8 ways I accepted my ADHD and you can too

I am so glad that you are tuning in to this episode today because we are diving into a really important topic – something that so many of us with ADHD grapple with, whether we’ve had an official diagnosis or not. And that topic is how to accept our ADHD.

I received a really thoughtful e-mail from one of the members in our busy awesome community last week. And in the e-mail, he wrote “how did you achieve acceptance of your diagnosis, i.e., acceptance of your mental disability?”

I responded back, “Oof, this is such an important and powerful question; I’ve been thinking about it all weekend. I don’t think I can do it justice in an email, but I’m going to put my thoughts together for a podcast. I know so many of us struggle with this roadblock, and it will be helpful to a lot of people.”

And that’s exactly what we’re going to do today. 

I first want to thank this listener for raising the topic and asking such an important question – you know exactly who you are and I’m so glad you’re part of the community.

Before we dive into my thoughts and the exact steps I followed to accept my ADHD, I want to really stress that this was my personal experience of achieving acceptance of my diagnosis. I am not saying that this is the right way or the only way for anyone else. But it was my way. And I hope that by sharing it, this episode can offer some new thoughts or ideas or perspectives that are useful for you.

As always, for those of you listening who don’t have ADHD, and you’re here for the productivity tips and strategies to get things done, I’d offer that what we’re exploring today can be applied to any area where you want to create acceptance.

For those of you amazing listeners who tune in because a loved one or a colleague has ADHD and you want to better understand it, as always, you’re remarkable. There will be a nugget or two in here for you as well.

So what does this look like?

How did I finally get to a place of acceptance with my ADHD?

I know I just said this, but I feel like I need to reinforce it one more time; this is my personal experience. If yours has gone differently, or if you feel resistant to any of the ideas or stages that I mention, that is absolutely okay. Nothing’s gone wrong.

This is such an individual journey, so trust your process because it’s exactly right for you.

So I invite you to take what’s helpful and leave what’s not. And remind your brain that you’re right on track.

So with that in mind, after I spent some time it really reflecting on this question and brainstorming the most effective way to map out my process for everybody, and I ultimately traced my process in eight different stages.

Some of them happened separately from one another, others unfolded simultaneously, and I definitely moved back and forth through the stages. Almost like how grief is non-linear, my acceptance of ADHD also wasn’t linear.

However, the way that I’ll describe it is a linear process simply to make the episode as clear as possible.

1. Comprehend What It Means to Have ADHD

The first stage that I went through to help create acceptance of my diagnosis was to learn and really comprehend what it means to have ADHD.

I think society’s general understanding of this diagnosis is so skewed.

I’ve mentioned this multiple times on the podcast, but the way ADHD is depicted in the media and the way it’s talked about generally, is that ADHD is for little boys who can’t sit still in their chairs, and they’re constantly getting in trouble at school.

Now is this accurate in some situations? Absolutely. But it is just one small representation of the way ADHD presents itself. It shows up in so many other ways, too, which I talk about in lots of episodes, but perhaps most clearly in episode 149 all about our executive functions

Plus, there are so many misunderstandings about what causes ADHD. For those of us who have had a later diagnosis – as well as those of us who have known for much of our lives – if we don’t understand what this neurodevelopmental disorder actually entails, we don’t know what we’re working with.

We tend to think that have ADHD simply means we can’t focus and as long as we get some medication we should “fix the problem.” (Which I have SO MANY thoughts about the idea of needing to be fixed, which I may rant about in a bit.) But for now, let’s stick with the education piece. 

If we truly believe that we’re just easily distracted and medication will fix the problem, that’s going to leave us – most of the time – coming up short.

In fact, we might start thinking things like, “why am I not fixed? I have the medication! Shouldn’t things be better now?” Perhaps some of you feel like that right now.

When we don’t fully understand how ADHD truly touches every aspect of our lives, we’re left to believe that there is something wrong with us. That we’re broken. And again, we need “fixing.” We might take on the beliefs that we’re lazy and we just need to try harder. And for my thoughts on that, be sure to check out episode 66, literally titled Stop Trying Harder.

So again, step one is to educate yourself on what it actually means to have a neurodevelopmental disorder. Learn the facts. Give yourself the gift of understanding the science behind it.

ADHD Resources

Now, there is so much great information out there and admittedly, it can be a little bit overwhelming. So here are a few places to start…

Also, here are some of my favorite ADHD that I highly recommend.

There is no shortage of people in the social media space offering information on ADHD, much of which is very powerful, but you want to check your sources. Perhaps my favorite is How to ADHD with Jessica McCabe on YouTube; her work is very well done and engaging for our brains.

So again, step one in my journey is to understand and educate myself on the many ways that ADHD can impact our lives and what it truly means to have this disorder.

2. ADHD Treatment

The next step for me was treatment and to be more accurate, the education and treatment for myself were more or less simultaneous.

As I was learning about ADHD, I was also working with my psychiatrist to get the proper treatment for me. This can be a process as you figure out what your body needs. And of course, there are many people who prefer not to go the medication route as well.

So as you work with your doctor, you can figure out together the best support for you. But getting the treatment and support you need, whether that’s working with a psychiatrist or a therapist or a coach (or in my situation – all of the above) was the next step in my journey.

Now, I also realize that this is speaking from a place of privilege, and not everybody has access to mental health resources, which is a whole other podcast.  But if that’s the case for you, I highly recommend giving yourself the time to really dig into the wonderful free resources on trusted sites like attitude magazine or chad.org.

Again, if you’re able to, getting that additional support can be very helpful in better understanding and accepting your ADHD diagnosis. This is not something that you need to navigate all on your own.

3. Acknowledge How ADHD Presents Itself In Your Life

After getting that treatment and support, the next step in my own journey of accepting my ADHD was really starting to acknowledge how ADHD presents itself in my life on a day-to-day basis.

I’d been learning a lot about it and understanding the different ways that ADHD can impact people.

This experience in and of itself was really empowering. It provided a sense of relief at times when I could read about or hear about the symptoms of ADHD and finally understand why I struggled with cognitive flexibility and why it was so hard for me to transition from one thing to the next or go with the flow if someone changed plans without giving me time to shift gears. 

It helped me recognize how emotional regulation and RSD show up in my day-to-day life and understand it for what it was – the result of my ADHD rather than the story I was telling myself, which was that I was “too emotional” and “so high maintenance.” 

It helped me start seeing how my short-term memory impacted my ability to read and remember complex journal articles or research. 

In other words, when I could take this information I learned and start identifying and acknowledging how these symptoms show up regularly in my life, it was key. It helped me stop seeing these behaviors as inherent flaws in who I was as a human and instead as symptoms of how my brain is wired.

Example To Put This Into Perspective

I want to give an example to put this in perspective, and it admittedly might seem like a stretch. But stick with me.

I have terrible eyesight. If I’m not wearing my glasses or my contacts, all I see are blurs of color. It’s pretty bad. But I don’t have a problem accepting that. I never saw my bad eyesight as a reflection of who I am as a person. I never told myself, I should just try harder to see. Instead, I goto the eye doctor, they check out my eyes, and they give me a prescription to help me see. 

When I started understanding and acknowledging the different ways that ADHD shows up for me, and I really recognized how it was truly a medical condition, it allowed me to see it similar to the way I see my eyesight.

It’s not a problem, and I’m certainly not a problem. ADHD is not who I am as a human and I can work with my brain and put supports in place so that I can do the things I want to do.

Just as I put on my glasses or put in my contacts so that I can see and do the things I want to do. 

4. Allowance

Alright, onto the next step. After acknowledging how ADHD shows up and impacts my life, I then moved into the stage of allowance.

I think it’s very important at this moment to remind everyone – once again – that this is not a linear process.

When I explain more clearly what what I mean by “allow,” I want to really stress that this step unfolded between most of these different stages. And that’s OK. In fact, it still comes up, and that’s OK, too. 

So, what do I mean by allow?

When I say to allow, I mean to allow yourself to feel whatever comes up as you begin to understand and learn and acknowledge the ways that ADHD impacts your life.

Allow yourself to…

  • Feel anger if that’s what comes up. In fact, this is very common. Maybe you’re angry that you didn’t know sooner or that you didn’t have this information earlier in your life. 
  • Grieve the situations that happened or didn’t happen in your life.
  • Experience regret of the things you said or the things you did. The things you didn’t say or didn’t do. The way you treated others. The way you treated yourself. 
  • Feel sadness for those past versions of you who did struggle and did not know why. That version of you who tried so hard and pushed themselves past the limits, all in an effort to fit in and get it “right”

I’m actually getting emotional talking through this part. Because it is so important and it’s so real.

This is also a challenging part. When we don’t want to accept our ADHD, we are resisting these emotions. We’re pushing them away. We’re denying them. This is part of the process to, so there’s no rush here.

However, if you want to move toward acceptance, the process will also include feeling uncomfortable feelings.

And that’s OK. You can do this. You can do hard things. This is where the support of a good therapist or counselor or coach or a safe person in your circle who can be with you and allow you to feel these emotions without trying to fix the situation can be so powerful and impactful.

This was truly one of the most important parts of my journey in working toward acceptance. It was allowing myself to feel and experience all the other emotions. To forgive my past self who was trying so hard to do it right, but she just didn’t have the tools at the time to do it. 

It’s not super fun to go through this part, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But I promise you, it feels better than constantly denying and pushing it away and beating yourself up.

And once you allow yourself to feel and process these emotions, and you move through them at a pace that feels safe and good for you, it will allow you to step into acceptance with greater ease.

When I mention it feels good for you, I don’t mean it will be enjoyable to feel those uncomfortable emotions. But there’s a balance between pushing yourself and shoving yourself. I think of it like a rubberband. We want to stretch ourselves, but not to the point of snapping. That’s not good for our nervous system.

So go as slow as you need, stretching yourself along the way.

5. Recognize Other Parts of Your Life Where You Have Strengths

healthy woman showing strength

Next is to recognize the other parts of you where you’re quite proud, or you have strengths.

I think this is an important step to do alongside the emotional processing of the uncomfortable emotions.

Here’s the deal, even though navigating ADHD is no walk in the park, and it does present us a lot of different problems, but you also have so much to bring to the table. It’s so impactful to remind yourself of this regularly.

I was just talking about this concept with one of my remarkable clients the other day and we talked about it through the lens of giving yourself equal air time. I learned this concept when I was certified as a coach at the life coach school. And it’s been a game changer for me. 

Now as I’ve mentioned many times before, our brains love to focus on the negative.

We’ve evolved this way. When we focus on the danger or potential danger, it helps us survive. When we lived in the elements and worried about whether we’d be eaten by a grizzly bear in the middle of the night, we wanted to be wary of a snapping branch. We’d rather be safe than sorry and anticipate something negative rather than thinking, “it’ll probably be fine.”

While this focus on the negative has served us for many years, it’s really not as necessary anymore.

Of course, there are times when it still serves us. We do live in a world when we do need to be on high alert at times.  However, this part of the brain probably doesn’t need to work quite the overtime hours it currently does.

This is where the concept of equal airtime comes in

The idea of the equal airtime rule has to do with the FCC (the Federal Communications Commission) in the United States. The FCC rules state that American television and radio broadcast stations need to give equal air access to competing political candidates. So if one person gets a certain amount of airtime, the other opposing person should be allowed the same amount of time.

This concept is so apt for our brain.

If we are so focused on all of the negative: all of our faults, and all of our regrets. I think it can be powerful in our journey toward acceptance to also recognize the remarkable things we’ve done.

  • From the connections and relationships you’ve fostered
  • To the children you’ve raised or the animals you’ve cared for
  • The career paths you’ve had and the lessons you gained from each of them
  • People you’ve helped – both directly and indirectly
  • The adventures you’ve had.
  • To the times you stepped up in a moment of need and used your ability to work intensely under pressure to solve a problem or help someone out

So alongside step four of allowing: of recognizing and being with and allowing my emotions to come to the surface. It was also incredibly powerful in my journey to give myself equal airtime, and encourage my brain to focus on and recognize the ways in which I did well.

To see what I had to offer in the ways that I did show up in an impactful way.

If you’re struggling to see this, which can definitely be a challenge, you can reach out to people in your safe circle. They can help you see those strengths, because I promise you they’re there.

6. Question The Stories You Tell Yourself

After I really started understanding and getting the treatment and acknowledging how ADHD showed up. As I began allowing emotions and also recognizing what I naturally brought to the table, I was able to start questioning these negative stories my brain told me just a little bit.

I didn’t jump immediately into positive shiny rainbows and daisies affirmations. My brain was not ready for, “I love me and everything I have to offer. And I’m so amazing.” That was just a big NO.

I did however start asking myself questions to help challenge the really negative stories.

Questions To Ask Yourself

I will offer some of the questions that I played with, and if they resonate with you, I invite you to explore them for yourself and see what comes up.

What If

The first question began simply with what if.

What if I accepted I had ADHD? What might that look like? What if having ADHD didn’t have to mean anything about who I am as a person if I don’t want it to?

It’s Possible That…

Another favorite was the statement it’s possible that..”.

I would fill in the blank. It’s possible that…

  • Having ADHD is okay.
  • I’m okay.
  • I have so much to offer even with ADHD.

Once this became a believable thought, I shifted it to it’s possible that…

  • ADHD has no impact on how much I have to offer.
  • I could think the same way about my ADHD as I think about having bad eyesight. It’s simply a thing that exists, and it means nothing about me.

There are Some People Who…

One more that I like to play with is, “there are some people who…” or “there are others who…”

Meaning, there are others who have ADHD, and I think they’re remarkable. It’s possible that I could think the same way about me.

If your brain resists all of these, you can lean on my belief and try out the thought, Paula says it’s possible.

For example, “Paula says it’s possible to accept your ADHD, it’s possible this is the case for me.” See how your brain responds. Because stepping into these newer thoughts allows you to open up to new possibilities and out of the negative thoughts like, “I hate this. It’s holding me back. I’m such a mess.” etc.

7. Learn To Communicate With Others About Your Experience

Next was learning to communicate with others about my experience. This was a very slow process for me in some areas and easier to talk about in others.

For example, I am blessed with a very supportive partner, and I’m incredibly fortunate for this because I know it’s not the case for everybody. I was able to talk with Ryan about my experiences and why I struggled in some areas and what was hard for me.

I could ask for help when I needed it. And he’d help me brainstorm ways to navigate obstacles and he’d support me when I was spinning in indecision or overwhelmed by my barrage of thoughts.

I was also able to talk with my coach openly about it and work through a lot of the questions and challenges. She also helped me navigate all of these different stages we’re talking about today whenever a new one popped up.

On the other hand, I did not feel safe sharing or communicating about my experiences in my career at the time. It was not a supportive atmosphere, and I frequently heard rather disparaging comments about mental health generally in passing, and in meetings, and even direct comments to me about other people.

So I knew that sharing my journey and my experiences and my challenges in that environment was not something I was ready to do at the time. And that’s OK. 

I offer examples from both sides here – of the areas where I did feel comfortable sharing and the areas where I did not – to hopefully normalize both experiences. And as a reminder to trust your gut when gauging what feels like it’s a safe and supportive place.

Share with people you feel safe with

In an article on attitude magazine they talk about the power of sharing where you’re at with people. I’ll add in my caveat of sharing as much as feels good and safe for you.

The article suggests sharing in the following areas:

  • Sharing with your friends in your close circle, as they can often be such a powerful support network.
  • You might consider talking with your children, not only to help them understand where you’re at but also to reinforce the important message that everybody’s brain works differently and that there’s no shame in that.
  • Talking with your siblings or your parents, especially since ADHD is such a heritable trait.

Again, use your best judgment as people can also be very sensitive about this topic, so I encourage you – as always to check in with what feels best for you.

The overarching takeaway: Learn to communicate where you’re at, what you’re navigating, and potentially requesting support or asking for what you need.

This is a beautiful thing. And if you’re blessed with some close supportive people in your life, seeing them model acceptance of you without hesitation can be such a beautiful example for your brain that it’s possible for you to do the same.

But again, this is why I think it’s important to be selective at first, especially as you are learning to accept your ADHD.

As you begin to accept and embrace your diagnosis, you may feel more comfortable sharing where you’re at with a wider circle, which is beautiful.

This was certainly the case for me, as now I not only talk about it every single week on a podcast with thousands of listeners, and share reels and send emails all about it to the general public. And I’m also proud to do so.

At the same time, you may wish to keep it close, and that’s equally beautiful. This is YOUR journey and you get to decide how it unfolds. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

8. Connect With Other ADHDers

woman giving high fives

This brings me to the last stage and quite possibly one of the most important, and this is the power of connection.

It’s the importance of connecting with a community of other ADHD brains who know what you’re navigating.

I believe I mentioned this back in my episode on masking, but connecting with the ADHD community had such a profound impact on how I looked at and understood and truly accepted my diagnosis.

Seeing all of these remarkable humans doing incredible things in the world while also working through similar challenges as me was encouraging and affirming and – again-so impactful.

Hearing one person’s story after another and reading about their experiences and talking with them and connecting with them and seeing the remarkable person in front of me, even though they might have a hard time seeing it.

Those examples really helped my brain start believing that it could be the same for me. It’s possible I could only see my “flaws” and overlook all of my strengths just as the incredible person sharing their story could only see what they believed were flaws. I did this by connecting on Zoom and in person with people who have ADHD but it also happened in other ways.

I connected with people in so many ways…

It was listening to people tell their stories on podcasts like this.  I did this by reading blog posts, by following funny ADHD accounts online and seeing my experience reflected in ridiculous memes that thousands of other people liked and commented.

It helped me realize that I was not alone. It’s not just me. And maybe – just maybe – I was OK.

The more I was able to deeply connect with and get to know fellow ADHD brains, and share in our vulnerabilities and experiences, and also see how truly remarkable they are, the more I was able to step into an embrace and fully accept my diagnosis.

Now I know that this was a lot that I threw at you today. And I know our tendency to feel overwhelmed. So take it at your own pace.


Want To Join Our Group Coaching Program?!

I will be opening the doors for the next cohort of We’re Busy Being Awesome in a couple of weeks!

Add your name to the waitlist so you’ll be the first to know about program dates and times, plus how you can sign up if it’s a great fit for you.


Let’s Recap

I’ll do a quick recap here of the 8 stages with yet another reminder that this is not linear. It’s not the only way to work toward acceptance.

This is truly my experience, which I’m sharing in case it’s supportive for you. If your brain finds a way to use it against yourself, I do not consent. You are never allowed to use these tools against yourself. However, if you find these steps supportive for you, have at it.

  1. Learn and understand what ADHD actually is.
  2. Get treatment and support that you need whether from a psychiatrist, therapist, counselor, coach, or all of the above.
  3. Acknowledge how ADHD shows up for you. It’s taking the information you learned about the disorder applying it to your own experience.
  4. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come up as you go through this process of acceptance. There is no wrong emotion. There’s no wrong way to do it. Give yourself the space and the grace to feel whatever you need to feel.
  5. Give yourself equal airtime and to recognize all the incredible things you bring to the table in case your brain wants to forget it.
  6. Start questioning the stories your brain tells you when it wants to resist the diagnosis or offer that negative self talk that brings you down. What if you’re wrong about that? What if it’s possible to accept it? Again, be gentle here. Allow yourself space to find the thoughts that are supportive for you.
  7. Communicate what’s going on for you. Share about your experience, the obstacles you’re navigating, and potentially asking for support if you’re comfortable doing so. 
  8. Connect with other ADHDers on a deep level, seeing myself in their experiences, and recognizing that we’re all doing okay. In fact, we’re busy being awesome.

I do want to offer that if you’re working through this journey, and you are ready to step into a place of acceptance or you want to want to accept it (let your brain play with that confusing sentence for a minute.)

Next Step: Join Our Community

If you want to step into acceptance, if you’re grappling with acceptance, or if you want to want to accept it, I’d love to invite you to join us in We’re Busy Being Awesome.

This is my group coaching program for people with ADHD brains and ADHD tendencies.

It is a small intimate group, so everybody is seen, everyone gets coaching, and no one slips through the cracks. It’s a space to learn so much more about your brain and what works best for uniquely you.

  • Get the tools you need to figure out the scaffolding and support that feels best for your brain
  • Map out realistic plans for the goals you want to reach
  • Learn how to take action on those plans with less procrastination
  • Learn how to not beat yourself up on the times when you do procrastinate, because we are humans, not robots. And this happens, it’s a space to learn how to follow through and stick with those details and release the perfectionism that might otherwise stop you from officially finishing the thing.

It’s also a supportive, encouraging, inspiring community; I love all of it so much. Not only because the program teaches how to work with your brain to get things done, but also because the coaching and community provides that safe space to be seen and heard, and validated. It’s a community of incredible people who get it and are navigating this convoluted journey right alongside you.

So if this sounds like your kind of group, and you’re ready to get stuff done while working with your ADHD brain, I would love to have you join us in the next round of the cohort. Head to I’m busy being awesome.com/group. You can read more about the program & up for a time for us to chat. 


Want To Join Our Group Coaching Program?!

I will be opening the doors for the next cohort of We’re Busy Being Awesome in a couple of weeks!

Add your name to the waitlist so you’ll be the first to know about program dates and times, plus how you can sign up if it’s a great fit for you.


We’ll talk about what’s going on for you, and any obstacles your ADHD’s presenting. We’ll explore the goals that you want to reach, and we’ll talk through plan to get there. And then we’ll consider whether this group is a great fit to make those goals happen.

Thank you for being part of this community.

All right my friends. That’s going to do it for us this week. If you know someone who would love to learn how to accept their ADHD, would you be a rockstar and share this episode with them?

Also, have you grabbed the podcast roadmap yet? It has the most popular IBBA podcast episodes all detailed for you so you can get yourself up to speed and ready to work with your ADHD brain, you can grab it now!

Until next time, keep being awesome. I’ll talk with you soon.

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