Countering the ADHD half-ass curse

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I love the show “Parks & Recreation.” One of my favorite moments of the NBC series is in Season 4, Episode 16, when Ron Swanson sagaciously tells Leslie Knope, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”

That’s great advice. One, problem, though: I struggle to whole-ass even one thing. And I’m not alone.

What motivation?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is, at its core, a problem with motivation. As I noted in a previous post, according to an article published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry in 2011, “Disruption of the dopamine reward pathway is associated with motivation deficits in ADHD adults.”

In other words, a person with ADHD has a lack of motivation to get motivated. And that, in turn, results in a whole lot of people, myself included, unable to get things not only done but also done well. The obvious solution is to sacrifice quality in the name of punctuality. But it’s not exactly ideal to have approximately 4 percent of the U.S. adult population not living up to their full intellectual potential. Remember, ADHD and intelligence aren’t mutually exclusive: Many ADHDers are born with an unusually high level of innate intelligence; many ADHDers tend to relish conducting research, especially online (more on this in a future post). 

Speaking, I flatter myself, as an ADHDer of both of those kinds, I can tell you firsthand how incredibly frustrating this is. I often have what I, at least, feel are genuinely brilliant ideas, but even if I manage to get them out, seeing a project or task through to completion always feels like a pipe dream for me. After all, the more complex your ideas, the harder you have to work to take them out of the realm of the hypothetical and put them into practice. 

Fighting back

Woman-in-cafe-with-laptopThe fact remains that ADHD or no, ideally, we’d all be able to work. It’s a source of financial security and the key to realizing the American Dream. Plus, much as we may deny it, life without some work is frankly kind of dull.

So what’s to be done?

First of all — and this is essential — you have to find work you like. I’m not saying you have to love every single moment, but you have to be interested in whatever the object of the work is and be enthused by the prospect of doing that work. This advice applies to job-related work and regular, everyday tasks, as well. Last year, I had a brief stint as an office manager at a nonprofit — I know, I know, nothing says ‘bright future in administrative work’ like chronic ADHD *ironic face*. But I believed in the mission of the organization and hoped that eventually, I would be able to move on to a position more suited to my talents. Yeah, that turned out to be a terrible strategy. If I never see another copy machine again, it will be too soon!

Likewise, you have to work within the constraints of your ADHD, dedicating your most focused time to the task in question, even if it means having to neglect (temporarily) household responsibilities or reschedule (politely) social commitments. That is a lesson I’m just now learning. In the past, I’d put other areas of my life on the back burner because I felt I had no choice; often, I wouldn’t even realize I was doing it until after the fact. Now, however, I prioritize with intentionality. 

Finally, you must, must, MUST play to your strengths. To establish myself as a name to remember in the blogosphere, I’m supposed to have an active presence on multiple social media platforms, promoting every post multiple times. But with only 10 hours a day in which I can concentrate, I just don’t have the time to play the social media game. One thing I do have going for me, though, is a natural talent (again, I flatter myself) for writing. So I’ve chosen to focus on producing the best content possible for every single post, rather than attempting and failing to give my blog an ongoing active, involved social media presence (and I hope I’m succeeding).

Conclusion

The ADHD half-ass curse is no laughing matter. When you’re in thrall to it, it can derail your life, and thus, your happiness. But if you find work that is meaningful to you, work that you could see yourself doing if you didn’t have ADHD, and find innovative ways to do it with ADHD, you can face the working world like any other woman. Good luck!

 

The lie we need to stop telling women about ADHD

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Girls are less likely than boys to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The general consensus is this is because for boys this tends to manifest in hyperactivity, which is much more noticeable to parents and teachers than inattentiveness, the type of symptom most common in girls. Luckily, as awareness spreads (albeit sometimes at a seemingly glacial pace), more and more women are eventually finding out the distress they’ve dealt with for their whole lives has a neurological explanation, and it’s called ADHD.

The long-delayed moment of diagnosis is often held up as a new beginning for the diagnosed. But while being diagnosed may very well be the most significant event in an ADHDer’s life, it’s not the be-all, end-all everybody makes it out to be. No, ADHD diagnosis is a new beginning — just not of pure, wholesale relief forever after. Instead, it’s the beginning of a life of newfound clarity about enduring struggles, for enduring they indeed are: Even if she starts an ADHD treatment regimen, pharmacological or otherwise, post-diagnosis, the ADHD woman faces an uphill battle that will continue for the rest of her life.

Nobody ever seems to talk about the extreme fallibility of ADHD medications, at least those currently on the market. In truth, ADHD is often treatment-refractory or treatment-resistant, meaning an ADHD medication may only have potency in a given person for a limited period of time, if at all. Now, there are two primary classes of CNS stimulant medications: amphetamine, aka Adderall, and methylphenidate, aka Ritalin. Most people respond better to one type of stimulant than the other. But many people, for whatever reason, don’t get symptom relief from either.

Moreover, you can have the most positive response possible to a given medication, but still not experience complete ADHD symptom relief, even temporarily. Unfortunately, the neurotypical expect us ADHDers to perform at their neurotypical levels if we’ve been “lucky enough” to be diagnosed and treated. Promised patience tends to run dry.

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This is particularly unfortunate for women, who earn the censure of society for displaying ADHD symptoms that tend to be revered in men. For instance, a man who doesn’t follow directions is deemed an “out-of-the-box thinker,” while a woman gets a reputation for recklessness. And a man who speaks out of turn is viewed as assertive; a woman, lacking self-control.

On top of that, women are tacitly expected to assume and maintain responsibility not only for themselves but also their entire household, both in its upkeep and of its members. Many women discover their ADHD at some point during or after their child’s diagnostic process. The upshot is these women being responsible for a higher than average degree of care for children with ADHD when they, in fact, need to expend extra effort just to take care of themselves. 

Just to put it into perspective, for you, I’ve been aware of and received treatment for my ADHD since early childhood, yet even I have to strive every single day just to avoid falling behind. Getting ahead, excelling almost always feels like a pipe dream — this, despite the fact that I’m on the highest possible dosage of all of my medications; not to mention, I live with my parents, rent-free! 

All of this is to say, it’s time to infuse a little honesty into the adulthood-diagnosis narrative, especially for women. We need to stop leading these ADHDers to believe everything is going to be OK because frankly, it’s highly unlikely that will turn out to be 100 percent true. Again, this is in large part because of the tacit mandate to fulfill traditional gender roles. As Kathleen Nadeau, one of the foremost experts on women and ADHD, explains,

Society has a certain set of expectations we place on women and ADHD often makes them harder to accomplish. … They are supposed to be the organizer, planner, and primary parent at home. Women are expected to remember birthdays and anniversaries and do laundry and keep track of events. That is all hard for someone with ADHD.

Honesty, it seems to me, is what’s called for here — honesty and compassion. And in that vein, there’s also a great need to reconfigure the typical response to a newly diagnosed ADHD woman, which right now is something to the effect of, “Congratulations! You have ADHD. Good luck!”

In this day and age, that kind of MO is unrealistic, and as such, utterly unhelpful.

7 things that DO NOT make you a bad feminist

Between 2015 and 2017, I was a graduate student in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies master’s degree program at Oregon State University. This was one of the most important experiences of my life, primarily because it gave me the strong foundation in the feminist knowledge that I knew I would need if I wanted to become a successful feminist blogger. Yet I also derived essential benefits from the experience insofar as it revealed to me how exclusive modern feminism can be. But as the great bell hooks reminds us, Feminism Is for Everybody.

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1. Being heterosexual

At some point in this long battle for gender equality, we got confused and assumed that meant that female-identified people who love and/or want to bang people of the male persuasion must exist in opposition to the cause of feminism. If the logic here is that it is because men are part of the problem, well, that’s as sexist as the problem itself. 

2. Being privileged

As an upper-middle-class (as long as I live with my parents, anyway) Caucasian, I’m privileged. I know that. What I don’t know, however, is why this has led people in the past to assume I’m “part of the problem.” Those who are not of color and are of wealth have perpetrated some abominable atrocities. But that doesn’t mean all people sharing one or both of these traits must automatically be taken as the enemy. A lot of us have our hearts in the right place and are eager to learn from people who are differently oppressed and work together with them to make things better. The need for sexual equality knows no income or skin color.

3. Being monogamous

Sexual liberation has been a critical element in feminism since the dawn of the second wave. But somewhere along the way, being sexually liberated became a requirement to join the feminist cause, and moreover, the definition of sexual liberation seemed to shift to exclude long-term, single-partner relationships, especially relationships with men (see above). But I call bullshit. True sexual liberation means feeling free to engage in whatever type of sexual activity you want (as long as it’s consensual) without worrying about how others will perceive it. It doesn’t matter if it takes place in the context of a committed relationship. 

4. Being cisgender

Shaving your legs, wearing makeup, or being in any way “feminine” whatsoever is NOT mutually exclusive with being a card-carrying feminist. True feminists realize gender roles are human-made, and so resisting freaking out over whether you’re conforming to said gender roles, by realizing certain traits are merely artificially coded “feminine” or “masculine,” is as feminist an act as I can imagine. As Martha Rampton of Pacific University’s Center for Gender Equity notes,

An aspect of third wave feminism that mystified the mothers of the earlier feminist movement was the readoption by young feminists of the very lip-stick, high-heels, and cleavage proudly exposed by low cut necklines that the first two phases of the movement identified with male oppression.

5. Wanting to get married

I’ve just about had it with the argument that a quote-unquote real feminist activist can’t dream of someday saying “I do.” Whatever your gender identity or the gender identity of your chosen spouse, the institution of marriage has the potential to be extremely feminist. After all, marriage, at its best, is about two people coming together as equals and promising to honor and love each other; and equality is feminism manifest. 

6. Wanting to have kids

It’s okay to want to tie the knot. The same goes for the desire to procreate. Motherhood isn’t inherently feminist, despite what some proponents of breastfeeding might have you believe; but it isn’t actively un-feminist, either: Most of the professors I studied under at OSU are parents, and let me tell you, they’re all veritable paragons of feminism. So, yes, I want to be a mom. I also want to shatter the patriarchy. Luckily for me, a feminist can do both.

7. Wanting to beat men at their own game

Second-wave feminists “rejected the ideal of inclusion because … they would only be vying for inclusion in a world built on men’s values.” This MO has continued to dominate mainstream feminism ever since. But while I am loath to tell anyone to “lean in,” let me just say there is nothing at all wrong with wanting to work in the same institutions as men, e.g., a traditional workplace, and surpass them in excellence. It’s totally OK to wish and demand that there be space for us women in the world we live in now.

Otherwise, in my humble opinion, we’re just letting those who benefit from the patriarchy off the hook.

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It’s OK to know your own limit if you have ADHD.

I always hear people talking sympathetically about how ADHD makes it harder to do certain things. But despite that apparent understanding of my disability, the neurotypical party line seems to be that we ADHDers need to keep pushing ourselves to our “full potential,” and that we will be able to do more if we try.

The problem is, neurologically speaking, ADHD makes the very act of trying a challenge in and of itself. 

Double trouble

To quote the abstract of an article published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry in 2011, “disruption of the dopamine reward pathway is associated with motivation deficits in ADHD adults, which may contribute to attention deficits.” In other words, a hiccup in the nervous system of a person born with ADHD results in difficulty paying attention, AND trouble getting motivated to OVERCOME this challenge.

Think about this for a second: Wouldn’t it be sufficiently sucky to have impaired attention OR motivation? Wouldn’t either be enough on its own to have a deleterious impact, in both the short term and the long run for someone who, like any of us, is, after all, only human? I think we can all agree the appropriate answer would be ‘Oh my god, yes.’

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Below average

And neurotypical people don’t seem to realize just how VULNERABLE being unmotivated can make you. Decades and decades after the birth of the American Dream, at least in the U.S., Western society continues to value a healthy work ethic above perhaps any other quality. So, it’s one thing to realize you lack the motivation to clean the kitchen, and decide to hold off on doing it tomorrow in the privacy of your apartment; faltering in this way in public, meanwhile, exposes you to the censure of your friends, family, colleagues, etc. It feels sort of like literally everybody else in the world is giving you side-eye.

Furthermore, this problem isn’t confined to questions of productivity; sometimes, even maintaining the ability to go about what to an outsider looks like ordinary daily life can be a significant struggle as well.

Do I speak from personal experience? You bet I do.

Reality check

Between Oct. 25 and Nov. 8, I was visiting my boyfriend in Washington, D.C., where he’s in grad school. Washington is actually a lot like Portland; it’s big on public transportation. But it and I have always had a fraught relationship; the sequencing involved in navigating transit infrastructure is a sizable challenge for me. However, in D.C., I didn’t have an alternate means of transportation, i.e., my car.

Anyway, after a week of walking whenever outside my boyfriend’s apartment, I admitted to myself it was time: I had to take the bus. Unfortunately, this happened to coincide with me discovering that my pharmacist had not given me a full 28 days’ worth of my immediate-release Focalin when I went to fill my prescription for the month. Long story short, I was undermedicated and faced with a task that would require a tremendous amount of effort on my best day, on what was, in fact, my worst.

After about two hours, I managed to work up the motivation to input the information on my iPhone necessary for Siri to guide me to the bus and tell me what to do once I got on it. But to my utter lack of surprise, I was unable to find the bus stop and realized I would have missed the bus even if I had been able to pinpoint where to get on it.

I knew what my parents and my boyfriend would tell me to do: figure out where the stop was and wait for the right bus, or walk to an entirely different stop if necessary. But at that moment, I knew making even that tiny extra effort was totally and completely beyond my abilities. So although it was far more expensive than the bus would have been, I ordered a Lyft. 

It’s inherently empowering to cease pretending to be in denial about yourself and what you’re capable of. The politically correct response to others pushing you to find more motivation within yourself is to express appreciation for their confidence and a plucky resolve to prove them right. However, I’ve had ADHD all my life, so the extent of my neurological stamina has long since revealed itself to me. I know what I can and can’t do. More importantly, I’m AWARE that I can’t do what I can’t do, and I understand WHY I can’t, as well. I and all people with ADHD deserve to live life authentically, limitations and all.

And that is just what I intend, from now on, to do.

 

7 things about ADHD I wish I had always known (ADHD Awareness Month post #6)

This is the sixth and final post in my series on ADHD Awareness Month. But rest assured, although the series is wrapping up, I’ll still be publishing writings on ADHD-related issues; just not necessarily so many per month. — DRD


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Having lived with ADHD for as long as I can remember — and even longer — I’ve learned a few valuable lessons about my disability the hard way; I’ve done my share of learning by doing. I can’t help but feel that my life would have been a lot easier if I had known said lessons from day one. I hope that someone out there reads this and they — or their child — can benefit from my experience. Read on!

1. People will tell you to go easy on yourself, but still, expect you to be ‘on.’

I’ve found that even if you tell your manager, for example, that you have ADHD, and he claims to understand that this makes you function differently, his understanding nevertheless flies out the window when you have a deadline to make but quite clearly aren’t going to be able to. 

2. ADHD has nothing to do with your personality or morality.

I spent a horrifying number of years of my life feeling guilty — often, despite not having done anything wrong. And even when I did err, I was convinced that whatever act of misbehaving I had committed was evidence that my character left something wanting. Moreover, I was sure that with the right resolve, I could ameliorate this situation and become a better (read: less ADHD) person. I don’t think I’ll ever stop regretting this now that I’ve realized how wrong I was back then. I’ll never get back the time I wasted feeling guilty for nonexistent or out-of-my-control incidences of ADHD-ness. Don’t make my mistake.

3. You shouldn’t necessarily believe teachers who say, “Oh, I’m so ADD too!”

I was diagnosed relatively young, back in pre-k; meaning that I knew I had ADHD — and all of my teachers knew it too — for all 12 years of my lower education. And I swear, every single year a new teacher would tell me upon learning of my ADHD diagnosis, “OH, that’s totally fine, I’m really ADD too.” Unfortunately, that usually turned out to mean, “I don’t understand ADHD at all, but I think I’ll bond with you by saying I have it and referring to it in the pejorative.” Over the years, I heard many teachers say a lot of stupid, cruel things without seeming even to give it a second thought, but that is not ADHD. There’s a difference between wanting to think before you act and not being able to, and just deciding that you’re so wise, you never need to think twice. In the end, only one of my teachers ever turned out to have ADHD, my AP World History teacher during my senior year of college. How did I know he had it, and that he was the only one of my teachers who did? One day I was sitting in his classroom at the end of lunch when he walked in, looked around his desk, and announced that he just realized he had lost a pair of Bruce Springsteen tickets. I’m totally serious. But you know what? He was also one of the best teachers I ever had. 

4. Medications may “last” 12 hours, but that doesn’t mean you will.

Here’s a fun (by which I mean, not fun at all) fact: Even if the prescribing information for an ADHD medication says it lasts up to 12 hours, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use all 12 of those hours effectively. You see, even when medicated, people with ADHD have to expend more energy to complete tasks that seem to take our neurotypical counterparts no time at all. Do that for a full workday, and the remaining man-made focus you have left in your nervous system via medication is reduced to the equivalent of potential energy,  never getting used. (This is a lesson I’ve started learning literally in the last few weeks.)

5. Stimulant medication isn’t the be-all, end-all. 

From ages 5 through 22, I was on some form of the stimulant medication methylphenidate (aka Ritalin). For over 5 years now, I’ve been taking both an immediate-release dosage and extended-release dosage of dexmethylphenidate (aka Focalin). I first went on Focalin because when I was a senior in college, I discovered, to my horror, that my medication did not seem to be working anymore. Like, at all. That’s when I went on Focalin. But just two years later, I again ceased to feel medicated enough on a day-to-day basis. It was then that my PCP put me on bupropion (aka Forfivo), which belongs to a class of antidepressants known as Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors. Later, I also started taking guanfacine (aka Intuniv), a non-stimulant ADHD medication initially formulated to treat hypertension. As it turned out, for me, at least, these Forfivo and Intuniv were the magic bullets of ADHD treatment regimens. 

6. Coffee is your friend.

During my ‘bad concentration’ time of the month, and especially toward the end of it, my verbal acuity temporarily goes out the window. Somehow, this always seemed to happen *right* when I had a big paper due imminently (like, in two days, or even sooner). One day, in desperation, I did some Hail-Mary googling, seeking confirmation that yes, in fact, coffee does help ADHD people concentrate. According to a post published recently on ADDitude, it “arouses the central nervous system by stimulating the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters, and by blocking the absorption of adenosine, which induces sleep.” I’ve found that a Starbucks frappuccino with a shot of espresso enables me to write even when my medications are at their least potent. Pardon the pun, but I really do think you should give it a ‘shot!’

7. ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of. People should be ashamed to think it is.

…Self-explanatory!

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7 reasons people with ADHD should work from home (ADHD Awareness Month post #3)

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People with ADHD who work from home get to sit wherever and in whatever position is most conducive to their productivity. (Photo source: Adobe Stock)

When I think about the best choices I have ever made in my life, two come to mind. First and foremost was my decision, three years ago, to quit my steady job at a newspaper and apply to the graduate program in WGSS at Oregon State University. But a close second was deciding not to go back to work after I graduated. 

Don’t get me wrong — I still work; just not in an office, and not for someone else: I’ve chosen instead to work as a freelance writer and editor to support myself as a feminist blogger. This is self-employment. And you know what? It is fan-freaking-tastic. Why? Well…

1. You make your schedule. 

One of my greatest downfalls as a ‘traditional’ employee was my schedule. If you have ADHD, you know what I’m talking about: ascertaining when your medications would be in effect and having to plan — or at least trying to plan — your working time around that. Unfortunately, my pill breaks very rarely coincided with my lunch breaks, because I would always unintentionally wake up very early in the morning — We’re talking 5:30, daily — and my morning medications only lasted four hours, maximum. But when you work at home and are self-employed, you don’t have to contend with human resources forbidding you from starting your workday before 9 a.m.; this is especially useful if, like me, you concentrate best in the morning. Also, this builds flexibility into your schedule for the doctor appointments and monthly (and, inevitably, often more than monthly) visits to the pharmacy that come with the territory of having ADHD and taking medication for it. 

2. You choose your position — your sitting position, that is.

Less noticeable to others, but still highly impactful to me, was the unspoken expectation that I would, you know, sit in a chair. When I was working at the newspaper offices, I often interviewed sources over the phone, and apparently, I — entirely unconsciously — used to lean back and twirl around in my swivel chair while doing so. It drove my boss CRAZY. What he didn’t realize, though, is that people with ADHD have the symptomatic tendency to sit in odd positions; that’s how we help ourselves concentrate. (I’m not entirely convinced that it would have made a difference to him had he known, though, to be honest.) At home, I can work sitting on a couch or lying face-forward on my bed under my weighted blanket, and no one can say boo.

3. You have fewer stimuli to filter out.

Newsrooms are obviously an extreme example of this, but traditional, brick-and-mortar offices are hotbeds of cacophony. That’s just the way it is. Ringing phones; copy machines; water cooler talk — you get the idea. Suffice it to say that such an environment is anathema to the ADHD brain. When working from home, by contrast, the only sounds you have to grapple with are the ones you make (see below), which is essential, because “Problems with external distractibility (noises and movement in the surrounding environment) … can be the biggest challenge for adults with ADHD.”

4. You have more freedom to listen to music/use alarms.

A weird thing about ADHD is that dealing with multiple stimuli of external sources, filtering them out and concentrating on your work, is virtually impossible; however, you can enhance your productivity through the use of one, single stimulus: music, of your choosing. I know from personal experience that listening to classical music can have a tangible positive impact on focus; I prefer baroque musicians, including Bach and Albinoni:


On a related note, while phone notifications and computer alert tones are distracting for EVERYBODY, for an ADHD people, such distractions are actually welcome when we have pre-set them to remind us of appointments and upcoming responsibilities. (Additional pro tip: I set my computer preferences to have my MacBook announce the time every half-hour. Try it! You’ll be amazed at your newfound punctuality and time-management.)

5. You aren’t required to sit through seemingly endless meetings.

Raise your hand if you have ADHD and have ever honestly thought you might die while being forced to sit through a long meeting. … Ha! I knew I wasn’t the only one. As I mentioned above, people with ADHD have a propensity to sit in odd positions and to move around if they are required to have sustained attention and direct it to one specific, often profoundly dull thing. Working at home, however, circumvents the requirement to remain stationary of that trope of brick-and-mortar skilled employment, the sit-down meeting. And it’s a good thing, too, because “Adults with the hyperactive presentation of ADHD often do better in jobs that allow a great deal of movement.”

6. You don’t have to contend with rush-hour traffic on your way to and from work.

This reason is pretty self-explanatory. Goodness knows we were driving distracted before ‘distracted driving’ was a thing. Luckily for us, no workplace outside the home means no driving to work, which means no risk of getting in a collision while driving to work — or exhausting all of our remaining focus trying to avoid it. 

7. You get more time with your pets.

This reason is relatively straightforward, as well. Not all of us have officially designated service animals, but pets regardless provide a genuinely crucial service. First of all, people with ADHD, including and perhaps especially young women, often have comorbid depression (I know I do), on which dogs have a proven ameliorating effect. And the petting of furry animals, such as cats and rabbits, has been shown to slow one’s heart rate and reduce anxiety. Free of the distractions of feeling depressed and anxious, it is much easier to get your work done! Don’t already have a pet? Adopt one from your local animal shelter. Easy!

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ADHD people who work from home get more time with their pets, reducing depression and anxiety and thereby improving concentration. (Photo source: Adobe Stock)

Pregnancy + stress = public health’s perfect storm

From January 2015 to December 2016, I was a student in the master’s degree program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Oregon State University. My time in grad school was instrumentally influential to me. I minored in women’s studies back in college at U of O, but when I realized that my real aspiration was to become a feminist writer, I decided that I needed a much stronger foundation in feminism as an area of study. And that turned out to be true in ways I hadn’t even anticipated: I became aware that my prior feminist education, for all its merits, had failed to incorporate discussions of women of color. But that was about to change.

Lifelong stress → premature birth

One of my primary research interests while at OSU was women’s health. As it turned out, one of the professors, Mehra Shirazi, specialized in that, and I was fortunate to take not one, but two courses from her: Global Perspectives on Women’s Health, in winter of my first year, and Race, Gender, and Health Justice, a year later. Of all the lessons I learned in her classes, one, in the form of a newsreel, has always stuck with me.

Stress during pregnancy → ADHD

WOC aren’t the only ones for whom stress can result in adverse birth outcomes for their childrenIn my last post, I mentioned that women with ADHD who experience stress during pregnancy are more likely to have children with it. Well, I was wrong. The abstract of an article published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2011 states that “maternal stressful events during pregnancy significantly predicted ADHD behaviors in offspring,” i.e., stressful events for any pregnant woman, not just one with ADHD

Furthermore, said Dr. Ian Colman, who led a similar study earlier this year, “Generally speaking… the higher the stress, the higher the symptoms.”

In other words, more children are susceptible to maternal-stress-induced ADHD. And their symptoms vary in severity depending on the level of maternal stress. 

In the announcement of their study on stress in pregnant women and ADHD, University of Ottawa researchers included an infographic of so-called stress management tips and tricks, including:

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Women with ADHD who experience stress during pregnancy are more likely to have children born with ADHD. (Photo source: Adobe Stock)

  1. Identify what’s behind your stress and address it right away
  2. Talk to your loved ones to help them help you
  3. Simplify your life by shortening your to-do list and learning to say no
  4. Quiet your mind through yoga and mindfulness
  5. Find time to do something you enjoy, such as hobbies or physical activity.

That’s all well and good, but it predicates on the dual notions that (a) stress is situational, and relatedly, that (b) women have the power, i.e., time and agency, to quote-unquote simplify their lives, quiet their minds, and do things they enjoy. 

First of all, it would be ideal  — I’m not saying it would be great, but it would be the best-case scenario — if all stress were indeed situational. But in fact, it’s systemic; there are sociological reasons that women find themselves in stressful situations.

For example, I think we can all agree that in general, men are more amenable to “going the extra mile” for their wives when they are serving as human incubators for their progeny. But this is temporary. Gender roles are so entrenched in our consciousness, exist so much in our understanding of the fabric of society that they’re liable to supersede sudden inclinations toward chivalry. They may wash the dishes occasionally; even assume all responsibility for helping the kids they already have with their homework, etc. — at least after coming home from the office.

But will they assume sole responsibility for cleaning all toilets in the house for the next nine months — and do so without even being asked? Let me put it this way: My dad is a proud feminist, but according to my mom, not even he went that far when I was a bun in his wife’s oven.

The salient point here is that unless a husband* assumes all extant household responsibilities, a wife has no means of wholly and entirely de-stressing. Moreover, in the most extreme versions of our regular social paradigm, women don’t even have time to find out what they enjoy, let alone actually do it. 

Women of color

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Stress resulting from everyday racism in women of color over a lifetime can result in adverse health outcomes for their children at birth. (Photo source: American Psychological Association)

In addition to this paradigm shift between husbands and wives, in order to avoid the adverse birth outcomes of which their children are at risk, WOC would need to retroactively un-experience the systemic (there’s that word again) ‘everyday racism’ they have experienced all their lives. Erasing the sexism that they were forced to endure, well, that wouldn’t hurt matters, either. Unfortunately, none of this is possible. Technically, we can’t do anything for the WOC already of childbearing age, except confer upon them the utmost respect and provide them with any prenatal care that may reduce the likelihood of pre-term delivery.

I have a vision for future generations, though, of my friends’ children growing up without the media suppressing reportage of violence against WOC in favor of the police-violence-against-the-Black-man narrative. In this vision, violence against POC — regardless of gender — isn’t even a thing. 

All in all, I agree with Dr. Michael Lu:

If we’re serious about improving birth outcomes and reducing disparities, we’ve got to start taking care of woman before pregnancy and not just talking about that one visit three months pre-conceptionally; I’m talking about when she’s a baby inside her mother’s womb, an infant, and then a child, an adolescent and really taking care of women and families across their life course.

And I agree, as well, with my former classmate in WGSS and dear friend Amber Moody:

I think it’s brilliant to frame systemic racism/sexism as a public health issue. … [T]hese systems of discrimination still exist; and the effects, which really can be traced back to colonialism and white supremacy, have been genetically embedded into our lives. And until we actually address the source of the problem, these … issues are going to continue to be passed down for generations.


*I say ‘husband’ because I was raised in and hypothetically will enter into a heterosexual family dynamic consisting of a cismale husband and a cisfemale wife. There are, of course, numerous other familial configurations; albeit I doubt very much that the same degree of gender-role pigeonholing would be present in a female-female marriage.