Not long ago, admitting your ADHD diagnosis made you an outcast. Lose your train of thought? Blame it on a lack of sleep. Can’t stay on task? Call yourself a procrastinator.
Even today, most women with ADHD don’t exactly advertise their disorder. But particularly as lifestyle-based ADHD treatment becomes more common, the condition has at least become acceptable to talk publicly about.
That sort of social change doesn’t happen accidentally. Influential people have to speak out, showing skeptics that success isn’t incompatible with cognitive or emotional challenges.
For that, you can thank these women celebrities who’ve learned not just how to live with their disorder, but how to share it with the world:
1. Wendy Davis
“ADHD makes you different, not defective,” is what Wendy Davis titled her CNN article about living with ADHD. The “Army Wives” actress, who played Colonel Joan Burton, was motivated to speak out after receiving an Instagram message from a young girl whose ADHD was causing her to struggle in school.
“I was deeply touched because her story is also mine,” wrote Davis, who was labeled “learning disabled” and placed in a special education classroom. As her academic workload intensified, her self-esteem and grades suffered, eventually causing her to consider suicide.
What pulled Davis out of her tailspin? High school softball. Through her softball team, Davis discovered a support network and a physical outlet, culminating in her being honored as an all-state softball all-star.
2. Katherine Ellison
Few celebrities — and frankly, few members of the medical community — know more about ADHD than Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Katherine Ellison. When Ellison and her son received ADHD diagnoses, she decided to write “Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention,” a nonfiction book about her experience.
“We were fighting all the time, and our relationship was really breaking down,” Ellison admitted in an interview about the book, “so I just wanted to do everything I could to try to repair it.” What started as a personal mission for Ellison turned into a year-long research project about the techniques and resources available for treating ADHD.
Although Ellison considered medication, fish oil supplements, and even a meeting with the Dalai Lama, she speaks most highly of neurofeedback training. Also known as EEG biofeedback, neurofeedback sessions start by assessing the patient’s brainwave activity. They then use visual and audio signals to tweak frequencies associated with ADHD and other mental health challenges.
3. Roxy Olin
MTV’s “The City and the Hills” wouldn’t be the same without the eager, verging on manic, personality of Roxy Olin. In both her professional and personal lives, she speaks only about her condition.
“I’ll talk about my ADHD when I’m out with someone.” Olin said. “If the person doesn’t understand, or grows impatient, he or she is not supposed to be with me. I’ve learned, at this point in my life, that this is part of who I am.”
Although Olin does manage her condition with Adderall, she also uses organization and time-management tricks to help her be productive. “If I have a call time of 11:30, I write down 10:30,” she explains. On set, she taps into her ADHD to help better understand the characters she plays.
4. Karina Smirnoff
A decade ago, when Karina Smirnoff first opened up about her struggles with ADHD, she stood nearly alone among celebrities. “As a professional dancer, I’ve become known for my moves and my career accomplishments,” Smirnoff noted, “but most people don’t know about another part of my life — I’m an adult with ADHD.”
Although Ellison published her book and Olin spoke out in 2010, the “Dancing With the Stars” performer took a real risk by revealing her condition in honor of 2009’s National ADHD Awareness Day. Ellison was diagnosed after a perceptive friend urged her to see a doctor about symptoms like inattention and impulsivity, which had impacted Ellison’s life since childhood.
Self-identifying as someone with ADHD is tough enough for those of us leading everyday lives. For these female celebrities, it could’ve been career suicide. If they found the courage to speak out, then surely we can, too.