ADHD Masking Who Am I? - Behind the RETRO ADHD "Radioactive Positivity" products

ADHD Masking Who Am I? - Behind the RETRO ADHD "Radioactive Positivity" products

Discovering My True Self Behind the Mask of ADHD

As I sit here mid-November 2023, a woman in her late 50s, diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of the year, I'm compelled to share a journey that's personal and, I suspect, strikingly familiar to many. It's about the mask I've worn for most of my life – a mask of positivity, empathy, and relentless support for others, all while losing sight of who I truly am.

From my early days, I didn't know that I was different: life seemed a constant struggle, from time management to emotional regulation to... you name it. This difference was not just an internal feeling; it was reflected in my everyday actions, interactions, and people's reactions. I was always the one cheering everyone on, the one offering a shoulder and an encouraging word. On the surface, it seemed like a superpower – my ability to lift others, to be the positive force in any room. But beneath that, there was an unspoken truth: this positivity was a mask, a façade I maintained to gain acceptance and avoid rejection and negative reactions. I had no idea I was actively wearing a mask.

ADHD masking, as I have recently learned, is when someone with ADHD acts in a "socially acceptable" way to fit in. It often involves controlling impulses, rehearsing responses, and mimicking the behaviours of those who don’t have ADHD. For me, it was about being the person everyone needed me to be, except the person I needed myself to be.

This constant performance took its toll. It was like swimming while holding a beach ball under water; sooner or later, the ball – my true self – would inevitably surface, and I’d scramble to push it down again. The reactions to this happening always felt catastrophic! Having to meet with my pastor, my boss, losing friends, family not speaking to me... I'm sure you've lived what I'm putting down. The fear that my adult children, friends, and coworkers wouldn't accept the real me is paralyzing. Who am I beneath this mask?

Around the time I was 50, I lead a fun, exciting, and involved Zumba class. One evening after class, one of the ladies said that I should come to a party that was coming up. I politely declined and she was insistent that I would have a great time... She saw the mask that I wore as a Zumba instructor and thought that that person would be a blast at a party. I managed to politely decline as I knew that for me, when I'm at a gathering of that sort... I'm best if I can sit in a corner with another person and just talk to them about what's going on around us and how this "isn't our scene". At that time, I still didn't know that I was wearing a mask: was I the cheerful, empathetic person everyone saw, or was there more to me that I hadn't allowed myself to explore?

Research suggests that women with ADHD are less likely to be diagnosed due to these compensatory mechanisms and masking behaviours. And when you're diagnosed later in life, as I was, the revelation doesn't immediately set you free. It brings forth a torrent of questions and a reevaluation of a lifetime's worth of experiences, choices and finally understanding all the reactions people have had and the hurtful things they've said (over and over again).

Unmasking is daunting but necessary. It's about letting your friends and family see your challenges and allowing them to support you. It's a journey towards self-understanding and acceptance, where you stop acting and start being. It's about finding balance and peace, not just externally but within yourself.

Now, I'm learning to be just Lea, the real, quirky me. No masks, no boxes to fit in – just me, and it's been scary but liberating. This journey can be lonely at times, but if it helps even one person feel less alone, it’s worth it. I'm no longer just a cheerleader for others; I'm becoming my own advocate, setting boundaries, and embracing my uniqueness. Not everyone likes the "new" me... but we'll leave that for a future blog post.

To others on this path, remember: you're not alone and you're not just the mask you wear. There's a whole community of us out here, learning to live unmasked, proud of our ADHD, and ready to embrace our true selves and remove the stigma.

I still have no idea who I am: a blend of the mask and... a person who feels like they are shattered?? We'll see... Hopefully I will find out.


When I came up with the words "ADHD Radioactive Positivity" I was thinking this: 'Radioactive Positivity': a design that recognizes the profound empathy and dynamic energy that those of us with ADHD bring to every interaction. It's a nod to the extraordinary effort we put into uplifting those around us, often at the expense of our own well-being.
This design is about honouring the genuine warmth we offer to the world while acknowledging our hidden struggles with people-pleasing, RSD, and masking. It's a reminder that beneath the surface, our positivity is not just a performance for acceptance but a testament to our resilience and the vibrant spirit we bring to life's challenges. While our "Positivity" is usually appears OVER THE TOP, it's also radioactive in that it's not stable and comes from a place of struggles and negative feelings. This creates emotions that are always precariously balanced, ready to blow at any moment



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