« Daddy Time | Main | For reasons unexplained she loved the Monkey Man »

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Guest Post: Monkey Brain Is A Dick

I think we have a lost generation of women who are diagnosed with ADHD later in life, who have had to manage the condition on their own and deal with it on their own for the majority of their lives. The diagnosis is a blessing and a curse: it’s a great relief, but they wonder what could have been different if they had only known.

- Michelle Frank, a clinical psychologist specializing in ADHD

In May of 2015, at age 41, I was diagnosed with ADHD. And I do wonder what my life would have been like had I been diagnosed as early as my son, Sam.

The coping mechanisms I’ve developed over my whole life, organized and fairly “high-functioning”, according to my doctor, masked the hallmark symptoms of ADHD. Inwardly, though, I was in constant destructive self-talk mode. For as long as I can remember, my days ended with recollections of what I’d not accomplished, or how I’d interrupted someone and/or said something stupid, conversations in which I’d completely blanked on what I was saying mid-sentence. I felt stupid and wrong and bad all of the time. I blamed myself for everything. (Low self-esteem? CHECK.)

Because no parent, teacher, doctor is trained to see girls'/women's symptoms as ADHD (the medical establishment emphasizes boys' hyperactivity symptoms and because girls are conditioned by society to conform and adapt), I suffered in silence, shaming myself to be more organized, hold my tongue, not procrastinate and be more responsible, so it would be get better.

An outside referral or evaluation recommendation would never materialize for me. Instead, I was able to put the pieces together. In 2014, after I began to suspect it, did some research, and talked with my doctor about a referral. The “drug-seeking” stigma of ADHD creates an additional barrier between primary care physicians and specialists. So, I was referred to a nurse (not trained or specialized in ADHD) who would determine whether I could receive a referral to an ADHD specialist.

A diagnosis would elude me for another year, ironically:

"hi, my doc gave me the number for the ADHD screening person, and i've lost it, can you give it to me again?" #nailedit
ericka @ergVT · 11:26 AM - 23 Jul 2014

(The referral nurse never returned my call, by the way.)

The social stigma of ADHD is another barrier to sharing my experience. I am fearful to admit to people I have it. I’ve not told my boss. I’ve told my mom and a few friends. That’s it. Most people don’t even know. I think more people on Twitter know than IRL.

I've heard that it’s a made up disorder; it’s the pharmaceutical industry’s ploy to drug us; that it’s a public school failure. Can you imagine telling a person with epilepsy that?

ADHD is a neurological disorder. Simply put, there is a lack of dopamine received by my brain. There are defects in “dopamine transporters” and the transporters take up too much dopamine before it can be passed from one brain cell to another. 

People with ADHD cannot trust their perceptions - executive functions like working memory, flexibility, metacognition, and sustained attention are impaired – and miscommunication will often trigger a negative internal response. We call this “Monkey Brain” in our household.

Case in point, this morning: I refilled my coffee, put the coffee pot back and Todd walked into the kitchen to do the same.

Todd: Did you get enough coffee?

Monkey Brain: What did you do wrong? Did you take all the coffee? What is going on? Why is he mad?

Me: I left you enough for you to have a cup!

Todd: *blink blink* I know. Did. You. Get. Enough. Coffee?

Me: I see what just happened there. I didn't hear your question; I thought I did something wrong. Felt bad. Then guilty. Monkey brain is a dick.


January 24, 2016 in Family Life, First Do No Harm, Soaking In Patriarchy | Permalink


I was 45 when diagnosed, just before I took the LSAT for the second time. When I went in for treatment at law school, the health center psychiatrist informed me I was the worst case he'd ever seen -- how did I even function? (I think I'm pretty high functioning, and, hell, I was at his university, considered one of the best.) It has had a lot of benefits, such as hyperfocus -- but many downsides as well. I like the term Monkey Brain. Living in a house of Aspies/Auties, my neurodiversity seems pretty mild in comparison to what my family members deal with, so I doubt they often notice my Monkey-braining.

Welcome to the club, Ericka. You're definitely not alone.


Posted by: MBW | Jan 24, 2016 6:58:42 PM

I love your dickish-monkey-brain! Well, maybe not since it is dickish but I love you! I'm going to gush here a bit so please don't take offense. I'm so proud of you! You felt like something wasn't right. You persisted in getting help even when rebuffed and insulted (nurse ignoring your phone calls). And you are being open and public about having ADHD.
I'm sorry that the transporters are Bogarting all the dopamine and not sharing with the next cells down the line. I've got some issues with my brain chemistry, too. I feel you, sister!
There is still so little known about the brain it is startling. It's like the last frontier, the ocean depths, "dark matter."!
I hope whatever treatment you are pursuing is making a positive difference.

Posted by: mnkid | Jan 25, 2016 1:25:56 PM

Holy shit. You've just perfectly characterized most conversations with my wife.

Posted by: Gd | Jan 26, 2016 9:09:00 AM

Post a comment