My Story: Advocating for Myself as a Woman With ADHD

By Saniya Ghanoui —

IK discusses the challenges she had to overcome during her mental health journey.


OBOS Today: I saw that you wanted to talk about mental health today. What made you want to interview about that topic? 

IK: Um, it’s mostly that I’ve been seeking out mental health resources for as long as I can remember, as long as I can remembering being, having that option. So, the first time I sought out, you know, a counselor or some sort of mental health resource was through the school. I, I went to boarding school when I was in middle school, so it was through that school. And before then, it had never been an option, and ever since then, I’d been moving schools a lot, and every time I moved schools or moved cities or it, it always became my mission to find a counselor or a psychiatrist or someone to kinda’, to kinda’ help me support, help support me through whatever transition I was going through.

But for, I’ve been doing this sense um, for about eight years now, and in all that time, I was never able to stick to one counselor, one psychiatrist, one therapist, you know? And a lot of the differences between some of these, some of these designations, like a psychiatrist is different from a therapist, a therapist is different from a counselor, a lot of this I had to find out on my own. Um and you know, it was through the process of going from one to another to another to another to another and it’s just been, and I finally got to a point where I think I’m able, where I know what I need, but I don’t understand why it took eight years of, you know, seeking out one professional after another to finally be able to find something that works, like find something that sticks. And it’s just been, it doesn’t make, it doesn’t make sense to me and it’s very frustrating that it would take so long.

And over time, by trying to, you know, um, trying to be introspective, trying to advocate for myself, and trying to really understand what I need and how a professional can help me, it took a long time for me to realize that, it took a long time for me to realize that parts of my identity kind of um factored in here, where I didn’t realize that a white counselor wouldn’t be able to resonate with me, where someone who doesn’t understand maybe my um, my faith or the background, the cultural background that I come from, would come at me with judgement. And these are things that I had to kind of, you know, learn through a process of trial and error.

And it’s just so frustrating to have, for, you know, because I feel like I’ve been trying to advocate for myself as long as I can, and that I’ve still been struggling to, you know, to find the, that support. And after all this time and finally finding something that works, I was actually diagnosed with ADHD. And I had been struggling with school for a long time and to feel like I have almost failed so many times, almost you know, gone down to so many dark places because of that failure so many times, and being able to finally realize that that was because of something out of my control, that was because of something that was um because of a mental health problem that could have been addressed by all, any one of these professionals and in this time span, I think I saw about 10 mental health professionals and that none of them brought anything up like that besides, you know, the last few that I’ve been seeing. And the psychiatrist that actually diagnosed me, I’d only been seeing him for about four to five sessions until he, you know, was able to make this diagnosis and kinda, you know, give me some medication to see if it works and finally finding that, you know, that has kind of been one of the core issues all along and it just, it frustrates me because you’re, you know, you learn that if you advocate for yourself, you can find these solutions but why did it take this long when I’ve been trying to advocate for myself all this time?

And just, you know, so much of what I’ve learned on how to take care of myself has simply come from through trial and error or just constantly pushing myself to find ways to support myself when there was nothing, you know, around, I guess. And, you know, in this process of trying to understand how all these  pieces fit together, my identity, the cultural context, social context, you know, and like kind of the resources that I have available to me, and kinda’ talking to all of these professionals and trying to gather the information myself, I’ve found that one of the reasons that I wasn’t diagnosed earlier or you know, didn’t get more help that I might have needed before um, one of the reasons was because of the lack of research that there is say around ADHD for women because—And then when I went on to do my own research, I found that women are disproportionately undiagnosed and that so many women go into their, go into adulthood, have children of their own, and have sons that get diagnosed with ADHD, and in their late years, they find out that they have had ADHD all along and were never able to manage it, you know, spent their lives, you know, feeling like a failure, and oftentimes worse.

Many people with ADHD often um, often like fall into, you know, addiction and other, you know, they often drop out of school and, you know, it’s just, I’m just fru—continually frustrated because maybe this could have, maybe if someone, maybe if the research was there, maybe if, maybe if women were valued more in society and the research was there, maybe this could have been prevented, not just for myself, but for so many others, and it’s at a point like how much can advocating for yourself get for you or for the people around you, like it’s frustrating ‘cause how much can one person really do and it really seems like no matter what we do, we’re powerless without the people who are actually, you know, in power, going out of their way to um I guess make space for people who are marginalized people who don’t have that reach on their own.