Early last year, I visited a girlfriend that I have known for quite some time. For the purpose of anonymity, we will call her "L." At the time we met, I was a legal assistant studying for my master’s degree and she was attending law school. “L” and I both graduated from our respective schools around the same time. She started her career as an insurance defense lawyer and I was so happy for her. But “L'"s journey to becoming a lawyer wasn’t an easy one. Like most law school graduates, passing the bar exam is one of the biggest challenges.
One summer morning, “L” texted me and said, “Hey Cam, I just wanted to let you know I didn’t pass the bar.” I replied, “It’s OK. You’ll pass on the next try.” And she did pass on her third try. Coming from similar Caribbean backgrounds, I know the pressure of meeting expectations, being an overachiever, and being placed on a pedestal. I understood because at one point in my life I had wanted to be a lawyer too.
That afternoon we met for lunch. Our conversations are always filled with transparency, love, charisma, and laughter. This particular afternoon, there came a point in the conversation where “L” wholeheartedly revealed to me her daily struggles with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). And I wanted to know more. It was the first time I heard of a woman with ADHD. Let alone a Black woman.
“L” had hidden her struggle so well. I had no idea how it affected her life.
As a friend, I thought, what could I have done to help or be more supportive. The saying is true – you never know what someone is going through. And today, I am proud of how “L” prioritized herself, took control of her life, and not be defeated by her condition.
Oftentimes, the diagnosis of ADHD in Black women is misdiagnosed and overlooked. According to The Washington Post, “Black girls with ADHD often remain undiagnosed because their symptoms are mischaracterized. Signs of inattentiveness or impulsivity, the two main features of the disorder, could be mistaken for laziness or defiance. And the longer these girls aren’t diagnosed and treated, the more their problems are likely to worsen as they grow into adults.” The article also states that ADHD in girls leads to increased rates of anxiety, depression, drug use, and self-harm.
From a cultural perspective, it is even harder for Black parents to accept that their child has a learning disability with having to protect their child from gender and racial biases not only in the classroom but in life too. In a review of published U.S. studies that included 155,000 Black children, the CDC (Center For Disease Control) found 14.5% of African-Americans had ADHD. This statistic is much higher compared to the estimated 9.4% of all children in the U.S.
In an article byVerywell Mind, the most common symptoms of ADHD in women are paper clutter, overspending, disorganization, indecision, problems listening, and difficulty focusing. Treatment for ADHD includes prescribed medication and/or behavioral therapy. Drugs like Ritalin or Adderall are commonly used to help ADHD patients stay focused and control their behavior. But it doesn’t come without side effects. Some downfalls of ADHD medication are trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, weight loss, moodiness, and headaches.
There is hope to manage ADHD. Celebrities such as Solange Knowles or SZA have struggled and are successfully navigating life with ADHD. Even Simone Biles has publicly discussed her own battle with ADHD while balancing a demanding career as a professional athlete.
Here is what it is like for “L," a young Black woman, to live with ADHD, balance a demanding career as a lawyer, and succeed in everyday life.
How old were you when you were diagnosed with ADHD?
I was officially diagnosed at about 15 years old. It went undiagnosed due to prior trauma. However, my parents had me in therapy here and there when they could afford it. I was always a hyperactive child who would always get in trouble because I couldn't sit still or keep my mouth shut. I got a lot of "feedback" for being random in my actions and through my words.
What were some of the signs that you were struggling with ADHD and how did it make you feel?
The obvious sign for me was the fact that I was behind in my academics and kids used to always refer to me as "crazy" because of how random I was. I could not focus like my peers. I was always in and out of therapy for other reasons. It was always suggested I should be on medication. I didn't even know what ADHD was until I was about 16 years old as my parents did not believe in medication or this new-age diagnosis.
My parents had me in every tutoring program imaginable in order for me to keep up with my fellow classmates. I got my ears and eyes tested before I went to a psychiatrist to get a test for ADHD.
Ritalin or Adderall is usually prescribed for many ADHD patients. Is prescribed medication something you have used to treat your ADHD? If not, what are some natural remedies you have tried?
Yes, I've tried Ritalin (when I was a teenager) and as I got older, I graduated to Adderall, as well as Concerta. I've also tried hypnotherapy and talk therapy. The thing about prescription medicine they won't tell you is that it works, but you have to gradually increase the dosage as your body becomes used to it. I would sometimes come off the medication because I hate being dependent on a drug to function. I would feel really depressed and tired.
How did you get through law school and what were some of the challenges?
By the grace of God and really great friends. I had to learn early on in life to make friends with people smarter than me in order to stay motivated and just to keep up. I would also cycle on and off medication in law school in order to cope. I went a semester without any prescription drugs, just to see if I could do it on my own. Yes, I could do it on my own, but it was very difficult. I had constant anxiety, could not sleep, mild depression, and spiraled.
Now that you are a career lawyer, what are some challenges you face at work?
Every day is a new challenge. My biggest challenge is working. Literally sitting my ass down to work, especially after the pandemic. I had to learn quickly to create a new routine. Having a high caseload as a civil litigation attorney helps as I am always busy so I have no time to procrastinate as much. The organized chaos of heading to court in the morning, working on drafting motions and pleadings for cases in the afternoon, responding to emails, and settling cases throughout the day were no longer serving me. Organization and structure are my biggest challenges. I get distracted easily and fall into these "wormholes" and never finish my assignments. So, I'm always having to work late to play catch up. I had to create realistic structures that worked for me.
For example, time blocking or working on alternating weekends and/or late nights to stay ahead of my tasks to not overwhelm me. Working for a solid law firm that has systems and teams in place to complement my own systems is imperative. I've cycled through many firms (big and small). So, I know what works and what doesn't. Working with the right people matters and is often overlooked. Having a good case management system along with excellent support staff (paralegals or assistants) is how I am able to succeed.
"Organization and structure are my biggest challenges. I get distracted easily and fall into these 'wormholes' and never finish my assignments. So, I'm always having to work late to play catch up. I had to create realistic structures that worked for me."
How have you adjusted your routine because of your ADHD? What does your morning and nighttime routine look like?
Yes, having a routine is imperative. I've had to shift my mindset through many therapy sessions. Having been a burnt-out lawyer, my mornings look a bit different now. I'm no longer competing to be the best and striving for perfection. I'm not trying to prove myself anymore because I know what I bring to the table. I show up, do my best on that particular day, and don't dwell on my mistakes.
8:00 a.m.: I start my mornings with a prayer, then I check my phone for any work emergencies or changes to my schedule. I will communicate with my assistant on what's important and what needs to be done.
8:10 a.m.: I lay in bed, contemplate life, and make my intentions for the day.
8:20 a.m.: I literally jump out of bed, (work is supposed to start at 8:30 am.) and make my bed. I love making my bed because it feels like such an accomplishment to me. I always say that if I don't accomplish anything for the day, at least I made my bed.
8:25 a.m.: I log on to my computer for work to test the waters. Thereafter, I brush my teeth, wash my face, shower, brush my hair, and put clothes on. I do all this while arguing with Alexa about music selection. Pro Tip: I set timers while I'm in the bathroom with Alexa (5 min. - snooze; 10 min. - snooze; 15 min. - snooze) to stay on track.
8:45-9:00 a.m.: I'm logged in to work for real-for real with my first cup of coffee of the day.
I immediately check the deadlines on my calendar, prioritize tasks and/or cases then attack them in segments with multiple breaks in between. I like to do the same tasks during blocks of time (reviewing case files and drafting a case plan, emails, client conference calls, etc.). Through trial and error, I have learned that I work more efficiently when I'm doing the same tasks over and over again.
On days where I have court hearings, depositions, mediations, client calls, or any event, my days look very different. I wake up earlier to hand-write a script of what I plan on saying. I do this to calm my nerves and to stay focused on the task at hand as to not go off on tangents. No matter how many times I've made the same speech or argument - this is what works for me.
6:30 - 7:00 p.m.: I'm logged out and head to the gym for a Zoom training session with my trainer. I try to work out at least 3-4 times a week with a trainer. Even if I do 10 haphazard jumping jacks, any sort of physical activity helps to maintain my routine and makes me feel good. I have coworkers who work out during lunchtime.
Personally, I can't do that because it's hard for my brain to switch gears after a workout and get back into work mode. I highly recommend doing physical activity early in the morning prior to work. It really sets the tone for the workday.
Does ADHD affect your mental health? If so, how?
Yes, in many ways and often. There are many internal battles of self-doubt, not doing enough work, being slower at a task than others, or lingering feelings of unworthiness. I have days where my head is so cloudy that it takes me hours to do a task which usually takes me about 15 minutes. On days like that, I have to mindfully give myself grace for my own sanity because beating myself up won't make a difference.
I remember times where my ADHD got so bad that I was feeling defeated, depressed, and became physically sick from the stress which also caused crippling anxiety. As a child, I remember I used to breathe at a rapid rate which they thought was asthma-related. Come to find out later to find out it was anxiety. I was given an inhaler to help. I still have days where I'm literally spinning in circles from task A to B then to A again, only to start a new task, D, then remember task C, only to realize A, B, C, and D are all incomplete and unnecessary tasks.
"I have days where my head is so cloudy that it takes me hours to do a task which usually takes me about 15 minutes. On days like that, I have to mindfully give myself grace for my own sanity because beating myself up won't make a difference."
What would you tell other women who are struggling with ADHD, mental health issues, and a demanding career?
Give yourself grace, lots and lots of grace, and seek professional help. Find what works for you. I'm still trying to figure it out, but therapy has transformed my way of thinking and my life. It has helped me to re-evaluate my life, career, and plan a more sustainable life/work balance. Life first, work second.
If you’re a Black woman struggling with ADHD, you are not alone and it doesn’t have to be just your secret anymore. It’s nothing to be ashamed of either. There are many women of color with ADHD and other learning difficulties and/or disabilities. And it doesn’t mean you are less of a person because of it. It means your journey looks different than most women of color. There is just an extra layer you’ll have to manage. And that is OK.
You have to give yourself grace and permission to accept your diagnosis and find ways to cope. Unfortunately, we live in a society with so many stigmas that we constantly neglect root causes. If you are looking for support, check outBlack Girl, Lost Keys, or Unicorn Squad, For Black people of Marginalized Gender with ADHD, a blog, and a private Facebook group by Rene Brooks. Having ADHD herself, Rene Brooks helps educate and empower other Black women who have ADHD.
You can start your healing now.
Featured image by Getty Images
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Camille is a lover of all things skin, curls, music, justice, and wanderlust; oceans and islands are her thing. Her words inspire and her power is her voice. A California native with Trinidadian roots, she has penned personal essays, interviews, and lifestyle pieces for POPSUGAR, FEMI magazine, and SelfishBabe. Camille is currently creating a life she loves through words, self-love, fitness, travel, and empowerment. You can follow her on Instagram @cam_just_living or @written_by_cam.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Deanna Robinson, a health and wellness advocate and professional based in the Washington D.C. area has been helping Black and brown women reach their fitness goals for more than a decade. And with her brand of self-love and faith, she's redefining just what "fitness" means when it comes to women of all shapes and sizes.
There's definitely a need for women like Robinson, especially since recent research shows that between 47% and 55% of Black consumers' needs "are not being met" in the wellness space, and the U.S. fitness industry hit $32 billion last year and that it's important for Black women to see themselves prominently in the space.
As a health and wellness programming expert, licensed nutritionist, mom, wife, and former all-women's gym owner, Robinson has built up a body of experience that has culminated into doing something she loves via the FabBody Retreat, an experience for women ages 30-60 to be enriched via group activities, good food, and connection in the backdrop of tropical peace and tranquility.
This year's retreat was held in Grenada, with special guest and TV host icon Free Marie (BET's 106 & Park). Next year's event will be held in St. Maarten with plenty of opportunities to enjoy beach vibes, authentic and healthy dishes, and all the pleasures of being among other fabulous Black women seeking holistic wellness in paradise.
"My God-given purpose is to help serve, connect, and heal Black and Brown women," she said, taking her experiences serving corporate and individual clients via projects like the NFL's "Fuel Up To Play 60" initiative and the Nike Training Club live experience, to do just that.
xoNecole caught up with her to talk about why she chose the fitness industry, her success in launching and running the FabBody Factory, and how she's pivoted to use her skills to build impact on a larger scale in health and wellness.
xoNecole: What sparked your interest in a career in health and wellness?
Deanna Robinson: I have always been involved in sports, always been active in cheerleading, dance, [and] gymnastics. In my college career, I was a competitive cheerleader at the University of Maryland, College Park, and I've just always been passionate about physical activity, health, and fitness. I double-majored in kinesiology and public and community health, and it's always been a passion for me about others being well.
Out of college, I wanted to be a personal trainer, and I interviewed at a big-chain gym. I was really excited about getting this job, but when I had the interview, they informed me of what the split was—what the client paid, what I'd get as a personal trainer, and what the gym got. And I just thought it was a ridiculous split. I've always been into entrepreneurship as well, and doing things on my own terms, so I actually opened up my own gym in the community I grew up in called the FabBody Factory, an all-female gym in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
I was able to hire several trainers, offer group classes and personal training, and one of the things I was always a big proponent of is making sure that they got a better cut than they would get at larger chains.
xoN: Talk a bit more about that in terms of starting a gym, especially one that caters to women. What was the process and motivation?
DR: I have worked out in big-box gyms before and just never felt comfortable. It was always really uncomfortable working out in a huge gym where men would be gawking at you or try to get your number when you're trying to focus on yourself in that moment. So I always wanted the FabBody Factory would be a safe haven where we didn't have to worry about our titties flopping when we're doing jumping jacks, it was just for us by us, and we could just [be] comfortable making ourselves a priority.
I was almost talked out of doing something like that because people would say, "You're cutting off half of your potential clientele," but I never had an issue. Women flocked to the gym, and I'd sometimes have to split classes. I might have to do part one of a class at one time and a second another time. It was majorly successful. Ladies loved it. And on top of this being all-women, it was all Black and brown women.
Culturally, we get each other, so it was a big social thing for us, too. We were able to fellowship with each other and get fit at the same time.
xoN: Your brand includes the concept of a 'Fab Body.' What does that mean for you---and just wellness---in general, for Black and brown women?
DR: FabBody in itself is not a look at all. It's more of a mindset and a willingness to invest in your mental, spiritual, and physical self. In promoting the FabBody Retreat, I actually had someone DM me and ask me, "Do you have to have a 'Fab Body' to come on the retreat?" and my response to her was that you do have a 'Fab Body.' Everyone has a Fab Body. It's more of a state of being—a sound, healthy mind, body, and spirit. It's not about aesthetics at all but about overall improvement.
xoN: You decided to pivot from owning a gym, which you ran successfully for more than a decade, to your current role in health and wellness programming and launching the FabBody Retreat. How did this come about?
DR: My gym closed last year, and the reason was because of where I saw myself going and where I wanted to be in the next 10 years. A lot of my time at the gym was selling and getting people to register for classes, and it wasn't as lucrative and fulfilling for me as it had been in the beginning.
Now I'm doing more consulting work with larger companies. One of my passions is programming, and that is where I see my future going. I'm moving more toward passive income, coming from my being able to use the knowledge I have from years in this industry and putting together programming that can reach the masses versus individuals.
xoN: What can people expect from the FabBody Retreat next year, and how does this venture continue your love for advocating for health and wellness among Black and brown women?
DR: One of the things that really sets this event apart from so many other retreats is that I have married everything that is important to me: wellness, my faith, and my community. God is a huge part of all of the events we do, and all are interwoven with faith-filled, intentional activities, and I think that's what makes it different. On Sunday, we do a service on the beach, and we always have a guest speaker—someone you can relate to where you don't feel like you're being preached to. It's an awesome experience, unlike any retreat I've seen.
It's definitely rooted in faith, but at the same time, there's a balance. We'll get on a boat and have a cocktail with an umbrella in it, and then we'll go back to wellness. There's a healthy balance.
Find out more about Deanna Robinson via Instagram @deannarobinsonfit and more on the FabBody Retreat via the website.
Featured image courtesy