My story: hormones affect everything!
When Adele discovered how much her hormones were impacting her health and her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), she not only transformed her own life but set up a clinic to help other women too.
‘I always thought I had a healthy lifestyle – I was doing keto, intermittent fasting, exercise, all the things that are touted as being good for you. But when I was 37, my period vanished.
‘At the time I had a full-on job as a senior manager in a local authority with high levels of stress and responsibility. I’d be at my desk at 7.30 in the morning and not have time to get up and go to the toilet – it was go, go, go. I also had a toddler and a baby so it was a fast-paced life, but I felt that I had things in place to protect my health so my body could navigate it. I had insomnia but, looking back, I don’t think I was even aware of it – it just seemed normal. I felt that I could handle the pace and I loved my life.
‘So when my period stopped, at first I thought, well, that’s one less thing to worry about. But inside I knew this wasn’t right, something wasn’t working. I was also aware that I had ADHD. Because of my work in children’s services, I had a robust understanding of ADHD. I used to joke flippantly how I was ADHD and laugh it off but I didn’t think I needed a diagnosis. I thought, I’ve done really well in my life so what’s the point?
Learning more about hormones
‘But I did decide to take a leap of faith and leave my job to set up a holistic clinic for women. I had specialised in female offending and had a desire to work in the female arena, but I was also interested in working in health. I practiced reflexology and Reiki but when the pandemic hit, I trained with an incredible woman in the States called Nicole Jardim, who mentored me to understand more about women’s hormones. I learnt how I had put my body under incredible stress through activities I thought were healthy – because so much health advice is based on what works for male physiology.
‘As soon as I started nourishing my body with the right foods, moving my body in the right way, and using menstrual cycle awareness to restore myself, my period came back. I felt passionate about sharing my knowledge so I also set up an online clinic to support women with hormone imbalances.
Getting a diagnosis of ADHD
‘Several years ago, at the age of 41, I decided to get a diagnosis of ADHD. My work had taught me that hormones affect everything, plus when I started to see traits in my children, I wanted to roll model the diagnosis process for them. Receiving the diagnosis was the most validating experience of my life. It allowed me to have compassion for myself. I suddenly understood the amount of energy that I had subconsciously put into all of these strategies to be “normal”. For instance, I have lists and reminders everywhere otherwise things will drop out of my brain. And I’ll do things like when I get in the car, I’ll think: Did I turn the oven off? Did I turn the hair straighteners off? And it’s not OCD behaviour. It’s because genuinely on various occasions I’ve been distracted doing other things and I have forgotten to turn the hob or straighteners off, so I have strategies to cover myself.
‘I brought my knowledge of ADHD into my work and combined it with my understanding of women’s hormones to create a space for ADHD women to understand how their hormones affect their traits. I run an in-person clinic with a GP so it’s an integrative approach. On a personal level, my job enabled me to have an awareness of my perimenopause. I was suffering from sleep disruption, getting anxious and feeling overwhelmed about things and even the fun stuff felt like a chore. I call it inner scratchiness – no matter what it was that I was doing, it just felt like another thing for my to-do list.
‘These are all things that can come up with ADHD too so it’s about deciphering what’s an ADHD trait and what’s a hormonal imbalance. I knew that I was experiencing progesterone deficiency and I needed to have a progesterone-only HRT prescription within the understanding of my ADHD. I was fortunate to know an incredible GP in women’s health, who’s trained functionally too, and I worked with her to get the right prescription. She invested a lot of time in understanding ADHD and she looked at the work Dr Louise Newson has done around ADHD and menopause. I’ve responded really well to the progesterone.
‘For any woman facing the dual challenge of ADHD and perimenopause, I’d advise them to track their traits against their hormonal fluctuations. I am not medicated for ADHD and I’ve believe one of the reasons that I’m able to operate like I do is because I understand the impact my hormones have on my traits. I know when I’m optimal, when I need to step back. So understand your unique rhythm, your unique ebb and flow, through tracking. Once you have that evidence, if you need to see a healthcare professional you can say, this is what’s going on for me. And if you are medicated, you can choose to have it tailored around your hormonal fluctuations.
‘Often when women with ADHD enter perimenopause, the lid comes off all the strategies that usually help. Many women don’t realise the protective benefits hormones have on our cognitive function and our executive function so when they go awry, it can feel like you’re going crazy.
‘So I truly believe that HRT should be a fundamental part of the discussion, at least in the treatment of perimenopausal women’s ADHD.’
Learn more about Adele, her clinic and online clinic at Harmonise You