Midlife ADHD in Women: A Survival Story

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through any links that you click. This post may also contain sponsored links.

midlife adhd diagnosis


Now that Helen King knows she has ADHD, she’s not wasting any time going after the life that she wants. The host of The C Word: Kiwis Talk About Cancer takes us through her journey of midlife ADHD diagnosis after surviving cancer.


– Helen’s diagnosis story
– Pandemic times and the birth of a podcast
– Looking ahead – neurodiversity & work


If you liked this interview, be sure to subscribe to the podcast and leave a review! You also can support the show at https://patreon.com/adultingwithadhd.

Sarah 8:57

This is the adulting with ADHD podcast, self empowerment for women with ADHD. Today, I'm very excited to welcome Helen King host of the C word podcast. How's it going, Helen?

Helen 9:18

Good. Um, I keep thinking I look very shiny. Because it is very muggy and

Sarah 9:28

yeah, I, I totally relate. It's gonna get real shiny here in a minute. With all the I'm in a closet today because my daughter is with my husband and I wanted to get away from all the noise. So I'm in a closet. So it'll be a shiny interview. That's okay. Yeah. Well, I we met through ADHD Twitter, which is one of the most fabulous places on earth in my humble opinion. Yes, yes. And so um, I guess I'll set I'll set the table a little bit. it and it sounds like you have a very, very fascinating story. And I guess we could just jump into it like telling us your diagnosis story and how all that came about. It's very interesting.

Unknown Speaker 10:13

Yeah, sure.

Helen 10:15

It's, in some ways, I still feel like it's quite random, because it hadn't even occurred to me that I might have ADHD until maybe three or four months ago. So, and I was thinking about it today, because so basically what happened, a very good friend of mine was diagnosed with a an injury. She came over and she said, I think diagnosed with ADHD. And I thought, Yeah,

Sarah Snyder 10:45


Helen 10:46

Yeah, that makes sense that that does make sense. And then I naturally had to look it up. Because I was fascinated. Because I all I really knew was what I now know, the stereotypes that she Oh, the hyperactive young boy. And so I was just really intrigued of, Okay, well, what is it about? And, you know, when you start reading things, and you think,

Sarah 11:12

right, it starts tracking, you're like, Okay,

Helen 11:15

that tracks. Okay. Very strange. And then I, I can't even think what happened in between that. And then another chance meeting of a person who was also diagnosed as an adult. And we were talking about it. She was sharing your experience, and I'd sit there go, Oh, yeah, I do that, too. He know, and you sort of block eyes and you go, thank you. Yes,

Unknown Speaker 11:47


Unknown Speaker 11:49

Totally. Yeah.

Helen 11:51

Yeah, it was really strange. And then I managed to get a because in New Zealand, it's near impossible to go and get a diagnosis through our public health system as an adult. And so I'm lucky that I have health insurance. So I was able to find a psychiatrist who specialized in adult ADHD and took insurance and just happened to have a an appointment the next week. Which goodness Yeah.

Like, oh, wait for six months. But this? Yeah,

Sarah 12:29

that's what I hear. Yeah. Yeah. It's incredible.

Unknown Speaker 12:32


Helen 12:36

it's, I wish I had this. And I've been reading everything I could, between, you know, that happening in the appointment. And, um, so what we just said, and I told her, about my childhood, and about being a teenager, and about what life has been like, as an adult, and the other things that I'd been diagnosed with. And, um, yeah, lift with a script for ritual.

Sarah 13:02

Wow. Yeah. And you, you had mentioned to me that the menopause, and the stress you were experiencing at the time, because you had cancer that you were battling? And you said it was that it was like your symptoms are exasperated? And that's kind of what kind of got you on the path. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Helen 13:28

Well, I guess in hindsight, so I have a so when I turn around must have been around 3635 I am my marriage ended. And that was kind of like this catalyst for this was for you, period. We are getting to the end of the year, I think I that was really hard. Maybe next year will be bitter that never was. And, um, so I hit these years of very stressful things happening, and not really understanding why all of a sudden, things have getting increasingly harder. And, and then I got cancer. So I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. And, and because I was 37 at the time, you know, I hit fertility treatment to preserve my fertility, and then I spoke straight into menopause. And not just like, you know, most people will go through and, you know, appearing mean appears to leave my side. Yeah,

Sarah 14:33

as my eyes are bugging out of my head right now. Yeah, there's for those listening. I mean, that would, that would be an incredible shock to the system,

Helen 14:42

I would think same. So if you think about anyone who has had fertility treatment, I just you know, I have an amazing amount of respect for people who do it more than once because when you're pumped full of that much it's just not a good time. And so fit into Amina pores and hipping no estrogen.

Sarah 15:05

Oh my oh my lanta. Oh, yes. Yeah. Yeah. Wow.

Helen 15:10

Yeah. And so, and I mean, cancer is a hat anyway, but to be in a pause. And I've just found like, the the years afterwards. It's been two years now since my diagnosis. And I mean, it has had it has had having cancer and going through, you know, I had very aggressive treatment. And it's been a very challenging road to recovery. But I couldn't figure out why it was so challenging. My anxiety was worse. I mean, I almost feel like the background of my house at the moment is, you know, a perfect example, I think, kids just function. Because this just stuff. I mean,

Sarah 15:58

you should see the pile of hangers I'm looking down at and all the clothes that I pushed to the side, I had an interview, I think it was yesterday, and it was like, it looked all clean in the background. But if you just turned around the camera, it was just like, mountains of crap. You know, it's like, I feel like a fraud, I should just stand in front of my crap and be authentic, you know. So cheers to you for being authentic.

Helen 16:28

This is my house. And then I feel so COVID for in New Zealand and March, we went into lockdown. And that really? Oh, the Yeah, that brought it out even more. So I guess. Yeah, in retrospect, I now know why. Because stress is not our friend. It's not the friend of someone with ADHD. And, and I guess going back to the menopausal side of things. And if I think about, you know, having my period, that I've always been someone who is who just has a really bad PMS, like PMS is not a fun time, you know, depression and all of this stuff. And now I understand it, instead of knowing that, you know, for women or people who, you know, have estrogen and ADHD,

Sarah Snyder 17:21


Helen 17:23

It really impacts and it makes things harder. So yeah, it's, it's really, it was just these kind of strange turn of events that lead me to this point, because I just felt, I just felt this sense, almost like an intuition or something that something wasn't right. Yeah. Yeah. I just I just thought it's not I know, I've been through a lot. And I know that there's been a lot of loss in there's been a lot of, you know, enormously life altering events, that I just felt like, Why can I get my stuff together? Why can I keep a clean house?

Sarah 18:07

Absolutely. And I'm sure it was very confusing to have all these major life events overlapping. And I mean, I could imagine you're probably thinking, or people telling you, oh, it's because your life's going through changes. And I mean, it would be so easy to miss. And I do hear a lot. I was talking to an ADHD coach a few days ago. Very, very common for women to be diagnosed in menopause. Like they, they're able to just like, scrape by their whole lives. And they're barely making it and they have no idea they have it. And then when that estrogen plummets, all of a sudden, it's like, some of them think they have all simers early onset Alzheimer's, you know? Oh, yeah.

Helen 18:54

Oh, the memory, the memory, the memory.

Unknown Speaker 18:57

Yeah. Whoa.

Helen 18:59

Yeah. So So I guess. And I guess another thing that I heard, you know, in the past few months of being medications and those sorts of things, and I think I mentioned to you was it, I thought that I'd suffered from anxiety from a child.

Unknown Speaker 19:15

Me too.

Helen 19:16

Yeah. And I took my first dose of Ritalin and the next one in my anxiety had gone You know, and I Wow, thank all those years of, you know, trying to do mindfulness and

Unknown Speaker 19:33


Sarah 19:34

What the hell's wrong with me, I can't relax and the whole world telling you to relax and holy shit. I mean, I feel the same way. Like, it's like the story we told, or at least for me, the story I told myself my whole life was, I was born with anxiety and depression. That was my biochemistry. That's how it's always going to be and I accepted it at a very young age and just lived with it. And I just kind of like part of your identity and so on. All of a sudden having that wall lifted. It's like, you have executive function problems and working memory issues. And, of course, you're anxious and depressed. Right?

Unknown Speaker 20:12

Yeah. It's really interesting, because I think and I think as well, because a lot of my story has been around being stigmatized, because I was diagnosed with other things, or not fitting in. And, and I think, well, of course, we're depressed and anxious if we're, if our whole lives were told what's wrong.

Sarah 20:37

And it's not fitting and you know, it. Me, well, especially more recently, like you knew you had that intuition. And that intuition is so important. I've heard that so many times from people, like, they know something's off that go to the doctor, the doctor insists everything's as it should be, but you're like, I just know, I have a system it listen to that voice, guys, cuz even if you're wrong, wouldn't you rather, you know? What can Yeah, you know? So I want to hear about this podcast of yours the C word. And it's funny, cuz, you know, my podcast is taking a women's health direction lately. And so I have a feeling when people see see where they're gonna think of a different C word. But we're actually talking about a different see where I would love to hear about your podcast and how it came about and all that.

Helen 21:30

Yeah. So I'm a journalist by trade, and but I haven't sort of worked as a journalist properly in a few years. And, and, yeah, I started in radio. So audio, and telling people stories has always been, you know, my love, and engineering locked down. And, you know, we had a flower shortage, because people were making bread and those sorts of things. And I can't make bread.

Unknown Speaker 22:03


Sarah Snyder 22:05

Neither can I,

Helen 22:07

my forte, and I just, I needed with it. I guess this was a good example of ADHD, I needed something to do. Yeah. Because otherwise, I was just locked to the TV watching, you know, the pandemic unfold. And because I, one of the things I found when I had cancer was that I couldn't find examples of people telling stories that I related to, and in about some of the challenges that you have, and I think, because people like to try and sort of put this, you know, the warrior, or your your soul, you know, in I guess, I found that Oh, yes,

Sarah 22:50

the survivor thing that Yeah,

Helen 22:52

yeah. And I and I sort of thought, I want to create something where people can really relate that people can connect in and sort of understand that, you know, other people struggle, they struggle when they go through cancer, and how do they get through it? And you know, that you don't have to be positive all the time. And so basically, yeah, that's how it sort of came about. And so that idea formed during lockdown. And then I just started looking into how can I make this happen? And in the wake of yet one of my true ADHD traits as being able to hone in on an idea and just,

Sarah Snyder 23:33

you know, run with it, but

Helen 23:36

yeah, and so it started in July. And, yeah, I just I love being able to tell people's stories or for to, you know, create a space where they can be authentic about what this is what happened. And yeah, it was really hard. And but this is what I did to get through and it doesn't have to be sanitized or nicely packaged, it can, you know, show the Miss.

Sarah 24:02

Yes. And I hear that so much among the ADHD community as well, that there is this hunger for content that's really authentic, and not just like, Hey, we got it all figured out. And we're gonna tell you how we figured it out. And I'm not saying, you know, that's not my observation, but that's what I hear that, you know, a lot of people are like, but you know, I'm still in that battle that part before, you know, like, I'm still I haven't crossed over to the, to the success story yet. I'm in the before phase where I'm still trying to figure all this out. And it's, you know, scary and, you know, so I'm sure it's very reassuring hearing patient stories that aren't, you know, so warrior esque, maybe.

Unknown Speaker 24:48


Sarah 24:49

my father is a cancer survivor as well. And I really appreciate the positivity part. I do and he he's huge on positivity. But um, I do think it's one of those Yes. And things right. I yeah. Yeah. Just negative. And

Helen 25:09

we were allowed to hold both. Yeah, allow to be really angry that your father had cancer. And I am. Yeah, I think that I don't know what the states is like, but we, you know, in New Zealand, we were, we were colonized by the British. So we've got that sort of stiff upper lip. And,

Sarah 25:29

you know, my family does. I don't I don't know if that's an American thing, but it's definitely in my family. You know, suck it up, walk it off, you know, it's fine, you know? Yeah. And I think during COVID, I'm sure you can relate, it feels like there was a battle there with, we can be upset about this. And, you know, hopeful for the future. But come on. Now we get to be mad, we get to be scared. And I mean, depending on who you kept company with, I had a few people trying to force positivity on me. And I was not in the mood for that. I don't know about you. But yeah, like, there's a time and a place, but come on. Yeah. Yeah. And I think,

Helen 26:19

because I mean, I think this is kind of the gift that cancer has given me is that I just have no time for the bullshit anymore. And so when I found out that I had ADHD, you know, it was everything falls into place anything Oh, my God. That's why I'm like this. And one of the things for me has always been around work, because I don't fit in. You know, I'm, I'm really blunt. Yeah, I am emotional, and all of those things. And I was recently I was set at the traffic lights, and I thought it just came into my head. And I thought, if my cancer comes back in 10 years time, you know, touchwood, it doesn't? Do I want to still be doing the same thing I've always done in trying to fit in to these places where I'm miserable. And or do I want to see if I can set up a work environment that is, you know, you know, neurodiverse friendly? And I almost feel like the pentameric is, this is kind of what it's saying to us is, you know, are you living in the way that suits you best? If you're not, you know, life is so fragile and can change so quickly. You know, just make the changes that you've been thinking of?

Sarah 27:42

That's been my experience as well. Yeah, I've been hearing that a lot. been hearing a lot of stories like that. And that's exactly, I had actually shut down my podcast, and brought it back to life during lockdown both during lockdown. Like I shut it down. And I was like, No, I want this brought it back, you know, but it's been a weird, weird time of mixed feelings and emotions and, and whatnot. So how are you doing these days? You know, how are you coping day to day? And how are you feeling and all that? It's, it's a funny one.

Helen 28:20

So kitzur wise, I reached my two years in July. So I have a

Unknown Speaker 28:27


Helen 28:27

Thank you. It is a I mean, it's a funny one, because there is always that fear of it coming back and that sort of thing. So that does sort of walk with you. And but I feel like because recently I did this, I guess it's my ADHD. I'm going to give you a story, isn't it? Yes.

Sarah Snyder 28:47

Yes, please. Your storyteller style story.

Helen 28:52

I am I took this contract recently because my, my, my, the work I had been doing finished up the contract finished up and I got another one. And it was what I've always done where I've got, I've got to have a job and this one looks good, and it's good money. So do it. And I just for so many reasons. It wasn't right. And I was having meltdowns a lot. And you know, just that emotional overload and the sensory overload and, um, you know, being back in a space where I didn't fit in, and all of those things. And, and I just, I just thought no, no, no more. I am not doing this to myself anymore. And I think now that I know who I am, and I know what my brain is in terms. I just will not subject myself to that anymore of you know, feeling like that could that just couldn't fit in because they were a little bit weird and seed quite random.

Sarah 30:01

I love that it's such a huge act of self love just enough.

Helen 30:07

Yeah. Just Say No. No, you're a typical.

Sarah Snyder 30:11

You will not put me in a box. Yeah. So what do you do? I quit. Love it. I love it. That's so awesome.

Helen 30:21

Yeah. And I know, I'm really lucky that I'm at a position where I can do that. Because my partner was, I think he was like, I'm not putting up with three of these. Absolutely, it

Sarah 30:34

was like a win win. Right, like, easy to get support on that. Yeah, same. I've had similar things. It's like, I'm gonna go out on my own and do this. I know, I can do it, please. You don't want to be around me if I don't try, you know? Yeah. You don't want to be around me if I stick around at this place much longer. Yeah. It's a shame. It has to be that way that we have to actually like leave, you know, but is what it is, I guess. Yeah, absolutely. Oh, yeah. Well, I love that shirt. But all amazing to just do that. And it's a pretty brave thing to do. Yes. Leave. I mean, then what? What did you do after that?

Helen 31:17

Well, this this is it should only be in the past few days where I just said, No, this isn't happening.

Sarah 31:24

This just happened. Yes. Wow. Yeah. This is a rash.

Helen 31:29

Yes, very fresh. It is scary. Because, you know, the structure of work is good for me. And so what I'm doing at the moment is I love podcasting. And I love creating. So I've set up. Yeah, I'm setting up my own podcasting service. And awesome. Yeah, I've got some potential sort of work lined up with it in the new year. And um, yeah, I'm just going to see where that takes me.

Sarah 31:58

That is amazing. Are you? Are you open for services now? to others? Or

Unknown Speaker 32:05


Sarah 32:05

Where can people find you if they need services? And by people? I mean, me. You got a website or something?

Helen 32:14

Yeah, I do. I've coached I've coded HK productions. Okay, into the link, but okay. Yeah, cuz I am, you know, I'm a radio journalist by by training. And so the audio stuff, all of that stuff to me is, I love doing it. I

Unknown Speaker 32:34

love all the

Helen 32:37

production things. Yeah.

Sarah 32:39

Yeah, I was a print journalist for a very long time. That was my first career. And then I went into digital marketing after the newspapers died. But

Unknown Speaker 32:53


Sarah 32:54

so I'm all about the idea development, but, and I like the production on a surface level, but like, my kid all day, and I'm just like, there's no production happening here for a very long time. So I'm always looking for talent, just to know, you know, yeah. And for our listeners who don't need podcasts up, but just want to keep up with you, in general, where can we find you on the interwebs?

Helen 33:21

But I am so I have seen a little of my mind's gone blank.

Sarah 33:28

I've did the same thing the other day.

Helen 33:32

I was gonna say an intuitive with an Internet page, then what are they? It's good to see weird radio, or I'm quite active on Facebook. Okay, people look at the C word. Kiwis talk about cancer. And yeah, I just sort of update things there. And just blog posts and episodes and those sorts of things. And if anyone you know, has a story, they want to share it. You know, I'd love to hear from people about their experiences with cancer.

Sarah 34:08

Absolutely. All right. Well, Helen, thank you so much for being here. And I hope you get some cooler air soon. I'm about to step out of my closet literally and cool off.

Unknown Speaker 34:22

Me, you know, it

Sarah Snyder 34:23

was wonderful to meet you. Take care. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 34:26

Bye bye.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

powered by

Recent Posts