Busy Philipps opens up about her mental health journey, ADHD diagnosis

Busy Philipps opens up about her mental health journey, ADHD diagnosis

From sharing openly about adjusting to the single life following her 2021 divorce from Marc Silverstein to discussing the grief of losing a dear friend, Busy Philipps has always been candid about navigating mental health challenges. Most recently, the Busy This Week star has been reflecting on what it was like to be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) twice — once at 8 years old and again at 39.

The second time occurred as a result of supporting her eldest daughter, Birdie, 15, through her own diagnosis. “[Her] doctor was going through the checklist for ADHD, and I could feel my ex-husband looking at me, and I was looking over at him, because every single thing that the doctor was saying, I was like, ‘Yeah, off the charts for me,’ and it really motivated me to go to my own doctor,” recalls Philipps, 44.

After getting an evaluation of her own, she too was diagnosed with ADHD. “[My doctor] was like, ‘This is a very common story. I see a lot of moms who come in here after experiencing exactly what you’ve experienced,'” the actress says.

Philipps soon learned from her mom that she was previously diagnosed with ADHD at age 8. The family had tried to manage it with medication, but didn’t like it, “and that was it.”

Now that the Girls5eva star is on a medication called Qelbree, for which she’s a spokesperson, she’s realized how much — and for how long — ADHD had really been affecting her mental health and well-being. As a kid, “school was always really a struggle” for her. “I did have a lot of issues with executive function skills and remembering papers, remembering homework, remembering dates,” she says. “I didn’t understand why everyone else could do it, and I couldn’t. And you internalize that stuff. I really found myself allowing the narrative of ‘I’m just a bad student. Maybe school just isn’t really my thing.’”

The exception was when she went to college for two years prior to being cast in Freaks and Geeks, which gave her the chance to control which classes she was taking. “Now I know that’s a very ADHD characteristic — [that] I could hyper-focus on psychology and philosophy because it was fascinating to me,” she remembers.

Though Philipps acknowledges that she has been “very successful” in her career, she feels that, for a lot of that time, she was “stuck in an untenable situation.” “[I was] constantly feeling like I was forgetting something, that I was leaving something out, that I didn’t follow through on enough things, that I had 17 different things on a to-do list that I could never get to, and I allowed it to make me feel bad about myself and tell myself stories about my intelligence and my capabilities,” she says.

Philipps also struggled in her early 30s when her two children were younger. “I felt really bad about myself. I just was like, ‘Why is this so hard for me? Why can’t I remember the stupid gym class is at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays? I’m a bad mom.’”

Looking back, the Mean Girls star says it breaks her heart how hard she was on herself. “I had ADHD,” says Philipps. “And now I take medication, and now I’m feeling good. Everything kind of has shifted, especially the way that I feel about myself.”

Over the past few years, she says it’s like a fog has lifted. “So many more things have been able to come into my life in wonderful ways — workwise and creatively and even as a parent — and I’m so grateful for that,” she shares.

Philipps also continues to work on other aspects of her mental wellness, like setting boundaries — something she admits she “truly learned about” from TikTok. “Boundaries are really tricky for me,” she says. “Like anything, you don’t want to go too far in one direction. Because you can boundary yourself out of any relationship, if that’s what you want to do. But I’m talking with my therapist and continuing to just strive to do my best and do better in terms of the patterns I’ve noticed in my life that don’t serve me as much anymore.”

And as she continues to explore single-mom life, Philipps says she’s learning how to get clear on what she wants. “It’s been important to be really honest with myself and other people about what it is that I really want, what it is that I feel like I’m capable of and how I want to show up in relationship to someone else,” she explains. “It’s complicated, because it’s a lot of stuff to unravel, and the only way to do it is in process. I’m just not a fully healed perfect person. No one is. I think that if somebody is worth your time, it’s also interesting to see how you can figure out together how to heal your weird s***.”

At the same time, Philipps is eager to continue nurturing her relationship with herself. “I’m trying to be nice to myself,” she says. “I think we all have a tendency to tell ourselves stories about ourselves, and I’m trying to remain really open about my own.”

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