On Transformation and ADHD

Someone asked me about ADHD a day or two ago. They wanted to know, “Ok how does ADHD relate to transformation?” The answer to that question is both more simple and more complicated that you might expect.

When I was diagnosed at the ripe of age of 46, it was a game changer. I started reading about symptoms, and the behaviors that are common in adults with ADHD, and I discovered that the things that have always frustrated me are not only common, but actually could be considered normal! Normal in the sense that, if you have a brain that works in the way mine does, you are more likely to have a certain set of behaviors that drive the neurotypical brains absolutely bananas. Believe it or not, it finally hit home when I happened across one of those lighthearted “You know you __________ if you _________” posts. In fact, I’m pretty sure it is this one from additudemag.com. Something about sitting at a stop sign waiting for it to turn green.  I’VE DONE THAT! To a neurotypical brain of course, that screams “space cadet.” To an ADHD brain, it just means that “red means stop, green means go, that guy over there mowing the lawn is pretty cute, why are my kids fighting in the back seat, and oh my goodness I don’t have anything to make for supper.” So you wait for the red to turn green.  

Well, let me tell you something…. All of a sudden it was like the clouds had parted to let the sunshine in. (Just to prove a point, as soon as I typed that my head started signing to me “Let the sunshine in, Leeeeet the sunshine in, the suuun shiiiine in. Great, now I’ll be hearing that all day. HA HA so will you.) But I digress.

I was used to thinking of myself as a dingbat. Oh, I was a smart dingbat, sure, but a dingbat nonetheless. When you decide that you are, in fact, a dingbat, it does a number on your self-esteem. You know what a dingbat is also called? An idiot. That’s what.

All of a sudden everything was different. For me, knowing the why of a thing is critical. If I have a reason WHY I do silly things like feed the cat and then walk away and leave the cat food container open, then I must not be an ACTUAL idiot. I’m not lazy either, which is another label that had been assigned to me by people who would otherwise say they loved me. I didn’t move the laundry from the washer to the dryer and not start it because I was too lazy. I didn’t start it because I was already thinking about something else, and in my mind putting the laundry in the dryer meant that I HAD started it.

The transformation came when my therapy work finally kicked in and I suddenly KNEW I was none of those things. I knew that Mount St. Mary’s University had seen something in me that they thought was special, and I knew the kind of women that they were turning out. They are not often wrong. Instead of asking “Why am I not like that?” the question was “What is keeping me from being like that?” I’ll tell you what was keeping me from being like that….. my own thoughts that had become ingrained after years of repetition! All I had to do now was to pull myself up, dust myself off, and – you guessed it – start all over again. (Dang it, what it it with me and the musicals today?)

It is still important to note that transformation is usually an ongoing process. I didn’t just wake up one day and SNAP I was instantly this totally put together human being. I will likely struggle with the major symptoms of ADHD for the rest of my life. Procrastination is the most damaging – ask me how long it has been since I started this post. Forgetfulness is the most frustrating. Do you think my kids will ever have another dentist appointment? Not if I can’t remember to actually CALL the office during business hours, instead of just thinking about it. I am slowly finding strategies that work for me to remind me of those things.

It’s tricky though, because there are hundreds of strategies we can use. Some ADHD’ers use the reminder app on their phone. That worked great for me for about 2 weeks, and then I learned to ignore it. It is hard to navigate these waters without help.

That’s why I decided to finally step up and coach other adults with ADHD. Together we can find the things that work for you, and while we are at it, I may find some new things that work for me too. Isn’t it much more fun to do it with someone who really gets it?

Next time we really will tackle the importance of self-care, promise!

Until then, take care of yourself. Really.