Many people, mostly boys, are diagnosed with ADHD as children. Unfortunately, ADHD does not present the same symptoms in everyone. In fact, there are now 3 different kinds of ADHD that are recognized, even though they all go by the same name. Most families, doctors, and teachers are familiar with the standard Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Indeed, most people who present these symptoms are are male, usually it will present when they are children, and there is no question that they are so hyperactive that it is detrimental. There is also the attention deficit type, mostly females, and then there is a combined form. The combined form seems to be characterized by a kind of cycle, where the person is hyperactive sometimes and can’t sit still, and at others is easily distracted or even perceived as daydreaming. For the record, I believe my own version of ADHD to be this last type.
For those of us who made it into adulthood before being diagnosed, it has been quite the challenge! We’ve been called space-cadet, lazy, tiring, irresponsible, and a whole host of other adjectives. We’ve been called them so much that we even start to think of ourselves in those terms. I’m sure I don’t have to explain the problems that can cause for an individual’s self-esteem! We just do not understand why we do some of the things that we do. No matter how hard we try to do things like we have always been told we should, we can’t.
Why is that diagnosis is a good thing? Because now we know that there is a REASON why we lose the car keys twice a month, or walk away from a cabinet without closing the door, or a myriad of other things that we do. Our brains simply do not work the same way as one that has been deemed “neuro-typical.” The usual reward systems just plain don’t work.
Fortunately, the problems that being neuro-atypical causes does come with trade-offs. People with ADHD don’t tend to relate to time in the same linear manner as people without. In the real world, we have trouble getting somewhere on time. That is offset by an astounding ability to be fully present in the moment in the way that others cannot. The NOW is really the only time we can relate to well.
Another benefit? Because we have the ability to “think” about many things at once, we can often find solutions to problems that someone else might overlook. ADHDer’s tend to think out of the box, sometimes REALLY out of the box.
Because the world is set up to work with neuro-typical brains, those of us who think differently must resolve to find strategies to help us function as responsible adults. Here’s an example. I spent several years as a news photographer. The photographer’s camera is his(her) stock and trade, right? Now it’s conceivable that someone might have breaking news hit, run out of the station, jump in their truck and get to the scene only to find out that the camera is back at the station. Everybody makes mistakes. How many people would have to do that THREE TIMES before realizing that this is a problem and we need to figure out a way to keep it from happening Guilty. As. Charged. I came up with a couple of things that might work. Leaving all the gear in the truck, all the time, so it is ready to go was the obvious one. Summertime heat in the deep south and the resale market for stolen cameras kept that from being a viable solution. I couldn’t keep it next to me at all times, because sometimes in news organizations we really are running from room to room like you see on TV. Finally I decided that when I came in and sat the camera down, I HAD to put my truck keys ON it. It was a rule. I could not carry them in a pocket, put them on a shelf in my locker, or even hang them back on the board. No, ONLY ON TOP of that camera. Since I couldn’t possibly leave without keys, the problem was solved.
The role of the ADHD coach is partly to help you learn to think of yourself not as broken, but simply different. Another large part is to help you find strategies that will work for you so you can find what you need to find, be where you need to be, even organize what you need to organize. We can all do all of those things. We just need to stop letting other people tell us how we should do it and do it in a way that works for us.
That’s about all I have time for today. There is so much more to say! Later this week, let’s spend some time discussing how having ADHD is sometimes a very different experience for women than it is for men. See you then.
Until then, take care of yourself. Really.