In the car this morning, my son Jasper, who has ADHD, said to me, “Mum, do you think I have a bleak future ahead?”
I took a deep breath, pushed my emotions aside and said this to my boy, “Honey you have the brightest, shiniest future ahead. Just because you don’t do school that well does not mean you’re going to have a bad time for the rest of your life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.”
He then asked, “How do you know?”
I answered, “Because I was a lot like you at school. I found classes so boring. I couldn’t understand what the teacher was saying. I never got A’s and was always in trouble. I even hated art class! Because I couldn’t learn art the way they taught it to me!”
Jas listened, a surprised look on his face. I continued while I had his attention.
“As soon as I left school I didn’t look back. I went to TAFE (Australia’s Vocational and Training Schools) and did a course in hospitality. TAFE was so fun, so much better than school, and there I met my best friend Tam who I moved to Sydney with. We worked in restaurants and met people from all over the world, danced with new friends on beaches in Bondi at moonlight and became inspired to see more of the world. I saved up enough money and left Australia and went traveling through Asia on my own! Imagine that! I was 19!!! Tam went to Israel and Egypt. We met up in London, worked, partied and traveled more countries together.
I came home and became a chef. I started my own catering business, I ran restaurants.
I learned to paint and had 2 near sellout exhibitions with friends. I hated art at school but loved learning by painting with friends and looking through art books for inspiration.
I’ve opened shops, gone into fashion design, imported from Morocco and lived in Bali.
And my biggest achievement, I created you and your little brother!
I have my ADHD to thank for most of that and not once have I ever looked back and thought about school.”
Jas asked, “How come you have your ADHD to thank?”
I responded, “I just know because I do life differently to others that are considered ‘normal’. My impulsivity leads me into new adventures. I learn kinesthetically and have a creative brain. I think outside of the box – just like you do. All of this, plus a large amount of excitable energy, has helped me be who I am today, even though I didn’t fit into the school system.
So to answer your question – you have a very bright future ahead, full of fun and adventure. No matter if you go college, TAFE, get a trade or a degree, or take some time out to go travelling. Life is one big adventure and you just have to find things you enjoy doing along the way, get good at those things, try new things, give everything and anything a go and you’ll be absolutely ok! Doesn’t that sound exciting?”
Jasper agreed, and said, “I definitely want to go traveling mum!” And I said, “You will for sure, just find work that helps you to travel!”
And I could see him thinking about his shiny future ahead, and I had a feeling that he had a feeling, everything is going to be ok.
About the author: Freya Cheffers lives in Cowaramup, Western Australia. She writes about her family and ADHD on her Facebook page, Never a Dull Moment – Life with ADHD. I follow her posts with interest.
There are roughly 8 million adults in the US living with ADHD. Less than 20% of those who meet the criteria have been diagnosed, and even fewer seek help. Source Unfortunately, living in denial prevents some people from realizing that life can actually get better.
I lived this way for a long time, so I know how that feels.
There is still so much stigma attached to any kind of mental health diagnosis. And yes, ADHD falls under the category of mental health.
In the fall of 2010, I had a 2-month-old baby. He cried incessantly. I didn’t realize at the time that he had sensory issues and could not regulate the incoming input from his senses, so I thought I was doing something wrong. Spending all your time nursing and listening to your child scream is not how most women picture themselves after giving birth.
On top of this, my house was falling apart. All of the plans I had for cooking, cleaning and becoming the consummate housewife went out the window.
One afternoon as I sat on my bed crying and nursing, I realized that I needed help for my ADHD. I needed something to help me prioritize. I needed something to help me manage my life. So I started to open up about my ADHD. After all, I was diagnosed when I was only 12 years old.
I had been lying to myself for a long time.
5 LIES I TELL MYSELF ABOUT MY ADHD
NOBODY NEEDS TO KNOW
For so long I thought if I led a highly structured life, nobody would suspect that I was drowning. I never told my employers directly, though I did tell a few close coworkers. Discussion of ADHD within my own family wasn’t an issue because my brother didn’t want to talk about it either. I didn’t even tell my fiancé directly until after we were married. Even then, I glossed over it. After our son was born, it became so obvious that I dropped all my defenses and just told him I needed help.
There are benefits to keeping it a secret. You get hired, people trust you. But when you do screw up it is much harder to explain.
I JUST NEED TO MAKE LISTS
List-making is a favorite pastime of mine. I make lists for housecleaning, grocery shopping, prioritizing tasks, and God knows what else. The thing is– the lists made it worse. You and I look at a list and realize there is no way in hell it can all be done. Then we get frustrated and angry.“Why can’t I just do things like a NORMAL person?!” We end up screaming in our heads, which is never a good thing.
Now when I make a list, it has no more than 3 major items. Or I use Kanban flow.
MEDICATION WILL FIX EVERYTHING
ADHD medications are very effective for many people. Indeed, I experienced success with medication. But still, I quit taking them at some point. Now, I’m revisiting my decision. Previously, I disliked depending on medication to cope with what seemingly came easily for other women. Now, I have come to realize that taking medication is not a cop-out and it doesn’t make you lazy.
But medication alone will not fix everything. You will still need support in the form of counseling and/or coaching. Despite the many people who do not take lifestyle into consideration, I still contend that for your medication to do its best work, you need to have a healthy lifestyle.
Develop healthy habits and routines that help you get restful sleep, schedule regular exercise times, eat real food, control your blood sugar and your stress level. For success, don’t rush to do everything at once. Take it step by step. Small changes make a big difference.
I DON’T NEED MEDICATION
Have you ever fallen into this trap?
Granted, some people can function without medication. Chances are many of these have a lot of support and help from others, just as all of us need. Some have accepted the way their brain works and have created a work environment and life that promotes their strengths. This helps make their weaknesses less visible and impairing. I know of several entrepreneurs who are ADHD, but they have an entire staff to keep their lives together.
Accept that your brain works differently. Trust me, you will feel less inadequate this way. I came to the conclusion over time that being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The key is figuring out how to work around it.
My schedule will always overwhelm me, and my house will always be a little messy. So what? I’m working on it.
MY MEMORY ISN’T THAT BAD
This is a big one for me. I cannot remember anything. It is incredibly frustrating. At least twice a day I look at a website or read an article and I think, “Oh I can find this later.” Do I find the article later? Nope. Forgetfulness is so common with ADHD that it becomes comical in certain circumstances.
My newest tool is writing everything down. I have notebooks all over my house and in my bags. I figure if it’s good enough for Richard Branson, it’s good enough for me. My memory sucks. It is what it is.
I had been lying to myself for a long time.
What lies do you tell yourself about ADHD?
About the author: Liz Lewis of A Dose of Healthy Distraction offers “Solutions and Strategies for Women Living, Laughing and Parenting with ADHD.” She blogs regularly. Sign up for her email list to follow her work. Liz also hosts a private Facebook Community, works with individuals and created the Coaching Corner group. Her goal is to help women understand how ADHD impacts their lives, explore strategies to help, and live well.
The year is MARCHing by, but I am pleased that I have been able to meet many of my goals so far. I’ve been developing tactics are helping me feel much more in control of my life. I’m also working to hold my head high without shame or jealousy for others accomplishments. I remind myself daily that judging myself for what I WILL NEVER BE only hurts me. It isn’t easy, but I’ve had a lot of help along the way. For ME, I’m doing well. I’m learning to accept how ADHD and bipolar disorder affect my world and learn ways that allow me to express myself, live without stress, AND be happy in my work. As the song goes, I did it MY way.” But all of us are uniquely ourselves and must follow our own path to happiness.
ADHD is complex and different for each person. There’s a saying among ADHD professionals, “If you’ve seen one case of ADHD, you’ve seen one case of ADHD.” Although there are similarities of symptoms, no two cases are the same. In the same vein, there are no simple answers to effectively treating individual cases. Types of medication used and dosages vary according to personal responses.
Another common saying is, “Pills don’t teach skills.” Developing these skills and systems must also be crafted for to meet individual needs. It’s also important to note that ADHD is a chronic condition that can be managed but not cured. A number of non-medical interventions have been found to be useful.
It’s important to remember that successful treatment doesn’t mean you can correct everything that’s affecting your ability to cope. It’s about accepting yourself and making good decisions based on what you do naturally, without the struggle. As ADHD coach David Giwerc says, “Your job is to discover the options that naturally work for you and integrate them into your daily life.”
This month we have something for both parents and adults to develop personalized strategies that Work WITH the ADHD brain. In “The ADHD Brain: Unraveling the secrets of your ADD Nervous System,” William Dodson, M.D. suggests that you write your own rules. The ADHD nervous system is activated by things or tasks that are interesting, challenging, or urgent. Rather than focus on where you fall short, you need to identify how you get into the zone.
I’m honored to have three guest authors who have generously shared their work this month; Lou Brown of Thriving with ADHD, ADHD coach and Organizer Sue Fay West, and Cindy Goldrich from PTS Coaching.
The first article encourages you to accept that not all strategies work for all people. The next few help you identify challenges as well support your novelty seeking ADHD brain by defining and learning to use your personal strengths and interests that inspire you and to create and meet goals that support YOUR values.
Of course, no newsletter on ADHD can ignore the ever prevalent strategies that HAVE proved useful with time management, organization and increasing productivity for some people. We have two articles with ideas for both children and adults. They won’t all work for you, but it’s amazing how the RIGHT changes, even small ones, can make your life easier.
Just for fun, I’m posting a short cartoon that likens the ADHD brain to a movie director that keeps falling asleep on the set. See the newsletter online for an excellent Rap song, “You Don’t Know”, to promote ADHD Awareness. It’s G rated, so the kids can enjoy this one as well.
How will you know when you have the right ADHD medication and dosage?
TRACK YOUR OWN or your CHILD’S RESPONSE to TREATMENT!
You can’t notice small improvements or side effects without a monitoring sheet. The goal is to find the best results with the fewest side effects. Finding the right medication and dosage is seldom a straightforward process. It usually involves medication trials and may require many adjustments to dial in just the right combination. The better you keep track of improvements or problems, the more likely to best the best results from treatment. Don’t waste time or suffer needlessly on the incorrect type and/or dosage of medication.
Your prescriber may slowly increase the dosage, then back off when side effects begin to interfere. Other times, they will switch to a different type of medication altogether. It will depend on what you have to report. Even if you use supplements like Omega 3 Fatty Acids, how will you know whether they are helping if you don’t record what changes, if any, occur? For more on the alchemy of prescribing ADHD medication, see ADDitude Magazine’s 10 Medication Fallacies even Doctors Believe.
Pencil-and-paper treatment monitoring system developed by David Rabiner, Ph.D. Instructions provided for accurate reports. Download for free (Link works or copy and paste http://www.helpforadd.com/monitor.pdf )
Parents take a front seat this month, but we’ve got a little something for everyone.
ADHD Awareness – Where can I learn more? and What does it mean for you?
Interventions to help increase performance
Being an effective advocate for your child
2 short informative, but fun videos for both children and adults.
October is ADHD Awareness month As the official website attests, “Knowing is better.” They cover basic information, provide personal stories, and are sponsoring a video contest that’s sure to entertain.
Try to find time for the ADHD Awareness Expo, from October 2nd – 17th. Watch at least a one or two of Tara McGillicuddy’s interviews with top names in the field at this FREE online event. Sign up now. Videos are pre-recorded and available for 24-hours after 12 noon each day.
Another online event is ADDA’S Daily TADD Talks! TADD recordings are like TEDTalks, but about various ADHD topics and only 9 minutes long . You’ll also be able to see many of these speakers in person at the International Conference on ADHD November 9 – 12 in Atlanta! Consider this an appetizer!
I first became aware of ADHD when I read You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Crazy, or Stupidby Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. I ended up crying through most of the book. I had always known that I was a bit “different,” but never knew there was an actual name that described my personal foibles and disappointing failures. Amazingly, I found a wonderful Adult ADHD support group with a library of books, audio and video tapes in my hometown.Thus began a life-long path of learning to understand and live with ADHD.
II’ve collected a number of resources to inform and support diagnosis, treatment and other necessary services for children and adults with ADHD. I would get numerous calls a day asking for help to find Treatment and Support. This section also includes a money concerns section with sources for more affordable medications and mental health care.
October is ADHD Awareness month. As the official website attests, “Knowing is better.” They cover basic information, provide personal stories, and are sponsoring a video contest that’s sure to entertain. Try to find time for the ADHD Awareness Expo from October 2nd – 17th. Watch at least a one or two of Tara McGillicuddy’s interviews with top names in the field at this FREE online event. Sign up now. Videos are pre-recorded and available for 24-hours after 12 noon each day.
Another online event is ADDA’S Daily TADD Talks! TADD recordings are like TEDTalks, but about various ADHD topics and only 9 minutes long . You’ll also be able to see many of these speakers in person at the International Conference on ADHD November 9 – 12 in Atlanta! Consider this an appetizer!
I first became aware of ADHD when I read You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Crazy, or Stupid(Link works) by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. I ended up crying through most of the book. I had always known that I was a bit “different,” but never knew there was an actual name that described my personal foibles and disappointing failures. Amazingly, I found a wonderful Adult ADHD support group with a library of books, audio and video tapes in my hometown. Thus began a life-long path of learning to understand and live with ADHD.
I’ve collected a number of resources to inform and support diagnosis, treatment and other necessary services for children and adults with ADHD. I would get numerous calls a day asking for help to find Treatment and Support. This section also includes a money concerns section with sources for more affordable medications and mental health care.
In ADHD Awareness: What’s Next? Coach Jennie Friedman of See in ADHD describes the benefits of providing a new understanding of ADHD. “The latest and greatest information will be available to everyone with Internet access. Myths will bust, and more people will get over the stigma that surrounds the condition. And more people will discover that they or someone they love has ADHD.”
“But, just knowing about ADHD isn’t enough.” Becoming aware is just the first step to getting effective treatment for ADHD, The benefits can be life-changing, but there are a number of practical and emotional issues involved in the process…. The way that ADHD affects each individual varies and the specific areas in which there’s struggle are unique to each person.” There are no hard and fast rules.”
Kristi Lazzar. writing for ADHD New Life Outlook, says, “It’s so important to get diagnosed…Everything about yourself that you, or others, never understood starts to make sense.” In Learning to Accept Myself After my ADHD Diagnosis, she wrote, “I could finally be myself and stop wondering why I couldn’t be like everyone else. I could stop the self-loathing. I now had a name for my behaviors, which gave me something to work with… It’s okay if I have my quirks — it’s who I am. Getting a diagnosis gave me that, and I will be forever grateful.”
Another featured author this month, Mary Fowler, shares ADHD challenges and accommodation strategies in her mini-workshop for teachers. “First, we must understand,” she explains, “that mostADHD managementisnot a problem of knowing what to do. It’s a matter of doing what we know.” Mary describes in detail many specific tools to help children “do what they know” through simple support techniques in Increase On-Task Performance for Students with ADHD
But, DO NOT expect that using these ideas just a couple of times will change their behavior in the near future. That’s like expecting a child in a wheelchair to get up and walk up the stairs because they’ve used a ramp for a while. People with ADHD need Point of Performance or P.O.P. interventions to “do what they know” It’s not a lack of knowledge, but an inability to perform mundane or confusing tasks at an assigned time that is affected by ADHD.
“What you need to know about Attention Deficit Disorder:
Accept that supports may be needed throughout the school day, month, year,
or even across the lifespan of a person with ADHD.
Interventions have to happen in the here and now on an as-needed basis.
Their use often requires coaxing and coaching from an external source (teachers, parents, peers, visual cues, and/or technology).
The strategies ONLY work when they are used.”
Although Mary’s advice is quite useful for the classroom, the same understanding of ADHD and principles for getting things done remain true for all ages. It is well worth reading for yourself as well as sharing with your child’s school
Advocacy and Homework
Guest author, Mary Fowler shares 8 Tips to Help you be your Child’s Advocate. If your child is struggling at school, she says, “most teachers appreciate your clearheaded understanding of your child’s problems and any possible interventions you can suggest.” Do the work. Be prepared to offer the help that your school will need.
For children and parents who dread homework, see Strategies to Make Homework Go More Smoothly. It provides routines and incentive systems to help kids complete AND turn in their work. Peg Dawson, EdD, of Child Mind claims ”This is the best guide to helping kids do homework successfully that we’ve seen.” For a printable version to share, download the ADHD: A Primer for Parents & Educators from The National Association of School Psychologists.
I really like The ADHD Manifesto, by Andrea Nordstrom of the Art of ADHD. Andrea is a professional ADHD Coach for adults wanting to turn their amazing ideas into reality.
The Art of ADD is not about being normal or fitting it. It’s about being ADD and using that medium to create a masterpiece out of your life. We don’t do life the normal way, we do it the ADD way! (3-minutes)
The ADHD Poem by slam poet IF – 4-minute spoken word poem by IF. “My childhood tasted like chaos…At 8, I was diagnosed a disaster… a Hurricane… Having ADHD is like being an exclamation point in a world of commas. … But, isn’t being different the one thing we ALL have in common?”
October is ADHD Awareness Month. The latest and greatest information will be available to everyone with Internet access. Myths will bust, and more people will get over the stigma that surrounds the condition. And more people will discover that they, or someone they love, has ADHD.
We now know a lot about ADHD. It is a neuro-developmental disorder, which impacts the executive functions, a construct used to explain how the brain matures. These impaired functions of the brain are associated with activation, focus, effort, emotions, memory, and action. In other words, most of the skills needed for building self-control.
Change is possible though. The ADHD brain works by its own rules. There’s a perpetual need for stimulation or novelty-seeking behavior that’s characteristic of the condition. Creating structure and developing routines helps, as does an interest in the task or subject, a sense of urgency, or immediate consequences or rewards for their actions to help successfully manage their life.
When someone with ADHD is not engaged, their symptoms include:
Poor Listening Skills
Poor Organization Skills
But, just knowing about ADHD isn’t enough. There’s a process involved after you first become aware. First, there is the issue of getting a diagnosis. Then comes the process of getting treatment, Medication, therapy, coaching, and/or other tools and strategies only work when they are used.
Some newly diagnosed people will mourn that they had not been aware of ADHD sooner. Others experience a sense of relief, that finally there’s an explanation, a reason, and it’s not their fault. There is also the question of who to tell and what can you expect from them. There’s your partner, the family, friends, coworkers, and others who will either be told or not and all of the rigmarole involved in deciding who knows what. Lastly, there are challenges that persist after diagnosis and treatment and how to go about finding those solutions. It’s a lot to deal with.
Ultimately, there’s always going to be a lot of confusion surrounding ADHD. How it affects each person is unique to them. True, there are broad commonalities among the ADHD population. There’s the unusual way they process time, as well as how they have trouble prioritizing and organizing. And there’s the issue of not staying motivated and engaged with something; everything becomes boring at some point, and that’s when they can easily shut down. But the degree to which these things affect the person vary and the specific areas in which there’s struggle are unique to each person, so there are no rules. That’s why ADHD so confounding.
You should know that developing coping skills is ongoing. There’s no magic bullet to solve any of the challenges of ADHD because they vary from individual to individual. (Editor’s note: Although, utilizing their unique personal talents, interests, and strengths can be very helpful.) And, on top of that, many times, when a solution to one challenge comes about, it’s only a temporary Band-Aid until a newer, more interesting fix can be found. Each “fix” builds upon the other.
Now you know the process to ADHD Awareness. Hopefully, this article will lessen some of the confusion. Enjoy the process. Learn and grow in confidence that you CAN handle this.
Do feel free to comment below if you still have questions and/ or something to share.
“ADHD: A Different Hard Drive? breaks down ADHD in a relatable, empathetic way. It explains some of the things about the condition that are often hard for those with ADHD to put into words themselves. This book seeks to bridge the gap that can exist between those who have the condition and those who do not. (Free with unlimited, $4 on Kindle and $10 in paperback)
When we don’t understand certain things about ADHD, we really don’t understand ADHD.
Or at least we have a cursory understanding, a textbook understanding. We’ve left out the best parts!
I’ve been working with ADHD kids and their parents since 1984, as a teacher, a school counselor, and an ADHD coach. I am also a step-parent with an ADHD adult step-son, and I have many family members with ADHD, including my father and one of my exes.
I’ve watched the misunderstanding of ADHD take its toll on kids, on parents, on adults with ADHD, and even on professionals who don’t really understand ADHD and are made miserable by trying to make this misinformation work.
You’ve seen it too: the teachers that are quite confident that they understand ADHD when you can see that they don’t. Or the doctors that miss co-occurring diagnoses because they aren’t as well versed in mental health issues
Don’t you think it’s time to set the record straight once and for all?
Here are 10 premises that, minimally, people MUST understand about ADHD:
*1. Talking about ADHD as a deficit is not the only, nor the most helpful, way to think about ADHD. The best understanding is comprehensive – it is a biological, mental, and emotional difference. All that being said, I’m grateful for the legal rights that the word “Deficit” provide.
*2. Every time we reach for a “cure” or a way to controlor stop someone’s ADHD, we make the choice to see ADHD as a problem. We don’t need a “cure” for ADHD – ADHD is our genius. Do we need support? Absolutely. But every human, including the coolest, most successful people in the world, needs support.
*3. When we focus on what your child can’t do, your child has to fit our mold to be “good.” When we focus on what your child can do, he/she is “good” most of the time!
Think about it…
*4. The ADHD brain doesn’t work the way a neurotypical brain works. Trying to find conventional solutions for an unconventional mind is pointless. This is often apparent when people confuse executive function challenges with ADHD. Most people with ADHD have executive function challenges. Many people with executive function challenges do not have ADHD. (Whether they’ve been diagnosed or not!)
*5. If on our own, we can’t think of any other solutions to support an ADHD child, we need to get help for ourselves and for the child. This goes for parents, teachers, coaches, doctors, therapists, and anyone else. We can’t settle for “I don’t know what else to do.”
*6. ADHD kids are not trying to make your life miserable. They’re trying to figure out who they are and where they belong, beyond being a member of your family. Until they know that, they’re a bit miserable themselves.
ADHD kids need adults to model adult behavior and to get help when we need help.
*7. Thinking you’re in a power struggle with your ADHD child or teen is completely unhelpful and misguided, no matter what it looks like. Kids don’t know how to effectively access their power. They’re fumbling around not competing with you. You can both have power when you understand that power does not have to be overpowering. The right use of power empowers everyone.
*8. The worst way to reach us is to yell, nag, and lecture. It’s important that, as adults, we communicate more concisely with our ADHD children/clients/students/patients.
*9. People with ADHD are motivated by freedom, fun, interesting ideas, acceptance, and appreciation. Yes, you can get a child to complete a task by threatening or intimidating him or her, but you do a good deal of damage to that child at the same time.
*10. People with ADHD need more than medication. We need a safety net, of which medication may be one of the ropes. (That’s a family decision and every family is different). Other ropes might be: an accountability partner, coaching, exercise, Omega-3s, eliminating certain foods, massage, essential oils, or other alternative modalities. The more ropes, the safer I am.
What are some misunderstandings about ADHD that you think are crucial to making sure your child gets the help he or she needs?
Just scroll down to the comments section and share your experience with us.
Copyright 2017. Yafa Crane Luria. All Rights Reserved. Originally published as “If We Don’t Understand This, We Don’t Understand ADHD” on Blocked to Brilliant.
She was diagnosed with ADHD (then called “Minimal Brain Dysfunction”) in 1980, one of the ﬁrst to be diagnosed as an adult. Yafa specializes in helping ADHD families who have tried everything and are still frustrated by their child’s or teen’s Blocked but Brilliant brain. She can be reached at her website: BlockedtoBrilliant.com Fun fact: Yafa’s nickname as a child was “Mountain Goat” because she climbed on EVERYTHING!
Title photo – (Photo courtesy of satva/FreeDigitalPhoto.net) Modified on Canva.com
Brains with a question (Photo courtesy of Graphics Mouse/FreeDigitalPhoto.net)
Helping hands (Photo courtesy of Graphics Mouse/FreeDigitalPhoto.net)
We are lucky to have two posts this month from guest author Elizabeth Lewis, founder of A Dose of Healthy Distraction. We’ll expand on her work with a focus the on how it feels to have ADHD and the power of self- acceptance in finding new ways to meet the challenges of ADHD.
I struggle with feeling worthy, like I am ENOUGH, just as I am. (That I’m doing pretty well. …considering everything…most of the time.) I suspect that I am not alone in feeling this way.
But, I AM getting better and feeling more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve been blessed by many people who reassure me, who see and nurture my gifts with love. Support groups, coaches, and group coaching members have been a great help as well.
As you enjoy the final days of summer, consider this FREE 12-week self-coaching program that ADHD coach Linda Walker is leading again this year. Short videos introduce each segment with a simple assignment for the week. These help you develop small habits to build routines for accomplishing both daily tasks and larger projects. I had great results following the steps last year. Try it out!
Elizabeth Lewis delves into the emotions many people with ADHD deal with in Against the Wind: How it Feels to be a Woman with ADHD. Liz writes, “It seems like we are forgetful or careless. Sometimes we come off as self-centered or even lazy. But you are not lazy or unmotivated. And you are not self-centered.”
“ADHD is frustrating and infuriating. A lifetime of criticism, from our self and others, really takes its toll.” Woman and girls have traditionally been under diagnosed and feel overwhelmed by combined roles of working, homemaking and caretaking. But, man, woman or child – all report the frustration, racing thoughts, mental exhaustion, and irritability that Liz describes. These feelings reflect problems with managing well at home, school, in the workplace and socially. Because of these feelings of failure, individuals with ADHD often judge themselves unfavorably.
Shame and Acceptance
All too often children and adult with ADHD “view themselves as fundamentally different and flawed.” William Dodson, M.D. writes on this encompassing feeling and how to overcome its hold on us for ADDitude Magazine in “When the Shame of Living with a Disorder Is Worse Than the Disorder Itself.” He points out that “Feeling shame is different from feeling guilt. Guilt focuses on what is done. Shame focuses on who one is.
But, “What if you loved yourself, laziness and all? What if you loved yourself, all that is ugly and incompetent and mean, along with the beauty and brilliance and kindness?” In Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits talks about this radical change. Acceptance does not mean you cannot make improvements in your life, Leo says, “Acceptance isn’t stagnation — you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction.”
For good examples of how this acceptance leads to successful change and self-advocacy, see “Know your Brain” (Link works) by Psych Central’s “ADHD Millennial” blogger Neil Peterson. He explains, “The key to making progress on managing my ADHD was the shift from trying to change internal things that I can’t control to changing external things that I can control… In other words, shifting from trying to change my brain to accepting my brain and trying to change my environment.”
Dr. William Dodson in Secrets of the ADHD Brain explains that with the ADHD brain, interest, a challenge, novelty, urgency or a strong sense of purpose help spur action We can develop routines for most mundane tasks but, we usually need an extra boost for projects. Medication helps with many symptoms, but you will need additional supports to manage your life well. Rather than focus on remedying areas where you struggle, you need to use your specific tools that get you “in the zone” and help you start each morning feeling motivated and capable.
What do you need to do to turn your brain on? How can you put your knowledge to work for you to adapt your life and environment?
Acceptance of their child’s diagnosis and meeting their needs is vital for parents as well.
In How to Accept your Child’s Diagnosis: Even When it Hurts, Elizabeth Lewis reveals her ongoing process. First and foremost, remember to enjoy your child. Love them, and seek to understand their differences – both their talents and challenges. You’ll also need to take personal time, grieve, and modify your vision for the future. Be ready to support and advocate for your child and teach them to ask for help to meet their own needs.
Liz admits that “I am scared and I am sad. But I know I am not alone. A diagnosis gives you the chance to learn and grow and provide the resources your child needs.”
But, “There is no “fixing” ADHD. There’s no cure. Nothing will erase its symptoms. When I realized that I couldn’t’ make ADHD better, but I could make life with ADHD better, things took a drastic, positive turn forward. Our job is to make life better, not to make the disability better.”
Podcast and Videos
One person who found a way to thrive with ADHD through self-acceptance is ADHD advocate and educator Jessica McCabe, founder of the popular YouTube Channel How to ADHD. ADHD pioneer Ned Hallowell interviews Jessica about how working with a coach helped her define her strengths and driving purpose. Listen to the Distraction Podcast: Jessica McCabe tells us How to ADHD. Link works. (20-minutes) Together with her fiancée/producer Edward, Jessica has developed a unique service that now has over 100,000 subscribers. Her friendly, “Hello brains!” invites viewers to enjoy her informative videos. You might also enjoy Jessica’s interviews with Hallowell.
For most neurotypical people, ADHD is hard to understand. (1) It seems like we are forgetful or careless. Sometimes we come off as self-centered or even lazy. Believe me, I totally understand why other people perceive us this way.
But you are not lazy or unmotivated. And you are not self-centered. I have spent hours thinking about and talking to other women with ADHD. After a while, some patterns emerged.
Like anything else, ADHD is individual. We all experience varying degrees and types of symptoms. If you have ADHD over the course of your lifetime, which most of us do, the symptoms actually change with your age and your circumstances.
What all women with ADHD need to remember is that they are not alone.
WANT TO KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO HAVE ADHD?
Everyone has felt frustrated with themselves at some point. But for us, the frustration is aimed at ourselves. This is an insidious type of frustration that makes you doubt yourself at every turn.
We spend a lot of time with negative thoughts running on replay through our heads. Unfortunately, we also have trouble stopping these thoughts and managing them. Long term this causes all types of psychological symptoms ranging from anxiety to major depression.
Imagine being mad at yourself all the time. We are our own toughest critic.
Having ADHD means your thoughts go so fast that you barely have time to acknowledge them before you are on to the next thing.
In the course of 60 seconds, I think about this website, my son, my dog, the work in front of me and the noise coming from my neighbor’s garage. None of these thoughts actually reach fruition… they just flit through my brain before I get to completely process them. Usually, I cannot even remember what I was trying to think about.
You know how sometimes you will walk into a room and forget why you are there? It’s like that – but with everything.
Often, I cannot remember what I sat down to write about. Sometimes I forget that I already started writing about a certain topic. I end up with 3 different word documents all started on different days about the same subject. It is infuriating.
But I can only concentrate on being furious for a few seconds until my brain moves on to the next thing. At least I don’t hold grudges?
Every so often I have a meltdown. Usually, this is a result of total and complete mental exhaustion brought on by parenting, work…life. Apparently, I am not alone in this.
So many women with ADHD report feeling chronically mentally fatigued. Initially, I thought this might be due to the fast-paced activity that is happening in our brains. (See racing thoughts above.)
But then I started to think about how many of us seek comfort through food or other behaviors. Since ADHD involves brain chemicals, it makes sense that we might feel a bit fatigued since we lack the normal amount of dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical most often associated with pleasure or rewards, but it is not the only neurotransmitter implicated in ADHD. (2)
The best remedy to control the how our brains use dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in our brains is to take our meds as prescribed. (2) Add exercise and eat a healthy, nutrient dense diet. Oh and get plenty of sleep and relaxation time. Coaching or therapy can also help you develop self-awareness and to develop other coping strategies. Organization and time management skills should be implemented gradually, addressing the areas that cause you the most difficulty first. It will take effort, but over time, you will feel more in control of your life.
Other than those options, I have no good advice. I am struggling with cognitive fatigue as I write this.
Along with a tendency to feel tired, many women with ADHD also report feeling a bit cranky.
Imagine spending all day feeling frustrated with yourself, unable to concentrate, racing thoughts and fatigue…and then you come home and your family says, “What’s for dinner?”
Yeah, that is a recipe for trouble. (Or at least a lot of slamming cupboard doors and swearing under your breath.)
Irritability tends to be a symptom of anxiety and/or depression for many of us. It’s tough to live like this and hold it together. I once referred to having ADHD as, “trying to hold about 100 corks under water all at the same time.”
In order to feel less irritable, you probably have to address the chemical issues in your brain. So think about getting diagnosed and medicated. ADHD meds may not be enough so you will need to try some other coping mechanisms. Think mindfulness, journaling or maybe cognitive behavioral therapy. (Links go to Liz’s articles)
ADHD is frustrating and infuriating. A lifetime of criticism, from our self and others, really takes its toll. Some of us cannot even share our diagnosis with the people in our lives for fear of denial, disbelief, and stigma.
ADHD symptoms are individual so it is tough to describe all of them. The feelings mentioned here are ones that are commonly reported in my Private Coaching Group and my public Facebook Group. Hopefully, with enough awareness and community support, we can support as many women and mothers living with ADHD as possible.
Finally, always remember you are not alone!
Note from the author: I hope that this writing was enlightening for anyone trying to understand what it feels like to be a woman with ADHD. If I wanted to go on I could, but that would be overkill.
About the author: Elizabeth Lewis is a freelance writer, wife, mother, and self-appointed CEO of her home. Liz founded A Dose of Healthy Distraction, a website and a private Facebook group to provide a realistic yet positive face to living with ADHD. She also runs the ADHD Coaching Corner, a low-cost online support and coaching group.
Neurotypical – Definition from The Urban Dictionary – Neurotypical is a word used to describe a person who has a typical brain. This not only includes non-autistic people but also people without mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities or any other neurological illness or disorder such as ADHD, epilepsy or brain tumors. It is the opposite of neurodivergent. – Harvested 7/14/2017 urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Neurotypical