My recipe for a happier life is for you to “Understand, Accept and Embrace your ADHD”.
Understand your ADHD
So the first step to living a happier and more fulfilled life with ADHD is to understand it better. To understand ADHD we have to learn a lot:
- The biochemistry – the differences in ADHD neurology from focus, to memory and compliance
- The genetics – with high heritability the implications for parents/children, and sociability in friends too
- The pharmacology – effective medication use demands research
- The symptomology – understanding ADHD symptoms is critical for self and medical diagnosis
- The strategies – a plethora of advice, some of it effective…
Gaining knowledge here is quite straightforward: read some books, browse the web, talk with a GP, hopefully then with a psychiatrist. You will read and hear a lot about problems with hyperactivity, planning, organisation, focus, distraction and impulsivity. Advice is to seek diagnosis, take medications, do therapy/CBT, practice mindfulness/meditations, make healthy lifestyle changes and to post-it your fridge. As someone who asks questions for a living, I see the value of asking and answering the right questions. Since we’re ADHD, we like to get to the root/core of things too. But with all this expert help we are still none the wiser about why WE do what we do. Specifically for you what are the factors that lead to your procrastination or disorganisation. The general explanations and categorisations of ADHD help but we then need to focus on one person, ourselves, why do we do what we do?
Why do we do what we do?
So we have to apply this often quite general and technical knowledge about ADHD to ourselves and our lives but this can be a painful exercise as we begin to see our evident ADHD everywhere we turn. It’s also quite hard to internally reflect and review. It isn’t easy to turn the lens on yourself and to still see clearly. However to make any kind of sustainable change in our lives, we need to understand ourselves better:
- why we do what we do
- why we often don’t do what we want to do
- why we struggle with the trivial yet succeed with the impossible
- why we avoid and distract
- why we fail to plan and plan to fail
- why we react and respond differently to others
The medical experts can’t help
The world has many ADHD experts and professionals, defining and documenting the “disorder” of ADHD, often very accurate and informative, but not insightful. Medical experts research disease and disorder, not personality, they have no interest or reward in understanding the many subtle different ways we act and think differently:
- not wanting to be part of any herd
- the desire to challenge the status quo
- seeing problems where others can’t
- the joy hyperfocus
- ill at ease with authority
- complexity in making decisions in our highly interconnected thinking
- the constant drive for novelty and fear of boredom
- the love of spontaneity
These differences profoundly shape our personalities, life choices and life outcomes yet find little exploration in conventional advice. The one group of people however who do have profound insights into the “why” of ADHD, are other people with ADHD.
The best experts are ADHD themselves
They have learnt for decades about their own ADHD and how it affects them. They know only too well of their personal troubles and strengths. They most likely have cracked some but not all of the worst issues. They have insight into the experience of being ADHD. It only takes a two minute conversation with another adult with ADHD to appreciate their insight, experience and strategies. In moments you can relate to aspects of their personality whether problems in tearing themselves away from Facebook or an inability to cook while someone else is talking. The easiest shortcut to understanding your ADHD is to speak with someone else with ADHD and to share your experiences. Nothing else comes close.
We are all experts in own ADHD, we have been living it all our lives.
If you share stories, thoughts, beliefs, problems, solutions, ways of thinking and of being with each other – you quickly see the overlaps and similarities and realise the profound differences from neurotypicals. You will see both positive and negative traits, sometimes a little painfully(!), as if reflected in a mirror.
Other adults with ADHD can offer you true empathy, insight and acceptance because they have experienced the same problems and have some of the same alternative views that you do, no one else will find the phrase “just do it” as uniquely offensive as someone else with ADHD, no matter how hard they try!
Get help from other people with ADHD
My advice, as a fellow ADDer, is to visit ADHD Support Groups, conferences, read books by ADHD authors and find an ADHD Coach who is ADHD themselves. Fellow adults with ADHD may not be the best placed to share their experience of perfect planning and time-management systems but they will have considerably better perspectives of what it actually means to be ADHD (the good, the bad and the ugly!) and will be best placed to help you find real-world solutions that actually might just work…