Help from people like you
The first step to living a happier and more fulfilled life with adult ADHD is to understand the neurology of your complex “disorder” better, initially in general academic terms and then more importantly to understand how these differences in brain chemistry and genetics impact your life specifically.
To make the changes we so want to make in our lives, we need to understand the whys: why we do what we do, why we often don’t do; why we struggle with the trivial, why we sometimes succeed effortlessly with the impossible and why we are different. Considerably more different than doctors suggest.
Often the first steps taken to reach some understanding are quite obvious: read some books, explore the Internet and perhaps discuss ADHD with a GP or psychiatrist. You will read or hear about problems with hyperactivity, planning, organisation, focus, distraction and impulsivity.
You will be advised to seek diagnosis, to take medications, to make lifestyle improvements and to cover your fridge with planners and post-it notes! There may be advice about therapy, mindfulness meditation, CBT and coaching. Sometimes there may be a suggestion to find a support group, but little emphasis is placed this.
Many experts don’t really “get” ADHD
The world has many ADHD experts and professionals, defining and documenting the “disorder” of ADHD. I recently watched a video of one, at a well attended American ADHD conference, discussing the current scientific understanding and neurological basis of the ADHD. He clearly discussed problems with frontal lobes, inattention, inhibition, memory, motivation and emotions. It was an excellent presentation about shortfalls, problems, disappointment and disorder.
Like many medical ADHD experts, he was accurate and informative, but not at all insightful.
Medicine has little to say about the many subtle different ways we act and think:
- not wanting to be part of the herd
- not quite at ease with authority
- always questioning the status quo
- unable to deny or avoid seeing society’s “big issues” when others can
- the joy of dreamily being lost in a creative focus are not shared
- making decisions from our very inter-connected minds, when others only see a simple choice
- a constant love of novelty and fear of boredom
- skill and pleasure in conversation and humour
These and many more differences profoundly shape our personalities, life choices and life outcomes. They do not fall in the medical domain but are nonetheless critical to grasp.
The experts are ADHD themselves
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 “neuro-typicals”. 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 out and meet other people with ADHD in person or on-line
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…