Updated: Apr 15, 2019
It's been way too long since I've posted on this blog, and I'm pleased to say that it's for positive reasons. The growth of my coaching business and the launch of my public speaking events has meant that I've not been able to dedicate as much time to writing blog posts as in the past. I do hope to get back into the habit of writing regularly again soon though...
But for now, I'm excited to be posting this blog's first ever guest post!
Client A (she has requested to remain anonymous) is a lady in her fifties who was diagnosed with ADHD last year. I've been working with her for the past 4 months, helping her to understand her unique brain wiring, and to develop strategies for moving forward towards her identified goals.
Recently, she formed a writing group with two friends, in which each would write short essays on topics of their choice and then discuss them together over coffee.
At around the same time, after my client had been sharing something she'd recently learnt about ADHD, one of the other group members said "You think too much about your ADHD. Its time to move on and just live your life". It highlighted the fact that many of her friends and family clearly hadn't yet grasped how important and meaningful her ADHD diagnosis had been in her life.
This left her with a very easy decision about which topic to write about in her first essay... So she sat down with her coffee and iPad, and the words started to flow... This week she was kind enough to share her essay with me and I was utterly blown away by both the richness of the content and the sheer writing talent! I was certain that there must be a huge number of people with similar stories, who would enjoy and benefit from reading about her experiences. I immediately asked if she'd be willing to allow me to share her words on my blog... and I'm delighted to say she agreed!
Before you read the essay, I have ONE REQUEST! Please take a minute to leave a feedback comment at the end. My client will be reading the comments and I know it would mean a huge amount to her to read people's thoughts on her work. And it might just give her the boost she needs to keep on writing and turn this into a book! Thank you... Aron
Living With ADHD
So, for my first piece of writing, I wasn't expecting this to be the topic. It was only after our talk in the car, xxxx, when you suggested that I was thinking too much about my ADHD, that I found my mind flooded with thoughts that I wanted to share. Thoughts that have opened old wounds while, at the same time, promising to heal them. Finally, I feel like I am facing my demons.
Throughout my entire life, I have been plagued by one challenge after another and have never understood why. From day one, school was a disaster. I would sit in a classroom with thirty other children and feel confused. What were they hearing? What were they writing? What was I meant to be doing? Were directions given that I somehow missed? Why were the birds singing so loudly outside the classroom window? What time was it? Homework? What homework? Test? What test? No matter how much I tried and how many New Year resolutions I made, I couldn't get myself to open a book or to organize my notes. I couldn't wake up on time or study for a test. I barely remembered my teachers’ names or the subjects they taught.
My parents, in particular my father, were hard on me about my school work. My scientist father thought that I was lazy and had an “attitude problem”. He didn't understand why, at the age of (around) 8, I couldn't grasp that four nickels and three dimes had the same value as two quarters. I remember him sitting me down at the kitchen table with a pile of coins, moving them around and asking me over and over again, the sum of the coins. I kicked my legs, moaned, and struggled to get out of the chair as he got angrier and angrier at my “attitude”. What he didn't understand was that the canary was singing too loudly in it's cage and the dishwasher was on the rinse cycle. The strong winter wind was blowing the rain against the window, creating interesting shapes that melted as the water dripped down to the windowsill. The coins on the table all started to look alike. My mind didn't see their monetary values, only the wings of the eagle or the direction in which President Washington's eye was facing. What was he looking at? Who decided to mint the coins with only one of his eyes visible? Was his profile alluding to something specific? Was his neck really that long or was it exaggerated for a reason. If so, what was the reason? Why was the dime so thin and so much smaller and insignificant looking than even the penny? Why were they different colors? My father had walked away angrily, wondering if the teachers were right when they said that his daughter was a daydreamer who didn't live up to her potential. Either way, why was she being so stubborn?
Miraculously, I graduated high school with a Regents diploma. I have no idea how as I don't remember passing any tests. Then, university forced my hand. I had to open a book for the first time ever. I would “study” for an hour before each test and pray. Somehow, after taking a 2 year break in-between and switching schools and majors three times, I also made it through uni and found myself in possession of a BA. I still, to this day, have no idea how that happened. Perhaps praying is more beneficial than studying. I'll never know.
Although childhood accounts for less than a fifth of the average life span, it is the time when one's self confidence (or lack thereof) develops. Successes and failures determine how we feel about ourselves and I, for one, was no exception to the rule as my sense of self suffered. I was an academic failure and that was reinforced by my grades, teachers, and parents. Negative reinforcement was a constant, as one reprimand followed another. My siblings always seemed to receive positive reinforcement in the form of compliments as their grades excelled... xxxxx’s because she had a good memory and didn't need to study much and xxxxx's because she was organized and studied. Report cards for them resulted in ”Great job!” and “I'm so proud of you!”, while mine always resulted in “You would have done better if you had only put your mind to it and applied yourself!”. Exactly, “my mind”. Why was my mind always elsewhere and why couldn't I control it? Why couldn't I stay focused during conversations and follow what was being said? Why did background sounds always distract me and trick my mind into believing that they were more worthy of my attention than what was being said directly to me? Why was I always the “spacey” one in the group? And I mean every social group I've ever been a part of. Literally. The stigma follows me around like tape on a fly. For xx years I have been struggling with that title. The “spacey” one. The one who is “out of it”. If my self confidence didn't suffer enough as a child, my adult years that followed certainly didn't help.
Who suffers as a result of my inattentiveness, my lack of organization, and my “inability” (I hate that word!) to function according to the conventional concept of time? The obvious answer is me. Unfortunately, it also affects my husband as effective communication between us is hindered, as well as my children who, throughout their school years, had their share of late morning arrivals that were not always their own fault. It affects my friends with whom I make plans that involve time restraints, as well as details that were discussed. You guys, of all people, know that too well! The list goes on, but I think it's pretty clear that the person who suffers the most is myself, the one person who spends day-in and day-out struggling with and being reminded that ADHD is as much a part of my DNA as are my brown eyes and hair.
So, where am I going with this? Until last May, nowhere. I was living my life as always, having spent xx years acclimating to the pros and cons of ADHD (and there are pros, such as a laid back personality and heightened imagination) without ever even assigning it a name. I had lived undiagnosed officially for so long that, when it became official, it was actually a bizarre relief...an oxymoron if ever there was one! Finally, I was being told why I was the way I was and it wasn't because I was lazy, slow, rude, unintelligent, uninterested, or lacking motivation. It was because I, like millions of other people in the world (some in my own immediate family!), experienced my environment differently from the majority of the human population. I fell into an unconventional category, one that was never understood during my own childhood and younger adult years, but was thankfully (finally) finding its way into the mainstream consciousness. My diagnosis alone could not change anything about my life, but it certainly opened up a whole slew of possibilities that could - and would - affect my overall perception of self and how I, myself, could have a direct influence on how I decide to live the next decades of my life...possibilities that I never imagined before my diagnosis. Armed with this new information, I finally felt empowered.
The first active change I made after being diagnosed was to start taking Ritalin. The decision startled no one more than myself, as one of my own children had had a negative side effect from the drug and I had vowed to never consider its use again. But that was him and this was me, and I had xx years of curiosity accumulated inside of me. To quote my (future) ADHD coach, “This world was not created with us in mind” and I was determined to see if I could experience the world as the majority saw it, those lucky many for whom the world was created. The result was immediate and shocking! So many analogies and thoughts came to mind when I tried to describe to people what it felt like the first time I took the pill.
Like having foggy plastic wrap peeled off my eyes!
What I imagine it's like for a colorblind person seeing colors for the first time!
Wow, is THIS what everybody else sees, hears, and feels?!
Just to name a few.
I was amazed...and I wanted more. With the help of my doctor, we fine tuned the dose and type of Ritalin over a period of a few months, increasing and decreasing dosage and finally settling for a slow release version, Concerta, that would be effective for most of the day to help increase my focus while driving and working. I discovered how my attentiveness and timeliness were negatively influenced pre-Ritalin and how lucky I was to have never had a serious car accident or killed somebody. Lucky indeed. I feel blessed to have had this door opened and solutions offered to me before something tragic happened and there was no way to turn the clock back.
After being on Ritalin for a number of months, I realized that it was not enough to depend solely on drugs to help me function more effectively in a world whose rules I never quite understood to begin with. I needed more help. That help came in the guise of an ADHD coach. Through what feels like a combination of therapy and practical help suggestions, he has been helping me to recognize my own patterns of behavior brought on by my ADHD and to formulate systems to replace or compliment them that work for me as an individual. It is not assumed that what works for one, works for all. On the contrary, individuality is not seen as a red flag for failure, but rather, simply as a reason to work out a plan that has the best chance of helping an individual reach his or her personal goals as related to behavior, or simply just to feel more accomplished and fulfilled in his/her career, relationships, or home. We all have different visions of how we would like to see our lives unfold and, for me, ADHD coaching is a necessary complement to any drug therapy.
So xxxx and xxxxx , I'm guessing that by now you both understand why I decided to focus on (pun intended) ADHD as the subject of my first piece of writing to share with you. I felt the need to explain every relevant detail of my life in an attempt to successfully convey why it has been so important for me to allow myself this year of conscious reflection and self improvement. xxxx, you told me that I “just have too much time on my hands” and that if I was “busier”, I “wouldn't have time to dwell on these things”. But truthfully, I feel blessed that after xx years, I can permit my head to surface enough to consciously allow my new understanding of my ADHD to help me work towards making changes to better my life - through improved interpersonal communications, acknowledgement of my own accomplishments and worthiness, and most importantly, to finally understand and accept that there was never anything wrong with me… but rather with the world I was always expected to fit into it.