In the search for balance, an important starting point is to look at how you are made, who you are at your core. If you search through my blogs or look at my house (especially my bedroom), if you are my close friend or co-worker, or if you travel with me or come play with me at Disneyland, you will get a pretty good feel for how I live my life – a combination of scattered chaos and intense hyper-focus.
This is the life of an adult with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
I have two blogs (because apparently one isn’t enough). One blog is on hospice care. It was well received and well read. It is the area in which I am an expert. I haven’t posted since July. My personal blog is all over the place. I started writing about an amazing road trip that I took with my husband this summer. (I promise, that report is still coming!) but I got sidelined with some personal crises and my writing took a different turn – my search for balance. My house is messy but not dirty, cluttered but not hoarder-like (not yet), and there are piles to be sorted and unfinished projects in every corner. Some have been there for years. If you are my friend, you know that I love intensely and try to be purposeful in my relationships. But you also know that my brain is going a million miles and hour, and it may feel like you don’t have my full attention. If you are my co-worker, you may wonder what in the heck I’m talking about, since at work I can appear organized and very detail oriented. And I usually am – you just don’t always see the chaos underneath. If you travel with me you know that I am a maniac road tripper or Disneyland addict. When not on vacation, I would rather sleep in or watch tv in my pajamas all day. But when I’m on vacation, I have a schedule, a detailed plan. I get to the hotel and put each item in my suitcase away in a drawer or on the counter. I’m up at the crack of dawn and I have a plan for the day – I don’t want to miss any fun! This intense energy can also lead to an overload, especially if I am at my second home, Disneyland, where there is so much to see and do, so many friends to laugh with – that I can end up overloaded and then need to withdraw. I could go on and on with examples. Until something shiny distracts me.
Let me say from the beginning that I hate that label. Rather than respecting that we are just wired differently, the use of the term disorder implies that we are wired INCORRECTLY. It says, “There is something wrong with you.”
If you are in the ‘club’ – the adults with ADHD club – you have heard this all of your life.
Stop that – why care you doing that? – sit still – stop talking – think about what you are doing – how could you forget that? – you lost your (homework, lunch money, sunglasses, car keys) again? – pick up you stuff – close the cupboard – quit fidgeting – why are you so messy – can’t you get it together?
We hear from every direction that what we are doing is wrong, that we don’t fit into the norm, that we are broken.
I prefer the perspective of Dr. William Dodson in his article Secrets of the ADHD Brain. He proposes that rather than a disorder, the ADHD nervous system is simply “a unique and special creation that regulates attention and emotions in different ways than the nervous system in those without the condition.” It’s a good read, and I’m sure I will write more about that perspective later.
Many people have misconceptions about people, especially adults, with ADHD. If you come real close, I will tell you three important things that you may not know about us.
1. It’s not that we can’t pay attention. It’s that we pay too much attention to everything, including things that don’t matter. There is no consistency in our attention. We usually have four or five things going on in our mind at once, and it there is no structure to prioritize, we go with whatever is in our face the most, or whatever is the most interesting, or whatever is the most convenient. And from there we rabbit-trail into four or five different things, forgetting what we were doing in the first place. It’s like if your mind had a gate, and a swinging gate that opens and shuts, with a latch to keep it locked at times. It can let things in or keep things out. You can choose to open it or shut it. You can let one thing in at a time if you wish. Most people have a gate – I have a revolving door that just keeps spinning.
2. We have a super power. It’s called hyper-focus. Usually a couple of times a day, on a good day, we get in the zone, and have the ability to intensely focus on a task or project or idea. Our creativity flies, our attention to detail is impeccable, our efficiency in magnified and we can get more done in an hour than we have in the past month. However, I find that this is rarely under my control. I can’t summon up my super power on a whim. When my meds are working or if I have some extra caffeine, it might help. MIGHT. It’s like a surfer waiting for a good wave – you can’t make it happen, you may or may not be able to see it coming, and you just have to be ready to make the best of it and paddle hard into it or you’ll miss it entirely. The key is learning to use my powers for good rather than evil. It’s the difference between organizing a project and meeting a deadline and spending from midnight to 3am searching for my second grade boyfriend on the internet.
3. We are not broken. Contrary to what I have heard all my life, I am not broken. Did you hear me? YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. Yes, we can be scattered, and yes, we can be a little intense at times. But we were knit together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) just as we were intended. We are wired differently. Different does not equal wrong. We love intensely, we are never boring, and we often use our difficulties and frustrations as a catalyst for growth and change. We have to, or we would drive everyone, including ourselves, crazy! It can sometimes be difficult to be in a relationship with someone with ADHD. (God bless my sainted husband). We rarely prioritize things internally as to importance, and we are often are not motivated by rewards. Our brains just don’t work that way. To me, most tasks seem to have the same amount of non-importance, the same amount of BORING. Even consequences or punishments don’t motivate us that much. What motivates us is if something is interesting, exciting, or urgent. And that can be challenging. Especially for the parents of ADHD children. We are creative and often come up with very unique tools for dealing with the internal chaos. To-do lists, journaling, physical activity, relaxation techniques like deep breathing and yoga can be helpful. Difficult, unique, intense, chaotic – yes, but
YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. Work on the rough edges, and embrace the rest. You are a fractal – a composite of beautiful chaotic order. You are unique. You are enough.