I was first diagnosed almost 50 years ago, way before it was called ADHD. Here are some of the things I have learned along the way.
The Lessons of ADHD-C
Imposter syndrome is one of my greatest challenges. It’s a daily battle to convince myself that I’m not a complete fraud, but I still put myself out there every day and you can, too.
There are countless combinations of symptoms, so just because someone doesn’t have your particular flavor of ADHD does not make them any less authentic. (See #1)
Know your flavor of ADHD. For example, I also have at least two specific learning disabilities, dyscalculia, and I’m also dealing with some nasty clinical depression. (Which is not in full remission because of TMS!)
If you can, build a team of support. I have a great new therapist and an excellent psychiatrist. I realize that not everyone has the means to do this, but reach out to organizations that may help you get the support you deserve.
The secret to success is mastery of coping skills, NOT mastery of ADHD. That shit is never going away, but it can be tamed.
Keep a Coping Skills Journal on your phone where you list all the skills you learn and reread them when you have downtime. I have forgotten way more of these tricks than I remember, and it’s because I didn’t keep track. No, those scraps of paper will not help you remember all this stuff… they just end up in piles.
Speaking of piles, accept them. I spent 25 years freaking out over those piles until my wife (she’s amazing!) taught me to accept who I am and work within the framework of that knowledge. The piles will never go away, but you can learn Tricks To help make them manageable.
Learn to love reading. Many of us tend to hyper-focus on things and it’s often video games. I put thousands of hours into online games before I came to my senses. Six years ago I started my first novel in the time I would have spent playing WoW. That changed my understanding of time. I switched from gaming to reading (and then writing) and I have learned so much. Now I have a cool set of skills and not just some tricked-out avatar.
Blow off steam. Run, work out, hike, whatever, but do something that makes you move. It’s a big part of dealing with this. My wife has been pushing this lifestyle change for 30 years and I’m just taking it seriously. It’s never too late to start.
If you use meds, use them. Take them on a schedule and set timers. We must treat this holistically, and pharmacology is part of that. If you don’t go the meds route, then establish a pattern and follow it every day. I have about 7 timers set to help me get from A to Z each day.
There is so much new research on ways to treat ADHD, get current!
Holistic means treating the whole body. Eat right, no. I know how wonderful it is to sugar out, but we need to maintain as much balance as we can. Diet and exercise are important parts of that balance. That whole reading thing comes in handy here.
Know your role. In every group of friends, there is a place for the hyper one. Stop fighting it and embrace it. Just be yourself. That’s the key.
You are not perfect and will never be perfect. The Sooner you accept that, the better, remember… Some people may seem perfect, but nobody is.
Nobody else is perfect. Everyone has their flaws. As soon as you understand that, you can shed all kinds of stress.
Instagram is NOT real life! There are some great ADHD accounts, but they are not you. Do your own thing.
Some assholes will not like you. Why? Because some people are just assholes. Stop trying to make people like you and just be you.
If someone has been a certain way for as long as you have known them, then don’t get mad when they act in character. You will never change the way people are and you will save everyone a lot of stress and drama by not trying.
ADHD gives you power (I realize this sounds a lot like “gifts” but they are not the same thing!) that other people do not have and will not understand. Learn what your particular ADHD powers are and hone them. I teach and I can hear things I should not hear. When the mood of the room changes, I can sense it before the kids know. I am hypersensitive to touch, sound, temp, airflow, and movement. It’s so much fun to use that. Just don’t touch me, expect me to wear itchy clothes, or not keep headphones and earplugs handy.
There are things about having ADHD that neurotypical folks will never understand. Things like increased sensitivity to light, Cold, heat, touch, tags in shirts, the texture of food, too much noise, not enough noise, walking, sitting still, the constant need to fidget, saying “what?” in the middle of a conversation, blinking in and out of whatever is happening around you at the moment, losing stuff, forgetting to eat for a whole day and still not being hungry, the list is LONG. Understanding that this is just part of the package of ADHD was a big step for me and those around me.
So much has changed in the world of ADHD over the past 50 years. There are now over 400.000 peer-reviewed papers out there about us. Read and learn all you can.
There are some amazing podcasts out there that are perfect for our community. Ologies, Rich Roll Podcast, and Huberman Lab, How To ADHD, just to name a few that come to mind.
Fidgets are your friend. I have at least 25 on my desk and carry them everywhere.
This one may be the most important of them all. Beware the gatekeepers of ADHD. There are folks who insist that there is a right and a wrong way to navigate ADHD. Guess what? They are just wrong. What works for you works for you. Meds? Great, no meds? Great. It's up to you to chart your own course.
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