Years ago, when I was still a fledgling therapist, I took a training course in Solution Focused Therapy. At the time, the idea of shifting the focus from a client`s problems onto potential solutions was still a novel one, where I was working anyway.
The idea of it excited me. Suddenly, there was a way to move past “therapeutic drudgery”. Instead of getting stuck, analyzing and scrutinizing past and present maladies, we could start looking for a brighter future, by imagining ways it could be created. The imagining of a better future, and all its intricate parts, was part of the process in actually creating it.
The key therapeutic prose used to invite a shift in our clients’ perspectives was deceivingly simple, yet so very complicated for many clients to get their heads around and answer. It went something like this:
“Let’s pretend I had a magic wand, and with one wave of it, I could make all these troubles go away for you, tonight as you sleep. When you wake up in the morning – what would be different? What’s the first thing you would notice? What exactly would it look like – for everything to be better in your life?”
Pretty straightforward question, albeit fantastical. Not that difficult to answer if one allowed themselves to keep in mind the operative words – “pretend” and “magic”.
But it was difficult. People struggled to imagine a better future, even when given the permission to fantasize about ANY possibilities, free from the constraint of present-moment “realities” or “likelihoods”. They were invited to think without the restraints of logic, reason, and data comparison. But the past and present they knew to be true always influenced their expectations of the future, even when “magic” was invited into the equation.
This phenomena wasn’t unique to my clients – it’s a human condition. We all view our future from our own frame of reference, guided by our past experiences.
I was not immune to this.
If I had asked myself that very same question at the time, I would have imagined myself in a life being free from this thing called ADHD, though I didn’t recognize it as such at the time. I could have imagined it – but wouldn’t have believed it possible. And so I likely would have concocted some other more “realistic expectation”, like hoping to be more organized or focused. Or less focused, on rumination anyway.
That me would have never imagined being exactly the same person I was (am), only happier and … doing ADHD better.
Yes – doing ADHD better.
Another common human mindset is one of dichotomy, black and white. That’s the kind of thinking that leads us to believe something is either all good or all bad. It is or it isn’t. It is here or its gone.
That kind of thinking would never allow me to believe that ADD could stay, and be okay. Maybe even be good.
I was diagnosed later in life. Late enough to know that there was no miraculous pill or treatment that would take ADHD away altogether. Late enough to accept that it was a part of me, and that no matter what I thought about it – it played a part in shaping who I am.
Yet early enough in life to know that there was still time to change the way I lived with it.
The most difficult concept for us ADDers to get our heads around, is knowing what, in our lives, is ADHD – and what isn’t. Which part of how we are built, how we think and feel, how we act – is due our brain chemistry? And which part of us, our being, is simply our personality?
Does it really matter?
I know, as I hope you do, that ADHD is only part of me, not the whole. It does not encapsulate who I am as a person, anymore that my physicality could be summed up by a description of my legs. It is there, but it’s not me.
At the same time, in my heart, I believe that I could not be me (the person that I know right now), without ADHD. The same part of me that does not sum me up, is still a key component of that sum. The whole is a sum of the parts – and so much more.
The magic that has happened in real life, all these years later, is a new opinion of myself. It didn’t happen with the wave of a wand. It happened with hard work, experience, a lot of soul searching and circumstances that cajoled me to get outside of my own perspective.
That’s when I decided to take control, own that part of myself. I didn’t have ADD. It had me, and it was lucky to have me. Because I could turn it around and make it work. I could be an ambassador of ADD, or at least try damn hard.
When I let go of the black and white thinking, I allowed in more magical possibilities. ADHD is not gone. But it works a lot better for me. And I can see clearly that it has brought some benefits to my life, despite its challenges. Those benefits I have deemed to be valuable enough, I could never wish ADD away just to get rid of the challenges. I could not throw the baby out with the bath water.
This is my frame of reference, after many years of working hard to change it. I don’t propose that you should instantaneously agree with my perspective, or ever. Your perspective is your own, as unique to you as your own path in life.
What I do propose is this fact: ADD, though not all of you, is part of you. It cannot be separated from you, and it will never go away completely.
You can learn to live with it, manage it better. You can learn to do ADD better. And if you are having a hard time doing that right now, perhaps a shift in perspective may be the key to moving forward.