Mindset

10 Things I Want My Kids to Know About Life With ADHD

Lately, my 7-year-old has been asking me about ADHD. I’m glad, of course. It means she’s interested in my work and what I spend my free time writing about. It’s quite an honor actually, that my daughter would want to know more about something that is so important to me.

No one has suggested that either of my kids have ADHD. That doesn’t mean I don’t see traits in them. But those traits do not seem to be impairing them in a major way… so far. I count that as a blessing, and in turn, parent them to the best of my ability, aspiring to be someone who teaches them how to get the best out of themselves.

But if my kids were to be diagnosed, there are a few things I would want them to know about life with ADHD. I am certain that knowing these things could change their lives forever, and maybe yours too.

 

1. You are Not Your Diagnosis

Having ADHD means your brain is wired a bit different. Being diagnosed with ADHD is only an explanation of that wiring. It doesn’t explain who you are. You are so much more than a diagnosis. Let ADD be a part of you, but don’t ever think it is who you are.

 

2. It’s good to Be Different, but Normal to Want to Be the Same

Nobody wants to be different, least of all kids. When you’re young, fitting in can feel like the most important thing in the world. It’s not. You may not fully realize this until you are much, much older. One day, you will realize that being different can also be an advantage in life. It’s never too early to start celebrating your uniqueness. Learn to feel good about living in your own skin. This step alone will make all the difference.

 

3. Sometimes You Must Harness Your Energy, But You Should Never Squash It.

Yes, sometimes you do have to sit still and hold back your impulses. This is a good skill to learn, as hard as it may be. But that doesn’t mean you should hold back on your passion, energy or enthusiasm. Sit still when you have to, but don’t let anyone put out that spark of yours.

 

4. It’s Okay to Be Misunderstood

It sucks to feel as if no one gets you. But I get you, and your father gets you. And all the people in our family and our close friends who love you – they all get you. We love you for who you are – strengths and flaws, just the same. People might not always follow your train of thought, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have valid thoughts and interesting ideas. It just means that not everybody thinks the same way.

 

5. Being Normal Is Not the Same as Being Right

Being tidy, punctual, organized and stoic are nice characteristics to have. Spontaneity, courageousness, creativity and passion are also great characteristics to possess. There is no one right way to be. Some people have an easier time with certain things than you do, but that does not make them right. Be who you are and own it. It’s your life and no one can tell you how you should live it.

 

6. ADHD Isn’t All Bad

ADHD can make some things more difficult, but it’s not all bad. There are some real strengths to having your brain-wiring, strengths like creativity, enthusiasm and passion. One day, you will have more control over your life – how you spend your time and what you do. If you focus on doing the things that you are strong at and the things that you love to do, ADHD may become your biggest asset.

 

7. Push Yourself, Just A Little Bit Harder And A Little Bit Farther, Than You Think You Can Go

ADD will make you want to give up the moment things get uncomfortable. Just like you, there are many things in my life that I gave up on as soon as they started to feel too hard. Go a little bit further than you think you can go. You will surprise yourself. You are not a prisoner of your ADHD-brain. You are in charge of it, and can train it to work better for you. It’s like weight-lifting. You will only build brain-muscle by making your mind work harder than it wants to.

 

8. You Are Completely Okay As You Are

I love you no matter what. If your hair remains messy or you eat with your hands, if you forget your homework or leave finger prints on my clothes, if you don’t listen or lose my phone – I love you. We all make mistakes. You are good enough because you are you, not because of what you do.

 

9. I Try Harder than You’ll Ever Know

I want to be a better mom than I am. Sometimes, I make a big deal out of things because I am trying to prevent you from having the same struggles I’ve had in life. When I tell you off for doing things, it’s not usually because I am mad at you. It’s because I am mad at me, for not doing a better job of teaching you. This is something every parent does, ADHD or not. Know that when I don’t do a great job of being your parent, it’s only because I am human. Every day I try harder to do better than I did the day before.

Something else you need to know: I see how hard you are trying too.

 

10. Almost Nothing Is Quite as Important As You Think It Is

Everything in life passes. The good times are short, but so are the bad times. Enjoy the ups with the downs. Life is meant to be lived. Don’t spend your time trying not to feel something. Spend your life embracing whatever you feel in the moment, good or bad. Your feelings are what let you know you are truly alive.

I don’t care if you get good grades or ever have a good job. I don’t care if you win at a sport or never even attempt one. I don’t care if you get married, stay single or run away with the circus! Just enjoy your life and whatever it throws at you. The point of life is not the pursuit of happiness. The point of life is to simply live it.

 

These are the 10-most-important things I would want my kids to know about life with ADHD? What do you want your kids to know?

Mindset

Even With a Magic Wand, I’d Keep My ADD. Here’s Why:

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.

Mindset

13 Interrogation Tactics for a Confidence Break-Through (and why you deserve it)

IF YOUR CONFIDENCE HAS EVER BEEN AT ROCK BOTTOM, THEN MAYBE IT IS TIME TO HOLD THAT SELF-DOUBT ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHAT IT DOES TO YOUR LIFE…

The room is dark and damp, the lights are bright and oppressive. Self-loathing is in the interrogation room, charged with the crime of ruining your life. It says:

I don’t deserve to feel good about myself.

I have had so many failures and made so many mistakes, there is nothing in my life to feel good about. No matter how hard I try, I let people down. I let myself down. There is nothing about me to feel confident about. I don’t deserve it. I’m not good enough. 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am i to be brilliant,

Gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

 

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

 

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously

Give other people the permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

Our presence automatically liberates others.” 

                                                                                                   

Says the good cop, quoting Marianne Williamson.

Nice try. Sweet, poetic, moving words but they didn’t break through to your self-loathing whose conviction in its righteousness is inpenetrable. It won’t budge, won’t confess its sins.

Enter the bad cop.

He has only one question for self-loathing and its kind of a rhetorical one at that.

 

“Who the hell do you think you are?”

 

You can tell by the tone he’s not looking for existential prose.

He’s stating a pivotal truth.

 

You don’t deserve to feel bad about yourself.

 

Your self-loathing doesn’t buy that. It has plenty of bonafide reasons to believe it has every right to be there. Failures from your past, experiences that shaped your lack of confidence and criticisms from important people whose opinions really mattered at the time.

But the bad cop doesn’t give up just yet. He’s got plenty of staying power, just like your self-defeat. He challenges you with these concepts:

 1. You are human.

We all make mistakes. Everyone knows that. Nowhere in the book of life does it indicate a cut off point which divides the worthy from the unworthy. Fifty mistakes and you’re a-okay, 75 and you’re a loser? Its not in the rule book – go ahead and check.

2. Your life is a miracle.

I don’t care what you believe about the origin of the universe and mankind, the fact that you are alive is a miracle. The plight that one single sperm goes through to force itself through the millions of others, through hazardous and hostile environmental conditions, to penetrate the egg and form the union that made you – is a miracle.

To loathe “that you” is pure irreverence to the majesty and miracle of life.

3. You’re not here for you. 

You weren’t born to serve only your own purpose. If that were the case, you would have manifested as a virus or a parasite. You are here to make a difference, no matter how small it may seem, to the world and the people in it. Confidence in your worth opens the door to making that difference in a bigger way. Self-doubt keeps you locked in the closet.

 

4. You’re wasting time.

I’ve got some terrible news for you – you’re dying.

Every day we live, we are all dying. Its not a reason to get depressed. Its a valid and paramount reason to not waste a single minute of this life. This life that we have already established is a complete miracle.

If being small and self-oppressive serves in any way to make the most of your life, then go ahead and keeping on despising yourself. But most of the time, self-reproach stops you from doing valid and important things with your life.

 5. Your critics are human too.

The voices who have influenced your low opinion of yourself belong to people who have a multitude of their own sins. Casting stones may be one way of protecting themselves but it doesn’t mean that they have chosen the best self-defense strategy. Psychological offence is not the best defense, its the best demise of everyone involved.

6. Your inner critic doesn’t know everything.

If you are so wrong about everything, if you are such a failure and incompetent – why would that inner voice who tells you so be given so much undoubted authority? If you are incompetent, then isn’t it possible that inner critic is also incompetent?

7. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Lack of self-worth is usually a rigid, over-generalized belief that serves to feed itself by focusing on all the mistakes you have made in your life and your perceived inadequacies. No one with a strong conviction sets out to prove themselves wrong. How this translates in real life is that you never notice, or very frequently overlook or discount anything you have done that proves your worth and capability.

Self-doubt is a bias, a prejudice.

8. You aren’t omnipresent.

There is nothing about you that is always the same, all of the time. Its human nature to define the present and predict the future based on past experiences. But you are never exactly the same as you were the moment before. You are always capable of being different.

9. You aren’t omnipotent either.

You were designed to be flawed and make mistakes. Perfection is reserved for God, the Higher Power or Universe – however you choose to see it. Our flaws and mistakes are what challenge us to grow in spirit and determination. Which leads to the next point…

10. You’re stagnating.

You were made for growth and development. Hating yourself doesn’t help you grow. It keeps you oppressed.

11. You are in grave danger.

The voice of self-doubt usually grows as a protective mechanism to keep you from risking vulnerability and potential humiliation. What it also does is it exposes you to the risk of terminal disappointment. When you make it to 80+ years of age (God-willing) and you review the movie that was your life, you will rue all the things you never did or gave of yourself because you were filled with doubt.

You may also regret some lengths you went to in order to protect your fragile ego.

12. You’re setting a bad example.

If you are a member of any society (my apologies to cave-dwelling hermits who probably wouldn’t be reading this anyway), you are always influencing and affecting other people. Whether you mean to or not, feeling bad about yourself – to the extent that you don’t value who you are as being – says to others that there are particular standards that define worth. If those standards define you, they must define them.

Your self-reproach could inadvertently teach someone else to dislike themselves as well.

13. Your incapacitating humility is conceited and selfish.

Whoa, I can’t believe I really said that out loud.

Low blow, eh? I’m a bit nervous now, but let me explain. I have been locked in mental closet of rumination and self-reproach for many years, and now I am free I can say with experience I recognize its narcissism.

Worthlessness always has some roots in comparison. Its pretty conceited to think that your faults are so much worse than anyone else’s. Its arrogant to believe that the voice of self-doubt has more validity than any other possible opinion. Its selfish to hold yourself back from being your true self because of greed.

Greed? Yes, greed – indulging your own need for self-preservation while denying the world its right to benefit from the miracle of your unique contribution to it.

 

At the start of this series of gaining confidence as an ADDer, I told you I want to do everything I can to help you grow that confidence.

I didn’t say I was going to be nice about it.

If my hypothetical “bad cop” seemed a bit harsh, I can assure you that it wasn’t done sensationally or without good reason.

I know, intimately, what it is like to feel worthless and incompetent. I also know a lot about human psychology. Enough to know that the voice that feeds self-doubt is not kind or soothing. That voice is harsh, mean and just plain cruel.

That kind of voice does not respond to sweet and supportive words of encouragement like the beautiful sonnet from Marianne Williamson. It responds to a voice that lambastes it.

Fight fire with fire. So I have been cruel to be kind.

Please know this, as you finish reading this installment…

My “bad cop” was not talking to you. He was talking to the self-doubt that is interloping your psyche. If you want to start feeling more confident in yourself from this moment, the one thing you can do is make this differentiation.

That voice is not you. It’s just an opinion.

And opinions can be changed.

Growth

Two Rules to Becoming an Artist of ADD

 

The first rule in learning the Art of ADD is very simple, yet incredibly hard at the same time. The first rule requires a paradigm shift, accepting what is, in order to allow what’s possible.

Rule number one

Accept that you suck. Accept that no matter how hard you try, you will never be as good as you could be.

Harsh words maybe, but true nonetheless. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. In fact, you are so not alone that the whole world is in your sucky boat with you. No one will ever be as good as they could be. You could always be better. Apart from Jesus Christ and few sacred others, perfection is a commodity that won’t be accumulated by anyone in this lifetime.

So accept that you suck because we all do. Then get over it and move on.

Rule number two

Realize you can suck less, or be better than what you are now. How can you be a better version, or even the best possible version of yourself in this lifetime? Here’s where rule number two and one collide. You won’t, or can’t, be better than what you are right now until you accept the fact that you have ADD and that you may never be that ideal person you imagine in your head.

That person you imagine in your head doesn’t exist.

Welcome ADD

In accepting ADD, I don’t mean just accepting you have the diagnosis that goes by those call letters, or that you admit it to other people or even shout it to the world. It is more important for you to accept what having ADD means in your world. You aren’t built like other people. Your brain operates in an entirely different fashion, and you need to learn everything you can about yourself so that you can live life the way you were meant to live it.

What I really mean is, that instead of fighting ADD, you lean into it.

When someone accosts you by the arm and tries to hold you back, simply pulling your arm away will only work if your upper body is much stronger than their grip. But if you lean in, ever so slightly, you can get a better stance and leverage your stronger muscles and agility against the hold to set yourself free. If your brain wiring is holding you back, it’s possible that you might free yourself of your challenges using brute force and sheer might, but my guess is that the “try harder” model hasn’t worked so far.

Acceptance means you let ADD be there, knowing that ultimately, it’s not going to go away. Take a deep breath, let a sigh out, and say “you are welcome here” to your ADD. Then, start looking for ways you and ADD can live together ”happily ever after”. Okay, back to reality: nobody lives happy ever after, but we can certainly live “happier ever after” if we let ourselves be just who we are.

Don’t you think?