ADHD often gets a bad rap. It is very complex and there are many feelings around it, as well as the facts. What if we were to shift our mindset, ditch the feelings and look at it as simply a label? Knowing you have ADHD can help you understand yourself. It is an explanation, and as such, it can support us in creating our best lives. Putting the feelings around ADHD aside, let’s look at the ADHD Journey…
In the first phase of the ADHD journey, you don’t even realize that you have it. You are just living your life, to the best of your ability. Perhaps you are wondering why you feel different from others and you may feel frustrated when you notice that those around you seem to have an easier time in school/work or with maintaining relationships.
Beginning in early childhood, kids who have ADHD receive many more negative messages than those who do not. They are often told they are hyper, lazy, chatty, forgetful, spacey. A common message is that they don’t meet their potential. They hear the words “no” or “stop that” frequently throughout the day.
Even at a young age, kids come up with coping mechanisms that help them to get through the day. Folders and reminder lists can support organization so that assignments are completed and turned in on time. Sports or hobbies lead to friendships and may help to calm an active mind and body.
Despite the ways in which kids learn to cope, school and friendships often remain difficult. Growing older, they may feel broken, left out and unloved. Living with ADHD as an adult can be better because you get to choose your career and no longer have to work on something that is boring and uninteresting. However, it may also be worse as you balance living on your own with a job and a household to manage.
Somewhere along life’s journey, most people start to learn more about themselves. It may be a deliberate effort to read, watch and learn new strategies to support success or you may haphazardly discover systems that make your life easier. Sometimes a loved one, friend or teacher may make a suggestion that impacts your life for the better!
In the early stages of the learning phase, it may be a bit of trial and error. You may unknowingly discover that a certain type of planner works best for you as you try out the different options. People stumble across meditation or yoga and realize it benefits them. Others find apps that can keep them focused, on time and organized. You instinctively keep what works, and ditch the rest!
For many people, they find what works and they may never even know (or need to know) they actually have ADHD.
Others may purposely begin down a path of self discovery. Some people may seek out medical advice and a diagnosis. Others may research, read articles or watch videos to learn more about ADHD. ADHD is complex and as you learn more, you will likely identify which aspects you can and cannot relate to.
The learning phase may continue for the rest of your life… discovering new information, trying out new ideas, identifying new strategies. However, I believe that in order to live your best life, you need to move to phase three, loving yourself.
ADHD is a label. It is not who you are and it is not a bad thing. Knowing you have ADHD can help you make sense of yourself in much the same way as taking a personality assessment. Ditch the feelings and negative connotations of having ADHD and use it as tool for understanding yourself. Phase three is all about embracing your ADHD!
In all the learning that you did in the previous phase, you likely came across the many strengths of ADHD. Creativity, resilience, inventive, entertaining, adaptable, authentic, passionate, smart, resourceful… there are many positives of ADHD! Many people think that having ADHD is a gift!
So what do you do when the icky side of ADHD shows up in your life? People who love themselves still get frustrated, they still forget things and they have bad days. However, they don’t let these things define them.
Embracing your ADHD requires a bit of a mindset shift. After a bad day, acknowledge it, recognize it as a part of being human, and be kind to yourself. Then, remember that for as many ways in which ADHD may bring you down, there are as many (maybe more) ways in which it lifts you up!
Identify the ADHD traits that make you unique. Implement the strategies that lead to your success. Own your power! Embrace ADHD and love yourself.