February is the month that we think about love as we celebrate Valentine’s Day. What if we were to give ourselves some of that love?
I have often joked that I must have a hole in my head as a person with ADHD. If truth be told, I might add that I have also felt at times as if I had a hole in my heart!
I overheard a conversation between a wonderful little girl I know and Santa this past December. When Santa asked if she had been a good girl this year, she said “no.” It hurt to hear this special, talented, and kind child respond in this way, because of how she viewed herself due to her struggle with ADHD-related challenges. The greatest side effect of ADHD is the loss of self-esteem!
Why do we feel like second-class citizens, unworthy and undeserving, as people with ADHD?
The Title of ADHD
Our shame may start with the disorder’s name. The title “Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder” is less than stellar. Who wants to identify with a disorder that has deficit in its title? According to psychiatrists Edward Hallowell and John Ratey, people with ADHD don’t have a deficit of attention, but rather a surplus of attention. The problem is controlling it. At its heart, ADHD is a disorder of self-regulation. Hallowell and Ratey are working to change the title to “Variable Attention Stimulus Trait,” or VAST.
We Define Ourselves by the Challenges we Face
We might believe that the disorder comprises our identity. It’s important to remember that you HAVE ADHD; you are NOT ADHD. Big difference! Yes, you have ADHD and it needs to be treated to have a good life, but it is not your sum and total. This is the disability perspective.
Someone once said to me: “You are so organized.” I thought to myself, “If they only knew!” Was I organized? Yes. Was it hard for me? Yes! Shouldn’t I get even more credit for doing something that was difficult?
The more we are on top of our ADHD, the better our life becomes. ADHD gets smaller and we get bigger. ADHD does not define us.
We Retain Negative Messages
Many of us have heard the same messages repeatedly as we struggled with the challenges associated with ADHD, especially in school: “Behave. Stop talking. Sit down. Sit still. Pay attention. Try harder!” to name just a few. One client was accused of not paying attention in class because he was making origami figures while the teacher was speaking. She called on him repeatedly, and each time he answered accurately because using his hands while listening helped him to focus. We know that fidgeting while sitting still increases neurotransmitters in much the same way as stimulant medications do. (“The Body-Brain Connection: How Fidgeting Sharpens Focus,” by Roland Rotz, Ph.D., and Sarah Wright)
The Lack of Knowledge about ADHD
We have often heard ignorant statements regarding the reality of ADHD, even though ADHD is one of the most researched areas in mental health. It is acknowledged by the Institute of Mental Health, American Psychological Association, and the Department of Education. (“Is ADHD Even Real: How to Respond to Haters and Naysayers,” by Deborah Carpenter.)
The Brain Doesn’t Have a Wheelchair
The struggles we face with ADHD are due to cognitive challenges that are not seen by the naked eye. If you were in a wheelchair or had a bandage on your arm you would receive sympathy and understanding. The cognitive impairments we experience are significant and impact everyday functioning. Just because others can’t see the front of your brain doesn’t mean that the impairment isn’t real. (“The Brain Doesn’t Have a Wheelchair”)
Lack of Knowing and Leveraging Strengths
What are you good at? The best advice for people with ADHD is to do what you are good at and hire out or get help for the rest. You never go wrong when you follow the strength trail.
There are several indicators of a strength. There is fast learning. You yearn to do it. It is easily acknowledged by others. You want to develop it. It is steady and consistent. It gives you confidence, and it brings you a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.
It is very important to acknowledge strengths as you tackle challenges. Strengths, in fact, can be leveraged against the challenges. Not everything is ADHD. We have distinctive preferences as individuals, based on our unique personalities.
A wonderful free assessment I like to do with all clients is the VIA Character Survey. It gives you your top 5 character strengths, which are not performance based. It is free at www.viacharacter.org.
Get Treatment: The Best is Yet to Come!
How does your ADHD get in the way? What exactly is the tool or strategy to manage it? The more dialed in you are, the more of the real you can show up. Having skills is empowering, as opposed to feeling out of control. You can do this!
People with ADHD have the biggest hearts in the world. Find a lovely red heart and put in somewhere in plain sight. Be your own Valentine, because the best Valentine is the one that you give yourself!
For partnership in building your personal toolbox, set up a free consultation.
“The crux of the ADHD journey has as much to do with letting go of the false beliefs you have about yourself as it does with adding tools and strategies.”
--“A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD,” by Sari Solden and Michelle Frank