A couple days ago, I tweeted about ADHD. I do that kind of often, because I was only recently diagnosed. That doesn’t mean I recently “developed” ADHD, that’s not how it works. It means that a condition I’ve had my whole life was diagnosed after a long (and expensive) battery of tests and interviews.
There are people who think ADHD isn’t really a thing, or that it’s just laziness, addiction, technology-overload, or lack of exercise. But while some or all of those things might be intertwined with ADHD, at the very least it explains why some people are more prone to those eventualities. And while a *cause* for poor behavior and/or performance isn’t an *excuse* for it — having a frame of reference for why a person behaves the way they do is foundational to building the skills required to live a productive and fulfilling life.
No one would suggest a blind person keep getting stronger and stronger glasses, or brighter and brighter lights. That’s silly. But if someone has ADHD, it’s just as silly for them to just “buckle down and focus”, because it’s not willpower they lack, but the executive function to manage tasks in a traditional way. When I referred to myself as “kind of a loser” — it wasn’t me trash talking myself. (I do that sometimes, I know, but this wasn’t that) It was me recognizing that while an ADHD diagnosis is earth-shatteringly beneficial to how I do life, it doesn’t fix 46 years of poor coping overnight.
I’ve had a really good paying job for most of the past 10 years or so. And yet, we’re in massive, almost unsurmountable debt. Realizing that folks with ADHD are often terrible with finances for a multitude of reasons explains some of that, and gives us some insight on how we might effectively change how we do things in the future. But it doesn’t get rid of the debt. That’s sort of what I was getting at with my tweet.
I have a terrible time staying on task when it comes to work. I shine when things go sideways, which makes me very effective during disastrous situations — but I struggle horribly on a normal day. Knowing that I have ADHD helps me realize that I’m not a garbage human being, but it doesn’t automatically train me to deal with my shortcomings. That will take time, and it won’t be easy or quick. And even when I do develop tools and strategies to rely on my strengths while protecting my weaknesses, I’ll still fail. Maybe just not as often. Eventually.
So while I’ve managed to get some really great jobs, I’ve also managed to make some really terrible choices. Now I see those choices for what they were — poor choices, but also uninformed poor choices. As I learn to drive this crazy non-typical brain properly, hopefully my future choices will be a little less destructive.
It’s amazing the amount of success I’ve had in my life. And I like many aspects of who I am. But undoing 46 years of collateral damage and unlearning a lifetime of dysfunctional coping strategies is a lot. So I tend to shout at the clouds a bit, like in the tweet above.
My catch phrase is directed at myself at least as much as it’s meant for others. Learn everything, do what you love, and most importantly, be kind. That last part includes being kind to yourself.