Do you wonder if you have Adult ADHD? This post is for you. Here is your opportunity to laugh, cry and be moved to take action.
Ever been stunned by something in a Facebook forum? Recently I read a post about an ADHD newsletter. The tag line was for those “Who have ADHD or ADHD tendencies.” That caught my attention, like just about everything else: ADHD tendencies?
If you have ADHD tendencies, you may not have a full blown diagnosis, but it can’t help to learn a little. I did and this post is the result of my trip around the world of ADHD.
The Unintended Irony of ADHD Websites
Looking around the ADHD newsletter, I immediately lost focus. The site was distraction heaven for me. It contained enough distraction to occupy an entire Saturday:
- Social media links
- Holiday giving ideas
- Go Daddy internet
- 20 links for related content. There were more, but I lost track when I saw the ad about the wine.
- An ad for wine… Really? I call that a stereotype: “You think you have ADHD, here take a drink of this, it may just calm you down”
- A search button for for ADHD professionals
- A newsletter sign up button
- A list of ADHD friendly careers
- Becoming an ADHD coach. I love the idea. Being strategically unfocused and getting paid for it.
- An ADHD self test. Like we really need that by now. If we can get through all of your distractions, we all feel like we have ADHD!
- 181 words of actual content – the post was thankfully short because by then I couldn’t be bothered.
The list is like my brain most days. I am calm on the outside, but inside my mind is playing ping-pong. I appear calm so that I don’t seem weird and so that people feel comfortable around me. I say that I am Yoda on the outside, Ninja on the inside. Damned true.
Maybe websites for ADHD could have just one or two buttons to press. It seems simple to me, because if someone is curious about ADHD, we don’t need the over stimulation.
A Fearless ADHD Inventory
Some distraction is normal and technology can make our inattention even worse. In the past, I brushed aside the possibility of ADHD because I tell myself, “I am just this way because of my age and my over-reliance on technology.”
Then I rationalize, “How can I have ADHD?” Most times, I can actually sit down and get things done so I must be okay. I conducted a fearless inventory of my attention and I encourage you to do the same thing. I realized two things that sobered me up:
- My desk at work, along with nearly every one of my personal spaces are a mess. I bring the mess with me wherever I go. I feel comfortable with mess. The corners of my home and my desk bear the remnants of leftover projects that began as excellent ideas, only to be discarded for the next one.
- My browsing habits. Most times when I work on a content development project (ie: writing an article, putting together a power point or writing something for work) I have seven to twenty-two windows open.
- I took a non-standardized online ADHD test and I have many of the symptoms. Want to know more about ADHD symptoms? Take this test. Then talk to your Doc.
I have signed up for a professional ADHD assessment. The kicker is that you agree to an assessment for your less-than-stellar attention, and they make you wait three months. That’s over three hundred thousand hours of waiting, three hundred thousand possibilities for distraction.
I call that clinical torture.
Webs of Distraction
Typically we think of ADHD as a set of visible symptoms. We notice the distractability, the messy desks, the unfinished projects, areas of vigilance and hyper-activity. But this is only part of the way that ADHD can impact a person.
ADHD can look different for different people. For some people it can be a struggle with focus due to external stimuli, like I mentioned above. For others, and I think that I fit into this one, their internal world is a Web of Distraction. They experience mental-ping pong from all of the thoughts and emotions running around their brains.
ADHD Emoticons: #Smiley face
We love our phones so much that we want them to have their own emotions. We call them emoticons, because it feels cool. We pretend that our phones are Transformers that like to tell us how they feel with little yellow emotion bubbles.
ADHD has it’s own emoticons. They look like internal flashes of emotional pop ups, both real and imagined. That’s what makes it all so confusing. Emotions are real, we all have them and they can be distracting. But the inner life of ADHD is like having the emotional radar turned to maximum sensitivity… all of the damned time and you can’t turn it off.
The emotional life of ADHD can make you and I oversensitive to emotions that are both real and perceived:
- Disapproval from others
- Tension and constantly feeling on edge, vigilance
- Irritations that can lead to quiet or rather loud verbal rage
- People pleasing as a way to avoid rejection; resulting in loss losing track of yourself and your goals
- Self-protection that may lead to judging or putting down others
For more, see ADHD Emotions by William Dodson, M.D.
8 Things You Can if ADHD Has Friended You
- Talk to the Professionals. Probably the most important thing to do is talk to your doctor. They will make a referral and will give you info. Reading through what they give you is another matter. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Do talk to others, but don’t take it too seriously. If you know someone with ADHD, talk to them but know that their experience with ADHD is unique and will look different in each person.
- Take care of yourself. Not knowing what is going on with your brain can result in some hard-core habits. Easily distractable brains love to over do it: food, alcohol, TV, exercise, activity, sex… anything that gets the brain to slow down a little. Go easy on yourself. Get help if you need it, not because you deserve it.
- Don’t suffer alone. We need people, therapists, groups or someplace where we can speak out loud about the stuff inside our heads.
- Find a place where you can let yourself go. I began this post with no no plan. That’s why I love writing. It is a wild place for me and posts like this one let my mind wander wild and free. Creativity is my free space. For you that space may be when you go outside, when you are doing sports or when you are at social gatherings. Know yourself and give yourself permission to do have a free space.
- Listen to music. It can be a powerful tool in your mental health toolkit. If you are interested, have a look at this excellent article Music May Be The Best Medicine for Your Mental Health.
- Develop a Never Do list: Make a list of things you will avoid. Again, go easy on yourself because you can be an easy target. Examples of things you and I should not do:
- Beat yourself up – also known as perfectionism
- Try to make other people happy – closely linked to #1
- Avoidance – creates more problems and stress because we can’t seem to get past anything. That’s probably because we are avoiding stuff
- Tunnel vision – having too narrow a focus can make us feel easily overwhelmed. Journalling can help with this, so will meditation. If you cannot bear to meditate, try music meditation.
- Not having a plan – it is a pain in the ass to plan, but you feel better after. Ask for help from people who are better at planning.
- Being involved in everything – a definite way to lose focus, energy, and follow through.
- Responding to everything or trying to respond to everything well
- Trying to resolve all your problems now
- Take a breaks from your breaks or from exercise
- Excuses – having ADHD or ADHD tendencies is not an excuse to avoid responsibility. Sorry, just isn’t. We all have stuff.
- Tolerate piles of mess everywhere – No wonder you feel overwhelmed. I get it…
- 100’s of ideas that float around – Get a simple notebook and have one at home, in your work bag and in your car. That way you don’t have to remember them. I do it and it helps to keep track of all of the ideas.
- Respond – I want to hear from you. Do you have ADHD and when did you learn about it? How are you coping as an adult?
Okay. I am exhausted. I need my coffee and my stuffed animal.
Keep it Real
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Photos by Bev Sykes and Birger King.