If you are an ADHD adult beaten numb by the challenges of your condition, you could be in the same rut I was in a few years ago. Every morning you suck it up, get out of bed, and take your meds. And even though you’ve long ago given up on anything changing for the better, you forge through another day. By the end of the day, you’re pretty edgy. But you keep your teeth clenched until you get back under the covers where you know you belong.
One day, you let go of the wheel. You’re not surprised or upset when you forget conferences, classes, papers, purpose, people, or their stupid birthdays. You still smile at barbs about how you lose your train of thought, stammer, and fiddle with paperclips during meetings. With your knee jerking up and down under the table, you swear you won’t miss another deadline, but you know you will. Later, you stare out the window, caught in another daydream, a last-ditch stab at holding on to a sliver of focus. Then you feel your supervisor’s hand on your shoulder.
“Hello? Calling spaceman,” he says, laughing. And kablooey, you go crazy and dump all your pent-up disgust on him.
But so what? Your gear is already packed to move on to the next job, the next friend, the next whatever. You’re home, on the bed, shoes off, with pizza and Netflix. It’s like that stages of grief thing; you’re at the final stage — acceptance. Wait, what time is it? You’re late picking up your daughter Coco from school. She’s new at high school and, being heavy-duty ADHD, like you, she gets anxious waiting. You’d better zoom. Just as you grab the keys, Coco bursts through the front door and heads up the stairs. A minute later your wife steps in, and says, “Better go talk to her, she’s pretty upset.”
You find Coco curled up on her bed, crying. You apologize for forgetting to pick her up. But that’s not it. It’s school, she wants to quit. As she cries, you hug her. She’s in crisis, getting her first glimpse of life as an adult with ADHD. But how can you, of all people, help her?
First, you have to admit you were wrong. But you were right about one thing; there are a ton of people in the world whose problems are worse than yours. One of them is right here in your arms. Are you going to tell her to give up, too? I don’t think so. So you decide to grab the wheel and try again. If you take the daunting challenges of adult ADHD seriously, she might just lift her head up and join in.
Coco and I talked for a long time that evening. And through her time in high school, we kept talking about the challenges we each faced. We talked about tools to deal with them. We developed some ways to keep us aware and positive when ADHD challenges get in our way. The tools we designed have helped me feel less overwhelmed and more in control of my life. So in that spirit, here’s my survival guide. Please change compartments and tools around to fit your own needs, and make your own survive-and-thrive guide.