My Wonderful ADHD ‘Turbo’ Brain

Your ADHD brain is like a turbo-charged car: fast, fun, and unpredictable. The challenge is learning to drive it in the right direction.

Ned Hallowell is a bestselling author of books about adult ADHD and how proper diagnosis and treatment can change your ADHD life for the better.

My ADHD brain cannot conform. It loves its own way too much.

I have never stopped loving attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

I have the condition, and I treat hundreds of people with it every year at my center in Massachusetts. In fact, you could say I have a love affair with ADHD. But I dislike the name “ADHD” and all that it implies.

Yes, I understand the convenience of calling it a “disorder” when it comes to obtaining accommodations, research funding, and insurance reimbursement. But indulge me for a moment as I stray from the DSM-IV. I would like to rename my brain Turbo.

I chose Turbo because having this condition means it perpetually operates in overdrive. It is also unpredictable! One minute, it gets me into trouble; the next, it sparks the best idea I’ve ever had. It speaks out of turn when it should hush up, when others wish it wouldn’t…even when it knows it shouldn’t.

My ADHD brain forgets. And it remembers just a minute or two too late. It often gets yelled at, or gets reprimanded, lectured, scorned, medicated, and even detonated! When it explodes, of course, there is a mess to clean up. Sometimes the owner of the Turbo brain lives from mess to mess.

My brain knows enthusiasm as few other brains do, but it also knows disappointment. It tries — oh, boy, does it ever try — but then it shows up at the wrong place on the wrong day, hat in hand, ready for another reprimand. My ADHD brain cannot conform. It loves its own way too much. It goes where enchantment leads it, and, once caught up in a mind-riff, it can’t say no — because it forgets where it is.

The reason I love my brain is the same reason I love anyone or anything that has to overcome great odds. The deck is stacked against it, especially in school. But I also love it because, at times, it can be marvelous. It has to persist, and not believe all the nasty things that get said about it, if it is to do well over the long haul.

Can it do well? Can it ever!

What do you need to do if you have a brain like mine, or if someone you love (or like or teach or care for) has such a blessed brain? You need to connect in as many positive ways as you can. You need to connect with a mentor who sees your hidden skills and talents — and who can draw them out of you. You need to find someone who gets such a kick out of you that they just can’t help but smile when you walk into the room, even if you have your pants on backward and you’re an hour and a half late.

You need to find a pet who loves you, and that you love back, in spite of messes. You need to have a hobby that you get lost in, like building auto engines; or a sport you’re awesome at, like wrestling; or a horn you like to blow.

You need to find a place where you can relax, a place where you connect to the vibes of whatever is true and good and fine in the life you live — and the life you hope to live. You need to connect to hope. You need to connect to love and to disconnect from all the nasties that nibble at you like gnats.

You need to give what’s best in you a chance to grow. You do this by finding the right gardener, who is out there. He or she is not always easy to find, as the right gardeners don’t turn up as often as one would hope. But when you find the right one — the one who sees you’re not a weed but a most unusual plant — then your hard work will turn you into the great tree you were meant to be.

Having a brain like mine can be hard. Having a brain — period — can be hard. But I wouldn’t trade my brain for the world. After all, it has given me my world — my loves, of many kinds — and even if it is not always there when I need it, it takes me where, without it, I could never go.



This article comes from the December/January 2008 issue of ADDitude.

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