Life for ADDers can get better, easier, and happier by taking a new snapshot of our old, tired, inaccurate thoughts.
by Stacey Turis
Not too long ago, I was sitting at a table on the back patio watching the kids "play" in the backyard. Despite the peaceful surroundings, stress had formed a huge, prickly knot in my stomach, and I felt nothing but the usual ADHD chaos surrounding me. My senses were on fire, fight or flight had kicked in, and every five minutes or so I had to repress the urge to open my mouth and shriek, "STOP PLAYING OUTSIDE AND GO WATCH TV OR SOMETHING!"
The following day, I was at my neighbor's house. We were upstairs in her game room, which happens to overlook my backyard, when I heard the kids outside. I wandered to the window to see how my husband was going to handle the circus. As I watched, the kids began their normal routine. It didn't take long to realize something was missing. That feeling of chaos! No chaos? I don't understand! My husband was sitting at the same table, but instead of poking at his own eyeballs and repressing involuntary screams, he was sprawled out reading the paper, oblivious to the noise surrounding him. The kids looked less like a pack of wild hogs invading my sanctuary and more like a couple of rug rats having a good ol' time in their backyard on a summer day.
Perception is how we view the world around us. We have many different perceptions about many different things. We develop this perception in the first instance based on a lifetime of personal experiences and beliefs. Nobody perceives things the same way because we are drawing on personal information to generate the perception. Because our views and reactions are based on a single snapshot, taken without really thinking about it, sometimes it's good to get a re-take -- like when my face was blistered and peeling on picture day in ninth grade, thanks to the delayed effects of overusing a sunlamp.
>>Relationships. Knowing that our own backgrounds and experiences affect the way we view things, we can see why it's impossible to always agree with friends, family, and acquaintances. We've all heard the saying, "There are three sides to every story -- yours, mine, and the truth." The truth is the side of the story that hasn't been contaminated by individual perceptions. We don't have to agree with everyone's viewpoint, but acknowledging the fact that we don't see everything another sees can bring us a fresh dose of tolerance. Our battles with others become fewer and farther between.
>>Self-esteem. As a card-carrying member of the ADHD Club, it can be an uphill battle elevating my self-esteem. Negative reinforcement resulting from -- ahem -- quirks has taken a toll on my value of self. After a good mental once-over, I realized that most of my self-hate list resulted from a lack of executive function skills that, no matter how I cross my eyes, I will never have. I hate myself because I lose my phone? Sure, it's a pain in the ass, but does it constitute self-loathing and a cursed life? Do I need to burn my psyche at the stake because I procrastinate? I found that most of the reasons for disliking myself could be crossed off the list. In the end, I can only change what I can change -- and, in some matters, who gives a crap anyway?
>>Depression. The blues are always waiting around the corner for me. I never know when depression is going to jump out and throw a chloroform rag over my face. I used to live in fear of it. One of the many problems of living in fear is that it takes the "living" part out of the equation. The fact is I'll never have perfect mental health. Whether I'm living in fear of the next spiral downward or not, I'll know I will eventually get there. That's just how I roll. Why wait around for it?
There are a million instances in which ADDers can turn our gaze outward and change old perceptions. It's a matter of taking a more productive role in managing our thoughts. It requires the ability to do a self-check to see where we are mentally and emotionally at any given moment. Sure, it takes more time to interact with, instead of reacting to, our surroundings, but our new snapshots will reflect the changes we've begun to make internally. I can promise that those will be some beauties worth framing.
Stacey Turis is the author of Here's to Not Catching Our Hair on Fire: An Absent-Minded Tale of Life with Giftedness & Attention Deficit—Oh Look! A Chicken! (Bohemian Avenue Press).