Trying to stay optimistic, I sometimes downplay the challenges that come with attention deficit. The truth is that some days, I hate my ADHD. But I never let it beat me.
by Michael Laskoff
For a variety of reasons, I’m in a position to speak openly about my experiences as an adult with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). I run a business and therefore don’t have to worry about the stigma that many ADD/ADHD adults rightly fear. And because I want to help and encourage others, I have a tendency to do something unfortunate. I tend to speak about the condition like it’s a mere inconvenience. Today, I’d like to set the record straight.
I hate ADD/ADHD. It makes my life so much more challenging -- by which I mean difficult -- than it might otherwise be. Every day, I have to struggle simply to be average at skills that others take for granted. I can’t spell, can't remember names or numbers, and simply cannot estimate how long it will take to do something. Those shortcomings cascade into all kinds of other areas that can make the simple conduct of the day seem like sheer agony. Naturally, I have developed an elaborate set of compensatory skills, schemes, routines, and coping mechanisms, but they all require energy that I would simply love to direct elsewhere. I can only imagine how much more the day could be.
ADD/ADHD, of course, isn’t a battle that last days or weeks: If you’ve got it, you’ve got it for life. With that comes long-term consequences. Objectively speaking, ADD/ADHD has cost me good professional opportunities. There are pivotal moments when being judgmental, impulsive unstructured, or uncooperative have clear, lasting results of the negative kind. But those same forces also work more subtly on a daily basis; their implications are equally broad though harder to assess, even in retrospect.
Put it all together and I cannot get away from the uneasy feeling that I have lost quite a lot of time -- totaling years -- which I can never get back. I was close to 40 when I was diagnosed, which means that two decades of my working life were uncolored by sufficient self-awareness or formal treatment of any sort. Now, I find myself at 43 having to undertake the sorts of struggles that I should have conquered years ago. That’s not theoretical; it’s fact -- a fact with real-world consequences.
But as much as I hate the ADD/ADHD, I also feel lucky, though not because I have it. I feel fortunate because I’m not good at regret. I instinctively seem to live in the now, to stay present in the moment, which means that I struggle to envision the sort of future that I might have had. It’s difficult for me to construct elaborate fantasies of what might have been or mourn for them.
Finally, I feel determined. These are the cards that I was dealt (by natural selection), and I have no choice but to play my hand in a world that is more than 90 percent non-ADHD. Is this unfair? You’re damn right it is. But acknowledging that really changes nothing. I can’t rid myself of ADD/ADHD, so I have to struggle with it. On the vast majority of days, that’s exactly what I do.
Please don’t think that I’m writing this to be discouraging or that I view myself as nothing more than the product of ADD/ADHD. I’ve also got pride, optimism, intelligence, and an almost inexhaustible ambition that are quite apart from the ADD/ADHD. It’s just that the better angels of my nature, so to speak, must live and battle daily with demons. I’ve had to acknowledge all of these things to achieve more than my ADD/ADHD limitations might otherwise impose.