Ask the Experts

Laugh Off Your ADHD

Adults with ADD who can find humor in their mistakes β€” at work, in relationships, and in general β€” often have lower stress levels and bounce back faster from adversity.

Long before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I could laugh at my “space cadet” behaviors. Not everything was funny, but I remember my mom calling me her “little absent-minded professor.”

This endearment stemmed from the fact that I frequently came home from school babbling about some bizarre science fact I had learned that day, only to realize, five minutes later, that I had lost my jacket. I’ve since learned to keep track of my jacket, but I still “pull a Sandy” now and then.

Not long ago, I hopped on the metro and went downtown for my Tuesday lunch appointment with a client. When I returned to my office, I realized I had just met with my Wednesday noon appointment. She must have been mixed up too, since she graciously received me as if I were supposed to be there. I got on the phone and called my real Tuesday client to apologize for not showing up. She responded, “No problem, I thought we were meeting tomorrow.” I had a good chuckle with both clients. The following week, my Tuesday client greeted me at her office door with a sticky note pasted to her head that read, “Tuesday.”

If you see ADHD as a crippling disease, this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Seeing the humor in our ADHD ways provides relief and perspective. When my clients laugh things off and let them go, they become more relaxed and less anxious. Humor is a key component in bouncing back from adversity – a bad day at the job or at home. And bounce back we must.

Be a Comedian

One of my clients, Ross, uses humor to deal with his imperfections. He has worked hard at taming the paper monster in his home. Every day he diligently sorts through the mail, putting things in piles: bills, recycling, shredding.

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When I recently asked him how it was going, he grinned and said, “Fantastic! I’m like a crazed FedEx deliveryman who worships recycling and filing – not a scrap of junk mail to be found. There’s just one glitch. Yesterday I came in with a stack of mail, and it disappeared. I looked all over and finally gave up. It was my night to cook, so I decided to start dinner. I opened the fridge to reach for the cheese and spinach, and there was the mail, hiding. The bills were happy – they got to go to the desk and get paid – but the junk mail was really ticked off. It prefers lollygagging around on the dining room table. I showed no mercy; I recycled every bit of it. The credit card solicitations cursed me. For them, it was the dreaded shredder. I am, after all, a man on a mission!”

Ross’s stories are always funny. In telling them, he accepts the brain freeze we all experience from time to time, no matter how aggressively we try to manage our ADHD. More important, Ross’s humor helps him maintain a healthy perspective about himself, his work, his family, and his life. Ross’s wife gets frustrated with his forgetfulness, but she treasures his lighthearted kindness. She smiles like a schoolgirl when she says that there hasn’t been a day in their seven-year marriage that her husband hasn’t brought light moments to their lives.

Go Easy on Yourself

Janice, another client, found humor to be the saving grace on a recent trip. She has never traveled well. She leaves jackets, umbrellas, and purses in cabs. She arrives at hotels to find that she never booked a room – or has booked it for the wrong night. A couple of months ago, she attended her first ADD conference. When she checked into her room to unpack, she noticed that she had someone else’s suitcase. Angry and near tears, she trudged down to the lobby thinking she would have to go back to the airport to find her bag. While walking through the lobby, she saw her bag being carried by a woman who was also attending the ADD conference.

Realizing that they had switched bags when they checked in, they broke out in fits of laughter, and agreed that only at an ADD conference would two people be belly-laughing about such a screw-up without assigning blame.

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When we see humor in our faults, stress often melts away. So go ahead and chuckle when you grab the ice cream spoon and point it at the TV to change the channel, or you suddenly notice urinals on the wall of the ladies room. Laughter is a gift we can give to family, friends, and ourselves every day.