Guest Blogs

“A Zebra In a Pack of Horses…”

…is going to stand out, but that doesn’t mean it should eliminate its stripes — even if it could.” Here, Emily Anhalt shares the findings of her two-year dissertation study of successful people who attribute their success in life to their ADHD.

Emily Anhalt spent her formative years in the principal’s office. For years, her ADHD was a nuisance and disturbance to teachers, who removed her from the classroom rather than shift their methods to address her way of learning. Then along came Miss T, who Emily says encouraged her to celebrate her uniqueness and find accommodations that would spark learning.

“I began to see myself as someone who was capable of learning and someone who was worthy of being taught,” says Anhalt, who went on to earn her doctorate degree in psychology.

For her dissertation, Anhalt spent two years interviewing successful people who have ADHD and who view their symptoms as a superpower.

“What I found is that the common thread between all of these successful people with ADHD who don’t take meds and who feel their ADHD helped them succeed was that, at some point, they were given — or took for themselves — the space and encouragement to find environments that would be flexible to or even celebratory of their way of being in the world rather than trying to force themselves into rigid systems that were not built with them in mind.”

[Self-Test: Could It Be Adult ADHD?]

“What I also found was that the most painful and difficult parts of each person’s story were not about dealing with the symptoms, but rather about dealing with the feelings of badness and incompetence and loneliness and shame that they had about themselves. It seemed the stigmas they faced about not fitting into the traditional system were worse than the disorder itself.”

So what made these adults turn the corner from shame to success?

“Having support (from family and educators) was more predictive of success than the elimination of their symptoms because they learned to see themselves as unique rather than bad or broken.”

We highly recommend watching this YouTube version from start to finish for more important insights.

[ADHD in Exile: When the Shame of Living with a Disorder Is Worse Than the Disorder Itself]

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