I’m a 33 year old male and can identify with a lot of what others in this thread have said. The self-judgement and lack of focus can snowball and just make everything worse. It’s an issue that affects nearly all of us.
I can only offer some advice that my therapist gave me:
Every time you start to judge your perceived failures as personal irresponsibility, remember that your brain will always function different than everyone else. You can’t judge your own successes and failures based on what others accomplish and what is generally accepted as normal. Continuing the cycle of negatively is setting yourself up for future frustration and depression.
You have to radically change your perception of your own accomplishments and abilities. This has nothing to do with what anyone else is capable of, and it doesn’t make you less of a person – just different. Set small goals and be proud of yourself when you accomplish them. Be your own cheerleader and remind yourself that you CAN accomplish anything you put your mind to, you just have to apply your mind in a different way than others. This isn’t just a supportive cliche, you CAN and WILL succeed. We just have to approach the situation appropriately.
So, here are some of the things I have learned to remind myself that it’s okay to be the way I am:
1. [Accept that you are not “normal”] Absolutely number one – remember that a person diagnosed with ADHD literally has different brain activity than neurotypical people. This is okay! We’re all unique!
2. [It’s not your fault] Your lack of motivation and organization is not because you’re not trying hard enough. It isn’t because you’re not trying hard enough. The problem is that everything we’ve been taught about how to live, how to communication, how to think, how to be motivated, and how to control emotions is not applicable for us. We process the world around us differently and need to learn a different way to live. We can’t judge ourselves based on the how the rest of the world operates.
3. [Be your own cheerleader] It’s okay when I don’t hear someone’s response to my question because I started to think of something else. I may have to ask them to repeat their answer, but THAT IS OKAY! I didn’t feel embarrassed, abort my question, and say “never mind.” I was able to overcome my short distraction and still get the information I wanted!
4. [Play fair! Set new rules] Think about the times you have been asked to repeat yourself. Did you think the person asking was probably dumb for not hearing the first time? Absolutely not! Don’t be overly critical of yourself. When caught in a cycle of anxiety and negativity about your actions, remember to think about how you might react if it were you observing someone else. Chances are high that you would shrug off the observation and think nothing of it. It’s better to think “It’s silly that my brain did that” than “I’m a f**king idiot.”
These are the fews things I could think of that help me while I try to learn how to live better and happier with who I am. I’ve been down that road of getting physical with myself – given myself a black eye with my fist, purposefully fell down a flight of stairs, putting holes in drywall by hitting my head against the wall. The only thing it provided was a temporary sense of relief that I was giving myself adequate punishment for my failures and next time I would know better. This logic is completely flawed for me. Punishment doesn’t work the same for people who struggle with memory, attention, and focus.
I wanted to do more than explain some of the physical tools I use to help myself. Here are some photos. I took them all for this post.
Number 1 is a small laminated card I have created which shows the brain activity scan of a neurotypical brain next to an ADHD brain. I think this one is the most important. This is a visual reminder that I am physically different in ways that can’t be seen without expensive medical tests. It is real. I am not a failure for not trying hard enough. I keep one of these in my wallet, one taped to my monitor at work and at home, and one taped to my dashboard in my car.
Number 2 is a photo of the list I made for myself to read in the mornings. When I feel distracted, I can glance at it. I try to remember to have a positive mindset and think “great job for getting to number 3” instead of thinking “you suck for not being ready for work yet.”
Number 3 is a set of the Tile devices I bought. If you lose something with one attached, you can ring it from your phone and it will play an audible tone. You can also hold a small button on any of the devices and it will make your phone ring, in case you lost that. I placed one in my wallet, one in my purse, attached one to my keys, and put one in my work laptop bag. I’m trying to find a way to attach one to my glasses. I had to cancel my errands last night because I spent an hour trying to find my glasses and couldn’t. I finally found them this morning in a fairly obvious place.
Number 4 might be difficult for some to acquire, but has helped me a lot. I purchased a Galaxy Note phone and am able to physically write reminders with a stylus (better memory if I write instead of type) and the notes are available digitally, and can be forwarded to my email inbox. I always tried to help myself by writing notes but I would have 10 different exclusive methods. I would use post-it notes, email myself, use Google docs, try to remember, create an alarm on my phone, etc. It was maddening to have all these notes in different places. When I had a thought I knew I wanted to remember later, I would just go to whatever note-taking method sparked my interest at that moment. Consolidating everything to my phone has been helpful. I’ve started created the habit of looking there first.
Number 5 is a photo of a purse I started carrying so I’ll stop losing everything. It has actually helped me to accept and be confident regarding my ADHD. I’ve been carrying it for 3 months now and the only remarks I have gotten were from women saying “wow, that bag is so cool.”
Remember the most important thing: You can achieve nearly anything you put your mind to, as long as you approach it in a way that is compatible with ADHD, and you remember to be positive about all of your accomplishments – large or small.