Talking About ADHD

Living with ADHD: Beyond Tips and Tricks

How do I move from ‘dealing with’ ADHD to ‘living with’ ADHD and thriving as a result of ADHD?

A woman with ADHD rides a bike. Regular exercise is crucial for weight loss.
A woman with ADHD rides a bike. Regular exercise is crucial for weight loss.

Does ADHD define me?

Of course not!
That’s a silly question!
Everyone knows that ADHD is only one small part of me.
I am MORE than my ADHD.

Then why are there websites and podcasts and books and organizers and therapists and, yes, ADHD coaches, who are eager to help me “deal with” my ADHD? They have tips and tricks and advice oozing from every pore and every page.

“Break the big job into smaller ones.”
“Begin with the end in mind.”
“Stop working on the computer two hours before bedtime.”

[Free Download: Your Guide to All the Best Parts of ADHD]

I’ve spent a lifetime memorizing these and hundreds of other helpful tips and tricks. I have schedulers and timers and colored folders and project management software. I’ve even recommended them to my clients. I know HOW to get organized, be on time, deliver on my promises. Yet I’ve mastered none of them. And frankly, I’m tired of trying.

I can’t shake the feeling that the world ‘out there’ believes that the operative word in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is “deficit.” That’s awfully close to “deficient.” And a long way from “fulfilled,” which is the adjective I’ve chosen to describe the rest of my life.

I unconsciously fall into it, this sense of being “less than” those perplexing folks whose neurotransmitters play together nicely. And I am usually unaware that I have clicked into my compensatory mode, either tap dancing to cover my deficits or applying a thick layer of my most effective tips and tricks. I can fake being “normal” for a while, but I have no endurance. The facade melts and I am exposed.

Now that I’m older, I don’t cringe nearly as often as I once did when I was “outed” as an ADDiva. But I do take a look at my patterns. With as much “work” as I’ve done with therapists, coaches, books and all the rest, I am dismayed to find that sometimes my gut response is still shame, followed by an urgent need to “try harder.” Even deeper though, is my realization that I am simply exhausted by the effort. It’s not worth it any more. To my body, my psyche, my energy.

[How Can a Person with ADHD Lead a “Normal” Life?]

Surely, surely, I can release the growling undercurrent that monitors my ADHD-ish behaviors. Or at least notice it before it controls my thoughts and actions. When I’m on my deathbed, I don’t want my last words to be: “Well, I was almost linear!”

Of COURSE there is more to life than dealing with ADHD. Everyone knows that. It’s the popular answer, ADHD wisdom du jour. But honestly, how much of our lives ARE spent with ADHD at the helm? If I am truthful, 100 percent. ADHD isn’t a mask I can take off at night. I am not “more” than my ADHD. I am ADHD and ADHD is I. Or perhaps ADHD R Me.

So the harder question is: how do I move from “dealing with” ADHD to “living with” ADHD and thriving as a result of ADHD ? How do I look ADHD in the eye, acknowledge its breadth and depth and treat it as a respected ally instead of a pesky nuisance to be shooed away and thwarted at every turn?

[Step Up]

I don’t have the answer. This inquiry deserves more than a flippant remark or a cliched retort. My suspicion is that each of us will make peace (and friends) with our ADHD with as much variety and creativity as our wild-child brains allow.

So I invite you into the question. How do YOU go deeper, beyond the “let’s fix it” stage. How do you put your arm around ADHD and walk down the road with it, knowing that there is one absolute certainty: that ADHD will never desert you. It is yours (and you) for as long as you live. How do you move from “endurance” to “fulfillment” starting right now?

[“I Don’t Waste Time Trying to Wrestle With My ADHD”]

8 Comments & Reviews

  1. You found the words for the internal question and search I’ve been mulling over for some time. I don’t have any answers either. But it’s good to know I’m not the only one looking at that prospective goal.

  2. This article made me smile so much. Thank you for this. This is the conclusion I’ve been struggling to arrive at ever since first starting down the path to diagnosis a month ago. Living with ADHD (or any sort of neurodivergency, for that matter) is much more a “both/and” situation than it is an “either/or” one.

  3. Yes to embracing adhd. I am happy to be in the club! I know it has been a long lifetime of despair and confusion but now knowing wtf has been wrong with me all my life has freed me from the self hate of my previous days. It doesn’t make anything any less painful or easier mostly but it makes it easier to understand therefore deal with better.

    And yes I am super human, and I have super powers, and in my mind I am actually a hero. Now I’ve said that out loud.. haha.

  4. I have learned that I have to take it day by day. I have a large calender I keep all appointments and events written on. And put them on my phone with reminders set to go off the night before. I take how I feel that day and choose if it’s a day I can conquer or if my executive function is just not my friend and take it easy that day and only make sure I do anything that was needed that day. It’s to much stress to make each day perfect because my adhd makes each day different for me. So I just roll with the punches

  5. I don’t feel negative about having ADHD, but that may be because I was recently diagnosed and started meds a couple of weeks ago. One of my best friends, who is almost 40, had ADHD as a child and resumed medication in the past year or so after years and feels his ADHD is a big part of his depression and anxiety, in part because of feeling “other” and “shame,” which is really sad. I check off most of the boxes and have for a while, but I was able to manage it until the chaos in my life and schedules increased with caregiving and human and cat serious health issues in my home. I bought a Fitbit so I could stay on task in dispensing meds etc. My kids (one of whom was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid and took meds until high school) poke a little fun at me for the same reasons they always have (I lose everything, I can’t remember things, etc.) but now they just say something about ADHD. It actually makes me feel better, because it feels like “more” than just being flighty. I’m also older (64) and mostly cast off shame years ago; I don’t get embarrassed very easily anymore. I’m happy to be who I am. I’ve always felt different than everyone else and mostly I’m OK with that. I just want to stop being overwhelmed and get through with all I have to do from day to day, week to week, and month to month. And I feel bad for anyone who feels or has felt shame or lesser. I think people are fascinating in all their facets, whether they complicate their lives or simplify it.

  6. I don’t feel bad about the parts of me that make me forgetful and easily distracted and daydreamy other things like that. That part of me is like a butterfly, flitting from thing to thing, task to task, and if I had a simple life that could be mostly fine. But lives aren’t very simple. Still, I respect the daydreamer, the “Look! A kitty!” exuberance, the vision that sees all the things around me.

  7. Wow, Linda, you put into words what has been going on in my head. I am exhausted. I have said many times, I have so many tools in my toolbox but I don’t remember to use them! I know what I’m “supposed to” do. But it doesn’t happen. Being honest about my “deficits” hasn’t made it less exhausting, either. Maybe it is more of a change in mindset like you suggested. Thank you.

  8. The best coping mechanism I found, is this: take the bad with the good.
    I have suffered more from trying to hide certain parts of me/my ADHD than I have from actually having ADHD. An example: I hurt one of my best friends by always being the loud one and drawing attention, and so I tried to be less me: take the back seat, force myself not to talk. But as an impulsive person this was (unsurprisingly) very unsustainable. So, to hold myself back, I turned to shame and self-hatred. And this put me in a hole of depression and anxiety that I felt broken and lost.
    But through a lot of therapy I also found the way out. I eventually realised that by hiding the bad, I also started hiding the good. I would isolate myself entirely to spare other the bad parts but inevitably also took away the good part because I would cancel all my hangouts with this friend and I neglected the friendship. I realised the everything in life has good and bad parts. Yes I am impulsive and sometimes as I like to call it “bulldozer” over people, but I also take a lot of initiative and I am rather memorable and fun to hangout with.
    So, I made a choice, to be how I am. To enjoy the good, and accept the consequences of the bad. I’m not constantly monitoring myself anymore, not constantly criticizing, and it is such a relief. Yes, ADHD has it’s challenges on so many fronts, but it’s not all bad. It’s just different.

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