Guest Blogs

Seeing ADHD from the Non-ADHD Point of View

After reading ADDitude blogger Kay Marner’s words, I realized, on a whole different level, how hard our “normal” loved ones work to help those of us with attention deficit disorder.

ADHD woman at work
ADHD woman at work

“I have one final fall-back strategy for those times when my brain fails me, when I can’t come up with a parenting strategy effective enough, fair enough, creative enough.

It’s love.

I simply hold (read: restrain) Natalie, make sure my hands, cheek, or lips are touching skin, close my eyes, and concentrate as hard as I can on filling her with love. Does it help? Not a bit. It does absolutely nothing. But as the last resort of a slow-thinker, I could do worse.

Kay Marner, from her blog “My Picture-Perfect Family”

Because I want to broaden my outlook and explore new information, perspectives, and ideas, I try to carefully read as much about ADHD and other mental health issues from as many and as varied sources as I can.

Okay, that’s a big fat lie. I don’t do anything of the kind.

I tear into articles and blogs about attention deficit disorder and the rest of it when my stress level reaches some internal red-line and starts shaking the crap out of the foundations. Then, I attack the reading in a big hyperfocused, rushed, scramble-search for a psychological life preserver before my ADHD’s comorbid pals — hypomania and depression — blow things to pieces and let in the darkness.

I’m not looking for new ideas. I want tried-and-true, and I want it quick. I’m scanning through material like a human Google looking for keywords that signal ideas I already agree with. When it comes to ADHD (and probably a lot of other things, too), I prefer reading stuff that supports what I already believe, and that’s written from a perspective I can identify with. If pressed, I’d blame my ADHD for this — my wiring needs the familiar to settle enough to concentrate. Or, I’ve got the disorder and I struggle with it every day, so who knows more it than I do?

Well, a number of people, as it turns out.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to escape an approaching, large-looking depression that’s gathering on the horizon. I see my therapist on Monday and we’ll hash it out, but I really don’t want to go on anti-depressants again. So I’m dashing around trying to ignore the darkening clouds, hoping that keeping active will diffuse them. But they keep growing and getting darker and begin to take over the sky like a Midwestern summer storm — with tornado warnings. But this storm comes from within, and two of its sustaining fuels are isolation (feeling like you’re utterly alone and friendless as you desperately try to find some way out from the closing darkness), and the relentless self-pity that grows from the hopeless muck of this belief.

So I’m zip-scrolling through blogs looking for keywords that agree with me, when I find myself slowing down and carefully reading a post in Kay Marner’s blog, “My Picture-Perfect Family.” Kay’s young daughter has ADHD, but Kay doesn’t; she’s a “normal,” and is primarily, as she describes herself, “a glass half-full person.” Then why am I stopping here? This is no place to find a tried-and-true life preserver to get me through my ugly, dark storm…

Yeah, I’m mangling my metaphors here, but bear with me because I can’t do anything about it now, and besides, the point is Kay Marner has gotten me to forget about my own ADHD drama for a second. I’m reading about attention deficit disorder from the other side of the experience. This is the side I always dismissed as not knowing, at a gut level, what it’s like to live with this kind of ADHD brain, day in and day out. But now, as I read Kay describe pulling out of her despair after a particularly tough day trying to help and understand her daughter, I realize on a whole different level how hard the “normal” loved ones work to help us. And, more to the point: how much they really do know about us and how we think and behave and why, and how much, despite all we put them through, they care.

This may be no big insight to ADHDers who are less prone to self-obsession than I am. But for me, reading Kay’s spare, honest words about her life has given me a wider perspective. Best of all, it has helped me re-appreciate my amazing wife and family, my friends, and what they’ve all done for me over the years.

Later in the day, in the middle of checking production proofs of my mother’s book of poetry and stories –- pencil tracking back and forth across the page, nosing out errors in spelling, spacing, and punctuation –- I’m brought up short by a poem she had written for me decades ago. I’d read those words many times over the years, but now — on that different level — I get a glimpse of my mother as the young woman struggling to understand and discover what she could do to help her mysteriously difficult child.