“Don’t Buy Into the Myth That Your ADHD Characteristics are Flaws.”
“You are going to do amazing things because you are different. Don’t let something you can’t change — be it an ADHD characteristic or a global pandemic — keep you from accomplishing great things just as you are. I didn’t let it stop me from writing two books in high school.”
I write about teens with exceptional abilities, so I’m often asked, “What is your dream superpower?” That’s easy: it’s super speed! (Now, if only someone could apply that to my virtual homework, please?)
I used to feel disappointed that I didn’t have the ability to take flight or teleport myself, but I’ve recently learned to be content with who I am.
The truth is, we all have superpowers — they’re the characteristics that make us special and unique. Following the release of my first book, Welcome to Superhero School (#CommissionsEarned), I’ve been doing some quarantine soul searching and asking myself: “What is my superpower?”
I asked those closest to me to weigh in. A few said empathy, creativity, loyalty, courage, a great sense of humor, and unusual insight for someone my age. Some people even told me that writing a book (and having it released during a global pandemic) is a superpower. I’ll take it!
I listened to all this information and reflected on it, and then decided that at least one of my superpowers is actually my ADHD.
My ADHD: A Blessing and A Curse
Don’t get me wrong — having ADHD isn’t easy. Being isolated from friends and attending school virtually are daily reminders of the challenges. My focus is off the rails. Even with my daily medication, I’m easily distracted.
When working on a multi-step problem, I sometimes lose focus in the middle and have to start over. Little noises bother me. Complicated instructions are a struggle. Transitions and time management are hard. I’m poorly organized with school work and I take longer than my classmates to complete assignments. My computer bag resembles a nuclear disaster zone. And, I frequently lose my assignments before I can turn them in.
While that’s my reality, ADHD has also made me who I am today. Yes, sometimes I have to work harder — especially now. But the result of all that extra time and effort is that I’m not intimidated by the prospect of putting a lot of effort into something. I truly have been practicing perseverance every day since I started school. In fact, as I’ve learned to manage and understand my ADHD, I’ve found there are a lot of advantages to the way my brain works.
For example, I notice everything — that buzzing light, the pencil barely tapping four desks away, the squirrel across the street. Yes, I am literally the person who shouts ‘squirrel’ in the middle of a conversation. But, because of this, I’m also a great person to ask to help find your keys because I probably noticed where you laid them down.
Maybe that’s not as surprising when you know a little more about the ADHD brain. Did you know that people with ADHD are often considered more creative?1,2 That’s a positive for me. My ADHD helps fuel my creativity, and I’m constantly inspired by everything around me. And right now, we all need to think more creatively.
I also use my ADHD in social settings — which today looks like Zoom and FaceTime calls with friends. But even so, I’m able to pick up on nuances through facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice that others might miss, all while keeping up with the conversation. This ability to read emotions and notice details contribute to my writing — enhancing my characters’ dialogues and interactions.
I’ve also learned that, if I don’t keep generating new adventures into a story as I write, I’ll get bored with it. That’s my ADHD brain demanding that I hold its attention. But keeping the action going makes my stories fun to write, and fun to read, too.
ADHD has also taught me to self-advocate. If you are a student who has ADHD or who learns differently, here is my advice: Embrace help. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, especially during this pandemic when we’re all adjusting to a different style of learning. Teachers, parents, coaches — the adults in your life — will understand, but they may not know you need help unless you ask for it.
Learning differently isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it has also helped me develop compassion and empathy — traits that are crucial right now. I know what it feels like to be different. This empathy helps me to be a better friend, a better citizen, and a better author.
What my ADHD has ultimately taught me is this: Don’t hide who you are. Be yourself. Be proud of your differences. People appreciate authenticity and want to know the real you. When you embrace your uniqueness and see these differences as your own superpowers, people will gravitate to you. Don’t buy into the myth that these characteristics are flaws. They’re not! ADHD is the superpower I am proud to have.
You are going to do amazing things because you are different. Don’t let something you can’t change — be it a characteristic or a global pandemic — keep you from accomplishing great things just as you are. While we may not have flight, super speed, Herculean strength, or the superpowers you see in Welcome to Superhero School (#CommissionsEarned), when we start identifying and embracing the things about us that make us unique, that’s when we find our real superpowers!
So, while you’re home in quarantine, ask yourself the same question I did: What is my superpower? Embrace what makes YOU special. Embrace the true, superpowered you.
1Hupfeld, K.E., Abagis, T.R. & Shah, P. Correction to: Living “in the zone”: hyperfocus in adult ADHD. ADHD Atten Def Hyp Disord 11, 209 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12402-019-00296-6
2Humphreys, K.L., Lee, S.S. Risk Taking and Sensitivity to Punishment in Children with ADHD, ODD, ADHD+ODD, and Controls. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 33, 299–307 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-011-9237-6
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