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By Rick Green
A few years ago, I gave a two-hour presentation on ADHD to about 200 people that was quite memorable! Unique actually! You see I only ran a few minutes long. That is not like me. What’s more surprising is that I completely ignored my notes and simply spoke from the heart. When I had done that before, and since, the talk can go wayyyyyy long.
Not that people are restless. Usually they’re riveted. But they’re no longer making much sense of what I’m saying. Their brains are overflowing.
Alas, I keep going, on and on. The Energizer Bunny of blabbering. This is my biggest ADHD challenge… ‘Motor-Mouthing.’
The audience for this particular talk was a mixed group. Some were desperately seeking help for themselves or their child, or partner. Others who were pretty sure they had ADHD, but wanted to know more. And some were dragged there by angry spouses or family members.
There were definitely laughs. Even tears of laughter. Especially from the wonderful mom of an ADHD boy who sat in the front row. She became my go-to-gal when I’d notice someone frowning or looking bored. (My friend, comedian Patrick McKenna, taught me a trick: Find one person who is laughing the hardest, and play to them. It works in a comedy show. And when I’m talking about ADHD.)
Did I Say Something Wrong
Talking to audience members at the ‘meet and greet’ after a live event is always the best. People are glad to have solid information, but they are profoundly grateful for the laughter.
Which I totally understand. Who doesn’t love to laugh?! Humor is liberating.
I learned the power of laughter during my career in television and radio, but when I’m giving a keynote talk or performing my one-man show about ADHD, I’m also surprised to see many people in tears. Sometimes it’s tears of laughter and relief.
But it took me a while to get used to seeing tears of sadness; faces grimacing to suppress sobs.
‘Oh Dear! Did I Say Something Wrong?’
Unless it’s a dark theatre with bright stage lights, I can see everyone’s face. At first, seeing people crying quietly, or a loved one slipping an arm around them to comfort, them was alarming. Knowing how I sometimes go off topic, I was worried, ‘Uh oh! Did I say something stupid? Or mean? Or dismissive?’ (All faux pas I do regularly in conversations with friends and family.)
Tears? Pain? Sorrow? That’s never a good audience reaction for a comedian. My job is to help people forget that stuff, right?
Not when I’m talking about ADHD.
It was tricky, trying not to let those tears throw me.
Make ‘Em Laugh
Normally, it’s pretty clear if people are enjoying my talk. People laugh. Many nod. Some madly scribble notes. Clearly they’re getting something good.
But tears? Heartbreak? Faces crumpled in pain?
The first time this happened I panicked, ‘This is bad. You’re upsetting people. You’re making things worse for them! What if I push someone over the edge?!’
I was alarmed. Afterwards I called up a couple of ADHD specialists for advice, ‘Is there a danger I’m doing damage?’ Knowing that people with ADHD also have much higher rates of Depression, and having been through a few bouts of it myself when I was younger, and undiagnosed, I was worried, ‘I’m afraid I might push someone over the edge.’
The doctors assured me crying was a good sign. Letting tears flow is cathartic.
Then I started to check in with the audience. During that talk where I went off topic, when I saw one woman was weeping, I paused to ask, ‘Are you okay?’ She nodded. And smiled through her tears.
So, I continued talking. But now I had tears as well.
In fact, the real challenge when I see someone getting misty is not to lose it myself. The first time I did break down onstage, talking about my son, I was embarrassed. But then I saw that my tears triggered many others to become misty.
Again, it took a doctor to explain that I was giving people permission to cry. Sharing what I’d learned created a ‘safe space.’ Though the details of each audience members life was different, the emotional experience was familiar to all of us: fear, suffering, pain, regret… Grieving.
Sometimes I see tears being triggered when I confess about a time I messed up, or a regret, or fear. Mostly I had no idea what it was that hit home for someone. Which is good, otherwise I might try and do it on purpose, as a technique. And stop speaking from the heart.
One thing I’ve learned is that if you want people to understand ADHD, you have to speak from the heart. We made our original documentary, ADD & Loving It?!, to create lightness and freedom around a scary, stigma-filled subject.
It has indeed created millions of tears of laughter. And tears of grieving.
And though I used to think of them as polar opposites, now I see both kinds of tears are really the same thing—a release of pent up fear. We ‘let go’ and cry. That is what allows each of us to move forward.
And that is the best. The absolute best.
[Blog revised – Original Date Sept 2013]
Is it just me, or are more and more people confusing their beliefs with facts. Perhaps people have always mistaken their opinions for the truth. I don’t know.
What I do know, for sure, is the universal challenge you face after getting an ADHD diagnosis is whether or not you should tell anyone about it. Who you should take into your confidence? Who probably doesn’t need to know? And who definitely should never find out?
In fact, who really needs to know? Because, let me warn you, as the police warn everyone, ‘Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.’
It’s a Kangaroo Court
Unlike in a court of law, the people in your life will be the judge and jury. They won’t have all the facts. They won’t see the evidence. The only testimony they’ll hear is the voice in their head. The only expert testimony they will hear is whatever they happen to have heard about ADHD. Unlike a court of law, they will rely on rumor, personal prejudice, and they’ll have previous convictions they ‘know’ are true. And they almost certainly won’t be a jury of your peers. They won’t have ADHD. Most people don’t. So they have no idea.
Many will instantly rush to a verdict and pronounce you guilty of fraud, of being lazy, looking for excuses, evading work, and the worst crime of all, ‘Lacking Willpower in the First Degree.’
The punishment? A life sentence of mockery and disdain for you, and for ADHD.
Punished for your symptoms.
‘It’s Always Something With You…’
How do you defend yourself from people who don’t believe in ADHD, or laugh at the possibility you have it? Or worse, people who use the knowledge to ruin your career? It’s worse when it’s your child who suffers from this stigma
It’s something we explore in detail in what may be my favorite video, Facing The World. The film lays out several simple strategies that allow you to instantly turn the tables when you’re confronted by hostility. They work. I know.
You go from the defensive to the offensive, in a sweet, lovely, and abrupt moment.
The secret is to avoid making the other person look bad. (Which is not easy.)
The Cost of Victory
Oh, yes, I recall the guilty pleasure of taking a blowhard down a peg once I had the diagnosis.
Naively, I talk about this amazing mid-life revelation, and how it was changing everything. I was eager to share my good news.
Someone would roll their eyes, ‘I don’t believe in ADHD,’ and imply I’d bought into a medical scam. There was no such thing. I was too much sugar. Or food dye. Or laziness. Naturally everyone in earshot turned to watch me try and squirm out of this.
At first I was stunned. Gradually I learned to stay calm and explain,‘Well, a lot of people don’t believe. But 4,000 scientific studies probably triumph your belief. ’
Or, ‘Well, if you don’t believe in ADHD, how do you feel about Epilepsy? Do you think that’s just spoiled kids who shake and twitch to get people’s attention? Or lazy parents who refuse to discipline every child’s natural inclination to throw seizures whenever they feel like it?’
That was a particularly nasty one.
Feel free to us it if you want to end some friendships and look like a jerk.
That’ll Show Them!… Or So I Thought.
The pleasure of demolishing a loudmouth comes with a cost. It actually makes the other person have to defend their belief even more, because I’ve given them no way out except humiliation.
As every first-year Psychology student learns, the more your argue with people, the more they have to defend their irrational beliefs. The more vociferous you are, the more adamant they become, the more extreme, the more convinced. Look at the state of the world. Read the news. Watch debates. Or, if you have the stomach for it, read the comments on most Facebook posts.
If humiliating people and pointing out how foolish they are actually changed people’s minds, the world would be a very different place.
It Makes It Worse
By the way, demolishing someone may shut them up. They may not argue back. Many even nodded and give a little ‘Hmm…’ which I mistook for, ‘Rick makes an interesting point. Food for thought. I should really learn more.’
What were they actually thinking?
‘Wow, I must have hit the nail on the head. Rick clearly can’t stand the truth. Look at him, going on and on. Like my sister-in-law when I told her fairies aren’t real.’
The Secret Weapon
No one likes being taken down a peg. Or made to look foolish. Especially in front of witnesses.
Yes, I know, I know! That person didn’t mind trying to make you wrong and embarrassing you in front of other people. But did their dismissal of your ADHD in any way change your mind? Or did it just make you lose your cool?
Because staying cool is crucial. Lose your cool, your dignity, your poise, and you’ve lost the battle.
A Way Better Way
How do you avoid getting into a conflict you can’t win?
See it as an opportunity. A chance to enlighten people. It’s actually kind of perfect. We hate that there is so much ignorance and misunderstanding and stigma about ADHD, right? Now, here’s the chance to actually take it on and transform ignorance into understanding.
Someone says something dismissive. Let it pass right through you.
Get that they are only repeating what they’ve heard. Consider that there may even be real concerns that big Pharmaceutical companies are putting profits before people. (It’s been known to happen.) Understand that yes, sometimes people are misdiagnosed. Or some teachers are too quick to label kids. Not many, perhaps only a few, but still…
Catch yourself before you erupt, or you collapse inward, crushed, mortified.
A Slap In The Face
The first few times I was confronted by shocking ignorance or righteous hostility, I was totally gob-smacked. (I love that word!) Has it happened to you? Isn’t it shocking when someone spouts mythical, outdated, nonsense that they are adamant is the truth.
You should know I’m pretty talkative. But the first few times a naysayer said, ‘Nay, nay!’ to me, I completely shut down. Like I’d be slapped in the face. I was struck dumb. (And that’s not like.)
Eventually I would come up with wicked rebuttal. But by then it was 3:00 in the morning, I was home in bed, still stewing. I would come up with a dozens of wickedly clever things I should have used to eviscerate that know-it-all. (Not realizing that my devastatingly witty retorts would have made them defensive, more entrenched, and far more hostile.)
Days later I’d still be re-writing the conversation and these fantasy dialogues always ended with me triumphant and the smart ass totally humiliated, or, in my more benevolent imaginings they would be humbled, offering a heartfelt apology, asking if there was anything they could do to help.
It’s a skill I’d honed over thirty years of writing for television and radio. But in at 3:00 in the morning there’s no audience, so it’s a waste of creativity
Taking The High Road
But I knew from my own experience, and from what people are sharing in the TotallyADD Forums about their Emotional Journey, facing skeptics is a hot topic.
If you or a loved one are dealing with dismissal and hostility—from friends, family, colleagues, or classmates—check out Facing The World.
You’ll discover there is a better way to deal with ignorance and stigma. True, it’s not as juicy and dramatic as demolishing an enemy. But it’s the demolishing that turns them into an enemy. And you don’t need another foe. You’re busy enough struggling with your ADHD.
By Rick Green
Which aspect of your ADHD do you dislike the most? Which trait, or if you prefer, ‘symptom’, does the most damage?
It’s a valuable question to ask. For several reasons.
One payoff for identifying the trait that undermines you the most? It requires you to focus, and you won’t drown in good intentions, trying to manage every symptom at once. (A recipe for overwhelm as I found out after when first diagnosed.)
Another payoff? Mastering the bugaboo that most sabotages you makes it so much easier to take on the next symptom you want to eliminate. (Or more realistically, that you want to reduce to insignificance. Hey, everyone loses their keys now and then. Wouldn’t losing keys once a month be far better than 4 times a day?)
And if you want to get a sense of the many ways ADHD impacts your life, our book lays out 132 surprising traits, behaviors, and beliefs that we struggle with. As well, we reveal 23 potential strengths.
The Most Bang For Your Buck
As you’ll see, there’s a lot of ways ADHD undermines us. The one particular challenge that undermines you, and affects others around you, that’s the one to work on first.
It’s worth spending a few minutes a day imagining what life will be like once this ‘problem’ is no longer running your life. Or ruining your life.
For me, the biggest challenge was procrastination. I knew that if I developed the habit of taking action right away, without delay, my life would be easier, simpler, and more rewarding. Procrastination was Public Enemy #1, and Private Enemy too, impacting my work and my personal life. And yet…
I Always Procrastinate – About Everything!
But as my wife pointed out, I definitely didn’t procrastinate all the time.
When there is a work deadline I have to meet, I come through. Often just in time.
She reminded me that I’ve created hundreds of TV and radio programs and a score of stage productions, and never missed a delivery date or had to cancel opening night. I know that ‘the show must go on.’ And it always does. No matter what it takes.
Alas, far too often, what it took was all of my energy, time, and vitality. At the expense of my family, my friends, and my health.
Today I’m a bit less productive, but far happier. In ADD & Mastering It!, Patrick McKenna and I take a fun romp through 36 strategies and tools we personally use for dealing with the biggest challenges of ADHD/ADD, especially procrastination around big projects. Of course, I used to procrastinate over the small stuff too.
Procrastination Can Be Small
For example, I always put off washing the dinner dishes until the morning.
I know, it’s a trivial procrastination. The consequences are hardly life threatening. I never let the food scraps pile up until they morphed into some kind of parasitic, fuzzy, blue bacterial life form. Not since University, anyway.
By the way, to understand how lazy I was, I put off doing the dishes even though we had a dishwasher… Which makes it even more embarrassing.
Yet, every night I’d convince myself I was too tired and, if I didn’t immediately flop into bed and begin snoring my body might collapse. I would promise myself to get to them in the morning. And, sure enough, at some point over the next day or two, I actually would.
This was fine when I lived alone.
My Wife Grew Up on a Farm
My wife came from a big family with lots of farmhands at every meal. Letting dishes pile up was never an option. (And the family didn’t have a dishwasher. It was all washed by hand.)
So whenever I left the dishes until the morning, my wife would quietly do them. No drama. No excuses. She put everything away. Wiped the counters… Because for her a messy kitchen was off-putting.
Since I usually make our breakfast, I eventually noticed that walking into a clean kitchen with lots of open space, nothing to work around or push aside… Well, it felt good… Surprisingly so.
When my wife was away for a day or two, and the dishes piled up, it actually began to bother me. I’d seen a vision… of something better.
Now I clean the kitchen before bed. Extraordinary. Usually it’s more than just loading the dishwasher. And yes, sometimes I still leave particularly horrifying saucepans to soak until morning. But mostly, the kitchen is clean when my head hits the pillow.
It’s Small – But It’s Big
If you don’t have ADHD, this miraculous transformation may strike you as somewhat trivial, or incredibly stupid. “This guy is excited because he no longer procrastinates about doing the dishes? Can’t wait to hear about the battle to dust the book shelf.”
However, if you have ADHD/ADD, or live with someone who does, you probably appreciate why this small victory matters. With ADHD, every victory matters. Especially the unexpected ones.
The chance that I would suddenly move to China and become a monk at the Shau-Lin temple, well, sure, that was remotely possible. But the idea that I would do dishes and clean the kitchen before crawling into bed, especially since they could easily keep until the morning?… That seemed beyond the realm of possibility. This wasn’t a huge goal for me. “Doing the dishes” wasn’t a habit I was trying to build. It wasn’t on my Bucket List. More like my F$%# It List.
How Did Mr. Green Become Mr. Clean?
Rather than rely on willpower or grit. I simply used several of the dozens of ADHD-Friendly strategies Patrick McKenna and I demonstrate in ADD & Mastering It!
A key trick is what we call, Reframing.
I reframed the task. Rather than see the messy kitchen as an onerous chore, which is one possible interpretation, I reframed it as an ‘opportunity.’ An opportunity to start the next day with ease. An opportunity to do something that makes my wife happy. And an opportunity to prove that I can accomplish things even when I’m craving sleep.
I also saw it as a chance to challenge my assumption that it was a huge job. It took about 1/3 as long as I guessed it would. Timing yourself, another ADHD strategy Patrick and I use in ADD & Mastering It!, is a great way to develop solid Time Management skills.
Reframing is simple. You create a better perspective. Rather than see the pile of greasy dishes, I pictured a spotless kitchen… and then took 7 minutes to clean, wash, and tidy up so that reality matched the vision.
Instead of feeling guilty, I want to be feeling absurdly pleased.
The Surprising Payoff
It feels silly to admit how much better I feel when the kitchen is spic and span. But the next morning when I come down to start making breakfast the usual ‘Ugh!’ is replaced by, ‘Ah! Nice.’ It actually sets a whole different tone to the day.
Rather than nagging myself, laying on a guilt trip, I found that picturing how I would feel to be greeted by clean, clear counters first thing in the morning made the decision easy. I made it a game to see how fast I could declutter and clean up. To my shock, I actually quite enjoyed it.
And yes, I know, it sounds ridiculous. But I’ve found this technique works, providing real motivation, whether I’m trying to procrastinate about exercise, making a difficult phone call, or writing a challenging script.
I succeed with ADHD by focusing on the result, envisioning it finished, feeling the pleasure of a job well done. Rather than seeing only what needs to be done.
Those of us who qualify as ADHD are, well, different. Not just from the 96% of the world who are ‘neuro-typical’, but different from each other. We are indeed a tribe, but a diverse tribe.
Each of us struggles with a distinct combo of challenges. We each have our personal potpourri of symptoms. Some ‘symptoms’ may be more of a problem for you. Some less. Some not a big deal at all.
People with the ‘Predominantly Inattentive Subtype of ADHD’ are, by definition, not struggling much with Hyperactivity or Impulsivity. (Less likely, perhaps, to become a shopaholic, but prone to forget to pay their bills.)
Explosive Anger was never an issue for me. Rumination, on the other hand…(RRrrrRRrrrRRrrr… “I shoulda… If only… Why didn’t I…”) For me, it’s a constant challenge.
There’s You. Then There’s Your World.
While our brains are different, so are out life situations. We live unique lives: single, divorced, widowed, married. Male, female, or transitioning. With kids or without. Maybe your parents live with you. Or they’re a thousand miles away but haunting your life. (Ha!)
We work at a range of jobs. Often several in a row or at the same time. And most jobs are changing. “We’re upgrading to a new system…” “We’re automating check-out…” “Our new TV show is broadcast online…”
Where we live, our age, our health, our religion, our culture.
Most folks with ADHD also struggle with a second ‘thing’. They’re called ‘comorbidities.’ ADHD often has a ‘friend’ helping to mess with your life. Learning Disorders. Depression. Anxiety… In fact, 40% of adults have three or more challenges.
And finally, your ADHD lives in a unique ‘environment.’ You may be lucky in that your friends, family, and coworkers are fully supportive of you and understand your ADHD. (At a rough estimate, I would say about .0000001% of us are in that situation. And whoever this lucky person is, I envy her.)
Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell.
At some point we all face resistance, dismissal, or hostility. Most of us have put ourselves in this situation because we’ve given the game away. We have spilled the beans about our ADHD. You may tell a few friends about your diagnosis. Or a parent or sibling who’s been on your case, assuming that now that they understand they’ll be supportive. (SURPRISE! You’ve just given them more ammo. “It’s always something with you, isn’t it?”)
Some of us tell everyone we meet. At least until we get fed up with people’s hostile, dismissive, or superior reactions. I don’t mind a debate, but not with people who have no idea what they’re talking about.
Disclosing my ADHD was never a big issue for me. Or rather, I didn’t think it would be. Delighted at figuring out what was ‘wrong’ with me, I told everyone. It didn’t occur to me that it could damage friendships or undermine my career. I learned the hard way. It was awful. I was so mortified, indignant, and righteous about all the stupid things people were saying. Furious in fact… Hmm, maybe I do have an issue with Explosive Anger?
“Who should I tell?” is a very tricky question. Trust me. Revealing your ADHD is fraught with peril. Telling the world that you, your child, or spouse has ADHD can backfire. Badly.
Disclosing will remain a dangerous decision until we have managed to totally eliminate the ignorance and stigma around this disorder. Which I suspect, ain’t gonna happen in my lifetime.
Ironically, one way to raise awareness about the truth is for more people to be open about what they have, what they’re going through, and how better life is now that they understand. Catch 22.
We Love To Talk…
This was brought home to me by a message from a TotallyADD member who is also a nurse. She was concerned that entering one of our contests, or commenting on our Facebook page, could be risky because, as she pointed out, ADHD people sometimes have a bit of a problem with limits. As in ‘no limits.’ TMI. ‘Oversharing.’ ‘Blurting out.’ ‘Did I just say that?!’
I had to laugh.
“Perhaps I’ve said too much…”
As I said, when at first I told people about my ADHD it rarely went well. In fact the disdain and dismissal triggered a fury that fueled me to produce ADD & Loving It?! and create TotallyADD.
Today, every few people are actually dismissive to my face. However, I have learned, often years later of some of the nasty things that colleagues have said behind my back. My favorite was, “If Rick Green has ADHD then I’ve got ‘ass’ cancer.” Nice.
In fact, that nurse who wrote to me admitted that disclosing her ADHD diagnosis with colleagues had backfired. It was used against her. Being open and ‘out’ had damaged her career. Tragic, considering her intention was to make things better at work.
If you’re wondering whether you should ‘share’, our video on the risks to disclosure outlines why it has to be done very carefully.
It’s easy to spill the beans. Try scraping the beans back up into the can. Not easy. Or fun.
You don’t have to go far into the TotallyADD forums to find other stories from people who have met hostility, disdain, disbelief or loss of friendships and even jobs.
We had a Meme Contest on our Facebook page, “What’s the dumbest thing anyone’s every said to you about your ADHD?” and the results were gob-smacking.
Among the top 10 finalists: “Just drink more water.” “You have to stop thinking so much.” and the ever-so-helpful, “Wear proper shoes with insoles and use this type of mattress and it will go away.” Wow, a new mattress can eliminate a highly genetic neuro-developmental disorder? Does it come with a matching box-spring that can cure diabetes?
“Drug Addict? Unreliable? High-Maintenance?”
(Oh! Talk about timing. My wife Ava just interrupted me as I’m writing this to read me a letter from a TotallyADD member who say he would have had his pilot’s license revoked by the FAA if they had found out he has ADHD. Whether he was taking medication or not. As it turns out, he doesn’t have ADHD. But his email does make it clear that ADHD/ADD can still be used against you, by colleagues and governing organizations.)
I know several young people who have had to lie about their ADHD to pursue their dream of a career in the military. They’re in the army now, and soaring.
So, “Who Do You Tell?” Is A Big Question.
For me, and I suppose for Patrick McKenna, the star of ADD & Mastering It! the cost of letting the entire world know that I have ADHD has been hard to gauge. Or rather, the negative costs have been hard to gauge. Because as I said, the eye rolling, snorting and, “We don’t want to work with him, he has some kind of weird mental thing!” happens behind my back.
So I’ll never know the cost I’ve paid in ‘coming out of the closet’ about my mindset. But I’m sure it’s there. Perhaps the phone stopped ringing so much simply because the television industry itself has slowed down in the past 10 years. Who knows?
I could try and figure out who has cut me off, or continues to spread malicious crap, “What’s he talking about? He’s made all kinds of successful TV shows.”
As someone said, “Don’t look back because you’re not going in that direction.”
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
I can tell you the positives I’ve experienced since disclosing. The hundreds of people who have hugged me, thanked us, and shared their story. The families who have thanked Patrick and Janis McKenna, tears in their eyes, for sharing so much in ADD & Loving It?!
“Who to tell?” is a topic we explore a bit in The Perfect Career for ADHD and in depth in what may be my favourite video, To Tell Or Not To Tell. (Updated December 2014) There’s some great advice on who to tell, what to say, and especially what NOT to say.
Just know that being open about your ADHD/ADD to the wrong people will have negative consequences. Sharing it with the right people can be hugely helpful. Having allies is a wonderful thing. None of us manage this on our own. If we did, we’d never have ended up in a Doctor’s office, wondering, “What’s wrong with me?”
Eventually, at some point, when enough people have stood up and said, “I have ADHD,” there won’t be any stigma. No negative fallout.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
By the way, have you disclosed? Who did you tell? What did you say? And how did it go?
This is going to be one of those stories where I admit to resisting something that turned out to do me a world of good. Dunno if that’s a ‘guy thing’, or an ‘ADHD thing’, or a ‘Rick thing.’
But it’s going to take me a minute or two to get there. Stay with me! (Or skip to the end, then come back and read chunks in a random order until it makes sense. Hey, it’s your ADHD, do what works for you.)
So, as you well know, there is a lot of confusion about ADHD. Some people don’t believe ADHD exists. Including a lot of ADHD experts. And even some folks like us who have ADHD.
“What did he just say? ADHD Experts don’t believe in ADHD?” Yeah. Kind of. It’s the name, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
It’s those first two words. ‘Attention Deficit.’ The fact is, most of us can hyper-focus when we’re interested. So saying we suffer from a Deficit of Attention is a bit like saying someone who is seven feet tall has “Door Frame Head Bang Disorder.” Yes, that’s one problem a 7’ person faces, but there’s a lot of other issues they deal with. And if they love basketball, being 7’ tall isn’t a problem at all. ADHD is complex. Who among us only suffers from a deficit of attention?
This must be why, these days, every expert we interview is keen to talk about ADHD as a deficit of Executive Functions. Executive Functions are, well, think of it this way… Imagine a top-level executive at a company that makes toilets (it’s just an example, ok?). Call her Tanya. Of Tanya’s Toilets. As a top executive, Tanya doesn’t make the toilets, she doesn’t test them, or work on design, engineering, or a thousand other details. The ‘doing’ gets done by others.
So what does Tanya do?
What Is Executive Function?
That’s an executive’s job. And part of your brain has that job. That’s its Executive Function.
Part of my brain is supposed to have that job, too. But that list of Tanya’s roles? That’s not me. At least, that’s not my brain’s natural inclination.
If I was working at Tanya’s Toilets I’d be in the design department, coming up with a dozen ideas a day on new designs, ways to improve efficiency, and… Okay, I’m going to switch from a mythical toilet factory to my life. (Insert your own joke here.)
Can I Trust These People?
Back in my early days, writing for stage and radio, I had to create systems to keep track of scripts as they moved from a funny idea to a finished performance. It was difficult and took a lot of time and energy for me. It was exhausting. Disheartening. Which meant my personal life was a mess.
When I began working in television, I discovered the power of the Production Manager and the other specialists who didn’t come up with the funny ideas, but could get them produced. They created the system and kept it humming with far less stress that I ever experienced. All I had to worry about was being funny. Wooooo hoooo!
Admittedly, it was unnerving to have other people making all these decisions—at first. I discovered I have, well, control issues. (Who me? Really?) But… deep breath… By the time The Red Green Show hit it’s stride, I learned to trust the team to work their magic.
Work Was Going Great! But…
When I launched my own series, History Bites, I was the Host, Head Writer, Producer and Director. I still had a strong team to support me, but work was taking everything I had.
Then I discovered coaching.
I’d like to be able to tell you that I instantly knew an ADD Coach would be the answer I didn’t even know I was looking for. Alas! At the time I thought, “I don’t have the time or money to fit coaching into my schedule.”
Looking back now, I can see it was a bit like driving madly around North America at full throttle searching for an address I desperately needed to get to, but had no idea how to find, and complaining, “I don’t have time to stop and plug it into the GPS.”
What Can A Coach Do?
Remember that list of Tanya’s Executive Functions? Managing time and resources? Checking progress, following up and providing feedback? Motivating and supporting? Keeping focused on goals? Yadda, yadda, yadda…
OMG! These are the precisely the things a coach does!
But, you may well ask, and if you didn’t, I will ask for you, “What if I already have a doctor (or a therapist or an analyst or…)”
Totally different story. Like saying, “I already have car, and a tank of gas, why do I need a GPS to navigate?”
My doctor was there to help me stop the suffering. Starting with medication. He could help me work through emotional stuff, beliefs, and feelings. We worked on areas where I felt I was ‘broken’ or ‘failing.’ Crucial stuff.
If I was to give my life a grade, my doctor helped me go from an F to a C. My coach has taken me from a C to an A. An A+ on a good day.
What my coach does is help me create strategies, and generate actions that work for me. My coach gives me straight talk, with much love. She reminds me of my priorities, checks in, nudges me when I go off course, and makes me pause to celebrate and acknowledge my victories so that they don’t slip by unnoticed. Like a lot of folks with ADD, I’m always on the next thing. The next script. Or the next breakthrough flushing mechanism for Tanya’s Toilets.
Just thought of a sales idea: “Tanya’s Toilets. Flush With Success.”
Where Was I? Oh, Right…
The point is, when my wife first suggested we try coaching, I was verrrrry uncomfortable with the idea. Just as I was when Production Managers started taking over all the things I’d forced myself to learn how to do in the entertainment biz. People with ADD can have trust issues, can’t we?
Now, all I will say is this: Coaching has made a huge difference for me. In ways I never would have anticipated. (See, I told ya I would get to this part of the story!)
Coaching isn’t free. But I can tell you that coaching has saved me years of time, money, and effort. I’ve avoided endless frustration. And been far more productive.
A lot of people with ADD we’ve spoken to have expressed similar concerns and questions about coaching. Or they never even realized it existed. Which is why our newest video looks at the hows and whys of ADD Coaching. It explains the many ways coaches work—in person, by phone, on Skype—and how you can work with a coach to create solutions and strategies customized to your needs.
As coach Barbara Luther says, “There’s no one else in your life that’s going to tell you the truth, really truly, and listen and hear who you are, who you are becoming and what you really want—AND keep you working toward that. That’s the coach’s job.”
Curious? Check out the trailer for ADD & Coaching: You Don’t Have To Go It Alone, now the shop.