TotallyADD Blog / Rick Archives - TotallyADD.com | Adult ADD | ADHD in Adults
Welcome to the TotallyADD Blog.
“I don’t believe in ADHD.”
“Isn’t that just a big Pharmaceutical scam?”
“It’s just the internet.”
You’ve probably heard stuff like this. Probably again and again. You may be sick of hearing it.
We actually did a contest on Facebook for “The Dumbest Thing Anyone Ever Said To You About ADHD.” It was murder to pick the best 10. My personal fave? “You just have to stop thinking so much.”
Greaaaaat! Thank you for sharing….
Lemme guess—you also figure that people who are unable to read English just need to read English.
4,000 STUDIES COUNTS FOR NOTHING?
We’ve all met the earnest parents or cocktail party experts who scoff at the idea of ADHD.
It’s still depressingly easy for people to find websites and online articles that say it’s not real. And my favorite, an article that made the rounds explaining why French children don’t have ADHD. Wow. Since numerous studies have shown ADHD is over 75% inherited, as in genetics, apparently Perrier can transform your DNA so you, ‘Sit up straight! And just try harder!’
Or, ‘Se redresser! Et essayez juste plus fort!’
Sure, French kids don’t have ADHD. And North Koreans are happy, well feed, and enjoying their freedom… according to the North Korean Tourist board.
Who writes these articles? Or books? Or runs these websites?
People with something to sell. Or sometimes, a score to be settled. Let’s face it, there are people who have been misdiagnosed, had a bad experience with medication, or have had a child diagnosed and they’re terrified that it means their kid is damaged or demented.
The New York Times has published one article after another dismissing the prevalence, severity, or even the reality of ADHD. A few years back I cringed at the publication of a new book, “ADHD Is Not Real!”
I was going to write about it, but after talking to a doctor about it I decided to focus instead on what we’re doing. You can’t win that kind of argument. Especially, it seems, on the internet.
But consider the most common beliefs people have who dismiss, deny, or diminish the impact of ADHD.
THE DOUBTERS DO HAVE A POINT
“I think ADHD is overdiagnosed.”
Well, that’s probably true… In some places it may be over-diagnosed. All it takes is one child who doesn’t have ADHD to be misdiagnosed and you could argue it’s been over-diagnosed. Among kids it’s more . But certainly not amongst adults.
If you find yourself being thrown off by the blowhards and the know-it-alls who know nothing, check out our video, Facing The World. There is a way to turn the saboteurs into supporters. Without starting an argument or destroying a relationship.
And yes, there are some people who will never going to give up their beliefs.
The International Flat Earth Society is still out there, arguing the planet has four corners.
“DO YOU BELIEVE THEY PUT A MAN ON THE MOON?”
So, despite the seemingly endless amounts of effort, thousands of studies, and the personal experience of millions of ADDers, the stigma seems to be as prevalent and virulent as it was almost a decade ago. That was when I first approached the producer of a local Health & Lifestyle program suggesting they do a story on ADHD, and I’d be happy to tell my story.
Five years later we made ADD & Loving It?! It debuted on PBS and my world was transformed.
At that time Dr. Steven Kurtz told us, “The stigma, I think, is associated with this notion that your behavior isn’t that much different from mine. And if I control my behavior, why can’t you control your behavior? As opposed to, for example, diabetes, an example I compare to a lot, where clearly my pancreas is broken, that’s why I take insulin shots, and your pancreas works fine, you don’t have to, so it’s sort of a clear biological difference. But paying attention differently than me is too close to what I’m doing.”
Every expert I’ve interviewed for our videos can share scores of heartbreaking stories about the damage the stigma has caused. People abandoning treatments that were working. Frustration. One said, “I’ve been at this for 30 years and I’m sick of it.” And she clearly meant it.
AND YET …
A few years ago, while waiting for a train, my wife Ava and I were browsing magazines at the shops in the station. On the cover of Oprah magazine was a lurid headline asking, “How many women really have ADHD?”
The tone was set. “Is this real? Is this some big hoax?”
I couldn’t bear to read yet another article suggesting this was just some big hoax or conspiracy. So Ava read it. Thank goodness. Turned out, the article was well balanced. It stated that yes, for some adults, medication can be a life-saver.
A few weeks later, an article in the local paper about ADHD. Well balanced. Informative.
And it featured me!
And there are often great articles on ADHD in Scientific American Mind. ADDITUDE Magazine is full of helpful advice. Joining CHADD and ADDA will lead you to reliable information as well.
“HEY RICK, DID YOU SEE THIS?”
A lot of people forward me links to new articles about ADHD. It used to be 90% negative nonsense, editorial pieces by curmudgeons around the theme, “I’m my day we knew how to raise kids!” Usually with a tacit admission that if the author had been tested a child they would have probably been diagnosed with ADHD. But instead they recall a tough teacher who threatened and bullied and rode them relentlessly allowed them to go from a D student to a B student.
Humiliation and fear can be very effective. No doubt about it. (Been there, suffered that.)
Funny, the authors who are full of opinions never speculate on what might have happened if they had been diagnosed, taken on a Holistic treatment plan, and learned how to manage their mindset.
Nor do they mention of how many bankruptcies they’ve had, how little savings they have, how many marriages they’ve had, how estranged they are from friends, how their self-esteem has suffered…
If you’re tired of arguing about this with people, you’ll love Facing The World. It’s quite funny but it lays out a simple strategy that exposes people’s ignorance, and silences the know-it-alls by instantly revealing to everyone in earshot that they have no idea what they are talking about. And generally they quickly stop talking.
Best of all, I’ve actually used it to turn enemies into allies who admit,“I stand corrected.” Amazing.
IT’S BETTER. NOT GREAT. PERHAPS NOT EVEN GOOD.
So can we relax. Can you tell everyone what’s going on? Is it safe now to reveal that you have ADHD? Are adults and teens who suspect they may have this mindset coming out of the woodwork and openly asking to be tested?
(Cue 155 minutes of hysterical laughter.)
Our video To Tell or Not To Tell, offers sensible advice and ideas on this subject.
A dozen ADHD experts, doctors, coaches, and an attorney who has ADHD and specialized in employment law, offer a wide range of suggestions. There’s some great information on the legalities, the potential benefits, and the numerous risks.
The one thing they agree on? ‘Coming out’ about your particular mindset is fraught with peril.
I especially love what Dr. David Teplin says, “So in terms of disclosure, like anything else in life you have to be aware of who you are telling who is receiving that what they might do with it. And in some ways it has to do with trust. In some ways it has to be with naivety or lack of naivety. And really at the end of the day what you’re trying to achieve or what you think will be helpful.”
If you’re not certain… zip your lip. Wait. Put it off. There’s not rush.
As the video explains you can get the accommodations you need and ask for supports that will help you to soar, without ever having to mention those four loaded, misunderstood, emotionally charged letters… A.D.H.D..
By Rick Green
I want to thank, and to tell you about a couple of heroes who work behind the scenes to keep TotallyADD humming. Both work part time, and both put their heart into this.
One is Jimi Doidge. He has the challenge of working with me and producing new videos, sales, newsletters, uploading blogs and products in the shop, creating the shop pages, linking everything together so it works, helping to develop our new quiz which we will be launching in the next week, and a dozen other things.
At one point, Jimi came here to our office every day (The office being the spare bedrooms in the house.) This year he got married, and moved across the country, which I thought was a brilliant strategy. But then I learned about Skype.
Now, to be fair, I tried to learn some of the processes involved in making the site work. However, it quickly became clear that the ‘back-end’ can be a pain in the back-end. I’ve concluded website design is basically black magic, voodoo, and possibly created by aliens… because it requires precision and attention to detail. Horrifying, I know!
So Jimi continues to make things happen on the site, as he also starts training our friend David to take over many of the behind-the-scenes tasks required to make sure the website doesn’t implode. Or, okay, implode as often.
Our Customer Support Angel
Then there’s Pam. A talented artist, she is our Customer Support person. She gets all the complaints, problems, and upsets from people who have tried to make something work, tried to download a product, ordered a video, book, or audio… and been frustrated. (And you know how quickly we get impatient, then frustrated, and angry.)
Pam stays cool as a cucumber, which always amazes me. She is so kind. That’s the word. Kind. She is always compassionate, gently pointing out that the customer has put in the wrong email address, credit card number, expiry date, zip code, or all of the above. (Hey, we have challenges!)
Sometimes people are so enraged, spouting threats, calling out names, it makes a Trump rally seem like a church picnic. Pam politely explain what the problem is, and inevitably the customer is gushing with enthusiasm, apologizing for losing their temper, and often, offering to help her. Astounding. In an age when everything is polarized and on edge, I nominate Pam for Queen of the World.
Pam always sends me the comments, and I’m always left smiling, often a bit misty. One message of gratitude can completely turn around my day.
So last week, with the year drawing to a close, I asked Pam to collect some of the positive comments, so I could share with everyone what folks here are getting from TotallyADD. I’ve compiled a good number, starting with some directed to Pam herself. (She may blush and start crying when she reads this.)
Here’s some of the highlights. I’ve removed people’s names, but left in some initials or first names. Basically each new paragraph is a different person speaking.
“Thanks Pamela!!! I knew you…
…would understand!!! 🙂 You guys are the best and I don’t know what I would do without you!!!”
Thank you so much Pamela… for your lightning response! Happy Holidays
Pamela, I just wanted to thank you for your kind email back a few weeks ago when I was first registering. I was flattered and appreciated you saying that you found my email to be something positive enough to forward on, even though most of it was dedicated to my bumbling the registration process! That made me feel good about myself, so thank you for that! 🙂 – Sara
It never ceases to amaze me how personally the founders of TotallyADD treat each message. Thank you for your personal attention and thanks for all the important work you are doing, you are helping in ways you will never be aware of.
“You gave me hope…
…and showed me that I can have ADHD and be happy, and often very funny because of it!!!
What you guys do is amazing and I’m so glad I have found all of these videos!! Thank you on behalf of all of the people who realize that they are not alone because of what you do.
I love-love-love Totally ADHD. Your humerus (spelling error?) and sincere approach to living with ADHD is refreshing. Thanks for all of the thought and love you all take in crafting it. – Kim
This is the first time I’ve visited your website and I’ll be back, it’s very informative and helpful. Thanks so much! – Marla
Love your products and they are so informative with a delightful touch of practicality and humor. – E. L.
I LOVE your website and the all the resources available!!! – M. W.
I was so excited to find your website and such great materials, I have ordered just about everything on your website!!!! – Peggy
You’re doing great stuff, Thanks!!! – S.
I love your site!!! Best ADHD website around!!! – Paul
“You guys are the most trusted source…
…for ADHD-related information. I read everything on ADHD and you guys are the best and the most fun! I really love the material you produce! – T.D.
I just found Totally ADD, now it’s time to turn that corner with your help.
You guys are awesome and always my “go to” team for advice, news, and ADD humor. Keeps me going on days that are especially rough…
I’m very impressed with the work you have done, and wish you every success.
Your videos are wonderful and so are you guys for making them and sharing them with all of us!!!
I’m looking forward to being…
..a part of this community! And thank you so much for running this site. Rick, you and your colleagues and team have provided a wonderful resource. I’ve consumed a *lot* of self-help stuff in my life, and while some of its failure was probably due to not being appropriate for an ADD individual.
We very much admire what the TotallyADD team does for those with ADD and ADHD – these communities are so lucky to have you in their corner.
Thank you thank you, thank you for tips to overcome such obsession and for the remind me that is okay to conserve energy for managing myself.
Our documentary ADD & Loving It?!
I have watched ADD and Loving It?! over and over again and again and I continue to find it entertaining and helpful.
I’ve just finished watching (maybe a dozen times) ADD & Loving It?! You guys have changed my life!! Thank You. – Wendy
When I first saw ADHD and Loving It?! it resonated so much!!!. I now visit Totally ADD everyday. Thanks for helping to educate folks like me about ADD and explain things in such fun and interesting ways. – J.M.
I’m looking forward to purchasing the videos and exploring this website. For the record, last year I watched ADD and Loving it?! in one of my classes.. by the end I was 95% sure I had ADHD also! Soooo in my 40s, I’ve now been diagnosed and I LOVE IT! Haha! It explains my whole life!!!
Thank you for “ADD and Loving it?!” it opened my eyes and mind. It was mentioned to us by a counselor that our son may be battling this, and he recommended watching your documentary. By the end of if, we turned to each other and were, “Yeah, let’s get him tested.” Thank you for this site. It’s been a great source of support for my husband and I.
With your permission we have shown ADD and Loving It?! more than half a dozen times to various groups. We’ve purchased four DVDs to be sure we always have one that works well. Thanks for all the wonderful work you do.
Stories of Transformation
I’m currently in the process of meeting with a psychiatrist to figure out how to be more successful in my professional and personal lives and I appreciate your website because it helps me understand myself and why I’ve had trouble getting things done all my life. I never knew or thought that I had ADD, but after speaking with friends, my doctor, my professors, classmates, coworkers, spouse, and reading online I don’t see how I have made it this far without a diagnosis (25 years). My parents didn’t believe in medication, but… it made a world of difference. I felt like a new person. Like I was awake and productive for the first time. Thoughts came to my mind, but I could easily push them away or write them down for later. I felt that I could finally think and communicate with my friends. For the first time, I didn’t feel the need to impulsively include my random thoughts into every situation. THANK YOU!!! I love your videos and will share them for sure!
I just want to tell you that your website has helped me realize that my chaotic brain is actually not normal and can be helped. I am in my 40’s and recently met another woman in her 40’s who told me she had adult ADHD. The more she talked the more I thought, “Hey, all you are doing is describing my life, that isn’t any big deal, really, is it?” Then the penny dropped. A huge penny! Her life was like my life, because of a shared trait, ADHD. This launched me in to research mode, which helped me find your site. I have now taken the first big step and have an appointment to see a psych in a few weeks. My biggest fear, is he will either not believe me, or will not consider letting me try medication. As I have tried every type of schedule, reminder service, yoga, adult coloring in (like, that lasted all of 2 minutes!) I just hope he will listen as I bare my flaws to him. So thank you, I am going to try to post this on the forums and hopefully get some reassurance! – Kelly
For years I have thought that there was either something wrong with me, or that I was special. I have always had a thousand and one things running through my mind and thought everyone else did, until I found out that no, they didn’t. I have been battling crippling self doubt, whilst often outwardly displaying confidence that belied my inner turmoil. I could not understand how a man with above average intelligence, seemed to be consistently spinning wheels on the world to nowhere. Until today. It’s like someone has literally taken my life and put it online. Well, not EVERYTHING. But the vast amount that I have read about ADD/ADHD (thank you, hyperfocus!), has left me in no doubt. I will get officially diagnosed, but as poster said below, this is both liberating and frightening. For so many years I have been fighting this internal battle and now I know what it is. I’m not crazy. I’m not useless. I’m not lazy. I feel SO much better that I have found this resource, amongst others. – A Fan
I really enjoy your site. The ‘Unofficial ADHD Quiz’ video made me want to spend the rest of the day on your website. Now I’m hooked, but then I do have ADD so maybe not such a big surprise to you guys!!
Thanks for all you do, Team TotallyADD. Your work has had a profound impact on the course of my life. I came across your 5 minute Unofficial ADD Quiz about six months ago, and was contentedly watching it [over the course of three days] to be a supportive spouse to my ADD partner and a supportive brother and uncle and cousin, and, really, a smug non-ADD person in a sea of ADD family. Well, of course it turned out that this life-long adventurer was at least as impacted as the rest of them, and totally oblivious and unable to see myself or my behaviours. The past six months have brought more change than I can describe. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Empowering Parents & Partners
Hi – great site! I’m helping my son who is 18 try to recognize his symptoms and this site is funny and engaging – might be working! Thanks!! – E.
I would like to “gift” an online video to my son as I know your videos would help him. I finally feel hopeful that through your website and videos my son will finally get help and see the potential he has but doesn’t yet understand how to reach. Thank you.
After my son was diagnosed with ADD, I realized “that’s me!” The realization was confusing for my parents because I was an honour roll student and graduated from LSU with a high grade point average. I see now that I am on medicine, that I accomplished this by throwing myself into crisis mode constantly. I never realized life shouldn’t be this hard until I experienced the other, calmer, more organized brain space that medication gives me. At first I regretted not knowing at a younger age. I felt like I could have rocked life and it would have been 100 times easier. But, I see now that the struggle was real and it has only made me stronger. I give credit to this website, it’s videos, emails, and Friday Funnies for helping me through this strange year of personal insight. I have never felt like anyone “got” me. Now I don’t feel like such an odd duck. Thank You!
Thank you for your website, from me and grandson! Ever since I learned how to search for web sites on google I have been looking for any helpful resources on parenting and ADHD. That is how I discovered your page, which I really enjoy. Especially the archived webinars which were very helpful. – V.M.
Thanks for everything. I think my marriage fell apart because of ADD. My husband was diagnosed but stated outright that it wasn’t part of our issues and that I wasn’t allowed to talk about it. Meanwhile my son also has it. Advocating for my son in school but having to pretend it wasn’t part of my marriage was a little much to handle. Thank you for everything. P. .S.. my son loves Friday Funnies – as do I. – Ingrid
Friday Funnies are such a great start…
…to the weekend. Thank you Rick for all you do and making me smile at least once a week!!!
I just have to say that your Friday Funnies bring me great joy! Thank you! – B.H.
The world has gone mad and the daily stressors are overwhelming. But, on Fridays I look forward to my Friday Funnies and have the pleasure of moments of chuckles and smiles. – W.
I love-love-love the Friday Funnies randomly placed in the most recent Totally ADHD email. Caught and kept my attention. Genius idea! – K.J.
Doctors and Other Professionals…
I love your descriptions of the symptoms and the examples you provide.. I’ve used many rating scales, structured diagnostic interviews & semi-structured interviews and I think your wording is the best. 🙂 I recommend your website & videos to *all* my newly diagnosed ADHD clients. The content is reliable, clearly communicated, unbiased and, most importantly, hopeful. Thank you!
Love your work at Totally ADD. It is the ONE email list that I recommend to my ADHD clients (I’m a certified ADHD coach). – L.K.
This is a ‘fawning praise’ note! We met a couple of years ago – I am an ADHD Coach in Ontario. I use your videos in my coaching frequently and find them very helpful for explaining information to clients and/or parents. I am very excited that Totally ADD is partnered with the ACO for the Coach Directory and have already had calls from this! So Thank-you! Thanks for the all you do to change the lives of people with ADHD! – J.W
You ROCK! 🙂 You guys are literally lifesavers 🙂 Seriously…you really are!!! – K.J.
Thank you so much for the help. You’re website and shop are wonderful. Happy Holidays and thank Rick for all the things he does that help us see we aren’t lazy and stupid.
I wish you and all the staff at Totally ADD all the best for 2017 and the happiest of Holidays! You deserve some calmness from us ADDers!
You gave me hope through laughter. You showed me the people who really know what they are talking about. You showed me what I could rely on. How did I know you were to be trusted? Because you posted video’s for free. Completely selfless. You let me see who you were. You shared views from experts to reassure me. And then you showed me you had a website and other offers. Thank You. – D.S.
From Ava, me, and of us at TotallyADD, thank you for letting us make a difference for you.
For 5 seasons I produced a series called History Bites. I believe it is the only television program that ran on a comedy network and a history network. It was very clever and the cast and writers were awesome.
I learned a lot about history, different cultures, and a different faiths. And of course the many variations and subsets of those faiths. There are scores of different “Christian” denominations. It’s a bit like ADHD, a complete spectrum with common elements and many different variations.
Like ADHD, ultimately, spirituality is deeply personal.
What amazes me is that while there are thousands of different faiths, some ancient and long gone, others recent and still growing, there are a few things they all seem to share.
One of them is giving thanks.
It’s something we need to be reminded to do. For example, I’ve seen a lot of people posting things on social media about what an awful year 2016 was. Not just because of all the music legends who passed away, but all the other events and crisis. People are posting, “Good riddance to 2016.” But one thing I learned from all those episodes of History Bites, it’s this: We are actually living in the best possible time in history.
Life has never been that’s good for so many people.
What about those who are starving? Or living in war zones? Yes, it’s terrible. But in the past it was worse. Whatever percentage of people live in poverty, hunger, and disease… it was far worse.
Life was shorter. More capricious. And brutal. There were no antibiotics. No grocery stores. No “Health and Safety” regulations. No child-labor laws.
Until the 1800’s, there was no real police force. No fire department. No 911. Barbers were also dental surgeons. (Apparently the classic red and white striped barber’s pole represents blood on towels.)
People with mental health problems were ridiculed, or burned as witches. Until 1952 ADHD was called a Defect of Moral Control. (Nice.)
The average person was incredibly ignorant, very prejudiced, and lived in fear.
Picture life before a flush toilets, toilet paper, or feminine hygiene products. Not to mention refrigeration, central heating, and running water. (Oh, and sewers.)
Today, a person living in a bachelor apartment in North America has access to a wider range of food, entertainment, education, and safe transportation than even the richest nobles enjoyed in medieval times.
Listen, I don’t want you to feel guilty for not walking around all day shouting ‘Life is great!’ I’m certainly not out to suggest that the world is fine, or that people are not suffering, or in dire straits. Nor am I going to suggest there are not huge challenges ahead around the environment.
But I want you to understand that daily life is getting better, and it used to be much worse for everyone. But especially for women, children, or anyone who was ‘different.’
And I don’t just mean back in the Dark Ages or Ancient Rome.
You see, last year I found all of my elementary school report cards. Today, any teacher reading them would quickly realize that I had ADHD. It’s all there, “fidgets, interrupts, daydreams, tunes out, doesn’t listen, needs to try harder.” Instead, in the comments from my teachers and my parents, there is this overwhelming sense of disappointment, underachieving, failure, weakness… Laced with impatience that I never seem to improve.
There’s frustration that somehow telling me to ‘Try harder,’ isn’t producing the expected breakthrough.
I had tears in my eyes reading those Report Cards the first time. It all came back to me in a flood of melancholy–I was NEVER good enough. Never fulfilling the promise of who I was. Or who they thought I should be.
The things I did well? They mentioned some of them: coming up with stories, drawing, being creative. But every positive is immediately followed by, “but, Ricky’s printing is not improving…. Ricky’s handwriting remains a problem…”
I truly hated school. I’d forgotten how much. I had forgotten how dispiriting it was. And how I came alive after 3:30, rushing home to work on my gigantic model railroad, put on stage plays, create art projects, build go karts, do magic, make forts, invent games that the whole neighborhood wanted to play…
History Bites explored the tumultuous transformation that humans have gone through over the past 5,000 years. But in my lifetime the transformation around ADHD has been phenomenal. And yes, I know, I know, I know… there is still too much suffering and stigma, and not enough resources and support. But rather than complain about how the world is still not perfect, I want to take a moment to acknowledge some of the good.
I’m most grateful for my wife, Ava, who has been my partner in all of this from the very beginning.
Both of us are grateful for Patrick and Janis McKenna for their courage in sharing their story in ADD & Loving It?!
Ava and I are grateful for every doctor, researcher, coach, and expert who has graciously shared their time, and knowledge with us. I’m grateful for all the people who helped us create TotallyADD.com, and who keep re-creating it as we go along. Thanks to PBS and all the people who made sure our program made it to air. (It was considered risky. Many stations feared ADHD in adults was too controversial.)
We appreciate and admire everyone who has found our website, seen our videos, read the blogs, and gained knowledge to change their lives for the better. Which of course impacts the lives of everyone in your circles. We love hearing from you! Every day brings messages of gratitude. And we do read them.
We’re especially moved by all of you who have gone above and beyond, offering each other support, compassion, and advice in the forums, and in the comments on the blogs and videos. TotallyADD.com is not just a website. It’s the cumulative experience, and struggles, and wisdom of thousands of members.
And we are particularly grateful to everyone who has supported us in our mission by purchasing our videos, books, and audios, or by donating. Your support is what has allowed us to keep going, and to remain independent. We are not funded by a university, or pharmaceutical company. Which is why we get to be funny, entertaining, and a bit ‘on-the-edge.’ You make that possible. And those of you who purchased something from the shop and give it to a friend, loved one, doctor, local school or organization, you too are changing lives, creating ripples of knowledge, and hope that radiate outwards, and affect people that you will never meet.
How cool is that?!
Yes 2016 has been a challenging year. But sometimes when you have ADHD a challenge wakes up the brain, gets the juices flowing, and becomes an exciting challenge. That was 2016 for me.
How about you? What are you grateful for? Big or small…what were the highlights of this year for you? Who are you grateful for? Ava and I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
By Rick Green
Now and then someone will tell me that Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a gift. A big, fat, wonderful, exciting gift.
Rather than a problem, disorder, constant challenge, or, on bad days, a curse.
Why such opposing views?
One reason is that ADHD is very ‘individual.’ Each of us has our own combination of challenges, and to varying degrees. Plus, we have a unique life situation. My ADHD is awesome when I’m doing comedy on stage. It is a big problem when I’m forced to sit quietly, and pay attention during a long meeting.
Add to all of this the fact that there are two main types of ADHD. Some folks don’t have the Hyperactivity—that impulsive, fidgety, driven, impatient, mercurial restlessness. Instead, many women and some men are quiet day-dreamers, often lost in thought. My grandmother would have said, “A dough head.” No, Nana, it’s the Predominantly Inattentive Subtype of ADHD. Me, I have the Combined Subtype.
ANOTHER REASON FOR CONFUSION?
It’s not a deficit of attention. Not always.
Sometimes we can be laser focused. Try getting a kid who has ADHD to stop playing with their X-Box. Or interrupt an adult who’s ‘in the zone.’
I’ve written and performed in over 700 episodes of television, and radio comedy, from The Red Green Show, to The Frantics, to History Bites. I run an ADHD website full of videos, blogs, tools, and more. Clearly, I can pay attention. In fact, like many folks with ADHD, I can hyperfocus. Just not always when I want to, or on what I should be paying attention to. You should see our basement, garage, and spare bedroom… A million things started and not finished.
IS IT A CURSE OR BLESSING?
No wonder there’s confusion about whether ADHD is a burden or a gift.
Almost every adult in our videos will tell you that their ADHD can be a life-sucking, frustrating, confusing. Yes, many are learning to manage it, often quite successfully, but they don’t love it.
They are VERY relieved they finally know what’s going on. Every person will tell you that getting a diagnosis is life-changing.
Other people, often well-meaning and loving parents, declare that ADHD is a gift.
“Here’s a wonderful gift that will cost you years of your life, countless opportunities, friendships, relationships, money… I didn’t have time to wrap it.”
At first I thought, “What nonsense.”
Some people actually envied me! (You can envy things I’ve done. Don’t envy this life-sucking saboteur!)
Now, after 15 years of hearing this disorder is in fact some kind of blessing, I give up.
Fine! Yes! You’re right! It’s a big honking gift!
I’ll go further if you want. ADHD is a hugely profitable gift, that keeps paying off, but NOT for me, or the millions of people who actually have it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving…to everyone else.
My ADHD is a gift for other people. Allow me to point out who they are…
1. SCREEEEEECH! CRASH!
When you have problems with focus, attention, distraction, and overwhelm, as numerous studies have confirmed people with ADHD do, you have more car accidents. One study found that adults with untreated ADHD means they are 7 times more likely to be at fault for multiple car accidents. Seven times the rate! That’s 600% higher than ‘regular’ folks. (As in non-ADHD.)
How is this a gift? Actually, the question is, who benefits? Well, who profits?
If you are an auto mechanic, truck driver, insurance adjuster, traffic cop, ambulance driver, E.R. doctor, or auto recycler, then you will have steady work thanks to those who have untreated ADHD.
When your mind is flitting like a butterfly, you tend to be a poor listener. Plus, a poor working memory means we forget appointments, anniversaries, promises, and everything from taking out the garbage to saving money for retirement.
It is so easy for our loved ones to conclude that we don’t care. And it’s no fun for them to always have to be ‘the responsible one.’
Many of us also have trouble managing frustration. Sudden outbursts of anger, that quickly pass, but leave everyone else shaken, are common. This is different from ‘Anger Management.’ Arguing, drama, and conflict can wake up our brain and make us feel better. But leave everyone around us exhausted.
So, if you’re a divorce lawyer, a family law-specialist, a marriage counselor, judge, a baliff, or accountant, we’re sending a lot of billable hours your way.
Depending on which study you read, we’re 2 to 4 times more likely to divorce.
3. BUNDLES OF JOY
Ever thought about having children? We can help.
One of the key traits of adult ADHD is Impulsivity. We tend to blurt things out. Things like, “Do you want to have sex?” And sometimes the other person does.
Being impulsive, we’re not always good at long-term planning…resulting in unplanned pregnancies. Which we’re not prepared to handle. Parenting is a commitment. It requires routines. Structure. Stability. Not our forte.
So, if you work at, or seek help from an adoption agency, you may end up with one of our offspring. (ADHD is highly inheritable. It’s strongly genetic. So while only about 4 to 5% of adults have ADHD, each of our kids has a 30 to 40% chance of having it. So that’s why the kid you adopt may be a handful.)
Try and remember what a gift their ADHD is when that child asks you why they never get invited to birthday parties.
If 4 to 5% of adults qualify as having ADHD, then you’d assume that at any large gathering, about 1 in 25 people would have this. And yet, one of the earliest studies on the subject found that about 1 in 3 people at an Alcoholics Anonymous gathering showed the symptoms of ADHD. That’s about seven times what you’d expect.
So, if you own a tavern, a brewery, a winery, a distillery, a store that sells spirits, an alcohol addiction program, or a liver-transplant clinic, you are going to be able to afford that winter vacation thanks to the extra sales from us.
It’s our gift! A reward! Our contribution!
In fact, if you counsel people who are Shop-a-holics, Sex Addicts, or have substance abuse problems, we make up a disproportionately large slice of your clients. Why? People with undiagnosed and untreated ADHD find ways to wake up their brain. It’s called Self-Medicating. For me it used to be caffeine and adrenaline.
The point is, it’s a gift!
5. STARBUCKS SHOULD GIVE US A DISCOUNT
ADHD seems to result from low levels of certain neurotransmitters, the chemicals required to carry messages around your brain. One way to increase the level of these messengers is to stimulate the brain… with a stimulant.
You’re thinking, “Ritalin?!” I was thinking caffeine and nicotine.
If someone you know drinks 8 coffees, teas, or as I did, cans of cola, every day, and then fills in the gaps with chocolate and energy drinks, send them to our online ADHD quiz. Or refer them to our 5 part series on ADHD Medications – video 3 looks at self-medicating.
The point is that human being always find a way to get the brain chemicals they need to feel good, even if it’s destructive to the rest of their body.
Which is fabulous news for you coffee companies, coffee shops, chocolate companies, and energy drink bottlers. Baristas owe us a big thanks. (Sorry for our rudeness. We’re often impatient, hate line-ups, and want our coffee now! Plus, one study found we make between $8,000 to $14,000 less in annual income compared to our non-ADHD peers, and struggle with finances and paperwork, so we may not tip. Which kind of lessens the impact of the gift of our ADHD, I know. Please forgive us.)
6. JUSTICE? IT’S JUST US!
Are you a police officer? Penitentiary guard? Parole officer? Courtroom official? Bail supervisor? Judge? Crime reporter?
Again, the numbers are in debate, but studies suggest that between 25 and to 35% of the prison population has undiagnosed and untreated ADHD. (BTW, before you panic and assume ADHD automatically dooms your child to incarceration, the prison population usually has other challenges, like Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, or an inability to run faster than a police officer.)
The point is that you’d expect the rate in prison to be the same as in the general population, which is 4 to 5% of adults. So, people suffering from untreated ADHD are doing their bit to keep the justice system economically viable.
You’re welcome! It’s our gift to you! With a big friggin’ bow on it.
7. A SURE FIRE BET
I mentioned Alcoholics Anonymous…Then there’s Gambler’s Anonymous. We love risk!
When you’re short of certain neurotransmitters, in this case Dopamine and Norepinephrine, you find ways to wake up your brain. With adrenaline.
So it’s not just compulsive drinking, drugs, or cannabis… There’s gambling!
Good news for anyone working in Vegas, but especially casino employees, card dealers, and eventually, pawn-shop owners, bill collectors, repo companies, and divorce lawyers. That was gift number 2 – the divorce lawyers were also benefiting from our ADHD in Gift Number 2.
8. HELPING YOU GET A HIGHER EDUCATION
It’s never easy to get into the best colleges or universities.
People with ADHD can also suffer far higher rates of learning disorders, (ADHD is a difficulty managing information) adding to the challenge.
Plus, we’re easily distracted, and have a poor working memory. So we tend to be woefully underachieving in school, unless we’re lucky enough to have a teacher who recognizes what’s going on. (In that case, there’s a ton of great accommodations that can level the playing field.)
Otherwise, we are far more likely to be expelled, repeat a grade, or drop out. If we make it to college we really struggle to manage coursework, or simply get to early morning classes. (Getting good sleep is an almost universal hurdle with ADHD.)
The result of all this? We’re more likely to never finish our degree. (More teacher time for you Non-ADHD students.)
We’re more likely to settle for a degree that’s beneath our true abilities. (As I did.)
And then there’s our higher rate of substance abuse… Cannabis actually doesn’t improve memory, despite what millions claim. It may make you feel calmer, and yes, people swear they can focus better, but… I’m not going to get into that debate again.
The point is, our failure rate at institutions of higher learning means there’s a lot more spaces for other students to get into college. Lucky them!
THE BAD NEWS…
It turns out ADHD is surprisingly treatable. Which is good for those of us who have it, and bad news for everyone who doesn’t.
With a holistic, or multi-modal approach, the turnaround can be incredible. One study said the core symptoms can be reduced by 75%! There are more and more tools, strategies, apps, and medication options. Hundreds of studies are proving the effectiveness of mindfulness, exercise, coaching and life-style changes.
Many famous and successful people have ADHD. More and more of them are, as one doctor put it, ‘coming out of the ADHD closet,’ Kudos to reporter Lisa Ling, actress Zooey Deschanel, and Adam Levine of Maroon 5.
I have to tell you, just getting diagnosed, knowing what’s going on, getting solid information from reliable sources, makes all the difference in the world. Plus it leads to you interesting, ADHD-Friendly strategies to help master this quirky, funky mindset.
Simply knowing what’s going on changes everything. That’s bad news for addiction counselors, divorce lawyers, and ambulance drivers. (So sorry!)
And it’s good news for those of us who have this ‘gift.’ And, of course, for our loved ones who are supporting us.
(Apologies if I got a little ‘dark.’ But if you have ADHD, I think you’ll understand.)
By Rick Green
In the years since I was diagnosed, I’ve noticed 2 things that undermine my willpower, resolve and success.
One is when a new ADHD-Friendly tool, strategy, or practice that I take on doesn’t actually work for me.
The other thing that sabotages my ability to make permanent changes and stick with new habits is when a tool, strategy, or practice does work for me. Especially if it works well. Let me explain this one…
I decide to eat healthier. I decide to exercise. I add yoga to my morning routine.
I discover that exercise, walking at least 10,000 steps, really clears my head.
And doing yoga every morning makes me more calm and clear as I begin my workday.
Eating healthier? Doesn’t seem to help my ADHD. But definitely has an impact on my stamina. And combined with Yoga and more walking, 10 pounds melt away so my yoga pants start falling down when I do a Sun Salutation. So this is a good combination.
Success Breeds Forgetfulness
I start feeling better…More fit, clearer, more energetic, and I think, “Well done, Rick! Kudos to me! I am awesome. I deserve an award! A treat! To celebrate and acknowledge my self-discipline!” And since we happen to be driving by the ice cream stand, I find myself with a medium hot fudge sundae in my hand. Ten minutes later, I’m scraping the sundae bowl of the last streaks of chocolate sauce, the sundae is in my stomach.
A few days later it will be on my waistline but within about 30 minutes of licking the last of the fructose-filled sundae from the plastic spoon, I have the inevitable flip side of a sugar-rush, the crash. As a lay there, I realize how I have undermined my commitment to eat better. I console myself on having ordered a medium–sized sundae, rather than the large size I was craving [And would definitely have ordered if my wife hadn’t been there with me].
I’m sleepy. Dopey. My body is struggling to process all that sugar, salt, food coloring, additives, and preservatives.
My Liver. My Poor Liver.
I need a nap. And I take a nap…
So much for getting my 10,000 steps in today. I’ll do twice as long a walk tomorrow… if there’s time… Or maybe on the weekend… (Yes, sure, like that’s ever happened, ever, at all, at any time in my life…)
Worse, now that I’ve spent 90 minutes sprawled on the couch while my body tries to make sense of the explosion of sugar and fat in the sundae, I’m behind in my work… I’ll start earlier tomorrow to make up for it, I promise.
And I do start earlier, freeing up time by not doing my 18 minute yoga routine.
Which means I start the day behind, tense, not centered… I forget to check in with my coach. I’m more scattered and less productive.
I know you may be thinking, “Rick, no one is perfect. You did very well.”
Yes, that’s true. But I know me better than anyone else knows me. And trust me, I don’t trust me to have the willpower to do the right thing. ADHD can show up as a lack of will-power. An inability to resist temptation.
This is why I do so much better having a coach to check in with, and the wife who cares about my health and gently suggests I forgo the ice cream and eat one or 2 of those apples that we have at home in the fridge.
All or Nothing? I’m All In Favor of All.
Telling myself that I will only indulge in a few potato chips, a little ice cream, a few french fries, and only on occasion, “now and then,” doesn’t seem to work well for me. Half a bag of chips get eaten. A little ice cream becomes a medium sundae, or what the heck, a large.
Sometimes I can trick myself. I pour enough potato chips to fill a small cereal bowl. Rather than sit, absorbed in a movie, while I finish the entire bag of potato chips. But just as often, I get to the bottom of the bowl, wonder where they all went, and go fill it up again.
Why do I seem to take one step forward and then one step back, and one step forward, one step back? Why do I sabotage myself? Why can’t I stick with things that are working for me? Things I know and can see are making a positive difference?
Are there deep psychological issues at work?
Major psychological issues that I can only overcome if Freud and Jung tag-team me through 9 years of therapy?
Or is it just my ADHD?
I hope it’s just my ADHD. I don’t want to spend 9 years in therapy. Lying on a couch? The only time I’d want to lie on a couch is after a chocolate sundae.
Perhaps it’s a little of both. Dunno.
But I do know that very often I can resist temptation, whether that’s to have something my body wants to do, like inhale a chocolate sundae, or whether it’s something my body doesn’t want to do, such as going out on a cold and windy day like today to get my 10,000 steps.
Willpower in 30 Second Bursts
So, I’ve been using a trick that I learned at a CHADD Conference.
A doctor, and I’m sorry but I don’t recall who, mentioned that she had read, “If you can resist a temptation or urge for 20 or 30 seconds, it will usually pass.”
She mentioned this in long conversation among a number of experts about addiction. I don’t remember much else from my conversation. Perhaps because when she said it, my mind latched onto it. “20 seconds? 30 seconds?… I can manage that.”
I tried it the next time I was passing the ice cream stand. I didn’t beat myself up, run down the long list of health problems, or remind myself of my promise and commitments… I just thought about the chocolate sundae. And how good it would taste. And how, if I didn’t have it, life would go on. And it did.
The urge passed. To my surprise.
Amazing! Good For Me!
In 30 seconds the craving subsided. Common sense and logic took over. I actually remembered that my wife keeps our fridge stocked with healthy, organic, free-range, gluten-free, additive-free apples.
I was so pleased with this new strategy, and delighted at my newfound willpower that I gave myself a pat on the back and rewarded myself with a party-size bag of potato chips. (Kidding.)
I know ADHD is a very tricky thing to treat, to deal with, and to possibly even master. Many tools and strategies are complex and take time.
This little willpower trick has been a delight. There is only one challenge.
Can you guess what it is?
It’s remembering to do it. Remembering that it’s part of my arsenal. Remembering to pause and wait 30 seconds. Rather than remember as I’m finishing off the last mouthful of ice cream, and going, “Oh, right… Darn… I could have waited… I need to find a strategy to remind myself… and I need a nap.”