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Freedom and Choice: Finding Out You Have ADHD

We have all heard the term ‘existentialism’ and perhaps even know the names of some of the most famous existentialists. 

Like Jean Paul Sartre.  And… Uh, okay, that’s the only one I can think of now.  Let me Google it…

All right, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky… I thought Dostoyevsky was a novelist? 

Or the goalie for the New York Rangers?

Anyway I had heard the term ‘existentialist’ and knew that it had to do with philosophy, the meaning of life and…

Uh, okay, I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant.  But I had a sense that people involved in it had beards and eventually became miserable. 

After all one of Sartre’s books was titled ‘Nausea’ because that’s how he felt when he contemplated the meaning of life.

My Kingdom for A Dictionary

But if I look up ‘existentialism’ in my dictionary… “Ava?  Where is our dictionary?… I did?  When?… Oh right…”

But if I Google the term existentialism…  It has to do with understanding who we are, based more upon our experience as individuals than on very scary moral beliefs or dry measurable scientific facts. 

The exist in existentialism is about human existence.  Your existing.  Your being and way of being and experience of life.

(If one of our thousands of members can clarify this better than I just did, which shouldn’t be hard, please do.)

I am A Discoverer!

So discovering that you fall into the ADHD spectrum is an ‘existentialist’ discovery.  Sounds cool doesn’t it?

You are suddenly realizing that your life, how you’ve been living it, your ‘existence’ has been impacted by something that you never knew was there.  Until now.

No wonder so many people with ADD say, “It was like being struck by lightning.”

Suddenly who you are, or rather who you think you are, is shattered. For me it felt like everything was up for grabs.  Scary.  And thrilling, right?

I could see that a lot of the ‘free choices’ I had made about my career, marriage, raising the kids, friends, hobbies, etc.. were actually being influenced and impacted by my ADHD. 

In ways I never appreciated. And never could have appreciated because the explanation, ADHD, wasn’t on my radar.

Suddenly I understood why I wrote short comedy skits rather than long screenplays.  Or Russian novels.

I was at the mercy of this hidden saboteur.  And it had put severe limits on me.  But as I learned more, I could see the limits…

Let me use an analogy.  If you don’t like doing sports because it’s not ‘something I’m good at’, that’s fine.

But if someone points out that instead of shoes, you have two large balls of concrete on your feet, and they’ve been there your whole life, well, now you can choose to keep em there, “I’m used to them,” or you can choose to hire someone with a jackhammer to help you remove them.

(Okay, weird analogy, but you get what I’m saying.) (I hope.)

So taking on my ADHD is about giving myself freedom and choice.  And that’s an ongoing process.  The more I learn, the more freedom and choice I have.

Are you with me on this?


Rick Green

ADHD Community

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  1. Bibliophile September 12, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    But you will never have shoes, just sculpted concrete. We must recognize also that parts of the disorder (I reject the term type) will never go away. Sure, if we have a gift for writing and were only able to write short stories before, we may be able to write novellas, but to say that we will be able to go from skits to tomes (à la George R. R. Martin or Leo Tolstoy) is ridiculous. The freedom is still limited by the constraints of the biological deficits.
    The other issue is that one has to clearly recognize what parts of their lives ADHD is affecting and what parts are not. Now, I don’t quite fit as I was diagnosed at an early age and have, to some degree, always been aware of where my predilections emanate from, but tackling ADHD symptoms is only part of the issue and will not grant someone the ability to do something they truly cannot or have little innate ability to do so.

  2. bleachboy10 September 13, 2012 at 12:21 am

    so, I think this(article) means… We are limited in ways AND we are not limited in other ways BUT we can use both sets of information, the limited and the not limited info, to understand where our freedom and choices are located in our existence…. ? my head hurts…

  3. anniea September 13, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Biblo.. I understand every-body can’t do every-thing they try.. or you don’t do it well, or it doesn’t interst you.. but you did it once and now you know.. OR.. MAYBE you can try something in a different way until you do it different / better.. like changing your mind sset about why NOT do the dishes tonight and wake up to a tidy kitchen.. win/win..
    before ADD awareness I did not understand WHY I did something over and over and expected different results.. NOW I seen how my serial jobs is a pattern, and probably ADD related.. NOW that I SEE.. I can try something different.. and see if I can get differnt results… but if I don’t CHOOSE to try something differnt.. I will continue on this old path.. Hows that working for you??
    Or I can find out about behaviors of this ADD and see what if anything I want to do differnet… It is with information we are free to choose something different … If I don’t know I have cement for shoes we can’t chip away at them… and I for one am sick of my cement shoes..

  4. Bibliophile September 13, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    @Anniea I agree that recognition of the ADHD symptoms as an influence on decision making is necessary first step. All we can do though is mitigate the severity of the symptoms and adapt to the situation given our own tendencies. The adaptation may be in the form of avoidance, i.e. choosing not to write at all, or in selecting specific tasks that are achievable, i.e. while I cannot write the long novel, I can write novellas.
    The point I wanted to raise in the comment is that the ADHD symptoms are never going away entirely, i.e. we will never have just shoes as there will always be some concrete. What we need to do is reduce as many of the triggers and performance malfunctions down to the point where we can at least approach a modicum of success or we can choose to do something that fits with our present condition.
    We are not entirely free to choose as the ADHD will always have some effect on our decision making as it is a malfunction of executive functions, i.e. impaired working memory, impulsive actions, etc. We can choose to get help to mitigate these symptoms or change the point of action/place so that we are happier and functioning as we wish to be in society, in the workplace and in the home.
    Knowing oneself and understanding why we do things, from a psychological, sociological and biological standpoint, is the only way that we can alter our behaviour. This applies to everything, but is particularly salient for ADHD. We have to recognize in advance what will trigger a response and deal with it before it gets the better of us.
    (My apologies for the rambling.)

  5. aphter September 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. :) This helps me to reinforce what I need to whisper to my heart.

  6. Wgreen September 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    When I think of Existentialism, I think of a reaction to Rationalism in the wreckage of two great European wars. Sartre said we are “condemned to be free,” perpetually compelled to make choices. It is more about action—and taking responsibility for that action—than understanding the world around us. In fact, it was asserted that real objectivity was impossible. Absurdity was a recurring theme.
    While, like the Existentialists, ADDers spend plenty of time searching for a workable “framework of meaning,” I wonder what Sartre would have made of the notion of a neurologically impaired moral will. And an inability to regulate one’s actions.

  7. Rick September 13, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Really neat comments.
    Free will is a very mind whirling topic.
    The fact is, that I have written a screenplay or two. Long before I was diagnosed. And I’m sure I could if I were so inclined. But that’s the thing. I’m not inclined to do it. To stay focused on one story, for six months? To follow story arcs, character arcs, back story, and so on? Knowing that perhaps one in a thousand screenplays gets produced into a movie?
    In one year I co-wrote, directed and co-starred in 24 episodes of The Red Green Show and wrote and hosted 30 episodes of another series called Prisoners of Gravity.
    That’s 27 hours of entertainment.
    A movie is two hours.
    For me, the diagnosis wasn’t about now having the ability to write movies. It was about allowing myself to not be a ‘famous screen writer & director’. As someone who wanted to be Woody Allen, or even better to be Preston Sturges, the fact that my film ideas never went very far was depressing. I’d do 27 hours of television and dismiss the accomplishment, because I’d focus on what I hadn’t done…
    And I know I’m not the only ADDer who does this. Dismissing our strengths or successes and only seeing what we don’t do.
    I’ve been lucky to have a lot of successes. But when I’ve crashed at various points in my life, all I was able to see was what I had ‘failed’ to do.
    I never gave myself permission to turn stuff down, let go of things, or say, “I’ll never do that. And that’s okay.”
    My bucket list used to be a bucket encyclopedia. Crazy.

  8. Pridan September 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    One of my favorite videos on the site, and something I really appreciate you talking about again, was your webinar where you talk about ditching your in progress screenplays. “I’ll never do that. And that’s okay”. Liberating words.
    And “Prisoners of Gravity” is amazing! I just saw it for the first time a few month ago, when looking to see what other work you’ve done. Incredible stuff.

  9. Robbo September 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Great desk Aphter, looks a little familiar.
    Good analogy: concrete boots. I almost said shoes, boots fits better for me at this point. Made me chuckle a little. I do that a lot. When I first showed up here it was two balls of limestone. Big, not fun. I have to see my ADHD as something I can work on. The idea of needing someone else with a jackhammer is distasteful. But I’ve got lot’s of those types of people all around me. I could accidentally break off valuable parts of me trusting someone with a jackhammer. I’d rather take my time with a chisel. Let some folks help me out with smaller more careful tools.
    Maybe existentialism is related to acceptance. Allowing others, life, and myself to “be what they be” Like the Beatles song “Let it be”. I say “Maybe” because I don’t think any of us see the term, or life the same way. It could also be about being able to just leg go of our need to find out the meaning of life, to analyze. Just accepting that it’s a growing developing thing. So of course it can’t be nailed down. Humanity in general is a growing organism. Accepting the fact that I’m part of that, and I don’t always have to understand how to play my part could be one of the reasons for this existentialism thing. Isn’t it kinda just another offshoot of philosophy?, problem solving. Another brain hobby?.
    It’s fun to explore all the different human perspectives and behaviors. We’re interesting creatures. I still haven’t googled it myself. Reading about philosophy can make me feel a little wonky. It’s sometimes fun. Maybe after some coffee. I don’t really feel like making some… I made some anyway, and a long break for morning meditation, reading n prayer. Okay I googled it. I’m still stuck with the memory of a short scene in Criminal Minds where a self absorbed psychopath tries to correct the young genius with some of the same mental struggles we grapple with. Crap, can’t think of his name. The psycho talked about “letting other things exist”. To me it seems to be about suspending judgement and just trying to enjoy my perspective. Looking for what’s interesting about other peoples perspective as well. Respectful coexistence.
    ADHD is like cement boots, by calling them boots instead of shoes they become my allies, and help me through the rough terrain of this life. Concrete boots are very hard, nearly indestructible. If I stub my toe it’s painless. I’ll leave a path of destruction everywhere I go though. That’s not good. So I grab a chisel. My legs get stronger, and I learn to be more careful on my path.
    That’s what this whole web site is: chisels, hammers, and the sculpture that is us.
    It’s okay with me to not understand existentialism. So far my greatest achievement is survival.

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