7 Reasons I Couldn’t Possibly Have ADHD

You’ve always known you were different.  Even in childhood.  Ah, but why?  Why does life seem so challenging?

Maybe you’re just a dreamer, or restless, or impulsive?  Maybe you’re creative or sensitive?

What about the possibility of ADHD?  Dare we mention that an estimated 5 out of 6 adults who qualify as having ADHD have not been diagnosed?

Until you get a reliable ADHD diagnosis, there is no shortage of other explanations for “What is wrong with me?”.  And that’s a shame, because as Dr. Edward Hallowell says in ADD & Loving It?!, “Undiagnosed and untreated, ADHD can ruin your life… That said… No other diagnosis comes with as much potential upside.  This is a good news diagnosis.”

So why do people insist they couldn’t possibly have ADHD?  Here are some of the most common beliefs that prevent people from finding out the truth.

1. I’m Just Different

THE BELIEF: “I’m weird, I don’t think like everyone else,  I see things others miss and yet miss stuff they all seem to see.  I just don’t fit in anywhere.   I didn’t fit into my classroom, I don’t fit into my family, I don’t fit in at my job.  And to be honest, part of me doesn’t want to fit in.”

I sometimes felt like I was born into the wrong universe; an 8-Track player in a Blu-ray world.  But the square peg learns how to become rounded when they need to, and how to make their world more square.  And that shapes our sense of who we are.

The cost?  The sense of being different left me feeling sad and lonely rather than special.  Convinced I was weird, unreliable, and weak-willed, I tried to work around my weaknesses, but never noticed how much the impairments were costing me.  Now I can see how shut down I was.  Scary.

2. I’m Fine! It’s Everyone Else.

THE BELIEF: “I look around and I think, what are people thinking? Most of them seem to be shallow and short-sighted.  A bunch of dunderheads.  Can’t they see what’s important?  Can’t they see what I see?  I’m fine!  It’s everyone else!  How come no one appreciates my point of view?”

Most people are not very good at self-observation.  But we think we are.  Which proves how bad we are at self-observation.

I didn’t appreciate how much I dominated conversations until someone videotaped me. Try it; ask someone to videotape you. Yes, it can be mortifying, but better you should know.

I watched myself and thought, “Wow, I am not listening. I just keep talking. And darn, I am really good looking!”

Which probably proves how poor I am at self-observation.

3. The Whole World Is Frustrating!

THE BELIEF: “I find so many things frustrating!   I don’t understand.  Is it just me?  Are there unspoken rules that everyone else seems to know?  Why won’t someone tell me what they are?”

ADHD coach and author, Linda Roggli, told me that she felt like there was a secret that everyone else knew, and she didn’t.  And so life was just harder for her.

But maybe everyone feels like life is a game and they are the only one who doesn’t know the rules?  Because surely there are rules.  The modern world thrives on rules.

But who made up all these rules?  Certainly not those of us with ADHD.

Modern life requires people to fit in.  There are due dates, appointment times and submission deadlines.  People are told, “That’s how it’s done.”  Ironically, without input from people with ADHD, that is probably how things would always be done.

But here’s the thing:  When we understand and master our impairing symptoms we can be the most creative people around.  If you develop control over those “Hyperactive, Impulsive and Inattentive” symptoms they can be transformed into “Energetic, Spontaneous and Imaginative”.  Frustration be damned!  Yee hiiii!

4. I’m Reasonably Successful, Everyone Screws Up

THE BELIEF: “How can someone in my position have done so many  stupid things?  I have been reasonably successful at work but with my home life and finances… I keep blowing it!  Again.  And Again.  Why?!”

We can usually point to some areas of success in our lives, and that provides cover.  Nothing to see here!  But again and again, I proved to be my own worst enemy.  A Drama King.  My mood tanked every time I screwed up.  Then I’d have to rally myself to recover.  And if someone else pointed out a mistake, I was totally defensive.  Because what I believed, underneath it all, was “I am a screw up.”

When I understood ADHD was not a character flaw, I could challenge that internal voice that was convinced that, “If I can do X, I sure as hell should be able to do Y!”.  Now when things get difficult, I remind myself, “It’s okay.  Relax…I’m fine.  I’m good. In fact, I’m more than good!  I’m great.” (Okay, I may be overcompensating.)

5. It’s Just How I Was Raised.  Everyone in My Family is Like This.

THE BELIEF: “I’m Jamaican. (Or Italian, French, Russian, Jewish, Texan, Irish, a New Yorker, etc. etc.) We are very expressive people!  We are not all ADHD.  You can’t condemn an entire culture.”

Culture is one thing.  ADHD is another.  While different countries report different rates, ADHD is everywhere.  And it was out there long before the internet or video games or Red Food Dye #2.

ADHD isn’t tied to ethnicity, but it does run in families.  The most widely quoted studies suggest it’s roughly 80% genetic.  When my son was tested in Grade 7, I demanded to see the quizzes that are part of an assessment. As a responsible parent, which I am on occasion, I read each test carefully.  I realized I have more of these symptoms than my son!  Then I thought about my father… and his father.  Oh, wow!  If only they’d known!

I was lucky, I had finally scored high on some tests — and those tests explained why I never scored high on tests!

6. I’m an Underachiever.  Is That a Disease?

THE BELIEF: “I have potential.  I know it.  Every teacher said so.  I can sense it!  I just can’t ever seem to achieve it.”

Could have.  Should have.  If only… Oh, man.  That was my life.  Overwhelming problems.  Never achieving what I felt I could.  And the successes felt fleeting.  Like they didn’t matter.  Like I was always starting from scratch.

Everyday life seemed to emphasize my weaknesses.   All I could see were my failures and what I had done wrong; there was no sense of accomplishment, despite, for example, having written and performed 500 episodes of television.

Sure, it’s possible to underachieve and not have ADHD.  But that doesn’t change the fact that undiagnosed ADHD is a recipe for exhaustion and depression.  People fear this diagnosis, but I say, “Knowing can save your life. And give you access to achieve what you want.

7. I Used to Have ADHD, Now I Don’t

THE BELIEF: “Yes, I was diagnosed with ADHD in Grade 7.  I was even on medication.  I forget which one.  But our doctor assured my mom this was a childhood thing. And I pretty well grew out of it.”

By adulthood I could control my restlessness and sit through a meeting, appearing as if I was listening.  But mentally, I’d be imagining a SWAT Team crashing through the windows, guns blazing…  Or whatever.

Again, the scientific research varies, but about 60 to 70% of ADHD children were found to be still struggling with the same issues in adulthood.  So much for the long-held belief that, “This is a childhood thing.  She’ll grow out of it.”

ADHD celebrities such as billionaire Richard Branson, Olympic Medalist Michael Phelps, and TV host Ty Pennington did not succeed by changing who they are, but by figuring out how to minimize their struggles and maximize what they love doing.

Even I have learned how to focus and be present during meetings.  (But if a SWAT Team attacks, I’m ready.)  Once I had a proper diagnosis, I managed my restlessness with far less effort.

These are just some of the many reasons people with ADHD believe, I couldn’t possibly have ADHD! Hopefully you’re beginning to see the costs, as well as the big upside, for getting a proper diagnoses…

Deep down, some of us suspect, “I might have a touch of that” because there’s a struggle with one or more of: Attention, Focus, Organization, Prioritization, Restlessness, Emotions, Sensitivity, Distractibility, Procrastination, and Impulsivity. But many don’t take the idea that they could have ADHD seriously, for all the reasons you can imagine. As I said earlier, that’s a shame because there’s so much that can be done, beginning with just knowing what’s going on.

(This blog is based on Chapter 1 of my book with Dr. Umesh Jain, ADD Stole My Car Keys )

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5 Replies to “7 Reasons I Couldn’t Possibly Have ADHD”

  1. After reading this I realized that Rick Green just wrote my autobiography without ever meeting me. I am gobsmacked. I better buy the book now. Thank you Rick.

  2. I learned I had ADHD from watching ADD & Loving It! on PBS in my late 50’s, and then got educated and medicated. I turned 65 two days ago and am so glad I’m finally figuring out who I am. What a relief. What an accomplishment!

  3. Hey, AdultWithADHD,

    First of all, I’m going to assume that’s not your legal name.
    Your reaction is the same one I had when I was first diagnosed. I’d read a checklist of symptoms, or common traits of adults, or behavioiurs and struggles, and think, “Have they been watching me?!” And then, “You mean, I’m not the only one? I mean, I get that I’m not like everyone else, and I don’t mind being different, since I seem to have no choice in the matter, but, wow, it’s not just me.”
    When we made the documentary, “ADD & Loving It?!” I was amazed at the thousands of people who came to the website or wrote to us to say, “You’ve just described my whole live. This explains everything!”
    Of course, it doesn’t explain EVERYTHING. My horrible fashion sense is a separate disorder altogether that my wife is treating for me. She likes shopping.
    Welcome to this amazing new phase of your life. Whatever strategies, tools, or support systems you start using, (and that’s an ongoing experiment) you have this powerful foundation of knowing what’s going on with your neurology. Or perhaps you could say, “There’s a reason I hate doing this and love doing that… And now I know why.”
    It’s not an excuse.
    It’s an explanation.
    One you can build on.
    Because, “I’m lazy, weak, stupid, weird, and a failure,” doesn’t really fill one with hope or give you any sense of what to do about it other than “Try harder.” As if you weren’t trying as hard as you could.
    Thanks for the kind words.
    And if you like the book, please give it a positive review in the shop.
    Oh, and if you want more, consider becoming a Patron of TotallyADD.com. You can support us at whatever $ amount works for you. You’ll get discounts in the shop, exclusive previews of new videos, and you can talk with the other Patrons and I on our regular Live Chats. (And in the process you give us the means to create new videos and reach more people who are where you were… undiagnosed and suffering needlessly.

    Best always!
    Rick

  4. At first I didn’t have a problem when I was diagnosed last week with severe (6 out of 9) ADD. I was familiar with it in clients when I worked in voc rehab. It certainly made sense out of a lot of things in my life. How could I be so forgetful but very calm in situations where I prevented people from getting killed on the highway? I just turned 65 and it was a relief to see that I’m not on the way out with dementia—since my short term memory has been out the window. There’s stuff in my life that’s important to me—my painting—and I’m good to go with that.

    Probably the biggest aspect it’s explained is work. In social service/voc rehab jobs I wasn’t very good with paperwork. In one job I left almost a foot high stack of paperwork on my way out the door. But in all those jobs my clients loved me because they knew I did my best to get them help and I really cared about them. But this diagnosis has brought a deluge of grief because it cost me a 25 year career that I truly loved and felt pride in. It was part of my identity to a degree. My productivity really suffered due to ADD and I was let go from my last job. It was a corporate decision. The manager and the staff were really unhappy about it. My craftsmanship was excellent and I could do “emergency” jewelry jobs no sweat. A $2000 sale contingent on setting a diamond and sizing the ring in 2 hours. Done—happy customer, grateful salesperson. But doing the day to day work and repairs, I was inefficient. I can pinpoint the task that I was—ta-da— inattentive to and that I’d have to go back, fix and repeat several steps to finish the piece. I can still feel the frustration I felt then— why did I keep doing this—even when I could see the problem? I feel coulda, woulda but no shoulda, and sadness when I look back knowing what I know now.

    But this website with the information, videos and blogs is giving me hope. And it’s not boring! How many meetings, lectures and even action movies did I fall asleep in? Lots! I’m dealing with sleep apnea issues and I’m realizing a lot of sleep issues could be traced to ADD. I have felt so unproductive for such a long time and have not been happy with the prospect of living the rest of my life like this. So, Rick, many thanks!

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