By Rick Green
I used to suffer from ADHD.
Because I didn’t know that’s what it was.
Hard to win a wrestling match against an invisible opponent, if you don’t even realize you are in a wrestling match.
So I just suffered. Mostly in silence. Cause people got tired of hearing my problems, my excuses, my apologies.
17 years ago everything changed. That’s when the doctor suggested that my son has ADHD. As a worried parent, I did the due diligence. The reading and research.
What I learned was that I actually have ADHD.
Or, as I told myself at the time, I ‘qualified’ as ADHD. Checking off a list of symptoms, my heart sank. ADHD?! “My brain is broken?”
I took a couple of tests, and scored well over the threshold. Not off the charts, but definitely part of the club.
OH GOD! NO! NOT ME!
At first I was terrified. I read about all the ways it manifests and impairs. Some were not me. But so many fit. Like a glove. My life made sense.
The more I read, the more the fear turned to interest. Curiosity. Growing excitement. As so many of you have told me, “It was like I finally found myself. This is me! They’re talking about me!”
Gradually, I realized a whole bunch of my beliefs about myself, 90% of them negative, were not moral failings. They were not weaknesses or failures. They were simply symptoms.
AM I A COLLECTION OF ‘SYMPTOMS’?
But that didn’t feel right to me. Aren’t symptoms part of an illness? This isn’t an illness. It’s not a disease. You don’t catch it, though it can be caused by a head injury.
The doctors called them symptoms. I saw them as behaviours, misbehaviours, failings, weaknesses even. We all have weaknesses. I’m lousy at basketball. I’m cool with that.
While some symptoms or tendencies worked for me as a comedian, many undermined my best intentions.
And they had undermined me in ways I’d never appreciated or noticed, any more, I suppose, than a fish notices the sea.
I’D FOUND MYSELF! BUT, IT SEEMED TOO EASY
As I moved forward, part of me backtracked, doubting that such complex issues could simply be a deficit of certain neuro-chemicals. It explained so much. Too much.
Was I just looking for an explanation? A justification for my failures? A smug, neat and tidy excuse for the areas of life where I was shut down, or far behind in delivering?
But then I started ‘treatment’ and things shifted. Rapidly.
Exercise. Therapy. Creating routines.
Medication worked for me. Despite huge reluctance and resistance. It was a revelation. “So this is what it’s like for everyone else? Lucky bastards!”
THE TIPPING POINT TO A NEW LIFE
Suddenly I had a fighting chance to build the habits and develop the structures. The impairments decreased, like a saw tooth, with successes and setbacks.
Things I’d always found difficult were easier. Tasks that I dreaded and avoided were now doable… if I approached them using the techniques I’d learned: breaking things into steps; short intense bursts; frequent rewards; clear deadlines; lots of feedback; reporting progress; handing things off to others. Productivity rose. Stress dropped.
TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE BACK, FIVE SIDEWAYS…
Of course I kept getting sidetracked, or falling into, “If only I’d known sooner…”
We all do at least once. The writer in me imagined all kinds of scenarios about how rich and famous I could have been, “If only someone had told me about this…”
And assuming I’d been willing to listen.
“If only…” got me nowhere, and left me disheartened.
This tornado of emotions is an insidious trap. I found it so damaging, I created the video, Now You Tell Me?! which highlights how easily we can be thrown off our game by regret, anger, doubt, and sadness. Or worse, by one casual comment from a friend. As the experts explain, understanding what’s going on can save your life.
Eventually I dropped the drama and fantasy. I couldn’t win an argument with reality. I was here, at this point, with this new knowledge. Better to save my energy for dealing with it.
I WASN’T SURE THINGS WERE IMPROVING…
Then came unexpected moments of calm. I would notice I was motor mouthing and learned to stop. The spotlight could shift from me and I was okay with it. Even relieved. When I actually listened, I heard wonderful things from my wife, my children, and my friends.
I could sit back and relax and let life unfold.
And then, one day, a sudden realization…
“I used to suffer from ADHD. Now I just have it.”