When I talk with our Patrons during our live chats I’m always amazed at the brilliant stories about the difference the ADHD diagnosis has made. For better and worse. In our video, Embracing the Diagnosis, we explore the kaleidoscope of anger, regret, relief, and hope that we all stumble through, like a drunk in a Carnival Fun House.
“Why didn’t someone tell me sooner!?!” one minute, then, “Thank god I know,” and even, “I wish I’d never been diagnosed.” That last one is pretty common. I went there a few times as I suspect we all do when things don’t seem to be improving. (I actually was improving. But being impatient and forgetful, I didn’t appreciate my progress.)
Now 10 years on, the emotional ride is less extreme. In fact, sometimes, like in the middle of a webinar, or making a video, or brainstorming ideas, I kinda love my ADHD.
Other times? Uh… Not so much. Now and then it still reduces me to tears of impotent rage.
“I’m too old to STILL be losing my car keys! Dang it all, I co-authored a book called ADD Stole My Car Keys! I made a film called ADD & Mastering It! I should know better! Dammit, I DO know better. But I don’t DO better.”
“Hey, I’m doing the best I know how.” Not really. I do know better but I’m not doing it. I have a place for my car keys. And they aren’t there!
No wonder a century ago ADHD once described as, “…a defect of moral consciousness which cannot be accounted for by any fault of environment” (George Sill, 1902)
NEUROLOGY TRUMPS MORALITY
Here’s the thing: the neurology of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is complex, partly because neurology is complex. But a key factor in ADHD is a neurotransmitter named Dopamine.
As signals rocket around your brain, telling you to sit up, sit down, or do the Harlem Shake, the messages switch from electrical to chemical, and then back to electrical. And one of the chemicals carrying the message, transmitting it, is Dopamine. If you have a slight shortage of Dopamine, the signals don’t sustain long enough to connect, and the message is never delivered, lost in the noise.
It’s not that I forgot that guests were coming on Saturday. Honestly. It’s that I never made the memory in the first place. You can’t forget what you’ve never remembered.
“BUT I ALREADY TOLD YOU! TWICE!”
Sure, you told me twice. You could tell me a 100 times. If I ain’t got the brain juice … If there’s a gap in the wiring… one bridge out on the highway… it goes in one ear and out the other.
It’s a radio wave at the wrong frequency and I’m tuned out.
The worst part is, I can look like I’m listening and really taking it in. But do not be fooled, that furrowed brow is me concentrating, but on a dozen other things.
It’s the one skill I did learn in school—pretending I’m hearing. It takes practice to nod, grunt, “Yeah, Okay,” while mentally planning a basement renovation, writing a comedy skit, and ranking the films of Preston Sturges according to laughs per minute.
The results are infuriating at times for me and for others. For loved ones and for people I’m working with… who may not want to work with me after a while. (Hopefully they’re ADHD and they’ll forget that I forgot…)
KNOWING DOESN’T PREVENT IT
Breaking patterns is hard. Replacing them with new patterns is better. But for anyone, ADHD or not, it requires I build new habits, new wiring, new practices. Like learning how to energize my brain to increase my memory skills, something I learned from Guinness Book of Records Memory Champ Dave Farrow.
So what does knowing give me? Less suffering. Less melodrama, guilt, shame, and despair.
It’s neurology, not morality. I’m low on Dopamine, not some scruples.
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