ADHD: Sometimes Success Is Surprisingly Simple

Succeed with ADHD
Succeeding with ADHD is possible says Rick Green

I’ve written a lot about my emotional ups and downs. 

As Dr. Kathleen Nadeau notes in our video on Emotional Sensitivity, it sometimes seems as if every emotion comes with the word ‘Very’ in front of it. 

(The fact that she’s referring to teenage girls with ADHD in no way threatens my masculinity.)

My moods are too often driven by my failures and successes or, perceived failures, which are many, many more than my actual failures. 

And, there are few successes after which I actually pause, notice, acknowledge, and celebrate.  And by celebrate, I don’t mean having a big chocolate cake.

Okay, I shouldn’t have written that.  Back after I’ve had some cake.

* * * * *

Back.  No cake in the house.  I forgot, Ava is feeding us healthy food.

Wait, there’s some amazing healthy cookies in the fridge!

Be right back after a cookie.  Okay, two.

* * * * *

Back.  No cookies.  Someone ate them.  Why are you looking at me?

It could have been David. Or Ava.  Or the kids.  Or a burglar.

How I Feel trying to explain ADHD to people - ADHD Meme
How I feel explaining that I have ADHD to people

Rather than get side-tracked and trying to blame someone for the perfectly natural disappearance of a lot of cookies, let’s move on.

I want to talk about success.  Self esteem!  Positive emotions!  The kind that last and stay with us… longer than the taste of those cookies…

Sorry, I’m back.  As I said, I’ve written a lot about my own emotional ups and downs… As the mood struck me. (Badda-boom!)

And I tend to notice every failure, mistake, or problem and quickly forget, or fail to appreciate, my successes.  Anyone else do this? 

Only focus on the negatives?  And dismiss the triumphs because they aren’t world-changing, or, ‘That was easy for me.  But my taxes are still not done!’

Mercurial Moods

If you’re like me, you find your emotions are like a tornado, changing, mercurial, rising and falling, exploding and then fading away, a whirlwind of moods, each one intense but quickly passing, like tropical downpours, then I heartily recommend our video Emotional Sensitivity.

It also gets into physical sensitivities, the odd quirkiness that most of us don’t realize is connected to our ADHD mindset, and our inability to filter out ‘background noise’, whether it’s actual noise in a busy sports bar, or the small but infuriating stabbing in the neck from that tag on your new shirt.

Being accused of being ‘too sensitive’, ‘too touchy,’ and ‘over-reacting is annoying. It makes me want to rip someone’s head off, which, yes, might be over-reacting.

What Triggers The Sudden Mood Shifts?

For me, the biggest trigger for a sudden crash in my mood is when something goes wrong.  The odd thing is, the smaller the upset, the more it seems to bother me.

Having someone crash into our car?  Whatever.  They’ll fix it.

Someone didn’t like one of my blogs?  OH MY GOD!

If you’re like me, it doesn’t take much to throw you off.

And if you’re like me, you love chocolate cake.  Sorry, that was bad.  I feel awful.  Now I’m fine.  (See how my moods change like a kaleidoscope of colors?)

As my mood goes, so goes my self-esteem, at least in the long-term.

Sure, I can shake off one or two or, okay, fifty mistakes, and it sure helps that I forget things quickly, but eventually the thousand tiny pinpricks and annoyances wear me down, feeling doomed, destined only to repeat the past.

“I’m kidding myself if I think things are improving. 

Look!  I can’t find my phone!  I should just retire, watch TV, read free magazines at the library, and never speak to another human being as long as…

Oh, here’s my phone!  It was balanced on the staircase railing again.  Let’s go!”

Five Steps Forward, One Baby Step Back, & I Collapse!

Little screw ups can have a big impact on my mood and self-confidence.

Conversely, getting stuff handled, even little things, has an inordinately large impact on my mood.

Checking my pockets to make sure I have everything as I leave a room. 

Making a list to ensure I don’t forget a piece of equipment. 

Setting a loud timer so I don’t burn dinner. 

Breaking big tasks into nice, do-able chunks. (For 36 of my favourite strategies, check out our video ADD & Mastering It! and the free cheat sheet found here.)

Tiny Victories Win The War

Is it just me, or is there something odd about discovering that the solution to emotional issues around ADHD are often to be found in simple, practical strategies?

No big epiphany or sudden realization. 

Just setting a shiny antique ashtray stand by the front door where I drop my keys, phone, wallet, and coins as I arrive home, and suddenly I’m no longer cursing, “What an idiot I am!  I had my car keys two minutes ago and now I can’t find them!

It’s hard to measure the impact of these little strategies.  How do you measure the amount of sadness or frustration you’ve avoided?  How much do you enjoy not having something go wrong?

The only answer I’ve found is to stop, pause and take stock with my wife, or my coach, and notice how things have been going lately.

And when I look back and remember how life used to be, it’s clear my base level of calmness is much greater. 

I can see that yes, I’m spinning my wheels less.  I’m getting unstuck much faster.  I’m letting go of ‘upsets’ more quickly, and with less drama.

I’m sure that if I had a better memory, and a stronger sense of self-awareness, I would fully appreciate how much these strategies have changed me.

Are you noticing changes too?  Are you able to see how things are getting better?  Or does it feel like nothing is changing? 

Because I know there are times when I think I’m right back where I started… and I dismiss all the ways life is easier, richer, and less chaotic.

But if I just check in with Ava, she is able to point out where things are better, and the places where I’ve made progress. The fact that she’s still with me is a sure sign I’m improving.


Rick Green

ADHD Community

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7 Replies to “ADHD: Sometimes Success Is Surprisingly Simple”

  1. Title of my reply: But how about for those of us don’t have a wife, husband or coach? Here’s another option

    ”……How do you measure the amount of sadness or frustration you’ve avoided? ……
    The only answer I’ve found is to stop, pause and take stock with my wife, or my coach, and notice how things have been going lately.”

    But how about for those of us who don’t have a wife, a husband or a coach? Here’s another option

    I am presently building a support system, inspired by the body doubling support system, but quite different in many aspects. For instance, we are very rarely body double physically together which doesn’t mean we don’t do it otherwise (Mostly by Whatsapp –
    writing and sharing it- and phone).

    My partners are members of my ADHD support group.

    The principle is the following:

    Despite the fact that we’re both brilliant 🙂 🙂 , obviously I can’t seem to do it alone, and you can’t seem to do it alone either; so let us do it together but with a strict but flexible reference framework, ADHD adapted and friendly-user 🙂 because after all we’re both challenged with quite the same issues.

    Adhd Support Group in Montreal

  2. Rick!!!

    You make me feel sane!! And don’t even think about taking that the wrong way, either. I mean… I relate so much it’s hilarious. Thank you for being willing to share the inner dialogue with the rest of the class.

    I hunted for this quote but I can’t find it, so I’ll likely butcher it in paraphrase… Drew Barrymore once said something like ‘Being able to laugh at yourself when you screw up is one of the sexiest things.” I was so struck by the comment. Wish I could remember her exact words, but I know it’s why I adore her and you too. Anyone who’s got the guts to let their quirks and vulnerable oddities spill out and shine a smile about it ear to ear … It’s just the most attractive thing.

    I was just diagnosed last fall at 44 (45 now) and I feel like I’m really learning about the skin I’m in with the lights on for the first time. I’m learning how to be me… and how to LET myself be me … learning how to let the ‘crazy’ out and smile about it instead of working so hard to cover up what I’ve always felt were short-comings. It feels like a long road ahead, but I’ve got hope.

    You are one of the reasons for that hope. Thank you, Rick, for so openly advocating for yourself and others. #RickRocksYall

    1. Glad you feel sane! You may even be sane. I certainly feel like I am on occasion.

      As for laughing at yourself, the best strategy I’ve ever heard for dealing with comments like, “You did what? That is the so stupid!” is to laugh and respond, “Oh, you think that is bad? One time I actually…” And that opens up an opportunity to explain a bit about strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps even about ADHD. But only if the other person is open to it. Disclosing your ADHD to someone, especially in the workplace, can have all kinds of negative consequence. We have a whole video in the shop about who to tell, and what to say.

  3. Hi Rick, thank you for creating this site. I just joined tonight and read this post you made. I found your words to be very relatable. Especially about the emotional sensitivity. Everything else as well, but I think the E.S. stood out because its been an ongoing struggle in me for too long now. I look forward to using the resources on this page and am hopeful to find some people to discuss the experience of ADHD, co-morbidities and possible solutions with.

    Thank you sir.

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