Dr. Umesh Jain is now exclusively responsible for TotallyADD.com and its content

I want a new label

I want a new label2013-07-06T18:18:43+00:00
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  • #120853

    Post count: 5

    Over the past week I have used this forum as a vehicle to see my train-of-thought regarding my ADHD in black and white, hoping to achieve some perspective. The few comments that the posts generated were helpful, and I thank those who took the time to give them. So far, I have related the realities of my upbringing, as well as listing the particulars of being diagnosed with ADHD. In both I mentioned that, after five years of taking the medication, I had to stop due to a heart attack, but have now started to take the medication again, slowly bringing it up to strength.

    Throughout the time I was off the medication, or at least during the times that I didn’t feel like I was in the process of shedding my own skin, I kept asking myself – if I get back on the medication, what then?

    To answer that question, I gave considerable thought to how I, as well as others, defined who I was. We are all many things, and as a result, multiple terms are normally used to describe our personality. For most, though, one of those terms is used far more than the others and becomes the “label” that tends to follow us through life.

    For the first 59-years of my life, the label most often used to define me was, “Troubled Individual”. I read it in reports prepared by the schools I attended and the doctors I visited. My family used it often in polite company to let the world know I was mad as a hatter. It even appeared once in divorce documents. I got so used to seeing and reading it, I used it to describe myself more often than I would care to admit.

    It definitely isn’t the label I would have preferred. Like many terms in the English language, the problem isn’t with the words included in it, but the order in which those words are presented. Nitpicking? Maybe, but consider my explanation before you write me off as a…well…troubled individual.

    If you switch the order of the words it looses a great deal of its impact. An “individual troubled” doesn’t sound near as problematic as a “troubled individual”. The first defines a person who is giving pause to a problem, while the second defines a problem that has consumed the person. The first draws others to the individual as it gives the impression that the individual needs help with something minor or fleeting. The second repels others from the individual as it gives the impression that the individual is beyond help. No matter how you look at it, though, the label that followed me throughout my life gives zero recognition of all the good I have done, nor does it acknowledge any of my many successes. While my unethical behaviour isn’t anywhere near in number to the ethical or good things I have accomplished, and while my successes far outnumber my failures, only the negative was remembered when the time came to describe me in three words or less.

    Since being diagnosed with ADHD, the term used most often to define me has changed. Now I have become, “Adult with ADHD”. There are many other versions of this term, such as “Individual with ADHD”, “ADHD Patient” and, common to the posts on this forum, “ADHD’er”. I have to admit to writing “ADHD’er” more than once here, myself, which proves adopting the labels others stick on you is an easy thing to do.

    I guess I should be pleased that the “Adult with ADHD” label at least acknowledges that I have reached some level of maturity, but I’m still less than pleased with it. Whichever of these new labels is used, the only interpretation they provide is that my ADHD defines who I am, that my affliction is the primary while the humane side of me becomes nothing more than the vehicle. All that good that I have accomplished was done for naught, as, according to my label, the only driving force in my life is my ADHD, and I have no say in the matter.

    Wouldn’t life be so much better if we could choose any label we wanted to define ourselves? Wouldn’t it be great if we could pick those labels in the same way we choose our avatar? It is not that I am looking for anything grandiose when it comes to a label that describes who I am. In truth, anything with an adjective that doesn’t carry more weight than the noun would be fine by me.

    This, of course, produces the all important question – how do I get it?

    The answer – I have to better utilize the benefits of my medication to facilitate a change in my personal make-up.

    Easier said than done?

    I’m not too sure. Somewhere in all the posts on this forum is an answer I gave to an individual’s post regarding a problem he was having with the lip-biting side-effect common to most ADHD medications. In it I stated how I had the same issue the first time I was on the medication and how it manifested itself the second day of my return to it. I honestly didn’t realize I had been so effective in breaking the habit of gnawing my lower lip raw until I started reading his post. As I was reading it, I felt the skin of my lower lip slip between my teeth and felt them clamp down on it. My first thought was, “Wow. I haven’t done that in weeks”, then I started to write out my thoughts regarding how that omission came about.

    I was expecting side-effects, especially the lip-gnawing, the second time I started the medication. Because I was watching for it I was immediately able to recognize doing it. What surprised me more than anything, is that, somehow, I was also able to immediately recognized how much pleasure I got from biting that damned lip. During my first run on the medication, I had no idea I was even biting my lip until it became twice its normal size and didn’t have a thread of skin left on it. I also didn’t have a clue why I was biting it throughout the five years of doing so simply because I didn’t bother to even try to figure it out. Blaming the medication was far easier than dealing with it, not to mention allowing me to ignore my responsibility for continuing to do it. Recognizing the habit so quickly the second time around allowed me to be vigilant to stop myself whenever it reared its ugly head. Understanding why I was gnawed at my lower lip caused me to be more forceful with myself regarding it, making stopping the habit much easier. As a result, within 10-days to 2-weeks the habit was not only conquered, but forgotten.

    If this exercise worked so well at overcoming a common side-effect of the medication, why shouldn’t it work overcoming the problems I have with my personality traits?

    This, of course, is exactly the opposite to the way I approached the situation and why nothing about me changed the first time I was on the medication. If I have to be honest about that 5-year period, I would say that I not only wasted the medication, but my doctor’s time prescribing it as well. I looked upon those pills as quick correctors of all that was wrong with me, probably throwing in a few things wrong with my wife at it for good measure. Because my expectations were so unrealistic, the only results possible was disappointment. It was only after I was taken off of them, especially in such a server manner, that I started to realize something was amiss. Given how many of my problems in the past have consistently turned out to be of my own making, I started to consider that my disappointment with the medication may have been my own damned fault. Over the past few weeks, working my way through the maze known as ADHD and how I have dealt with it, a new plan has started to emerge.

    In my previous posts here, I continued my habit of calling my medication, my “little magic pills”. This is a strong indication of the unrealistic expectations I had for it, if ever there was one. One smart fellow that hangs out here named “Larynxa” quickly recognized what I meant by using the term and took me to task for it in his response to one of my posts. What Larynxa didn’t realize is that he wasn’t explaining something to me I didn’t already know, rather, he was actually fortifying an understanding that I was developing, and in doing so, overcoming my tendency to question my conclusions. With Larynxa’s help I was able to take the threads of thought I was having on this subject and weave the complete thought I have expounded upon here, and for that I am truly grateful. Whoever you are, Larynxa, thank you very much for your help. You gave me exactly what I needed and exactly what I was looking for.

    In his reply, Larynxa corrected me, calling the medication “training wheels”, and I can’t think of a better metaphor. Training wheels hold you vertical, but it is up to you to propel yourself forward and define your direction, and that is exactly what the medication does.

    So now that I comfortably believe that I’m on the right track, how do I do it?

    In the past I have been told many times to write out a list of all the things I don’t like about myself. The first problem with this is that I never seemed to have enough paper to get it all down on, but more importantly, those many lists that I laboriously produced over the years never worked. I would work on them for hours, only to find them unfinished, six to eight months later, at the bottom of a stack of paper that had built up on my desk over that time. The reality is, I never worked on what was listed, I just worked on the list. I have a sneaking suspicion that trying to tackle the whole lot at once is a tad optimistic.

    What I think the preferred plan of attack should be is to pick one, and only one, then analyze it completely. It is easier, as I proved with the lip-gnawing, to overcome something that you completely understand than it is something you have no clue about. This means I have to pick one of my many self-produced defence mechanisms and tear it apart so I can understand not only what it is, but why I developed it in the first place. It is also important that I understand why it doesn’t work, as lets face it, none of our self-produced defence mechanisms really work. Finally, I have to define how I want to modify the behaviour, which, it would appear at first glance, to be the hardest part of the lot. Once I have a handle on what I want to change, why it was developed in the first place, what is wrong with it and how I want to fix it, then I can consciously attempt to either modify it or delete it from my repertoire completely. Once the changes I have made have been applied frequently enough to have them start to become natural reactions, I can move on to another and repeat the process.

    It doesn’t sound so easy, does it? Added to this daunting task is the fact that I’m 64-years of age. Given the number of mechanisms that I have developed over the years, each in serious need of being changed or deleted, I’m not too sure there is a chance that I’ll live long enough to work my way through the entire list. I guess the only way to handle this is to do my best imitation of Horatio Nelson and, as he used to say, “…just go at them.”


    Patte Rosebank
    Post count: 1517

    Wow, @Ridiculoushit!  Thanks!!!

    I’m training to become an ADHD Coach, so being able to help you like this, tells me that I might actually be learning something from my ADDCA classes.  (Who’d a thunk it?)

    You’re right about tackling one or two symptoms at a time.  Dr. Jain (one of the founders of this site, and one of the world’s leading experts on ADHD) has said that this is the only effective way to approach ADHD treatment.

    So, you pick the one or two symptoms that are causing you the most difficulty, and just work on them.  That way, you’ll be able to determine what’s working for you, because you’re only basing your assessment on one or two symptoms, instead of 10 or more.  When they’ve improved enough, you can tackle another one or two symptoms.


    As for those lists of all the things you don’t like about yourself, FORGET THEM!  Focussing on trying to change the bad stuff doesn’t work for us ADDers.

    Instead, write out a list of all the great things you’ve done, and all the situations when you were at the top of your game.

    It’ll be hard to get started, because we ADDers are so used to concentrating on all the bad stuff.  But, once you get going, you’ll really be amazed at how easy it gets!

    Once you have that list, you can go through it and figure out why you did so well in those situations.  Which of your wonderful strengths carried you through?  Once you know, you can start figuring out how to apply those strengths to other situations.

    Gradually, these good approaches will replace the approaches that aren’t serving you.  The more you do this, the easier it gets.  It won’t always work, but even a little is better than none at all, right?


    Post count: 363

    Thanks for an amazing post.

    Couple things jump out at me:

    Labels. Everyone, including “neurotypicals” is highly suggestible. Labels matter. Labels can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. (I want a new one, too.)

    Blame. Not useful, in my experience. I went through a lot of stuff around trying to become a better person, but implicit in that is the need to change, which only underlines the faults, which then becomes a cycle of negative reinforcement, trying harder, failing, self-recrimination.

    What’s right with us. List those things – say, 200 of them.

    How we work best. If we think of ADHD as a problem of self-regulation, it becomes easier to do some detective work about what we were doing when we were focused or productive or calm or whatever we want to be more of the time. It helps to structure the external environment in ways that bring out the best in us, so it’s good to practice noticing what those environments are like.


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