In my twenties, I used to get “upset about being upset” regularly. My attention issues would get in the way of my intentions and instead of facing them head-on, I would send myself into a state of frustration fueled by feelings of guilt.
I would have left something to the last minute and instead of admitting that and moving forward, I would mourn the poor decisions that led to that circumstance and get myself even more stuck. I would be flooded with feelings of disappointment, anxiety and find myself struggling with “why?”.
Why can’t I get things done on time?
Why can’t I push through with tasks that seem easy to others?
Why don’t I get my expenses in properly?
Why do I repeat the same silly patterns?
Why can’t I put documents in an organized spot?
I would feel guilty, defensive, silly and even sometimes, stupid.
For me, it was this cycle of negative feelings that was the most paralyzing part of my issues with attention. The symptoms were one thing. The emotional spiral I would send myself into, that was the part that was impacting my life.
At that time, I was an ADHD coach therapist, and was hearing similar stories from my clients. I observed an important pattern that would lead to change for me and growth for our clinical team. We (those of us with attention issues) have to learn how to separate the primary symptoms from the secondary impacts of these challenges. This opens a gateway to break through.
I came to realize that the symptoms are a problem, but when it comes to finding a solution, we have to get rid of the emotional baggage we are carrying around first. The stormy thoughts of guilt, shame and disappointment corrode our self-identities and hurt our self-esteem.
Maybe, most importantly, they distract us from finding creative solutions. In essence, I was able to see that this cycle was wasting precious energy; we were crying over spilled milk instead of journeying forward.
This aha moment was the beginning of a new chapter for me and began a new process I’ve developed for others as well. By separating yourself from the symptoms you experience, you can start to face your struggles head-on and work towards targeted and personalized solutions. By making ADHD neutral in your life, you can stop thinking you need to defend yourself and protect your self-worth. Instead, you can spend your energy on innovative and sustainable solutions.
I have never looked back.
Attention issues are part of my life, but I face them as they come, and I keep them in perspective.
I own my mistakes.
I focus on my strengths.
I ask for help when I need it. (This happens a lot)
I say sorry when I have let others down.
I forgive my past self, even if she makes the present more challenging.
I accept the way my brain works.
And, I am not afraid to push or trick my brain in order to meet my goals.
It can be hard to tease out how ADHD has impacted your emotional wellbeing. It takes digging deep. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable and to take responsibility. But it’s worth it.
So, be willing to face your ADHD. By getting “up close and personal” with your unique symptoms, you can separate yourself from its grasp, and move forward as your true self.
Our guest blogger, Laura MacNiven, is co-author of May We Have Your Attention Please? A Springboard Clinic Workbook for Living- and Thriving- with Adult ADHD, Director of Clinical Service at Springboard Clinic in Toronto, Canada, and developer of the finding yourSELF process at Springboard.
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