Have you ever browsed through our forums? Hundreds of stories about how the ADHD diagnosis has changed people’s lives. For better and worse. A ton of stuff comes up for people.
Our video, Now You Tell Me, is a survival guide for the tornado of anger, regret, relief, and hope that so many of us face after getting the ‘good news.’ I remember reeling, like a drunk in a Carnival Fun House, trying to make sense of everything. Alarm bells were ringing, “I have a mental illness?” No, I have a mindset that is different from most people, and I’ve always had it.
Like many adults, the notion that there is a neuro-chemical explanation for so many of my challenges, and a few of my strengths, would never have occurred to me, and had never occurred to me. Until my son was diagnosed.
That’s when I first read a list of ADHD symptoms. They struck me as “normal”, daily challenges. Because they were, for me. The ADHD specialist assured me that they were not normal for everyone else. “So I’ve been dealing with this extra layer of crap, and had no idea?” Yep.
“Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Any More”
The emotional tornado was totally disorienting. “What a relief!” gave way to “Now you tell me?” Then, “Finally! There’s hope!” Then, “Why didn’t anyone notice?!” Then, “No wonder I was able to write thousands of short skits, but never finish a single screenplay!” Later, came “Wow, medication really helps!” Which quickly turned to, “Damn, if I’d known sooner, I could have written movies!”
Often, late at night, there’s the inevitable, “If only… Perhaps… What would my life be…” At my lowest, when others snorted at the possibility that ADHD was a ‘real disorder,’ I wished I’d never been diagnosed.
“I Hate This. I’m Sick of it.”
Regret, and relief are a fairly universal stage of the tornado. Hard not to feel that when you’ve just had most of your life-long struggles explained. But wishing I’d never been diagnosed? It lurked in the background, emerging only when things were not improving.
In fact, life was improving. But being impatient meant it was never fast enough. And my ‘Poor Working Memory’ meant I’d quickly forget how much worse the struggles had been before the doctor had said, “You have all of the symptoms.”
Now, 15 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 like my ADHD.
It probably makes me a better comedy writer, but I can’t prove it, other than to notice how many other comedians have told me they were diagnosed as kids, have children who are diagnosed, or, “I took that ADHD test on your website. And it freaked me out.”
So mostly, my ADHD is just there. Waiting to mess me up if I’m not doing what I need to do—exercise, yoga, mindfulness, medication, coaching. But sometimes… it can still reduce me to tears of impotent rage.
“Really? Again?! Da%@#*it!!!”
“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.”
My wife has seen me in this state a few times, and knows exactly what to do. She nods and waits. I pace, and wave my arms like an orangutan defending it’s territory. I mutter half sentences. Then I get quiet, fuming away. And eventually, I find the keys and remind myself, “Hey, I’m doing the best I can. It’s just a hectic time.”
Those meltdowns are rare now. Mostly, if my keys aren’t where they should be, in the old metal ashtray by our bed, they’re probably in the last coat I wore. Or Ava’s Yoga bag. She loses her keys as often as I do, it seems, and so she’ll grab mine. So yes, I’m doing the best I can. Or the best I know how. Mostly.
My Magic Wand
If my keys are not in the first place I look, or the next nine places… no worries. I go to our donkey. He’s made of porcelain. One of the few things I kept from my parents home. Inside one of the baskets that hang on the donkey is a little high-tech gadget. Like a miniature metal detector. It’s a ‘Locator.’ It sends out a signal that magically prevents emotional meltdowns.
I just wander around the house, holding down the big button on the locator, and when I’m close to the where my keys are hiding, a matching beeper on my key chain goes off. Several companies make these miraculous time-savers. Finally, a high-tech device that saves time, rather than wasting it.
It’s Better… I Guess
The point is that I do lose my keys, phone, and sunglasses far less often. And for the keys at least, the locator quickly solves the problem. But when I’m rushed, stressed, and upset, I may actually forget the locator exists. Caught in my old way of being, rushing about, cursing the keys, and cursing myself, feeling almost ill, “Not again!!!” Disheartened and angry, I forget how much better things are. Or I dismiss it.
It was all a temporary victory. “Things are better…” Sorry, but I can’t hear it. I don’t feel it. At that moment, it’s as if nothing has changed. But one thing has changed. That moment passes quickly. Years ago that sense of frustration and despair often ruined my day. Now, it’s gone after a few minutes. It’s not that it passes quickly. It’s that I make it pass. I remind myself that it happens to everyone. I remind myself of what has worked. It’s literally the power of positive thinking. Or perhaps choosing a positive focus.