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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)


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.


It’s that I never made the memory in the first place.  You can’t forget what you’ve never remembered.

What Is It Like to Have ADHD?


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…)


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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  1. MarieAngell April 23, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Interesting! I didn’t realize so many people expressed a desire to have gone undiagnosed. I’ve never thought that. Although it’s only been a couple of years, I’ve been only glad about being knowing I have ADHD.
    Of course, I had deep regrets I wasn’t diagnosed sooner and I’m frustrated almost every day and I wish I didn’t have ADHD and had moments of sadness initially, but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of dopamine (mmm…dopamine!).

  2. Larynxa April 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    How strange…
    I’ve never regretted getting diagnosed. In fact, I was eager to find out whether or not ADHD (which I’d always dismissed, as most people do) explained why I’d always been struggling.
    Maybe it’s because I’ve always been very curious about why people (including me) think & behave a certain way. I’m always trying to understand their motivations. That’s why I actively sought out a diagnosis, as soon as I’d seen enough evidence to make me suspect I might have it.
    Finding out there’s an actual medical reason for all the oddball, sometimes frustrating, things I experience and/or do, was a huge relief! My one regret is that it didn’t come years ago…before my first-year university crash & burn.
    Now that I have an explanation for all those frazzled moments, it’s easier for me to understand them and to ride them out.
    Note that I say, “explanation”, NOT “excuse”. There’s a difference.
    An “excuse” is defensive. We can’t do this, and we don’t know why, so we just blame the brain. (“I can’t do that paperwork. I have ADHD.”)
    An “explanation” comes from understanding how our ADHD works, and being able to explain exactly what’s making things difficult for us, and what we need to address it. (“I’m really having trouble getting these numbers right, because I find it very hard to concentrate when there’s a lot of talking around me. Could you move me to a quieter cubicle, maybe in the corner?”)
    It’s the difference between “I can’t,” and “I could do that much better, if…”

  3. Ginniebean May 5, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Rick it really does suck that we spend so much time and effort into putting systems and routines in place and our adhd can bypass them in the blink of an eye.
    How many times have I had a sticky on my dash so I would not forget and most efficiently manage my time by doing this task on the way hike. Get home, see the note and arrrrgh.
    I hate my keys.

  4. ttlead May 17, 2013 at 4:30 am

    I am glad I am diagnosed and although my life has NEVER been in worse shape the fact that finally. after over 40 years of not being able to get life right I am on a medication that is helping (1 month). My doctor first tried medicating me in 2002 or 2003 (yes 10+ years ago) and results were immediate but my inability to follow directions (taking the damn pill once a day) or not liking the side affects (racy, talking too fast too much, possibly wrong med or dosage) I gave up.
    I feel if I had gotten this under control 40 years ago I would own the world. Now, being over 50 (WAY over 50) I need to fix all the broken parts. Having been diagnosed as an alcoholic and sober over 30 years helped me accept this and now I just need to do something about it.
    If you have been diagnosed embrace it. Once you do it may just be the turning point in your life. You have to embrace the cards you have been dealt and make them work for you. Anyone can own their world. You just need the right tools in your toolbox. God Bless!

  5. ttlead May 17, 2013 at 4:51 am

    Hey Rick I hope you don’t mind my posting here but I wanted to post to the most recent blog I could find. It is 4:45 am in Massachusetts and I just laughed out loud. I was looking at forums and my first reaction was to start my own. Before I did I started reading those ones started by others because I wanted to contribute. What I found out is the ones who started them NEVER came back. Some are over a year old and others have contributed but the author is gone, maybe forever. I am thinking; how typical ADHD! We speak and when someone listens or replies we have already left the room. That is so symptomatic but I don’t want to do that. I need to follow someone else and contribute where it may help others.
    Our intentions are great but the ideas go in and out like a mosquito drawing blood. They eat their meal and move on, never to return to the original table. How typical!

  6. denisemarie June 11, 2013 at 11:39 am

    So I completely get why people don’t want a diagnosis … because I don’t. I mean … I KNOW I have ADD or ADHD or what ever it might be, I read articles about it, I use organizational tools that are designed for my brain, I have read and reread (most of) “So I am not Lazy, Crazy or Stupid” … I accept the reality of it. But the diagnosis means I will have to consider medication, have to write it on insurance forms, have to be a woman with ADD that is understanding the kids with ADD rather then an educator who just “gets it”. Knowing but not having it on file means that I can choose to share that information only when I want to.
    How do I know? Because when I read articles/ blogs/ accounts like this I find myself in tears because it reminds me that I am not alone, especially when I DO occasionally feel crazy or stupid (no one would ever call me lazy).
    Thought I would share.

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