Was 2020 The Worst Year Ever?

History Bites Cast

How will history judge 2020?

A 2020 Year End Letter From Rick Green

This is a longer than usual post. But I think it’s worth it, and trust me, it eventually comes around to being about ADHD.

The year is winding up for many of us, whatever our faith. Or lack of faith for some after a pretty dramatic and traumatic year.

2020 has been described as ‘unprecedented.’ If it makes you feel better, it’s not. It may be the worst year in memory, the worst you’ve ever experienced, but your memory and experience only goes back as far as you do. Talk to someone who was around for World War 2.  

I suppose I have a privileged perspective on ‘disasters of historical proportions,’ because for five years I produced a series called History Bites.  Quick brag: I believe it is the first television program to run on a Comedy channel and a History channel.   It was very irreverent, and very clever because the cast and writers were awesome. An amazing experience.

Over the course of the series, we all learned a lot about history, different cultures, and different faiths…and of course the endless variations and subsets of those faiths.

It’s a bit like ADHD, a complete spectrum with common elements and many different variations.   Like ADHD, ultimately, spirituality is deeply personal.

The one universal truth almost every religion preaches is ‘gratitude.’ Giving thanks.  Obviously it’s something we need to be reminded to do. 

For example, I’ve seen a lot of people posting things on social media about what an awful year 2020 was. Not just because of the global pandemic, election chaos, or toilet paper shortages, but also all the music legends who passed away, the lost jobs, the personal struggles. 

A woman holds her head and cries - image from Burst by Shopify

Every Year Can Feel Like the Worst Year

People are posting, “Good riddance to 2020.”   But one thing I learned making all those episodes of History Bites, is this: While every year brings challenges and threats, we are actually living in the best possible time in history.

Life has never been this good for so many people. Even though it doesn’t feel like it. Yes, I know millions of people are living in poverty. Over 10% of Americans live on less than $33 a day, while world wide 10% of people are living in extreme poverty, according to World Vision.

What about those who are starving? Or living in war zones?  Yes, it is terrible. But again, in the past it was worse. Whatever percentage of people living in poverty, hunger, and disease… it used to be far worse.

Life was shorter. More capricious. And brutal. There were no antibiotics. No eye-glasses. No grocery stores. No “Health and Safety” regulations. No child-labour laws. No N-95 masks.

Do you own a book? A wardrobe full of clothes? Furniture? Bowls, dishes, and cutlery? In medieval times that put you in the top 1%! (And you probably hired a monk to read your books to you.)

You can curse the banks, but it beats hiding your money under your bed.

Until the 1800’s, there was no real police force in the Western countries.

No ambulances.

No 911.

Oh, and no fire departments. Or safety standards. Everything was flammable. Cities burned to the ground. Today, almost everything in a your home is fire proofed and it takes some doing to produce a house fire.

History Bites TV show directed by Rick Green

The Past Was Bloody Awful

Barbers were also dental surgeons. (Apparently the classic red and white striped barber’s pole represents blood on towels.)

People with mental health problems were ridiculed, or burned as witches. Until 1952 ADHD was called a Defect of Moral Control. (Charming.)

Physical punishment was standard for children, women, servants, or Heretics.

“Personal development” meant not catching Scarlet Fever, Tetanus, Polio, Diphtheria, Rubella, Whooping Cough, Measles, Rotavirus, Mumps and more. Not to mention all the lice, scabies, and the next plague to sweep through your town.

One Roman Senator, who would have had access to the best medical care, lost 7 of his 8 children to disease. Ever wonder why Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and the Bronte sisters had so many widows, widowers, and orphans in their novels?

 

The Past was Awful But No One Knew It

The average person was incredibly ignorant, very prejudiced, and lived in fear. Most hadn’t traveled more than 10 miles from where they were born.

Picture life before flush toilets, toilet paper, or feminine hygiene products. Empty your bathroom cupboard and first aid kit. Give up refrigeration, central heating, and running water. Oh, and no sewers. Best before dates on food? You ate as much as you could and hoped you made it through the winter.

Today, a person living in a bachelor apartment in North America has access to a wider range of food, entertainment, education, and safe transportation than even the richest nobles enjoyed in medieval times.

Enjoying a quiet beach

A Better Perspective

Listen, I don’t want you to feel guilty for not walking around all day shouting ‘Life is great!’ 

I’m certainly not suggesting that the world is fine, or that people are not suffering, or in dire straits. Nor am I going to suggest there are not huge challenges ahead, especially around the environment.

But I hope you can appreciate that even though it can feel like we’re going to hell in a hand-basket, daily life is getting better.   Because it used to be much worse for everyone. But especially for women, children, or anyone who was ‘different.’

And I don’t just mean back in the Dark Ages or Ancient Rome.

grade school report card Rick Green

Diagnosed With ADHD in Childhood?

…I wish I had been.

You see, a few years ago I found all of my elementary school report cards. Today, any teacher reading them would quickly realize that I had ADHD.

It’s all there, the list of ADHD symptoms: “fidgets, interrupts, daydreams, tunes out, doesn’t listen.” And every year the same advice, “Ricky needs to try harder.” 

In the report card comments from my teachers and my parents, there is this overwhelming sense of disappointment, underachieving, failure, weakness… Laced with impatience that I never seem to improve. No one was more disheartened and frustrated than me.  

They must have been discouraged when telling me to ‘Try harder,’ wasn’t producing the expected breakthrough.

Finding and reading my old Report Cards brought tears to my eyes.  It all came back to me in a flood of melancholy – I was NEVER good enough.   Never fulfilling the promise of who I was, or who they thought I should be.

The things I did well? They mentioned some of them: coming up with stories, drawing, being creative. 

However, every positive is immediately followed by, “but, Ricky’s printing is not improving…. Ricky’s handwriting remains a problem…”

I truly hated school. I’d forgotten how much. I had forgotten how dispiriting it was.

I just remember how I came alive after 3:30,  rushing home to work on my gigantic model railroad, put on stage plays, create art projects, build go karts, do magic, make forts, invent games that the whole neighborhood wanted to play…

History Bites explored the tumultuous transformation that humans have gone through over the past 5,000 years. But in my lifetime the transformation around ADHD has been phenomenal. And yes, I know, I know, I know… there is still too much suffering and stigma, and not enough resources and support. So many of our Patrons are from Europe because many there don’t get it.

But rather than complain about how the world is still not perfect,  I want to take a moment to acknowledge some of the good.

I’m most grateful for my wife, Ava, who has been my partner in all of this from the very beginning.

Both of us are grateful for Patrick and Janis McKenna for their courage in sharing their story in ADD & Loving It?!

Ava and I are grateful for every doctor, researcher, coach, and expert who has graciously and freely shared their time and knowledge with us.

I’m grateful for all the people who helped us create TotallyADD.com, and who keep re-creating it as we go along like David Riddles (you may know him as our customer support) and Duane who does some kind of magic I’ll never understand to keep the website humming.

Thanks to CHADD, ADDA and CADDRA and all the people at PBS who made sure our program made it to air. (It was considered risky. Many stations feared ADHD in adults was too controversial, or the opposite, all made up.)

We appreciate and admire everyone who has found our website, seen our videos, read the blogs, and gained knowledge to change their lives for the better. Which of course impacts the lives of everyone in their circles.

We love hearing from you! Every day brings messages of gratitude. And we do read them, and appreciate them.

We’re especially moved by all of you who have gone above and beyond, offering each other support, compassion, and advice in the our Patreon community, and in the comments on the blogs and videos. 

TotallyADD.com is not just a website. It’s the cumulative experience, and struggles, and wisdom of thousands of members.

You need to understand that by supporting our work, you have changed the world for the better in ways that you will never know.

And we are particularly grateful to everyone who has supported us in our mission by purchasing our videos, books, and audios, or by becoming a Patron.

Your support is what has allowed us to keep going, and to remain independent and be funny, entertaining, and a bit ‘on-the-edge.’  You make that possible.  

And those of you who purchased a book or video from our shop to gift to a friend, loved one, doctor, local school or organization, you too are changing lives, creating ripples of knowledge, and hope that radiate outwards, and affect people that you will never meet.

How cool is that?!

Yes 2020 has been a challenging year. But sometimes when you have ADHD, a challenge wakes up the brain, gets the juices flowing, and becomes an exciting challenge. That was 2020 for me. At points. Just as often I found myself dazed, sluggish, and needing yet another nap.

How about you?  What are you grateful for?  Big or small…what were the highlights of this year for you? Who helped make a difference for you? Ava and I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

My wish for you is that this coming year is your best year so far.

Happy Holidays from me, and from all of us at TotallyADD!

Rick Green,

President and Founder of TotallyADD

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12 Comments

  1. Avatar
    goodrichdirt December 23, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    I’m grateful for my sweetheart and all the other people who put up with me, and for a glimpse of what it might be like to know my limits and accept how small I am in the grand scheme and yet how much I matter in the here and now. I can’t do all the things I think I should do or even a small portion of those things I long to do, but there’s a world of human beings who are all pitching in and there’s a chance we’ll be all right for a while longer. So may it be.

  2. Avatar
    danodea December 24, 2016 at 12:47 am

    A pair of things – no, three.
    1) I’m writing a book set in an Early Iron Age culture. Now (most of us) have clean water, antibiotics, a good understanding of health care, reasonably safe working conditions (in most jobs), access to mass education – the list goes on. Most also have at least some family, or extended family, of people who care about us. Those are things to be thankful for.
    2) I still have my report cards too, from the 1960s and 1970s. “Vacillating attention span” was the most common comment; others included “exceptional intelligence”, “disruptive in class”, and “highly creative”. Today I’d be diagnosed early; back then, I was just a bad kid wasting his talents.
    3) One more thing to be thankful for: this site. Thanks, Rick!

  3. Avatar
    amouseymiss December 24, 2016 at 12:47 am

    I’m thankful for my best friend and fellow ADHDer eho helped me figure out I have ADHD in the first place. And I’m thankful for my family who are (usually) wonderful.

  4. Avatar
    Vanilla December 24, 2016 at 4:27 am

    Very dear Rick,
    Your ‘Twas the Night Before an ADHD Christmas’ was phenomenal!!! I laughed so hard. Thank you!!! I suddenly felt better after decorating my home for Christmas for weeks and still being late, frustrated and entangled with cards, gifts and putting my house in order. I’ll have to start in October next year 🙂 Maybe that will help…(?)
    I loved your picture with Ava. You make a beautiful couple; both of you are very blessed to have each other. Something to be very thankful for.
    I agree with your thoughts 100%. I had a terrible 2015 (aging parents, financial issues), a rough 2016 (things started to look better) and I expect an amazing 2017. I’m very grateful for my patient husband who in 32 years of marriage has never complained about my shortcomings; for my bright and perceptive ADD daughter who is struggling like me but has better chances to get ahead in life (thanks to YOU and the help that your ‘ADD & Loving It’ video provided us, your book + your website as well), I’m thankful for my adorable pets and all the beauty that surrounds us here in Canada all year long; for our loving friends and again, I insist, I am extremely thankful for you Rick, Ava, Patrick and your caring team at totally ADD. I only started to understand myself in my fifties, after I watched your video in PBS one day, switching channels. It was a God moment for me.
    May you Rick, Ava, Patrick and all the amazing people at Totally ADD experience all the Joy of Christmas and have a rich and fulfilling 2017.
    Waves of LOVE and warm hugs to each of you.

  5. Avatar
    tazodel December 24, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Hi Rick,
    I am grateful for all the help and resources I have received from people like you! My ADHD coach, my family physician, your website, books from experts all have helped. I got diagnosed 10 years ago as a mature adult, began medication, hired a coach and learned basic strategies to manage my symptoms. I don’t always use my strategies (gee I wonder why) but I do a lot of self talk to remind myself that some behaviours is my ADHD showing up, not moral turpitude. I’m grateful every time I complete a task, or stop myself from blurting out an inappropriate comment or not impulsively making a major decision about my life. (These days, I figure I’m too old to screw up badly; when I was young, I figured I’d always have another chance.) Thank you for your firm and funny stand on ADHD being real and how to deal with nay-Sayers, as well as your Friday Funnies. Merry Christmas!

  6. Avatar
    Pallist December 24, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Dear Rick: I came upon this message in my inbox just as I was completely freaking out over an Orange Troll threateining nuclear war against Russia in his new position as POTUS. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
    Thanks so much for reminding me about the Best Part.
    I won’t freak out anymore- I will be working to stop this latest insanity coming out of Washington D.C.. A broad perspective can center a person and help them realize that despair can be overcome with context and planning.
    Appreciative of all that you do for us folks who have potential and have always tried harder.

  7. Avatar
    lauriee December 24, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Dear Rick and everyone else at Totally ADD,
    I was so excited at first that you were talking about History Bites so much. Last year, I lent my copy of the DVD to someone and didn’t make a note of who, or when, and none of my friends on Facebook are claiming responsibility, so I am currently scouring eBay to source another copy. I really wish there was a way to buy all the episodes!
    I am so grateful for comedy, laughter, and anything goofball. I took a huge leap out of my comfort zone this year and took a sketch writing class from a local improv teacher. It was so good, and I had so much fun, that I took the class two more times. I don’t write often, or honestly all that well, but I learned a lot, and really appreciate good sketches more than I did before.
    I am also thankful for the chance to work in some local theaters, helping with costumes. Stories told live are magical, and I love being a small cog in that wheel. And I get to work with the best people backstage–they are kind, generous, knowledgeable, and funny. It’s a good world.
    I am thankful for good and patient doctors, as we navigate the path toward wellness for my teenager, who has anxiety, depression, and ADD. (And the more we learn, the more the symptoms sound familiar to my experiences.)
    Today is also my birthday, and I look forward to the white mountain frosting that someone is going to make for my cake. We are going to eat snacks all afternoon and watch a few of my favorite things–something with Don Knotts, Tim Conway, and maybe finish off with a Red Green Christmas Special. And in the coming year, may I laugh a lot more, love more, and cultivate small seeds of hope and joy all around.
    Thank you for everything you do, and best wishes to all of you!

  8. Avatar
    kjlutz December 24, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    I am thankful for you Rick Green. I had a very hard fall reminding me what life was like before my ADHD diagnosis, and this reminder reminded me how grateful I am to have gotten it and it was all because I heard you speak on CBC Ottawa. Rick Green you saved my life, in many big and small ways. Thank You and have a very merry holiday season.

  9. Avatar
    areyouadd December 25, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Hey Rick,
    Your documentary ADD and Loving It?!helped to inspire me to tell my story in documentary form. At first, I tried to find other people who had more dramatic lives dealing with ADHD, until my son suggested I tell mine. Four years later, I’m still working on the film, partial due to a stroke a few years ago which prevents my taking most ADHD medications. Yet I’m still focused on it, which is proof I’m managing it better!
    Some of my earliest memories are of breaking into tears at the end of my first days in school whenever my parents would ask how school went that day. Yet like you, I have much more to be thankful for and recognizing this has given me a mostly joyful life in spite of struggling with ADHD
    I’m thankful for my faith in a God who loves everyone. I’m thankful for my family, friends and ADHD advocates like on this site!
    Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah!

  10. Avatar
    nascott December 26, 2016 at 2:04 am

    Dear Rick,
    My son of 24 was diagnosed early this year with ADHD after crashing and a collective succession of failures throughout his 5-/12 years at university. Finally after some medical invention and council he was finally able to complete his last year and get his undergraduate degree. Wow! It was painful to watch him struggle but he did it. So proud of him!
    I have to say TotallyADD has been educational for me and helphul in my understanding of his trials, emotional roller coasters, his energy, his lethargy and all the other goodies that come in this bag. It validates much of the childhood behaviours, social scenerios and my own challenges as a parent. He on the other hand is less thrilled to share my ‘enthusiasm of some my newly informed discoveries related to ADHD and other related material like blog posts and the Friday Funnies. He is reluctant to be defined by this condition and fears that I only see him as the son with ADHD and not for who he is. So I yield to let him discover on his own with the help of professionals as he chooses.
    This new self awareness for him has been very validating but it is still and will always be a journey for him. He is a bright intelligent and sensitive young man and he needs space to forge forward, continue to fail, falter and learn. . I’ve learned that I have the courage him to let him do that and support him when appropriate.
    In closing it has been quite a year but so grateful that this diagnosis has moved some mountains for my young son and myself. Thank you for your stories and insight. It the humour though that keeps me smiling. Keep it up.

  11. Avatar
    Rick December 27, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Pallist, the hardest thing is to deal with what’s right in front of you. And not be focused on what’s coming. Because we never know what’s coming. And the human mind is designed to see everything as a threat. That whole ‘reptillian brain thing. It helped us survive when there were real threats everywhere from lions and tigers and bears. Not to mention other tribes, famine, and disease. (Apparently most poisons taste bitter, which is why we instinctively don’t like bitter. It has to be acquired by overriding the brain’s automatic reaction by knowing, “This liqueur (Or whatever) is safe.”
    We will always be startled by things, prone to panic, overreacting, assuming the worst, jumping to conclusions, imagining threats, anticipating catastrophe… And yet we live in the safest time in history, and the actual ‘worse case scenario’, in my own experience, has been something that I’ve managed to handle, get through, and perhaps even learn from.
    I know they say ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I don’t think that’s always true. Unless you consciously make the effort and do the work to find the lesson, the wisdom, or to get to a place of gratitude. For a long time my father’s death was nothing but painful. Now I’m grateful for who he was. The regrets I had, and there were many, about things like not getting to know him better, or telling him how much I admired him, made me sad. But that term, “Pay it forward” came along and I began to consciously remind myself to get to know people, acknowledge them, and let them know how much I admired them.
    But it took a long time to get there.

  12. Avatar
    addonuts December 28, 2020 at 7:59 am

    Thanks for spreading a dose of reality. Now someone tell Time Magazine.

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