Monday, September 26, 2011

IPG's Top 10 Things I Love about Having ADHD

First, I'd like to give a "shout out" to the wonderful women on the Women with ADHD online community. (Do people still do "shout outs"? As young as I feel, I'm reminded daily by my tweener that I'm woefully unhip.)  If you're a women with ADD/ADHD, or you think you might be one, please check out this supportive community of wise women who can relate and have great advice!

Recently, I've seen a few posts on that forum that either directly or indirectly challenge the definition of ADHD as a "disorder."  There are some writers and experts on the subject who flat-out reject the disorder concept, arguing instead that "ADHD" reflects a brain that simply works differently, but no less effectively, than what mainstream science would consider a "normal" brain.  Others suggest that the excessive stimulation of modern life is really the culprit.  That is, we are not disordered, but rather, modern life is overloading perfectly normal people, pushing us abnormally beyond what nature intended for us.

Personally, I'm apt to accept the mainstream definition of ADHD as a genetic, neurobiologically-based condition.  As someone who has ADHD, who is raising an ADHD child, and who was herself the child of an ADHD parent, I wouldn't argue that I'm hunky dorey just the way I am, at least medically speaking.  (Although before I actually knew what was going on with me, I did, in fact, argue vehemently, and sometimes angrily, that there wasn't a damned thing wrong with me.  But that is a blog post for another day.)  I would, however, argue that the condition is misunderstood by many; and that a lot of the stereotypes and value judgments commonly associated with it can be unfair or patently wrong.

The other thing that I would argue against is that the "symptoms" of ADHD are all bad.  The truth is, that despite having struggled with some self-esteem issues, a number of the things that I like about myself absolutely the most are diagnostic criteria for ADHD, or at least manifestations thereof.  In fact, as I was planning treatment with my doctors, I worried that medication might "cure" me of characteristics that I actually enjoy and value about myself (and presumably that my loved ones like about me also).

Well, I'm happy to report that the medication doesn't work quite that well.  I'm still my looney self.  Medication has helped with the issues that troubled me the most--inattention, hyperactivity that rose to an uncomfortable level, impulsivity, and poor focus.  But, as Dr. K. assured me would be the case, it hasn't "changed" my brain fundamentally.  The way I think and process information remains intact.  I think I just do it better.

So, in the remainder of this post, I shall celebrate my joys of ADHD.  While I am grateful for effective treatment, if I could turn back time to 1960-something and be born again without the condition, I don't know that I would.  And here are my top 10 reasons why, (with 10 being my most favorite, since I couldn't figure out how to edit the html to give me a reverse-ordered list):

  1. ADHD is good for the environment.  I do not unnecessarily fill the landfills with all kinds of garbage paper because I have so much trouble deciding to throw documents away.  Instead, I collect them for a really, really long time.  At the office, I recently cleaned my desk after more than two years of growing my paper piles.  I felt so guilty about all the paper that I had collected, that I took it all to the workroom, cut the sheets down into little squares, and then stapled them into little notepads that I now use as scratch paper and for phone messages.
  2. I am self-confident enough about my appearance, usually.  It makes me sad how often I see beautiful, fashionable women fret about their appearance.  They see all their tiny "flaws," and think the world sees them too.  They stress about the one hair that won't lay the right way, or about their tummy not being perfectly flat.  On the other hand, I'm generally happy when I'm showered and dressed.  Since I'm not likely to even notice that I slopped spaghetti sauce all over myself at lunch, I'm even less likely to take note of whether my red lipstick is a little too "blue," or a little too "yellow."  
  3. I can afford to be a little messy.  I often have a much easier time making sense of things when they are in a chaotic state than when they are well-organized.  If you come up to me at the office and ask me to produce a document on the spur of the moment, I am far more likely to be able to produce it for you immediately if I have sheets and piles strewn all about my desk than if everything is neatly put away in alphabetized files.  Weird, you say?  Yeah, I know.  What can I say - it's a disorder.
  4. I enjoy job security.  I had a boss a number of years ago who was quite up front about his belief that if you have time to clean your desk, you're not working hard enough.  He regarded a neat organized desk as a sign of a poor work ethic.  Was he a projecting slob?  Most definitely!  But using his logic, I should never have to worry about anyone thinking I'm not working hard enough.  In fact, it might just be time to ask for a raise!
  5. I enjoy a bird's-eye view.  A friend of mine recently aptly noted on Facebook, that ADHD doesn't disable people from attending; rather, ADHD causes people to attend to too much.  I agree, essentially.  My attention is spread far and wide, and thus often too thin.  For me, this means I have trouble focusing on fine details; however, when it comes to seeing an overall process and recognizing the interconnectedness of things, I do quite well.  So, for example, I struggled tremendously in my job as an editor.  I couldn't focus well enough on the complex small details of the text I had to work with.  Eventually, however, I became the manager of my division where I get the opportunity to look at the big picture of our operations and our business, and make decisions regarding those things.  And I do that pretty well, if I do say so myself. 
  6. Minimum page requirements are no problem.  One of the characteristics of ADHD is often "verbal hyperactivity."  In lay terms, we are a peoples who talk too much.  "Too much," is a matter of subjective opinion, of course.  Personally, I think I just have a lot to say.  On the other hand, I fully understand that many an insomniac could be cured by simply chatting with me about the weather.  Don't ask me how anyone could possibly get bored only 90 minutes into an empassioned discourse on cumulonimbus cloud formations, but I guess it's not everyone's cup of tea.  In any event, this "symptom" comes in very handy when you are taking a graduate seminar for which you have to write a 40-page paper, from start to finish, by. . .tomorrow morning.  I got an "A," by the way. 
  7. I don't have to spend a lot of money on movies.  Like a lot of people with ADHD, I'm a perseverator.  But it's not all about worrying and fretting.  My mind runs stories--I relive the events of the day; I switch them up in different ways, depending on my mood; I make up events and conversations, funny ones, scary ones, angry ones. . . .  In short, my mind runs colorful scenarios that--because I created them myself--I often find very entertaining.   But it isn't only about "mindful entertainment" (Ha!  See what I did there??), often I'm working.  I "write," calculate, and problem-solve a lot in my head.  I might look like I'm spacing out, but trust me - I'm takin' care of business.  So, two thumbs up to curling up with a big bowl of popcorn and staring off into space for an hour or two!
  8. I'm rarely bored.  I hear a lot of folks complain about Boredom, with a capital "B."  I can't really relate.  I've certainly been bored at times; but for me, boredom is generally extremely temporary.  With all that goes on both inside and outside my head to engage and distract me, I'm pretty stimulated, be it positively or negatively, most of the time.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that I always have fun.  Often what stands between me and being bored is quite stressful.  There are times when I'd welcome a little ennui, if for no other reason than I'd probably get a decent night's sleep for a change.  But, for the most part, I'd rather be over- than understimulated; and so for this reason I enjoy being distractable, shall we say.  As my 9th grade algebra teacher said to me, "It really doesn't take much to amuse you, does it."  I guess not.
  9. I am never without a conversation companion.  One of the main reasons I'm rarely bored is that, no matter where I am, I always have someone to talk to.  Yep, myself.  With the "verbal hyperactivity" sometimes comes "self-talk," as a manifestation.  I'm a self-talker.  Sometimes I  chat out loud; usually, I'm blabbing to myself silently.  The reasons for all the self-talk vary.  Sometimes I'm trying to work through a problem, and problem-solving out loud helps.  At other times, it's just fun.  Then there are other times when I wish that I would just shut the hell up so that I could hear myself think.  But generally speaking, I enjoy the witty banter.
  10. I get jokes and laugh a lot.  There is a theory about humor that says that we find something funny when we perceive and conceptually resolve an incongruity.  It follows, therefore, that to have a good sense of humor and to enjoy humor, one must be able to recognize the interconnectedness of not-obviously-related things.  With a mind that can be all over the place at any given point in time, I connect things, related or not, and see ridiculousness everywhere.  And let me tell you, life--with its infinite incongruities--is hilarious!
So, what do you love about you??  Drop a comment, if you'd like to celebrate with me!


  1. Love this post :) thank you for helping me see positives to having ADHD :)

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Briar! I'm discovering that a huge part of my new journey is rediscovering and redefining myself, trying to make sense of what I and others have perceived as my "failures." There is so much misunderstanding that stems from the fact that our brains work differently. But different isn't the same as defective! I really believe that each of us can find lots of ways in which our ADHD-related traits give us advantages, and the trick for us then is to figure out how to use those advantages, well. . .to our advantage! Cheers!