ADHD: Gift or Curse? or something else?

Perspective is Everything!

I read a post in an on-line forum for individuals with ADHD / ADD in which someone asked what others see as advantages to having ADHD. As I read the responses, I came across one from an individual who was clearly struggling (like so many of us do) and bemoaning the condition as a malady and a malfunction with no “up-side”. And, while I completely get where the individual was coming from and know the pain that the challenges of this ADHD brain wiring can bring, I knew I just had to chime in with my perspective– as an ADHD Coach and a woman with ADHD myself.

If you or someone you care about is struggling to see their own “ADDvantages,” I hope you find something in my rant (below) that inspires you to try to take a look at things a bit differently–whether you do that alone, or with the help of a coach…

One Coach’s Perspective:

I have to say that I respectfully disagree with the assertion that ADHD is no more than a malady and a malfunction with no “up-side” and, as an ADHD Coach, I wonder how much of that perspective is just the very thing that is holding that person back. Don’t get me wrong: ADHD is definitely not all “sunshine and roses”!  I work with people every day who are really, really struggling, in large part due to their ADHD-related characteristics.  And, as a woman with ADHD myself, I’ve been there and will always continue to struggle with certain things.  But so much of what makes a client shift from struggling to what I call, “Learning to live Well with ADHD,” is a change in their thinking and perspective about themselves and their ADHD. It’s this “between-the-ears” piece that is the biggest holdback for so many of my clients.

When we are stuck in that negative mindset about our ADHD—focused on our challenges and what we don’t do well—we are functioning from a perspective of failure and fear. We become stuck in a cycle of self-blame and shame that keeps us from moving forward, and enhances our “imperfections.” When we can shift our focus to our strengths and an appreciation for our own individual talents and “gifts”, it’s so much easier to see past all the angst and embrace solutions. My clients with ADHD will really struggle with finding solutions to their challenges that work for them and stick until they can make that mindset shift. It’s not easy, but it’s about taking a strength-based approach to managing your challenges. And while meds can sometimes make it easier for us to focus to learn to do things differently, we still have to do the work to learn those things, and to be open to them.

Yes, it stinks to have the attention span of a gnat one minute, and then become so hyper-focused on something that we lose track of everything else the next! But there are solutions for that. And it stinks to have to work so hard to manage the paper in my life when people like my husband seem to do it so effortlessly. But there are solutions for that, too. And it stinks to have trouble regulating motivation. But there are solutions for that as well. I help my clients create those solutions every day–and they’re always based on the strengths and natural tendencies of the individual. And we can’t create those solutions with a negative, “I have a curse” mindset!

When we’re focused on the “curse” side of our traits, what is challenging for us or what we’re not good at, we’re aren’t focused on our strengths and what might already be working for us. We become mired in blame and shame and negative judgement. We can’t focus on finding solutions to our challenges, or be open to seeing those solutions and the progress we’re making when we’re in a negative mindset and focused only on what’s NOT working. When we’re only focused on the “curse” that is our ADHD brain wiring.

There are two sides to every proverbial coin–you get to choose on which side you concentrate your focus. Obviously, you can’t ignore the negative side, but if it hasn’t helped you to focus on your challenges so far, you might want to try a different approach!

Here’s what I mean. Here are a few typical characteristics of individuals with ADHD / ADD, and the negative AND more positive side of each of them:

  • We have difficulty regulating focus on one thing, but we tend to interest in and aptitude for many different things.
  • We may tend to procrastinate, but we often have very high standards for ourselves.
  • Our mental restlessness (cognitive hyperactivity) makes us great brainstormers and out-of-the-box idea generators.
  • Impulsivity can make us willing risk-takers.
  • We may have acute sensitivities, but that often makes us highly intuitive, empathetic and caring.
  • We may have horrible time blindness, but we can work much harder, longer, and more intensely when I get into flow.

Plus, for every single negative trait or characteristic each of us has, personally, we easily have as many or more positive characteristics or traits! And for every challenge we have, I guarantee you that we have found ways to mitigate those challenges in at least a few circumstances. And THAT is where the keys to your personal success lie: in what already works for you. And you can’t be open to uncovering and learning from what works so that you can apply it to your challenges if you’re always stuck in that “curse” perspective!

I think of my ADHD characteristics as pieces and parts of what make up who I am. I have blonde hair, blue eyes, unpredictable attention, a poor sense of time, an affinity for “shiny” things, and size 9 feet! (I can’t believe I just put that on the internet!) But that’s who I am.  And that difficulty regulating my attention that comes from my ADHD brain also makes me interested in lots and lots of different things, which has made me good (maybe not great) at lots of different things.  More things than most people I know who don’t have ADHD.  I can frame a structure, hang drywall, do plumbing repairs, and decorate beautifully.  I am intuitive, and funny and kind and sensitive and a great listener (as long as the person talking doesn’t talk to slow or repeat themselves too much!), and I am as loyal to the people I love (and who love me back) as any dog. I have been a professional writer, a professional singer, and I own and manage several rental properties in addition to having a very full-time coaching practice. Who else but someone with ADHD could or would do all that? I also happen to suck at paperwork, procrastinate horribly at things like filing, have a wonky working memory, and have to work damned hard to keep on top of simple things like book keeping and housework.

But who would you rather have for a friend?  A really good filer, or a really good listener?

Just sayin’ …



March 21, 2014 7:51 am

I leave a response each time I appreciate a post on a site or if I have
something to valuable to contribute to the conversation.
Usually it is a result of the fire communicated in the post
I read. And after this article ADHD: Gift or Curse?.
I was excited enough to write a comment 🙂 I do have a couple of questions for you if you do not mind.
Could it be just me or does it look like a few of
the comments come across like coming from brain dead individuals?
😛 And, if you are posting on other places, I would like
to keep up with everything new you have to post. Would you make a
list every one of all your communal sites like your Facebook
page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

September 6, 2014 10:23 pm

Thank you!

All day I have been struggling with the person I’ve become recently. I have always struggle on and off, but I had a really good year prior to moving for work and the fall has been harder this time . Im in my mid twenties and just recently got the actual diagnosis ADHD. Although my parents were told when I was it was suspected, that knowledge was not passed to me until half way through college due to my previous exceptional academic record up until that point. I took Cymbalta for a year when my feeling of being overwhelmed turned into panic attacks and came off of it after moving to a new city and it stopped working. I’m in a job that I love on paper, but the politics of it can be daunting at times. I started medication a month ago for ADHD after realizing how big of an impact it is having on my life and mental health. I work with kids with mental health disorders and I am appalled at how many people in my field think that ADHD doesn’t really matter or exist. I was supposed to go out of town today , but the negative feelings I have paralyzed me to make the 5 hour drive to visit family. Now I feel guilty for missing yet another plan. It really is a vicious cycle. Some people are aware of the struggle I’ve gone through. They are sympathetic at times but then make comments that I am sensitive to. It’s hard to keep in mind that although people may have knowledge and perceptions of this disorder, they can’t truly know the impact of it. A year ago, if someone had pointed out one of my “quirks,” I would have laughed it off because I truly thought that being normal is overrated . I appreciated my ability to absorb knowledge on multiple things and the fact that my friends always wanted to be around me. I even used to joke that I was everyone’s personal therapist and I should start charging.I don’t have that anymore . I knew moving would be hard, I just never imagined it would take this much of a toll on me. At first, people were drawn to me. I have made friends but I feel so sensitive to their observations that I’d rather be alone in my off time (which is counterproductive ). Also, I am financially drained due to impulsivity in the past and in order to get by, I have to avoid the lengthy gas mileage travel brings. So of course, I feel guilty for avoiding those I love. Most days I wish I had never moved but it was necessary .I guess what I’m saying is …. it’s a lonely life right now and the fall from the high of satisfaction to this struggle has been hard . It’s good to have a confirming reminder of the advantages.

September 8, 2014 10:36 am

Glad to be of some comfort! 🙂

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