ADHD classifies as a learning disability. The main symptoms are poor attention span, and poor impulse control. According to the National Institute of Health, 3 to 5 percent of the US population has been diagnosed with ADHD. But for myself, and many others, it’s not just a statistic. Our experience with ADHD is a large part of our life stories.
We’ve felt stupid at times, and in some cases, we’ve even been told we were by teachers and countless others, who can’t relate to what goes on in our heads. ADHD is like your train of thought is constantly leaving the station — and you aren’t on board.
You become aware of it in school, sitting in a classroom. You’re listening to the lesson, but the slightest noise distracts you — someone is breathing, the air conditioning is whirring, a classmate is tapping their desk — and you hear everything.
You fall behind the curriculum quickly, and you start to realize you’re different from the other kids. You act up, and you don’t know why. When you’re old enough to be self-aware, you can peg it as anxiety — a common side-effect of ADHD.
It only gets harder through the years, but you have two real choices: Give up, or learn to work around your “disability.” Yet some discover a third option — they learn their ADHD is actually a superpower.
ADHD may, in fact, be an evolutionary gift in a world in which multitasking is an increasingly valued, and demanded skill. I was fortunate enough to have a mother who didn’t believe in medicating it, so I had to do well in school, and sports all without the aid of prescription drugs. It was a blessing in disguise as I learned how to transform my biggest weaknesses into my greatest strengths.
Write down everything
When you’re distracted by the littlest things, often even just remembering what you’re in the middle of doing is extremely difficult. It’s a bit like Guy Pearce in Memento, but you must write everything down. If you have ADHD, you can’t afford to take memory for granted. You can turn forgetfulness into a strength as you document your life. Your organizational skills will be off the charts.
Regulate your headspace
Self-awareness is vital to countering impulsivity. Because of this, your ADHD can make you a zen master. Schedule alone time. You’ll learn about yourself in solitude, and you can plan ahead. Keeping a clear headspace will allow you to fluidly analyze where your emotions are coming from. One of the hardest parts about ADHD is the confusion, which leads to anxiety. That’s when the pressure kicks in, and when we feel those negative emotions, often times we’ll do whatever we can to make them go away — even if it’s not the healthiest or wisest way to rid ourselves of them.
Take care of yourself
Just like you need to take care of your headspace, you must take care of your body. Your attention is not only drawn to external stimuli, but internal stimuli as well. Eat right, sleep well, and exercise. Your mind and your body are deeply connected, and certain foods such as processed foods, and foods containing high fructose corn syrup have proven adverse effects for ADHD.
It’s highly unusual for people with ADHD to be in the habit of working on a project or task for a day at a time — that is, unless it’s something they are truly passionate about. With that in mind, it’s essential to schedule interruptions, or controlled distractions. Your brain has to recharge, and when you feel yourself getting distracted, that’s your body’s way of letting you know it’s time to conserve your energy. When you work, this will allow you to function at your peak level. To optimize yourself, find out what replenishes you. Maybe it’s yoga, running, or listening to certain kinds of music. Take note of what works for you, and stick to it religiously.
Write down your goals
“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” — Lao Tzu
People with ADHD are known to procrastinate. Sometimes people procrastinate because they’re lazy, and it really is that simple. Other times, it comes from forgetting things. But it starts with setting three types of goals: long-term, short-term, and immediate. The immediate goals are the things you have to get done today. These will give you encouragement to boost you onto your short-term goals. The short-term goals are ones you can finish off in days, and weeks, and sometimes months. The long-term goals are the pieces that make up your big dreams. These can take months, or years, but this is your vision.
The ultimate superpower of ADHD is perseverance. As long as you don’t give up, you can do anything anyone else can. Sometimes you just have to fight a little harder than them.