Updated: Mar 1
Are you unwittingly distracting yourself from reaching your true potential? Yes, it’s possible, if you suspect you have ADHD but keep thinking….
1. “I just need to try harder to sort myself out”
In many areas of life, for example when learning new skills, ‘trying harder’ is often a valid and reliable route to success, so long as we know which element of the process needs extra effort. Sometimes, however, those with ADHD will experience difficulty recognising precisely what needs ‘sorting out’, how to go about it and how to stay on track to ensure it remains ‘sorted’.
These three distinct processes are dealt with primarily in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain and are crucial to achieving any goal we set ourselves. If you struggle with any of these, the good news is that there are many different approaches to take, for example by integrating structures and habits which, simply put, shift the responsibility to another part of the brain. By seeking help, you will soon be discovering the systems and structures which you need.
As we know, negative self-talk is immensely damaging. Each time we blame ourselves for not sorting ourselves out, for missed deadlines, impulsive actions and comments, and wasting time we chip away at our precious self-esteem. Add to that the self-criticism we inflict when we view seeking outside help as a sign of weakness, and it’s no wonder ADHD is closely linked to experiences of anxiety and depression.
Seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and self-awareness. It will carry you gently towards ‘sorting yourself out’.
2. “Why go to all the trouble of having a diagnosis?”
This is a phrase ADHD people use a lot. Often it seems that a goal is just too inaccessible even to bother to contemplate. This is because in the ADHD brain, there is a lack of chemical activity and the all-important executive function is compromised. In other words, the ability to set goals, stay on track and follow through is diminished. It’s therefore perfectly natural to consider a goal impossible to reach.
Yes, it’s ‘trouble’. But compare it with your experience today. How much ‘trouble’ do you cause yourself, and those you love, every day by any inability you may have to set goals, stay on track and follow through? Some goals really are worth a lot more than the perceived trouble!
3. “I don’t want to be labelled as having a mental health issue”
Resistance to accepting any mental health diagnosis was born in the days when to have any non-neurotypical condition was seen as a bad thing. There simply wasn’t as much research into mental health as there is now and the marked social stigma in the 1930’s to the 1970’s would often be harmful. However, in those 50 years, ADHD went from being an ‘abnormal defect of moral control in children’ to being widely recognised as a straightforward consequence of development and neurotransmission within the brain. If you grew up during the time before the birth of neuro-imaging, you may have internalised the negative attitudes of those around you.
Nowadays, thanks to ever-developing research techniques and an openness of prominent people such as Princes William and Harry to discuss mental health, the negative attitude surrounding these issues is changing forever.
Think of the brain as simply another organ in your body, dependent primarily on chemical processes. Why the stigma?
4. “Everyone is a little ADHD”
That’s very true. Everyone shows signs of ADHD, impulsivity, hyper-activity (or ‘motor-brain’) and distractibility from time to time.
Crucially, however, it’s the frequency of the symptoms that is important in a diagnosis. The questions you could ask yourself are “How often do the signs of ADHD affect me?” “How often do I notice my superpowers of energy and thinking out of the box?” “How often are my traits being a nuisance and impacting on my ability to succeed?” and “Were these signs there when I was a child?” With answers to these insightful questions, you will be better equipped to move forwards.
5. “I’m fine as I am, I don’t want my personality to change”
Many people are given the impression that diagnosis inevitably leads to a lifetime of enforced medicating – and not particularly user-friendly medicating at that. Fears abound about the long-term effects of stimulant medication, particularly the damage it might inflict on one’s personality. To bust a myth here, medications (if you decide to take them, and you are in the driving seat when it comes to your treatment options) don’t change who you are. They work on how your brain operates, and that’s a very different thing. Besides, the range of treatments goes way beyond medications. There are many different approaches, for example dietary, holistic, and intellectual. Information is readily available from reliable sources on the internet and there are many qualified, experienced and approachable professionals such as counsellors, coaches and therapists to call on.
Are you really “fine as you are”? Imagine yourself armed with all the positives of ADHD but without the hindrances. By seeking advice you can begin to get know that person. There’s plenty of help out there, and the future really is very exciting indeed!
If any of these five commonly-used phrases rings a bell for you, you may find a trip to your GP to discuss your thoughts is the first step to a bright new future.
Tomorrow really is the first day of the rest of your life!
Published Autumn 2019