Now, I think I need to clarify something. I was taught there is a difference between true ADD and what folks usually call ADD. Typically, if a person lacks concentration, lets the mind wander, doesn't get the mundane stuff done, flunks at the everyday routine of life, they are considered ADD. Not so. True ADD folks cannot focus on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. They really are all over the map, and as I understand it, there are some medications that help those folks. In my time as a teacher, I had several students on ADD meds. I saw an actual difference in ONE of them. That tells me something else was going on. That something else is that those kids were like me. They could focus on what excited them. If they found something interesting, they could spend hours on it. That is not ADD. That is called being bored with everything else. Meds don't help that, and in fact, they tend to squelch the beautiful creative side of those kids. What DOES help is letting those energy rich kids with genius level problem solving abilities and imaginations that take them to impossible places that suddenly are not impossible if they just keep turning it over in their heads...be themselves. And quit telling them they are broken because they don't fit into the norm. They are not broken. They just have a different kind of normal.
Today I had a conversation with a dear friend whose son has indicators that he may be ADD, and it occurred to me that people use these labels like they are indicator light on a vehicle saying something is wrong and needs to be fixed, and I hate that. ADD/ADHD is not broken. It is high level energy that the world needs because good golly can ADD/ADHD blessed folks get stuff done, especially when we are passionate about it.
On the way home from lunch, I found myself writing a letter to this young man--whom I know, by the way, and I know is an exceptional young man, and I started to write it to him, but then I thought that might be a little personal to him. You know, none of us like folks getting too close to our face. Plus, there are a lot of people out there who struggle with a gloriously huge amount of mental and physical energy that may need to know how to drive the muscle car mind/body they have been given, and that is what it really comes down to, friends.
We have been given a muscle car mind and body, and folks want us to drive it like it is a minivan. Very often, we try to accommodate, and then we end up depressed and numb, feeling listless and kind of dead. That is because minivans are wonderful vehicles and serve a great perhaps, but being a minivan isn't OUR purpose. We are made to be muscle cars. Unfortunately, other folks on the road of life don't really get muscle cars. We drive fast, look reckless, roar with life. We look intimidating and unpredictable. People think we may just be dangerous because we don't follow the routine and pattern and we are judged as rebellious and wild. But the truth is a muscle car is not reckless...or dangerous...or unpredictable...or wild. It all depends on how you drive it, and muscle cars were not meant to be driven like the family station wagon. They were meant to roar with power. So were you.
Let me explain some things I have learned about being a muscle car.
A lot of folks who have muscle car mindsets are labelled a lot of misguided things. I won't even go into that because we could be here all week. Instead of focusing on the lies, let's focus on the realities that people who have not embraced their ADD/ADHD may not know.
First, folks with ADD/ADHD seem to be diagnosed as depressed a lot, or in my case, I was never diagnosed, but I felt this general malaise most of my life. Two things about that:
1. If you are constantly told all the things you are, all the ways you fail, all the ways you "should be", all the "not enough", yes, THAT is stinking depressing. Who wouldn't be depressed when all they are told is how much of a failure they are, especially when they are constantly fighting inside themselves to be this person others want them to be. Goodness. We all want to be accepted, so when you feel no matter what you do you will never have it together enough to be this acceptable person, yeah, that is seriously depressing. We'll talk about this before I'm finished.
2. I went through a lot of my school life feeling "depressed". The rare times I didn't feel depressed were playing basketball, participating in One Act Plays, being outside fishing, hunting (I know, every PETA member just dropped me), or other physical activities. A few years ago I finally had an epiphany. I wasn't emotionally depressed. I was mentally depressed. It is also called "BOREDOM". Folks who are ADD/ADHD have immense mental energy they have to burn. If they don't, they go into a state of mental boredom that feels like depression. Can't get moving. See no real point in getting moving. Can't see past the gloom. ADD/ADHD folks, from my experience, tend to work on a genius scale intellectually, need to be building neuropaths all the time, and need to be creative. If the mental energy isn't burned, it goes stagnant, and boredom becomes a black hole. Also, too much sitting and not enough motion will do the same thing for those of us who have the hyperactivity ingredient tossed into our personal recipe.
So, what do you do with that?
On the "unacceptable" side, if I could tell you anything, I would tell you that you are not broken. The educational system that labelled you is broken. The parent who doesn't understand how you work and is trying to make you function a certain way has a broken perspective, but YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. I spent years and years trying to fit in a box that made others feel good about me, and it successfully made me feel exhausted and feel like a failure. Then, because God is very good and kind...and He made me and thinks He knows what He is doing...He made it clear that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. If that is true, then my ADD/ADHD has to be "fearful", as in amazing and glorious. It has to be wonderful. So instead of trying to eradicate it and make myself work like someone else, I embraced it and started learning to work like me. How did I do that?
Well, I did a lot of praying and spending time with the Lord so the Spirit could enlighten me because, honestly, the information I had read on ADD/ADHD was always about what a hassle it was, that it was a curse, that it needed to be "fixed". I wanted to know who to be wonderful.
The other thing I did was keep my basic functional rules:
1. I am a muscle car, but I have to respect all vehicles on the road.
2. I am a muscle car and like speed, but I have other riders like my kids and my pets. I am responsible for them, which means even if I would rather sleep in or watch a movie, I still need to get up and feed my pets or make dinner for the kids or sit through a meeting that is important to them.
3. When I give my word, I keep it even something more interesting comes up.
4. Being someone dependable is essential to me, so I show up on time. I communicate my plans ahead of time, and if they change, I communicate that as soon as possible. For instance, if I am meeting a friend for dinner, I tell them when to expect me. If I get stuck in traffic, I call and tell them I am delayed. I don't just say, "I'll pick you up for dinner," and show up whenever I'm done with other stuff that caught my attention during the day or who up late without warning. Both of those have happened to me, and I found them totally disrespectful.
You may be a muscle car, but you are still to show respect to others. To do otherwise, is not about being a muscle car. It is about being self-centered and irresponsible. You make the decision to respect others, and if it is hard for you to remember things, set alarms on your phone, make a list of what to get finished, whatever it takes for you to remember. That is demonstrating value to others, just as you want them to value you. It's called common courtesy, and it demonstrates personal respect.
Now, I think the rest of this is easier if I tell you what works for me and hopefully that gives you some idea of what might work for you. Obviously, I am available to talk, answer questions, etc. on personal situations, but for this, I think giving you some ideas might be the right thing.
I never took meds for my ADD/ADHD. It was suggested to my mother who told the teachers that it was their job to keep me engaged not her job to keep me silent through medication. This was, in my opinion, one of the best gifts my mom gave me.
I have been called a lot of things in my life. I've been called controlling, obnoxious, intimidating, too loud, too intense, too a-lot-of-things. I have tempered some of that, but I have also accepted a lot of that as well.
Yes, I am intense. I need mental stimulation. I need to be learning all the time. I need things that make me think, that make me work through issues and problems. I am a great problem solver, and I like problem solving because it engages a huge amount of my brain at one time. Now, implementation is hard. I get bored. This week I was thinking about the garden I wanted to plant, and I finally embraced the reality that I love designing the garden and building it, but I don't want to maintain it. I don't want to water it everyday. I don't really care once the creative part is over. So I'm not doing a garden. I'm going to see what other activities I can find that sustain mental activity.
I am not intimidating unless someone is insecure. It really is that simple. Confidence, wonder, and excitement are not intimidating. A person's insecurities may perceive those characteristics that way, but in a person who is comfortable in their own skin (i.e., totally digs being a muscle car), they are just normal aspects of personality.
Too loud? Sometimes. Especially when I am really excited about things, but, that also works well when I am in an emergency situation and having to get things done and give directions.
Am I obnoxious? Truthfully, I can be. Now part of that is in the eyes of the beholder, but part of that is also a result of trying to find comfort in one's own skin. Folks who are trying to figure themselves out try on different "personality clothes", and we want to be acceptable, so we tend to overdue on what we are good at and possibly try to make folks more like us. I have learned folks still find my energy and enthusiasm obnoxious (see the intimidating paragraph), but I don't need to prove myself, so that part has toned down.
A key part of embracing myself was being able to have a vision of myself. What was I really working with? The whole story is amazing, but for (the illusion of) brevity's sake, I'll just say that God made it clear I am a muscle car. He made me this way. I don't idle well. I go full bore and stop. That is pretty much it. Anything in the middle is...boring. So what I did was create a vision of myself in my head. I happen to be a '65 Mustang convertible, kind of a bronze-orange metallic color. I am fierce, and in my mind, if I am at a stop light, and the car beside me revs his/her motor to ask "Wanna race?", I smile, get a comfortable grip on the steering wheel, and when the light turns, I smoke them. Because really, they clearly have no idea who they just challenged. A bit self-centered? Not if you live a life of passion and excellence to back it up.
And that is what makes us who we are. I am driven by excellence. I am driven by hard things.
Not only do I need to be learning all the time, I need physical exertion. I love my trainer, Adam Napper, because when he asked me my goals for weight lifting, we talked, and he said, "So my job is to make sure you don't hurt yourself." I cannot do eighteen million low resistance reps so I can tone. Nope. So Adam worked with me to develop a routine with the heavy weights that cause me to make the ugly faces on the last two or three reps. I NEED the resistance. I need to use my muscles that way. When I get really angry, I want to throw something. Not at anyone. Not anything in particular. I need the physical expenditure that comes with feeling the resistance of the motion, the weight of the object, and the follow through. Now, I don't throw things because of that respect for others issue I mentioned above, but if I can exert heavy physical energy, I can think and process better emotionally.
I'm not a runner. I never have been. Not my thing, but I love firearms and archery. With archery, I love the hard pull of the string, the mental focus of the shot, and the processing to correct any imperfections. Firearms is very similar. Firearms for me is mental, but I also like the ones that have a lot of recoil. I think I was made for long distance marksmanship in a lot of ways. I pursued that a few years ago and then stopped because I felt awkward. I'm in my late 40s starting a hobby that I have no real use for except I think it is cool. Let me tell you something about those "it's cool" hobbies. Sometimes they intrigue us because they feed our spirits. They don't have to serve a greater purpose than that. A hobby that simply burns the mental and physical energy that allows us to relax and feel "alive" (meaning not bored, depressed, or dead) is a good thing. Ironically, a lot of us don't have a problem spending large amounts of money to see a counselor or take meds to alleviate "depression/boredom" so this mental and emotionally misery gets pushed down and can be ignored (which, by the way, also kills a lot of our creative drive and ability), BUT we feel awkward doing the healthy thing of finding a hobby that actually helps that amazing creative part of us flourish. We seem to find it acceptable to find ways to stop being ourselves instead of letting ourselves be who we are...who we were created to be.
Now, I took some flak from folks who don't understand a woman who is a good shot, enjoys firearms, thinks independently, and lives intensely. They don't get me. I don't look like their preconceived ideas of a woman. They have the domesticated idea of a woman from social England. I honestly tried to be that person for a long, long time in order to make others comfortable. I will not do that again.
Although some folks don't get who I am, a lot do. In fact, a lot of folks are incredibly encouraging and supportive of this "version" of me. I had to step out of some social groups and out of some relationships that I called "comfortable" but really weren't because I never felt comfortable, never felt like I fit. I also had to be courageous in stepping out my box, being willing to try new things, being willing to be real with friends who were used to the "sedate" life I tried to live.
Two things about not fitting:
1. Sometimes people have preconceived ideas that we don't fit into. Just true. That's okay.
2. People who are intense, who are driven to be excellent, who are driven to push the edge, who think outside the lines, who want to see just how far they go with something and it still work or figure out how to make it work....those people really don't fit into a society that is taught to be mediocre, live down to expectations, be entitled, accept feeling no (or very little) passion or conviction, accept the way things are, and to adhere to status quo. ADD/ADHD people don't fit into our present culture. They often make others look back with the amount of work they can do and the innovative work they can do. People around them may resent them or criticize them or try to sabotage them. Let me tell you something, and I really want you to get this:
JUST BECAUSE SOCIETY DOESN'T LIKE YOU DOESN'T MAKE YOU WRONG.
Just because other people don't understand you, does not make you wrong.
Just because they don't understand you, just because they don't think like you, just because they don't obsess over the thing you do, just because they don't like the same thing you do, doesn't make you wrong.
I have friends who don't understand me, they don't think like me, they don't relax firing a gun over and over and over trying to get a perfect group, they don't read books on trauma/loss/terrorist psychology, they don't kayak or build fences to relax. They have no desire to drive a big crew cab, 4x4 truck, and they would never want to be a red head, but they love me fiercely, and if anyone bad mouths me to them, that person better be ready for what will be unleashed upon them. People don't have to get you to accept you. They don't have to be like you to love you.
But I give you my word:
You will never really feel accepted
until you accept yourself.
You will never really feel loved by someone else
until you love yourself.
And these friends of mine, they think I'm amazing, but more than that, I think I am amazing. I've quit trying to figure out how to be less different and embraced the truth that I was created with this intensity because I am meant to make a difference. I don't try to live the quiet life anymore. Instead, I pray for where and how to live big. There are a lot of needs in the world. Big needs. Since I am ADD/ADHD, I have a big need for new challenges and new stimuli, a big determination, a big ability to problem solve, a big imagination for answers, and a big reserve of energy to get something done.
So do you.
The hard part is finding what keeps your fire lit. Give yourself the freedom to find out. Do some research. Find things you think are interesting and try them out. Give yourself freedom to think differently and do things differently. Respect others. Best way to do that is know and embrace yourself so you aren't fighting yourself all the time. In other words, respect yourself. Stay busy.
Oh, yeah, I have often been called a workaholic. I'm not. I just have a ton of energy I need to burn, so I spend more time in motion of various kinds than other people do. I sometimes envy folks who relax watching TV or being still. I have learned to find certain stillness relaxing because I focus on God. Just being still...that is actually incredibly agitating to me.
Other thing to tell you, my "quiet time" with the Lord is best outside, either walking, riding my tractor to mow the yard, kayaking or bobbing on the water when the sun comes up, things like that. There is just something in my body that "stills" with motion.
I stopped trying to make other people's rules of relaxation, concentration, etc., fit me, and I found what works for me. It doesn't look very "feminine", but God doesn't seemed freaked out by it, so I'm good.
This is far more rambling than I meant for it to be (ADD obviously did not study geometry and the shortest distance between points), but I hope it helps you or someone you know who is trying to get a handle on this out of control energy level.
Oh, yeah, I don't try to control my energy level. I direct it. Big difference, and I think you will find that directing the energy creates a huge amount of peace that trying to control it never will.
Anyway, as I said at the beginning, I am glad to answer questions, offer suggestions, talk through, and generally be of help. You should be able to find my email on this site. If not, comment, let me know it is private, and give me contact information. I will get back to you.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. May you embrace that, enjoy who you are, and be in awe of the wonderful creation that is you, and in that, may you find...