The day I was diagnosed with a “learning disorder” was one of the best days of my life. I was 30, and I was just discovering that I had one of the more common Attention Deficit Disorders – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (it comes with or without the “H”). For years, I had struggled with various parts of life that seemed to come so easy for other people. After I lost my wallet five times in six months, I knew that something wasn’t right – and that something had to be done.
After three psychiatrists and countless books on ADHD, I now understand that my brain works very differently than most other people’s. It requires a great deal of stimulation to function well. If I don’t provide myself with healthy forms of stimulation, I will seek it out somewhere, somehow – at the bottom of a bottle, in an emotional well of stress and anger, or by driving 90 on the freeway. Understanding the unique way that my brain works was a crucial step towards being able to use ADHD to my advantage.
Today, I would not trade in my “disordered” brain for anything. People – especially parents of children with Attention Deficit Disorder – tend to focus on the drawbacks of this type of brain, which are well known. Those with ADHD often regulate their attention, focus, and behavior in ways that are very different than what’s expected by classrooms teachers and social norms.
But you can learn to harness the strengths of having Attention Deficit Disorder, and compensate for the weaknesses – and be more powerful than ever. Here’s why I love having ADHD:
- Incredible Energy– Sit still? No thanks. I bound out of bed early in the morning and get more things done in a day than most people do in a week. My energy knows no bounds, at least until 9 pm. Verve? Vigor? Never a problem. Get-up-and-go is my middle name, and my motivation is often contagious.
- Enhanced Creativity – My brain is not organized, like a filing cabinet – rather, it’s like a gigantic, messy, multicolored pile of thoughts. It’s no leap to reach a land of flying purple whales and fuzzy moonbeams that eat chocolate castles in outer space. A “disordered” brain makes it easy to connect disparate ideas, which fuels creativity and out-of-the-box thinking – and my career as a freelance writer.
- Super Focus – Most people think that Attention Deficit Disorder is a “deficit” of attention, but actually – those of us with ADD just aren’t focusing the “correct” amount of attention on the things that other people think that we ought to. In reality, when something interests me greatly – I can focus like a laser beam for hours.
- Impatience – Patience is a virtue, and it’s one I am working on. But there are two sides to every coin, and impatience has a bright side too. I never wait around for “good things” to come to me – I go after them. I don’t sit and wait for someone else to do what needs to be done. I move.
- Risk-Taking – Taking calculated risks is essential to being happy. My constant quest for healthy stimulation means that I am constantly trying new things: extreme sports, traveling to exotic places, and going to parties where I don’t know a soul.
- Organized – Judging by my color-coded, super organized office space – I have OCD, not ADD. But in reality, I am overcompensating for a lack of organization in my brain. It has taken me a couple of decades to get here, but I have finally realized that external structure and routine is a crucial component of thriving with ADD.
There are so many more benefits to having an ADD brain: resilience, persistence, compassion, big-picture thinking, spontaneity… the list goes on.
Attention Deficit Disorder is not a negative – it’s a positive. Your brain is different, and that’s a reason to celebrate! So celebrate your ADD with me.
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