When I received a diagnosis of ADHD last year, it wasn’t a lightbulb moment or a wake up call! (I was officially diagnosed ADD, apparently I didn’t score for hyperactivity, it was probably more evident as a child, people close to me would argue it’s just as prevalent today) however it did clarify a few things.
As a child I had boundless energy, used to get up in the morning and run downstairs and never really stopped. Plagued with a racing head that was constantly taking on board information and trying to process lots of different things. It would worry me sometimes, thinking my brain wouldn’t be able to keep doing this, that it would just pop, and break.
Risk taking behaviours is another trait of adhd. I loved climbing trees, roofs, I loved having exciting adventures like brook jumping or playing in factories (it’s called commercial burglary these days!). I struggled to see the consequences of things I did, the thoughts of what if I hurt myself or got in trouble were never really there. My childhood feels like a fast passed assault course that never really slowed down.
In school I struggled. Learning and retaining information has never come easy to me. I recall that we had to sit still, put our hands up if we wanted to speak and pay attention to the teacher. I failed to do this on every occasion and therefore retreated within my own world of fiction, fantasy world of elves and Jedi’s and masked vigilantes. (At 47, this is somewhere I still spend a lot of my thoughts)
We learned our timetables parrot fashion by standing up and saying them out loud. I remember moving seats in the classroom so I never was in my seat when the teacher got to that desk, I still don’t know my time stables and have a real panic when it comes to math related issues.
My saving grace was English as I could disappear into the pages of a book and hide, or bury myself in an adventure of my own making, always easier that figuring out who I was in the real world.
Beyond school, a cruel and scary place for this person was an even stranger wider world. Full of ego and low self worth I tried to be part of the world yet found solace in drink and drugs as risk taking behaviour overshadowed warnings of addiction and desperation.
So adhd has been part of me and left me struggling to fit in in a world that is full of distraction and disconnects.
Then how do I sit across from another person, and remain focussed on their needs and not play host to my intrusive outward thoughts?
Counselling training for me was a saving grace. It came at a time in my life when I had a strong need to make restitution to the world, and it was taught in a multi-layered way that involved me in the learning because of the amount of self reflection and skills practice and the freedom of being told to be true to yourself allowed me to develop my approach of being engrossed in another persons world and yet having the racing thoughts that allowed me to make quicker connections within their story.
I find that when I’m sitting with a client, I do have to work harder to be present, to nurture that sense of immediacy. However, I see my diagnosis as a gift, it allows me to take on board a lot of information and begins processing it, looking for threads that I can connect it to. I am able to make leaps of cognition and see patterns quite quickly. I can use this to help the client see an immediate link. Or I might hold it back, waiting for another session where I feel it’s relevance will have more impact.
My wife has Asperger’s syndrome, she has often talked about this being her superpower. It gives her special abilities, allows her to see the world in a unique way. It is part and parcel of who she is.
My superpower I suppose is speed, like the Flash. My mind moves at a speed and over the years it has become accustomed to trawling through a lot of information, sifting through and seeking loose threads and finding the connections, It’s like a therapeutic fibre optic superhighway.
I often struggled in the past with various thoughts that I called ‘ The Committeem’. Various character traits that would hold separate conversations at the same time as my thoughts would dash of into different adventure of their own. Now, with age, and learning, they work like backstage hands at the theatre whilst the main actor is treading the boards. There is more unity, and it’s this unity that makes my adhd work for me. Don’t get me wrong, the most prevalent thoughts, the actor, the singer and the comedian are still around in my head, they have their parts to play, and now they play them well, and it’s more like we’re all reading the same script.
So today I embrace my adhd. It’s very much a part of who I am, I am no longer a slave to it, I do not feel that I am less of a person. I actually believe that it helps me be ‘more me’. I have this gift that I am able to use in my training and in my counselling. I am able to see things in a different and much faster way. It still leaves me with feelings of anxiety and a level of hyperactivity that has become more of a norm today. I still have my difficult days where I feel overwhelmed and over stimulated by people in social situations. It is at these times where I can find myself isolating, when I get peopled out. However that is a part of me also. It’s all tied into the eclectic ball that is me.
“It is my curse, it is my gift. Who am I?”
A Thirsk Counsellor