ADD and Shame

Like any good girl raised in a Catholic home, I have a talent for guilt. The ideal of moral perfection is elusive, as is admittedly true for everyone, but the greatest guilt – really, my greatest shame – is for a lifetime spent struggling with the constellation of symptoms known as ADD. Largely because for most of my life I didn’t know I had it, and instead felt sure that I was fundamentally lazy, disorganized, and unmotivated.

In my early childhood, I was labeled  “gifted and talented”, which meant that I was expected to impress. I’d never been the type to bounce off the walls, and I’d always been able to concentrate under pressure or on topics that interested me.  The possibility of my having an attention deficit – a phrase not commonly used or even known at that time – was never considered. At this early stage, all that was required was to take and ace whatever test was placed in front of me, and this seemed like something I could manage. If I could just keep doing that, I thought, I’d be good enough.

But the older I got, the further I seemed to fall from what was expected. Not everything could be hidden by one good score. I was careless, disorganized, distracted. The difference between what everyone knew I was capable of and what I actually achieved became larger every year, and with it, my sense of shame. I wondered what was wrong with me – why I couldn’t get organized, plan ahead, prepare? It didn’t seem to be something I could do. I wasn’t enough. Not anymore. I felt I was – categorically – disappointing.

Then came the shame – overwhelming, oppressive shame. I wanted to cover the distance between what I knew I was supposed to do and what I was actually doing, but didn’t have the tools to do it, and that felt like my fault.

In college, friends dutifully sat each night in front of carefully highlighted texts and impeccable notebooks that summarized all that they’d learned with a level of organization that mystified me. I couldn’t stay on top of one of my classes, let alone all, as everyone else seemed to be able to do.

The distance between what I’d dreamt and what I’d done was wide, coloring my life with each action I didn’t take. A sense of my status as “failure” congealed in my mind, and that shame followed me everywhere.

And then, though I didn’t recognize it as such at the time, someone offered hope. They suggested I get tested for ADD.

I didn’t expect a diagnosis. I had felt so much shame for so long that I was sure the tests would show that I was fine, that I had no excuse.

And yet, as it turned out, it was true: I had an attention deficit, and a significant one at that. It only took this one, simple piece of information for my worldview to start to shift, and for my belief in my inherent flawed-ness to get its first real challenge.

It took a while for my perception of myself to change, and to recognize that what I saw as intrinsic inadequacy might just be a different way of interacting with the world. My diagnosis was my first hint that I might still have value, might still be able to achieve something, and that what I had previously considered to be fundamental personality flaws might actually be assets. It took this diagnosis to start me on the path to believing that something better was possible for me.

I know now that ADD and shame go hand in hand for many of us, especially those who have lived entire lives before learning this disorder’s name. But it doesn’t have to be our fate. Hope is a choice, and so too is the act of seeking help, support, and treatment. My diagnosis helped me make it.

(This beautiful, insightful essay was written by guest blogger Mary.)

 

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Kathy Sussell is an ADHD coach who works with teens, college students and adults with ADHD. Kathy helps them with time management, planning and prioritizing, initiating and finishing tasks, organizing paper and objects and other life skills. Kathy is the co-author of, Managing Your ADHD: Tips and Solutions from A-Z. She is the organizer of the ADHD Women’s Meetup Group that meets every month in NYC. For more information visit her website: www.bravolifecoaching.com or email Kathy at kathy@bravolifecoaching.com

It’s Never Too Late

 

Many years ago I was in a Barnes and Noble bookstore when I saw a card with a quote by George Eliot. The quote read,”It is never too late to become what you might have been.” I bought the card, took it home and put it on my fridge and looked at it every day.

I’d been thinking about going back to school to complete my degree but I had been telling myself I was too old, I had been out of school for too long, and I was too busy. Then I would read those words, “It is never too late …” and I felt encouraged to try.

If it weren’t for that card, with those words I doubt I would have gone back to school, completed my degree, gone on to study life coaching and find ADHD coaching, the work I love to do.

Going back to school was hard. I remember sitting in a Forensic Psychology class that met on Friday nights from six to nine pm. I was working full time and had a husband, young kids and assorted cats and dogs at home. It was the end of a very long week. I had been awake and on the go since five am, and I was feeling exhausted. Repeating, “It’s never too late” in my mind kept me going and made me feel brave.

Words are very powerful. They can inspire you to keep going or keep you from doing the things that you planned to do.

Think about the times when you wanted to make a change but your negative self-talk told you it would be too hard, too boring or too scary. Having a quote that inspires you will allow you to challenge those thoughts and move forward.

If you have a favorite quote that inspires you, write it down and keep it where you can see it. If you don’t have a favorite quote it’s never too late to find one. Read your quote aloud to yourself as many times as it takes for you to memorize it. Let your quote serve as a reminder for what you want to accomplish. Words are powerful. If you give inspiring thoughts a prominent place in your internal and external world they will move you forward and encourage and support you as you work toward your goals.

Kathy Sussell is an ADHD coach who works with teens, college students and adults with ADHD. Kathy helps them with time management, planning and prioritizing, initiating and finishing tasks, organizing paper and objects and other life skills. Kathy is the co-author of, Managing Your ADHD: Tips and Solutions from A-Z. She is the organizer of the ADHD Women’s Meetup Group that meets every month in NYC. For more information visit her website: www.bravolifecoaching.com or email Kathy at kathy@bravolifecoaching.com

Asking for Help

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Many of us don’t like to ask for help because we feel it is a sign of our being weak, confused and vulnerable. From an early age we are taught that we should be self-reliant and capable of handling every task and situation that comes along. We feel that we should be able to figure out how to do things and get things done. The problem is that nobody is good at everything and some things we are bound to suck at.

There are additional challenges when you have ADHD. There are things that our brains are just not good at. Things like time management, planning and prioritizing, remembering what to do, getting started on and finishing tasks, and organizing our thoughts, papers and possessions. These are the things many of us tend to struggle with because that is the way our brains are wired. We tend to avoid taking on certain tasks because we don’t want to admit that we need help along the way.

Asking for help is actually a sign of strength. You have to be brave to recognize your personal limitations and be willing to accept someone else’s expertise to accomplish your goals. It means that you are ready to try doing things in a different way.

The good news about asking people for help is that most people genuinely like to help when they can. Helping others makes us feel good. When you ask for help you allow someone to share their gifts and expertise with you.

When asking for help be specific about the kind of help you need. Instead of asking for help with childcare in general ask someone to pick up your kids at school and bring them home on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Think of something you need help with and ask for help. You might ask a friend or family member but you can also pay people like a coach, professional organizer or therapist to help you. There is no shame in asking people for help and asking others for help may lead you to opportunities to help others.

Kathy Sussell is an ADHD coach who helps teens, college students and adults with ADHD improve their time management, planning and prioritizing, initiating and finishing tasks, organizing paper and objects and other life skills. Kathy is the co-author of, Managing Your ADHD: Tips and Solutions from A-Z. She is the organizer of the ADHD Women’s Meetup Group that meets every month in NYC. For more information visit her website: www.bravolifecoaching.com or email Kathy at kathy@bravolifecoaching.com

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