Daddy with ADHD

Since I last wrote a blog I have become a Daddy to my lovely little daughter Amelia Greene. I am probably still traumatised from the birth experience which is why it has taken me so long to write a blog. (well that is my excuse anyway) On hindsight I probably should have researched the process a bit better instead of almost passing out during the birth.  There is a photograph of me holding Amelia not long after the birth and I am a pale green colour but still managing to look very very proud.  Overall it has been an amazing experience which has completely changed me as a person and  it has only been three months. My partner Emma and I have been waiting for Amelia to come into our lives for quite a while and neither of us can believe she is finally here.  We are loving every moment.  I am learning new skills like changing nappies, walking around the house like a ninja so as to not wake the baby and surviving without sleep.  Amelia is teaching me to live in the moment and appreciate life like I have never done before and as she grows I look forward to teaching her  to develops skills to cope with life.

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Proud Daddy

Before she was born I always had anxiety about becoming a dad.   I never thought it would happen for a start and I worried that if I did become one, would my child be like me?  I am an adult with ADHD who has had great difficulty looking after myself never mind being responsible for a child of my own.  However, as I have gotten older and learned more about my ADHD and myself I have found that life has become a lot more manageable, I no longer see myself and my ADHD from a negative perspective and instead I have a more balanced view of myself and of other people.   Over the years through therapy, study and trying to improve myself I have learned that regardless of having ADHD, just like everybody else in the world I have good days and bad days and it is just part of the human condition.  Growing up with ADHD I received a lot of negative verbal and nonverbal messages that I was a bad egg and one to avoid and it has taken a long-time to uncover, discover and discard that mess and  a process that I am happy to work on for the rest of my life if need be.

I still  sometimes fear that my ADHD might impact Amelia in a negative way, however I think that is a healthy fear and one that should not be ignored.  We all have strengths and weaknesses and by identifying  and using our strengths to their full potential and working to improve our areas of weaknesses or find support in these areas if needed there is no reason to be afraid.

Important parenting skills such as time management, organizing  tasks, implementing routine and  managing emotions happen to be areas in which adults with ADHD have deficits and failing to recognise, or not working to improve on these deficits can only lead to increased stress and a sense  failure or  inadequacy in parenting.

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An area of ADHD that I have found  myself concerned about is distractibility.  Distractibility alongside poor memory is the reason I walk away from  restaurants leaving my wallet or mobile phone on the table.  Holy feck!!  What if I forget Amelia? Although I can’t imagine it ever really happening, it is something that has crossed my mind and if anything it has made me much more mindful and vigilant when we are out.  However, distractibility can be a real issue that causes me difficulties and if I were to just ignore it I am sure that it would have a negative impact on my relationship with Amelia in the future.  So it is very important for me to remember what is important and for me that is being a Dad  and a partner that is present, loving and available. Perhaps the key is maintaining a healthy amount of distractibility that allows the person to be themselves with their ADHD without compromising relationships with family, easier said than done I suppose.

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Having  ADHD is a very frustrating thing .  You constantly forget appointments,  tend to be extremely disorganised, often you  will have problems completing household tasks; keeping track of finances and  most of all  people with ADHD feel misunderstood by everyone.  But having ADHD is not an excuse to be an asshole and to think that it is ok to take frustrations out on your family or your loved ones.  So for me the number one thing for a parent with ADHD is  to  find help to manage difficult emotions so that you are not hurting the people you love and creating a negative atmosphere within the  home.  I always promote counselling and psychotherapy and I truly believe that all adults with ADHD should have weekly sessions with a good therapist to help regulate emotions, untangle distorted thinking, get to know yourself better as well as improving relationships with the people closest to you.  Other areas can help regulate emotions such as meditation, mindfulness, sports, but I have learned that the  first few months of being a parent can make most of this very difficult, so perhaps only one or two of the above.

I am sure that as time goes on there will be other issues that will present about being a Daddy with ADHD and I will share when the time comes, but for the moment I am still in doting daddy mode, hyper-focusing on this new  little life that is teaching me so much, including my capacity to learn new things and how much I enjoy being a parent.   I have found that my hyperactivity and boundless energy has found a new release valve in my life through being Amelia’s light entertainment throughout the day .  I knew all those years in pantomime were preparing me for something BIG – singing endless silly songs and creating much  laughter and giggles..   Apologies if this post is a little over the place, I have been out of practice this last few months but hope to get back in the swing of things and thank you for reading. This post is dedicated to my lovely partner Emma who has done the hard work and to my lovely little daughter Amelia.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com

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ADHD the square pegs.

Many people with ADHD have problems fitting in. I often hear the people we support through Adult ADHD NI describe themselves as being the square peg in the round hole. Due to a life time of ADHD and experiencing life from a somewhat foggy perspective it can be extremely difficult to navigate social situations appropriately. Kids growing up having the excessive traits of inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness because of their ADHD are less likely to fit in with their peers at school and due to a combination of these ADHD traits as well as having less opportunities to develop in social groups due to rejection by their peers, these children often grow up with underdeveloped social skills and issues such as low self-esteem.

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Since I was diagnosed with ADHD I have become more aware of how socially clumsy I am due to my ADHD, such as interrupting people when they are speaking, abruptly ending conversations by changing the subject impulsively or walking away because I have gotten distracted by something else. My ADHD diagnosis allowed me to recognise the problematic traits I was up against and identify how much my ADHD was affecting my ability to communicate appropriately in social situations.

Having ADHD myself I recognise that people with ADHD can be quite intense and draining for those without ADHD, who are often left struggling to keep up with the constant changes of topics, the jumping back and forth on subjects or the blurting out of seemingly random or inappropriate things during conversations. I say “seemingly random things” because the ADHD mind often makes connections that may not always seem obvious or in relation to the conversation to an non-ADHDer, but for the person with ADHD because their mind work very fast it can be hard and overwhelming trying to keep up with the connections or the patterns of thinking. The blurting out or the quick changes in subject for me, is due to the short term memory problems associated with ADHD and the need to say what you have to say otherwise it will be forgotten and lost forever.

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Hypersensitivity is another aspect of ADHD that affects communication with people and causes them to appear rude or cause offence. I have spoken to many Adults with ADHD that have heightened senses which cause distraction during conversation. For instance I have heightened sense of smell and find it very difficult to hold conversation if there is a strong smell that I can’t identify the source. So imagine trying to have a conversation with me when every few minutes I keep saying “what is that smell?”.

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When you have ADHD you also tend not to mince your words and people on the receiving end are often hit with the uncut and unedited thoughts of the ADHD individual. Without realising, a person with ADHD often offends people accidentally by speaking inappropriately or saying whatever pops into their head and it’s only on hindsight that the person with ADHD recognises the social mistakes. For many people with ADHD every social interaction is over analysed to ensure no social mistakes were made and this can be extremely draining and cause the individual to seclude themselves rather than make social blunders.

Another thing that I have identified within myself is that if a subject arises that I am passionate about I can’t seem to shut up even when I am aware that I am talking way too much and the non-verbal cues I am receiving are not positive. It’s almost like I get overly excited and shift from a dialogue into a monologue and prevent other people from getting a word in edge ways. I often find myself asking those close to me when I am out “Am I talking too much?” because I find it really hard to gauge what is an appropriate level of dialogue.

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These little observations and recognitions of my own difficulties have been extremely important for me in developing new ways of communicating and overall helping me to maintain better relationships with people.   However it is also very important for me to be able to express myself freely and I am lucky enough to be able to do so through my close friendships and relationships with people who understand and accept my way of being.   In an ideal world people in general would be more understanding and accepting of the personalities of those with ADHD and hopefully that will happen through time, with education and willingness for people to try and understand differences. More and more people are recognising ADHD as a real and complex condition that affects the lives of both children and adults. Learning about my own ADHD over the years has helped me to come to accept that I am a bit of a square peg in a round hole and I’ve been lucky enough to meet many other fantastic square pegs along the way. I’ll probably always continue to find myself saying, OH OH, my mouth has got me in trouble, AGAIN!! But you can’t please everyone.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com

Guest ADHD blogger and friend from Miami, Mauro Bagnariol.

It’s December! 2015 Is Almost up & It’s Time to Focus On Ourselves In 2016

Howdy folks! I want to start off by giving all of you great big hello and introducing myself as Niall’s friend and guest-blogger, Mauro Bagnariol from across the pond. I currently reside in Miami, Florida and am a graduate from Florida International University, having majored in International Relations and Political Science. Also, I am the founder of Tribal Dynamic, a blog/forum where people in our ADHD family can go for help, questions, resource information, and just meet other people and share their experiences having lived with ADHD. Please feel free to go through present and past musings of mine at blog.tribaladd.com and let me know what you think! So this is who I am, and I am very pleased to be able to write and communicate my blurbs to you all!

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As Niall has pointed out in his past post, people with ADHD can have persistent and frustrating problems with memory, attention, confusing things, forgetfulness, misplacing objects (guilty of that multiple times), as well as a number of other things which can make life seem burdensome and an ordeal. As Niall further points out, it can have a real effect in our day-to-day interactions with friends, colleagues, as well as during social interactions, where it is imperative that we focus on what others are saying in order to stay in the flow of the conversation and on topic. All of these are legitimate reasons to feel down and as if we’re stuck in a rut, but I also am keen to point out that these are just a part of what makes us unique in the ADHD Tribe and family, and that we possess MANY other traits and gifts which more than make up for those things that can hinder us.

I’ve written on my blog on how we, as an ADHD family tend to develop a self-defeatist attitude and are oftentimes way too hard on ourselves when it’s ok to stop for a second, breathe, and realize that we are human, and as such, we will make mistakes. It’s human nature! It’s what makes us who we are and that’s perfectly ok. There is no reason to beat ourselves up for something we forgot, tardiness, misplacing an item, etc. In my view, I like to see ADHD as a gift; raw, unharnessed energy and talent that when channeled the right way and in the right direction, we can accomplish practically ANYTHING. I treat stories of the “cons” of ADHD with levity to remind my fellow ADHD Tribe members that it’s ok to fall off the wagon sometimes and to instead use it as a learning experience and to better oneself. As Niall mentioned in his previous post about Memory Problems, developing a “system” or “method” to keep you on track is crucial. His mention of using electronic devices to set reminders, appointments, etc is EXACTLY what I do. iPhones, tablets and the like are a mainstay in this era, so why not use them!? My personal “system” is using the Notes app on my iPhone to jot down important things, as well as using the Calendar app to write down EVERY appointment, no matter how big or small and set it to remind me. That, and Siri to remind me if I need to buy milk at the supermarket that day or whatever other task is at hand, lol. These sound simple and inane maybe, but they REALLY help and my world would be in disarray without this “system” I’ve developed. I’ve other “systems” I’ve developed to help me be on time, have my clothes ready for a gathering later that evening or for the next day, things I have to do at work or with friends, etc. It doesn’t need to be an act replica of what Niall or I do, but find a “method”, “system” that works for YOU and implement it on a daily basis and you’ll see improvements and results almost immediately. I tell you from experience.

Now, to focus on 2016! As stated above, we sometimes tend to be self-defeating and don’t focus on those traits of ours that make us GREAT. The ability to hyperfocus in ADHD that allows us to expand our creative minds and really follow through on a task we enjoy and see it to full completion. Our brains are wired to think in a non-linear way, therefore, we have the ability to solve problems in unique and eccentric ways that our non-ADHD brothers and sisters cannot. This is a gift, a unique ability we embody. Use it! How many times haven’t I come up with the solution to a given problem at work or in a personal situation by thinking in this manner and coming up with the solution, oftentimes eliciting a “I NEVER would have thought of it that way!” from others. Whatever your line of work, or whatever the task it at hand, always remember to focus on the “pros” that come with our gifts and our unique talents as part of the ADHD family. Carry this into 2016 and start the year off focusing on how much better this new year will be because of how you’ll tackle any project or task thrown at you head on and with gusto. Also, our ADHD family is imbued with endless generosity, empathy and kindness towards others. We are often the life of the party or the ones friends and loved ones come to in order to share a worry with, vent, and to get advice. We are an incredible asset to the people around us, and they know it, and again, this is why I say that ADHD is a gift with a multitude of talents that sets us apart from the general populace.

It has been an absolute pleasure to communicate with you all! I close by leaving you with this video from our good friends over at BuzzFeed about what it’s like to live a regular day with ADHD. Again, the theme is to take it all in stride, not take yourself too seriously, and above all, don’t beat yourselves up over things!

Mauro Bagnariol

Owner/Founder of Tribal Dynamic

Follow me on Twitter @TribalDynamic

Instagram @Tribalmauro

Website: blog.tribaladd.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8dJMYadkWQ

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com

Shame on Who?

There is an aspect of ADHD that many people over look which it is extremely common in both children and Adults with ADHD and severely detrimental to the person’s wellbeing and that is a deep sense of shame.

14289-290x290Parents, school teacher, sports coaches and even employers use shame as a method of behaviour modification to try and assert control and discipline. Whether the shaming is obvious or subtle it can be extremely demoralizing for the individual receiving the shame, placing them with a negative self-image as well as feelings of inadequacy, despair and powerlessness. This often leads the shamed person to behave with increased destructive actions or attitudes and in regards to ADHD increases compulsive, impulsive, irresponsible and even addictive behaviours which the individual believes to be alleviating the feeling of shame.

Shame ADHDIts common knowledge that parents and teachers find a large majority of children with ADHD harder to manage and due to this the children with ADHD are more likely to be on the receiving end of shaming. “Bad girl!”, “Act your age” “how many times do you have to be told to be quiet”, “tell the class what I have just said, you don’t know, that is because you were not listening”, “Why do you have to act so stupid.”, “if I have to tell you one more time, you will be sorry”. Back in the day physical shaming was commonly used, I remember on many occasions a teacher lifting me clean off my school chair by both ears and feeling so ashamed and embarrassed. There is also the non-verbal shaming such as angry looks or ignoring the individual. These are all examples of techniques authority figures such as teachers, parents and many others use without fully understanding the impact that the shaming may be having on the individual.

I write in a previous blog about the connection between Oppositional Defiance Disorder and ADHD, or as I called it  “Piss Off You Won’t Tell Me What To Do Syndrome”and perhaps shaming is one of the primary causes of defiance. If you constantly publicly shame someone through an abuse of authority you will often see the person on the receiving end acting out in defiance of the mistreatment. If the child grows up experiancing those in charge criticizing and shaming than there will be a feeling of anger, and mistrust of all those in positions of authority. Many people affected by ADHD will understand exactly what I mean.

A life time of constant shaming because of the ADHD or should I say lack of understanding from others about ADHD often results in the individual experiencing extreme mood swings, low self-esteem, higher rates of self-harm, destructive behaviours and eventually the person will withdraw from society and experience deep depressive episodes. Studys have shown that people with ADHD are at higher risk of suicide and due to the stigma and lack of understanding regarding ADHD I personally can see why this is happening. In my experience only in desperation do we find the courage to share our deep feelings of shame.  Shame is a debilitating emotion however it can be alleviated by talking through your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust or a professional therapist.

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I will reiterate what I have said in previous blog posts.  Society needs to recognise that both children and adults with ADHD have greater difficulty focusing, regulating their emotions and actions, filtering out or ignoring distractions, delaying gratification as well as organizing and prioritizing their work, to the frustration of many parents, teachers, employers etc. This is due to an Imbalance of chemical messengers in the brain  These individuals need open minded support, positive reinforcement and not to be shamed or humiliated as a means to assert control. There are fantastic ADHD support services in many areas willing to support parents, educational providers and employers to help them understand ADHD and as a result this will help the individual thrive, to feel valued within their community and reach their full potential.

FB_IMG_1445445280160I want to end this Blog with a special thank you to Rory O Donnell from my own County Fermanagh who is going to run the Dublin Marathon on behalf of Adult ADHD NI a support service here in Ireland that my partner Emma and I founded. Thank you and good Luck Rory!!

If you wish to sponsor Rory a few quid please follow the link below.

http://adultadhdni.org/en/Rorys-page/

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com

ADHD Stigma

Many people with mental health conditions report the stigma and discrimination they experience from their families, friends, employers and society as a whole. As with other Mental health conditions there is the same stigma associated to ADHD and like other mental health conditions just because you can’t see ADHD it doesn’t mean it’s not there. The more negative aspects of ADHD frequently present as behavioural problems and as like people with specific types of mental health conditions people with ADHD often have difficulty controlling how they think, feel and behave yet there seems to be less tolerance for those with ADHD. They SHOULD just know better, and are often labelled lazy and told their ADHD is just an excuse for bad behaviour.

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People in our society generally don’t understand ADHD and when we generally don’t understand something, we tend to fear it. That is why in the old days here in the UK and Ireland if you had a mental health condition you were branded a lunatic and locked away. Looking back it was society that was insane treating the vulnerable so poorly. Look at our prison systems today, or perhaps they should be called our modern day lunatic asylums, 40% of young offenders present with ADHD. Again fear and lack of understanding and our refusal to look at ourselves as part of the problem. I’ve personally spoken to young people that find life easier locked up because of difficulites they have living in our society due of their condition.

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Even when ADHD is treated it can be extremely stressful and lonely. Especially if you have no one else to talk to about what you are experiencing. Not only do we have our condition to deal with the traits of ADHD, having ADHD means you are also six times more likely to have other conditions such as depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, social exclusion as well as finding it extremely hard to maintain daily structure, manage relationships with people or hold down jobs.photo.PNG-48

Let me make this clear WE DON’T GROW OUT OF IT. Like other mental health conditions some of us manage it better than others, depending on our circumstances, or the severity of the ADHD. I recognise that it can be very difficult for people prone to prejudice and judgmental thinking to accept that some of us find life more difficult but that is the reality of mental health conditions such as ADHD.

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There is a major difference that I have identified between other mental health conditions and ADHD. If a person with depression for example felt that they were being stigmatised by family, friends, employers and society there is usually a reasonably adequate mental health system that understands the condition and willing to help the person experiencing the depression reduce symptoms. In regards to ADHD this is simply not the case. Healthcare professionals throughout Ireland and the UK are simply not trained adequately to help people with ADHD. There is a lack of willingness to try and understand and treat the condition and this mistreatment can have devastating effects on people’s lives. Many psychiatrists don’t realise that Antipsychotics are not recommended for the treatment of ADHD in adults. Here in Northern Ireland adults have been misdiagnosed and given Antipsychotic medication simply due to untrained psychiatrists refusing to recognise ADHD as a real condition.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com

The day I met my Teacher!!

A few weeks ago i was in town and I bumped into an old maths teacher of mine. For this Blog I will call her Mrs A. Mrs A is quite a pleasant lady who always had a big smile and hello for me, which is kind of surprising and makes me feel a bit guilty for some of my behaviours towards her when i was at school. Back then I hated all teachers, the authorities. For me they were the enemy and I’m sure they didn’t think much of me either. I recognise that I didn’t give teachers an easy time I lacked the empathy and understanding to recognise that many teachers were just trying to do their best to do their job.

That day in town Mrs A and I had an interesting conversation regarding ADHD. First of all we did the pleasantries, asking each other how we were, Mrs A explaining she had been retired for a number of years and then we briefly discussed how great it is to see the sun. In Co. Fermanagh it is always a topic of conversation if the sun comes out because it usually never stops raining.   Then Mrs A asked me what I was working at these days and I explained that I was a founding director of Adult ADHD NI an organisation set up to support Adults and families affected by ADHD etc. etc.. Mrs A said “well done Niall, that sounds like good work your doing”. Then brightly laughing she said “isn’t it funny in my day there was no ADHD we called them BOLD CHILDREN

Well I was glad she said it because I went on to tell her the following story, perhaps not quite as detailed, but she got the idea. It was actually Mrs A’s class that gave me a greatest understanding of how my school had failed me due to lack of knowledge or willingness to support students with various needs.   It was in year 4 that i ended up in Mrs As math class. Mrs As math class was what ye called top maths at my school. The maths class for the brainy students, the students that got everything really easy and the students that automatically understood how a2 + b2 = c2. So what the hell was I doing there? I was still trying to work out when they started adding the alphabet to sums, I must have missed that day. The reason I was there was due to the teacher I had from the year before. For this Blog ill call her Mrs B.

Mrs B was my ultimate nightmare. From the very first moment I met her at the door of her classroom Mrs B was screaming at me. At that particular moment she had no reason to scream at me but I can only assume that she had heard from other teachers that I had been a handful and she was not for taking any nonsense. Nonsense was my speciality, if I couldn’t be nonsensical I had no idea what my role was. She ordered me to sit right in front of her at the top of the class and the second I opened my mouth she was down on me like a ton of bricks.

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When Mrs B screamed the walls shook. Her face would go red then purple and what was even more frightening 10 seconds later she had a big smile on her face talking rather soft and polite. This woman scared the living crap out of me. Every day she was on my back, screaming, shouting and humiliating me in front of my classmates. If I missed homework she would scream at me, if didn’t understand something she would stand over my back and in my mind torture me until I understood it, which kind of motivated me to try and learn because I hated her and I didn’t want her in my vicinity. But most surprising of all at the end of the year I got the highest mark in the whole year and because of this I ended up in ‘top maths’.

During that time I also received a hard punch on the arm by a geography teacher who was sure i cheated because i got 97% in the geography exam he gave us. He received a punch in the face in return. Let us call him Mr C because that is the alphabetic letter that describes him best.

So there I was in Mrs A’s maths class and in with the brainies if ye don’t mind. It was like heaven in comparison to Mrs B’s class. I could sit were I wanted, usually as far to the back as possible and Mrs A didn’t even care if I didn’t understand or I missed my homework, she was a nice teacher, or perhaps indifferent.

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For someone with ADHD, especially untreated ADHD the entire situation was recipe for disaster. No structure, no support, no attention and no care. I failed that year and I was dropped to lowest maths class and then I flunked it also. I left school with no GCSEs and to be honest not much hope for the future. Mr C got his own back for me hitting him by simply not accepting the only bit of course work that did for my GCSEs but at that stage it hardly mattered.

That day in town I explained to Mrs A how Mrs B had given me a bit of one to one attention every day, even when i didn’t want it, whilst other teachers just saw me as the Bold Child and ignored me. I explained a little bit more about what ADHD was like for me then and the struggle maintaining attention during classes and how many people we support have had similar negative experiences. I felt Mrs A was beginning to get the picture. Perhaps some of the Bold Children as she called them, had also a condition that prevented them from learning as other children do. I also wondered how many of these bold children’s lives ended tragically young through drugs and alcohol or suicide.

Mrs B although her methods may be questionable, her intentions were good. She was a good teacher with a great heart but if i met her my legs would probably go to jelly, especially after writing this. By screaming at me, she must have created enough dopamine in my brain to sustain my attention long enough to learn the boring math and my attention possibly filtered over to Mr C’s geography classroom. My wish is to raise awareness and to offer support and understanding to not only people with ADHD but their parents, teachers, and healthcare providers I hope to reduce stigma and help those with the condition to reach their potential and live healthy fulfilled lives.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com

ADHD and Creativity

One of the more positive aspects about having ADHD for me is the continuous flow of new and creative ideas. Unfortunately for many with ADHD, including myself, many ideas remain ideas, due to various factors such as difficulty organising and planning projects appropriately, frustration, and perhaps an inability to sustain the long term focus needed to bring a project to life. I’ve heard many people with ADHD sharing great ideas that if implemented correctly could certainly be successful but the ideas more often fade into nothing after weeks or months leaving behind a sense of failure and depression.   In this post I will attempt to examine why people with ADHD seem to be very creative yet often fail to follow their ideas through. Using my own experience my hope is that others with ADHD can relate and perhaps understand themselves a little better and overcome some of the barriers and perhaps learn to bring their ideas to life.steve-jobs

The widely held understanding of ADHD from the scientific community is that there are abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex of the brain in those with ADHD. The Neurotransmitters which release dopamine and noradrenaline appear to be impaired in this area of the brain that controls emotional responses, behaviour, judgement and Attention.

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Due to these differences in the pre-frontal cortex a person who has ADHD often will have great difficulty regulating their attention an impulses and will often appear hyperactive or extremely fidgety. Rather than being described as a deficit, meaning a lack of, ADHD has also been defined as a dysregulation of the management system. This may explain why sometimes there appears to be no attention what so ever and other times there is hyper-focus which although sometimes can be a positive, if you are in the zone you get things done, more often the hyper-focus can be an unproductive quality. For example playing GTA 5 rather than doing homework that needs to be in by tomorrow, a child with ADHD may find it more difficult to prioritise and focus appropriately due to being unable to regulate their management system.

So what has this got to do with creativity? From my own experience growing up as a child with ADHD, when my brain switched off in the classroom due to a lack of stimulation or a boring Feckin teacher, my brain would create its own stimuli. I would drift off into a world of my own and my imagination would take over. Although I was physically present within the classroom my mind was usually elsewhere. I often felt stupid and frustrated because I couldn’t concentrate on algebra for instance. Looking back I was extremely creative in my imagination as a coping mechanism to get me through the boring school environment. Although I was unable to sustain concentration on certain subjects my mind was always active and thinking new ideas. In my imagination I could run wild whilst being confined to a bloody seat. It was all well and good until I had to sit an exam or answer a question on what the teacher had just been talking about. My point is, perhaps the brain of those with ADHD compensates for their lack of attention during mundane tasks allowing the person to develop a more innovative and creative type of brain.

Every now and again a thought or a new idea will pop into my mind. I’ve actually had one in the last few weeks that I’m quite precious about and that can be a problem in itself. I don’t always have the necessary skills to bring my ideas to life and if you are overly precious or cautious, you could potentially fail to connect with the right people that could bring the idea to the next level.

I mentioned earlier that people with ADHD experience difficulty organising and planning projects appropriately, so again having a clear and realistic understanding of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to identify possible partners with the skills you are lacking and help implement the ideas to become a reality.

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In my own experience in the initial stages of an AHA moment there is usually an adrenalin rush or perhaps dopamine and noradrenaline rush were all of a sudden you have deep focus and even organisation skills. The idea feels like the best idea in the whole wide world. You can’t think of anything else. You sit up nights on end working and without realising you can actually plan and deliver during this time. For me it’s very useful to identify these patterns and behaviours.

Then comes the dreaded decrease in activity, suddenly the new project feels like the stupidest idea in the world. Perhaps you’ve told the wrong person about the idea or they fail to see your vision. Alongside a life time of difficulties due to having ADHD the mind starts to doubt. ‘Why did I start this’ ‘It is so stupid’ I’ve heard many people saying ‘all of a sudden I can’t even look at the project’ which is quite sad considering the effort and sleepless nights invested in these projects. I’ve known people to spend their life savings on their ideas to the despair of loving partners, who perhaps have also seen these patterns before. Once the dip in the initial excitement appears the ability to focus and implement the work decreases often leaving a sense of humiliation and depression. Then before you know it another idea pops into the mind and away you go again. The ADHDer often moves from one idea to the next, perhaps just to feel again what it is like to be able to focus. The repeating of this pattern leaves a feeling of uselessness as well as lots of unfinished projects that are worthless.

I have learned from previous experiences to recognise and almost expect the dip in energy and by doing so better prepare for it. If there is a sudden feeling of negativity towards the work you’ve invested in it may be useful to take a step back and revaluate in a few weeks to see how you feel. I recognise that not all ideas or good and sometimes the negatively comes from the realisation that the idea is silly, a few weeks away can help clarify if it is or not and prevent you investing anymore unnecessary time. Having supportive people around you with your best interests at heart can also help you clarify and give you the extra nudge when needed.

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I am sure that there are those that will argue that people with ADHD are no more creative, good for you. The aim of this blog is to try and help those who can relate to the common problems that many with ADHD experience. By understanding ourselves a little better perhaps we can overcome some of the barriers we face. In my experience working with Adult ADHD NI I’ve met many unique and creative people and I’ve seen how a little support and encouragement can transform lives. Perhaps the bursts of creativity and innovative ideas that people with ADHD experience is the brain trying to experience deep focus and the organisation skills they are lacking, unfortunately it never remains.

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Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com