ADHD and all its complexities is something I ponder on quite a bit. Through my work with Adult ADHD NI, as well as trying to manage my own symptoms, I have access to a well of information that I can draw from when thinking about ADHD. I often wonder what it is like to be “normal” and spend a lot of time comparing those without ADHD to myself and others with ADHD. My wish is to share my thoughts through this blog with the aim of supporting the community of people affected by ADHD to better understand their condition and help readers to find coping strategies to manage their lives in a society that at present, fails to recognise and support them with their condition.
Recently I have been working with parents of children with ADHD as well as some adults and a common theme that is arising is Social Anxiety. Social Anxiety disorder is “A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.” (Socialanxietyinstituteorg, 2016) People with Social Anxiety are often extremely self-conscious, have fear of public humiliation when participating in social activates, with the result of feeling unable to communicate properly and often experience symptoms of panic or paranoia. Untreated Social Anxiety disorder can also lead to comorbid conditions such as depression, panic attacks and low self-esteem.
The parents I have spoken too report that their kids come home from school crying their eyes out because of how difficult they are finding the environment, as well as crying in the mornings begging their mums not to force them to go to school, which can be very traumatic for both the child and the parents. ADHD kids struggle academically, often get in trouble due to behavioural problems and are usually very disorganised, easily distracted, forgetful and fall behind in work. ADHD children become socially isolated, have difficulty maintaining friendships and are usually the kids who are not invited to birthday parties. At a very early age these kids recognise that they are different but don’t really understand why and begin to negatively over analysis social situations. One mother I spoke to just the other day said “my son worries about everything” .
For many children with ADHD the constant state of anxiety and worry continues into adulthood and is reinforced due to poor academic achievement, difficulties maintaining employment, constantly being late for meetings, failing to meet expectations, procrastinating, always losing things and poor social skills which makes the core symptoms of ADHD (inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity) much worse, creating a demoralizing and vicious cycle. To cope with the constant state of anxiety many people with ADHD turn to drugs, alchohol, self-harm or complete social isolation to cope with how they feel.
I have been recently studying Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and the good news is that evidence shows that CBT for adults with ADHD is highly effective for alleviating the frustrations caused by deficits in core executive function and working memory as well as helping to reduce symptoms of Social Anxiety. The CBT model recognises the importance of a personalized treatment plans for the best chance of successful outcomes and can help the person identify and implement, behavioural coping strategies, relieving some of the negative effects of ADHD such as poor time management and lack of organizational skills. CBT can also help the person reduce worry, identify and challenge negative beliefs and assumptions and help the person gain a more balanced view of themselves and their situation.
Other treatments that help with ADHD and Anxiety are ADHD support groups, having access to a good psychiatrist, relaxation therapies and as well as developing healthy habits such as exercise, good nutrition and meditation.
As I have said before many times, ADHD is not a problem for those with the condition, it is a problem of society and how we recognise and support differences. I personally am very hopeful for the future and I see changes in attitude taking place. Last week I was in Liverpool for a The ADHD Foundations annual conference. Which was a two-day event exploring new ideas, approaches and best practice in Health, Social Care and Education for children, young people and adults with ADHD, ASC and other neurodevelopmental conditions. Over 800 people attended that event and I found inspiration from Dr Tony Lloyd and his dedicated team and look forward to working together in partnership in the future to help those who are #BornToBeADHD.
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
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!
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!
Owner/Founder of Tribal Dynamic
Follow me on Twitter @TribalDynamic
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
A theme that has been reoccurring in the ADHD support groups recently is addiction and this is no coincidence because research has shown that people with ADHD are at higher risk to substance misuse than the general population. Many adults that seek support for their ADHD are also struggling with drug, alcohol, gambling addiction etc. For me, due to my own experiences I believe without a doubt ADHD is linked to addictions. In this blog I am going to try and break down my own experience of addiction and try to identify some of the factors that I feel play a part in people with ADHD being prone to addiction. I had my last drink and illegal substance on the 12th of September 2004. I remember that date only because it was when I hit the lowest point of my life and suicide seemed like the only option. At only 24 I was tired and exhausted of life and very alone in my mind. Alcohol in particular seemed to have a powerful hold over me, an obsession of the mind, I kept repeating the same mistakes and couldn’t find a way out. In my mind it didn’t feel like I had a drug or alcohol problem, I was sure it was a money problem. If only I had enough money to keep me out of my mind in oblivion, all the time, then I wouldn’t have to feel so low when I was sober.
From I had left school I had been living a very chaotic existence, moving from country to country, never being able to hold down a job or pay my bills such as rent and was constantly having to think of my next move when life would completely break down. The only benefit of this kind of life style was that my fast thinking and problem solving ability had increased. When I was in complete despair I suddenly would think of something that would land me back on my feet. That is exactly what happened on the morning of the 13th of September 2004 I had a single moment of clarity and I realised I could no longer drink alcohol or use substances to escape the pain of living, I sought help for my addictions and to this day I am petrified of ever returning to that place. I was extremely lucky to have had access to support to help me through the difficult days that followed and all I really had to do was ask.
Today I can see that I have always had an extremely addictive personality and it goes right back to childhood and up to the present day. My earliest memory of addiction was sweets; I had no cut off point and would literally sicken myself. I used to get 20p on a Sunday morning and I’d fill my mouth with golf ball bubble gum and I could never eat my Sunday dinner because my stomach was sick and my head and jaws were sore from all the sugar and chewing. Just like a typical little addict I’d never learn my lesson and i’d repeat the same mistake every week and suffer my withdrawals in silence.
When I was 13 it was smoking, studies show teens with ADHD are more likely to smoke and I believe this is due to the nicotine’s stimulant and a sedative effect. I also got a high from the risk factor involved in smoking, the fear of getting caught mixed with my defiance against authority figures gave me a constant stimulant effect.
Then there was the magnetic effect of gambling machines. Just like a moth is drawn to the light of a flame it seemed I had no power over the draw of the flashing lights of a gambling machine. Due to my ADHD there was a combination of risk-taking, sensation-seeking, intensity-seeking, and impulsivity left me extremely vulnerable to problem gambling as a young adult and I’ll never forget the desperate lows that followed including depression and suicidal thoughts.
Luckily part of my personality type is its all or nothing and to overcome my addictions I’ve had to identify, accept them and simply stop doing things that cause me emotional and mental pain using whatever resources I can find to allow me to do so. I have all the addictions and some more. Some were less destructive but still left me feeling like crap. I was addicted to Candy Crush, Facebook, shopping addiction, junk food and the list could go on endlessly. If it gives me a high or takes me out of my mind I am liable to get addicted.
Over the years since I’ve had to seek support and delve deep within myself to try and identify negative thoughts, emotions, behaviour patterns and triggers that cause me to want to escape from reality or seek a high. As well as recognising vulnerabilities, identifying the patterns of poor self-control, Impulsive and compulsive behaviours and by doing so I’ve been able to overcome many of the more destructive addictions and in the process get to know and accept myself. The addict in me Is still there but manifests in less obvious ways and when I identify an addiction as becoming problematic I cut it out of my life. That’s why I’m 2 years clean from Facebook lol.
Many ADHDers like myself and plenty without ADHD will relate to the shopping addiction, online or up the town, compulsively spending money on crap you don’t need. When it comes to money many adults with ADHD simply mismanage it and this mismanagement affects other areas of our lives leading to stressful, depressive and anxious states of mind.
In regards to what we can do as a society I feel the education system should be changed to allow young people with conditions such as ADHD to find jobs and opportunities that are more fulfilling and suitable to their personalities. Instead these young people are leaving school feeling like failures and entering jobs that are mundane and unfulfilling with the result of escaping into negative habits and addictions.
Lastly I’d like to say every person presenting to healthcare professionals with addiction problems should be screened for ADHD. In my own experience over the years I’ve met lots of addicts, gambler’s and alcoholics and I can always identify the ones with ADHD because of their extreme nature and the unmanageability of their lives. I feel that until the core issue of ADHD is identified, their lives usually continue to cause them tremendous emotional and mental pain and the chances of relapse will be greatly increased.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce Doug Puryear as my guest blogger. Through Doug’s writing I have managed to better understand my own ADHD and have also been able to implement some of his recommended strategies to help me better manage life with ADHD. I highly recommend books such as Your Life Can Be Better, and I’ve found that people we have supported through Adult ADHD NI have also found his works equally valuable. I encourage all my readers to visit Doug’s Blog ADDadultstrategies.wordpress.com <https://addadultstrategies.wordpress.com/> which offers constructive
ways for helping people cope with the problems that are associated with ADD or ADHD.
Eleven Basic “Facts” About ADD ADHD
- ADD ADHD exists. Our brains function differently than other peoples. This has been shown by brain imaging.
- Our main difficulty is an inability to control our focus. We are either unfocused or hyperfocused. Most of our difficulties come from that.
- Thus we tend to be distractible, impulsive, irritable and unreliable. We forget things and lose things. We procrastinate. We get eagerly involved in something and then quickly lose interest. We have trouble finishing things. And so on and so on. We each have our own individual pattern of problems.
- This can make our lives very difficult, but there are things we can do to make our lives better.
- Medication helps many people who have ADD ADHD, but it is not for everyone. It primarily helps with focus.
- Stratgies are very helpful. We identify a problem that causes us enough trouble to make it worth working on. We devise a strategy. We persist in that strategy until it becomes a habit.
The problem must be specific – for example, “I lose my keys.” not “I lose things.”
7.Many physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists do not understand ADD ADHD. Many of them do not understand that they do not understand. Certified ADD ADHD coaches can be very helpful.
8. We need to educate ourselves about our condition and how we can cope. There is a lot of good information on the net. There is a lot of garbage on the net.
I recommend three books:, The ADHD Effect On Marriage, and most humbly, my own, Your Life Can Be Better, primarily about using strategies. I recommend three websites: this one, and ADDerworld.ning.com, and even more humbly, ADDadultstrategies.wordpress.com.
9.The basic basics: You need an appointment book and a to do list, or their electronic equivalents, and you need to know how to use them. You needed sleep, structure, strategies, exercise, and outdoors.
10.Every person is unique. You need to find what works for you.
11.Your life can be better.
Note. Sometimes people confuse their opinions with facts. I call these ten “facts” because some of them are truly facts and some of them are more my opinion.
The point of me writing post isn’t to create a sob story the aim is to raise awareness. When I write about my childhood experiences in particular my hope is to illustrate what other children with ADHD may be experiencing due to there ADHD. I certainly didn’t have the words to explain my difficulties back then nor did I have the courage to express them. Perhaps what I write today will help some, whether it be a child a parent or a teacher. Through my work supporting those affected by ADHD it’s became evident that many children with ADHD experience the same vulnerabilities, exclusion and issues. I think it’s imperative we try to bring understanding to the phenomenon of ADHD.
I’ve been thinking about vulnerability and how it relates to those with ADHD. Having ADHD myself I have no clear memories of feeling vulnerable as a child. I probably felt invincible rather than vulnerable. I was always quick with my tongue and I used it as a strong defence to protect myself. If someone said something smart I was always able to fire a smart assed comment back just as quick. I would have definitely felt isolated and secluded but not really vulnerable. Due to my birthday being July I went to school a year too soon and because of this I was very small compared to my classmates and possibly a year less mature. I cannot say for sure but I would imagine my ADHD traits may have irritated my peers adding to the reasons why I may have been Billy no mates. I was never invited to a birthday party in primary school and although I felt that rejection throughout I somehow learned to deal with it. I never really enjoyed playing with big groups anyway and I was happy enough to run around on my own pretending I was superman.
During my Primary school years Barry McGuigan became the world champion feather weight boxer. Barry is from Clones Co. Monaghan only 7 miles from the village I’m from. I remember my Uncle Paddy used to get me posters of Barry, sponsored by Champion milk lol, and I had them all over my room. (nostalgia) In my mind I was his no.1 fan. I became obsessed with boxing; I had boxing gloves, a punch bag and an older brother who was only glad to get punching the head of me when we sparred. I’m not saying I was like Barry McGuigan, far from it actually, but I did get to the stage that if I needed to I could physically defend myself despite my scrawny build. So again, I didn’t feel vulnerable yet in many ways I was. As I got older and entered secondary school I learned that bad behaviour, by this stage I was a specialist, meant instant access into the cool club. All of a sudden I was accepted and had “friends”. Unfortunately this was when I became much more vulnerable.
One of the vulnerabilities for people with ADHD lies in the underdevelopment of effective self-discipline or self-control. My insecurities where easily tapped into and I found myself doing things that were suggested by others. ‘Niall, I dare you to tell Mrs to fuck off’. In my mind I had to maintain my new “friends” even if it meant detention for a week. I was one of the first of my class to start smoking because I now was hanging out with the older Kids, one must keep up appearances. I even got in fights with people for no other reason than somebody saying, hit him. I was a child who was easily influenced. Many young people with ADHD end up in the Criminal Justice System due to this vulnerability. In the company of the wrong people ADHD children, teenagers and Adults can be very susceptible to having their thoughts emotions and actions manipulated and controlled without even realising its happening.
The School experience as a whole wasn’t a very positive environment me. I was always in trouble but at least I was now getting rewarded for my poor behaviour by having people that said I was their “friend”. Don’t get me wrong I was no angel an I loved an audience. I had a natural ability to act like an edjit and make people laugh both of which I have tuned to a fine art to this day. Education became of no interest to me what so ever as long as I had people that I could call my “friends”.
As I got older I had other vulnerabilities to contend with, addiction for one. For me my escape was alcohol and towards the end I was battling with drugs as well. It’s a very frightening thing when a substance has so much power over you that our willing to do almost anything to get more. Approximately 60% of those with ADHD will also have drug and Alcohol issues. That is more than one in two. I will expand further on Addiction and ADHD another time. I could probably write a book on that subject alone.
Children with ADHD are much more vulnerable to accidents such as falling of bicycles or skate boards, falling out of trees and running out on roads without looking due to impulsivity and failing to recognise risks. As adults the risk taking vulnerability manifests as drug, alcohol and gambling addictions or riding motorbikes or cars at 150mph and having a feeling of invincibility. A Danish study that came out last month showed that people with ADHD are at higher risk of dying due to some of what I’ve just described.
Today as an adult with ADHD I have learned to manage life much more successfully. I keep my circles small and choose friends carefully. I can still be like the wee boy with the big dreams and my Barry McGuigan obsession has transferred to the Conor McGregor obsession and again in my mind I am his no.1 fan. I’m getting distracted here. My point is, adequate support and understanding of this condition is needed because the majority of people with ADHD remain highly vulnerable to substance abuse, depression, anxiety, accidents and manipulation by some.
If I was to pinpoint one of the many ADHD traits that I find the most frustrating and debilitating I think it would be the lack of Organizational Skills. Although I’ve made some improvement over the years it’s mainly due to the support of a loving and understanding partner who has taken the time to show me some management skills that most people take for granted such as planning the day ahead with to do lists, deciding on priorities and maintaining a structured environment.
Technology has also improved my organisation skills as I can set reminders for myself, if I remember to do so and keep track of lists of things that need to be carried out throughout the day. Unfortunately Technology can easily be a distraction from daily tasks I was on level 108 of Candy Crush when it dawned on me that I had actually wasted days of my life playing that pointless game.
As a child having no organisation skills meant lost or forgotten homework assignments and inadequate, to say the very least, planning for exams. I was in a constant state of worry knowing that at some stage I was going to be scolded for not doing my homework and once I was scolded I couldn’t concentrate because I had been once again humiliated in front of the whole class by the teacher who was perceiving my difficulties as me being lazy. The impact of the teacher’s negative, uncompassionate and intolerant communication would spread like wildfire throughout the classroom. ‘MISS, Niall is copying me’ a classmate would complain. I’d whisper ‘Please, I don’t know what to do’ which was usually followed by ‘MISS ,Niall is talking to me again’ NIALL GET UP HERE TO THE FRONT OF THE CLASS SO I CAN KEEP AN EYE ON YOU’ the teacher would roar. There I would sit for the rest of the class with my head down, red faced, angry and frustrated at myself for being so stupid. I can see now that if some time had have been put into helping me build the organisational skills that I was clearly lacking; things could have been somewhat different.
As a young adult with ADHD my lack of organisation skills manifested in missed appointments, unpaid bills and impulsively spending money on things I didn’t need rather than buying food or paying rent etc. Adults are expected to be well organised and responsible. However, due to the constant distractions in the ADHD Mind as well as hyper-focusing, which sometimes is seen as an ADHD superpower but more often causes strain on relationships with people because your simply not present, combined with forgetting to do simple things like eating or sleeping believe it or not, creates an impossible environment for the person to maintain any sort of structured life style. As I got older my life became a game of avoiding humiliation and trying to prevent people from seeing my difficulties, trying to mask the problems behind an attitude of I don’t give a shit.
As I’m writing this I have had a moment of panic in recognition that approximately 4% of the population are living this way. Many of whom have no Idea of why their lives are so upside down. Adults with ADHD trying to survive many of whom are parents striving to do the best they can for their children without the simple organisational skills needed to survive. I dedicate todays post to every person affected by ADHD and I hope that through my Blog I can encourage people to go easy on themselves and seek support where available.
It is commonly believed that there is a link between ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), known here in Ireland as POYWTMWTDS (Piss Off You Won’t Tell Me What To Do Syndrome). I was never officially diagnosed with ODD but I’m pretty sure I had it as a child. Back as far as I can remember I could never understand what gave people authority over me and couldn’t wait to become an adult so that I would no longer have to do what others said. How naive was I.
Kids with ADHD and ODD don’t conform to rules or structures easily and as a result parents and teachers can feel frustrated and angry towards the child, often labeling them bad children. Parents frequently get the blame for the Childs behaviours even though it is not usually the case. The parents ive worked with tend to work extremely hard trying to maintain boundaries and structure, often with poor results. Due to the child’s behaviour they are often rejected from social events such as birthday parties , leaving both child and parents feeling rejected.
For me rules and regulations always caused me difficulty and my nature is rebellious. A simple rule at school was no running in the corridor. I understood the rule and why it was in place but for some reason I would defy the rule, especially, if I saw a teacher. Perhaps part of me wished to be an exception to the rule or maybe I just wanted to vex the teachers. As an adult my initial instinct is to do the opposite of the rule but I’ve learned that it’s myself that usually ends up worse off. I suppose I’m slowly learning to conform. I dislike authority figures such as traffic wardens as many people do. I understand that they are a necessary evil and ultimately I have a choice. Either I park where I like or receive a fine. In my mind the Red coats, as they are called here in Co. Fermanagh, get a high out of slapping tickets on cars and trying to tell me where I can or cannot park. If I receive a fine it’s all their fault and it takes me ages to accept that it was my own actions that caused me to receive the fine.
As I’ve gotten older I have a better understanding of why we have rules and authorities in place. Yet I still have disobedient streak, or an immaturity, towards authority figures and my defiant nature can still affect my life. If disagree with an imposed authority my natural instinct is to defy it.
From speaking to many people with ADHD as well as parents of children with ADHD it seems defiance is a very common trait and usually has a negative effect on the person’s life if they can’t learn to manage it.
I remember when I was fourteen years old at Saturday band practice, how COOL was I. There I was beating my drumsticks against the inside wall of the community building where we practiced. I happened upon the Break Glass Fire Alarm Box and I fully understood that if I broke the glass with the drumstick I would be in trouble, yet I just couldn’t resist. It was like the DO NOT PUSH THE BIG RED SHINY BUTTON that you see in cartoons and in my mind I was thinking ‘you won’t tell me’
The consequences of my actions didn’t seem to click until the siren of the alarm went off and all eyes turned to me. For the next hour I had to listen to an angry music teacher, caretaker, and fireman lecturing me on my irresponsible behaviour. When they asked me why I did it I gave the most honest answer I could at fourteen which was ‘I don’t Know’. I asked myself that question many times afterwards.
There is another thing that influences the defiant nature within me and it’s to do with how people communicate. If asked with respect I’d literally do anything to help. Tell me I HAVE to do something and it’s a whole different outcome. I have an instant urge to do the opposite of what the person said and if I happen to do what I’ve been TOLD there is usually is a feeling of resentment towards the other person and a sense that I’ve been controlled.
This subject of defiance is relevant because large numbers of children, teenagers and adults with ADHD are failing to reach their potential. Many are being excluded from classrooms or getting suspended and expelled from schools or colleges and adults are getting sacked from jobs because of traits that is just part of who they are. I feel that as a society we need to change our approach to conditions such as ADHD and bring about a better understanding of differences. I recognise those with a defiant nature will probably read this and say ‘you’ll not tell me to change my approach to conditions such as ADHD’. Nonetheless I really do hope that we begin to recognise that some individuals, many of whom have ADHD, find it difficult to understand why rules are in place and perhaps need a different approach to help them understand and accept them.
Reading back on this I realize that there needs more balance in this post for it to be accurate to my own experience. I may do another blog called ADHD and Defiance No. 2 and explain the positive aspects of this trait and how defiance can also be a helpful quality on occasions.