Understanding and getting along with ADHD

Zdislaw Beksinski's abstract painting

A few months ago, I went to a psychiatrist to learn how I could deal with my anxiety. After talking for a while, he handed me a book about Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder and told me that it was the major cause of that anxiety. It made sense once I started putting some pieces together.

The invisible ADHD

It‘s invisible most of the time, specially when you’re a kid or a teenager and things are going so fast while you barely know who you are. It’s natural that we humans like some things more than others,

But how hard should it be to focus on subjects and tasks you’re not profoundly interested in? At the same time that you (unconsciously) dedicate all the time and energy to what you really want to do?

Such conditions would explain why I was so bad at geography and proportionally good at physics in school. Committing more to the things you like is completely natural. From my perspective, ADHD is how hard it gets to balance your life between what you want to do and what you have to.

It’s subtle mostly because it’s hard to be distinguished from what’s considered to be natural aspects of one’s behavior and personality. Its diagnose is something dimensional, it’s an attempt to answer how much should the inattention, impulsiveness or hiperactivity be present in someone’s life and how hard will it be for them to keep things on track while constantly dealing with such aspects of their own lives. How impulsive, hiperactive or abstracted must someone be not to be considered normal? That's the tricky question.

The common ADHD

It’s undeniable that we are all living fast paced, heavily information driven and overly connected routines. So much happening at the same time, so many things popping and scrolling over all the screens we're surrounded by every day. It’s getting harder and harder to keep the focus in where it should be when there are so many things constantly calling our attention.

This information flood is the standard way of living today and it clearly favours mental and physical conditions like burnouts, migraines, ADHD and depression. According to Google's medical information, ADHD and depression affect more than 2 million people of all ages every year only in Brazil.

I personally feel like my brain is constantly trying to cope with too much. I also feel that children are going under the same pressure we adults are dealing with. My little brother is only two years old by the time I write this paragraph and he already knows how to interact with the YouTube UI to select his favorite videos. No wonder fidget spinners and cubes became so popular among the little ones, specially for those with attention issues.

The confronted ADHD

At this very moment, I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing this article, when I agreed to myself that the current priority was to come here and work on another side project of mine that is more important right now. While I was on such task, this unfinished article showed up during the process and I spent the last hour and a half finishing it. That alone summarizes in a brief and simple example what it is like to deal with ADHD most of the time.

It has been much worse in the past. For many times I was not under control of my own priorities (and life). I spent precious hours doing what I was not supposed to. It was not obvious that such lack of control was the source of depression, anxiety, and all the failed attempts of keeping life on track. It sounded like laziness to postpone all those boring and exhausting responsibilities of everyday life, but it was not, it was something slightly deeper and invisible.

It’s harmless to focus on writing this text right now while I should be doing my other project. After a long time of chaos and confusion, I learned how to have things going acceptably smooth in my life.

To confront is to unveil

The first step to put ADHD in its place is to understand and accept it as part of your life. Face it like an actual issue and not just laziness. Sometimes your own discipline and the change of habits might be enough, sometimes it wont and you should not give up because of that. It’s also important to remember that sometimes ADHD can be a strength, since you can really focus on the things you love.

To confront is to treat

As aforementioned, change in habits will not always be enough, and it’s important to seek professional psychological and psychiatric help. Personally, I think everyone should talk to a psychologist every once a while, albeit it may only be seen as an illness treatment by most people, therapy is something healthy regardless of whether you’re facing mental health issues or not.

To confront is to embrace

As also aforementioned, it’s important to really face it like a big part of your life. That includes how you’re going to organize your priorities and your time,

strongly considering your tendencies to deviate from the ideal plan in order to work on your not-important-at-the-moment things.

I really like to use tools and techniques to help me keep my focus where it belongs, things like:

  • Pomodoro clocks
  • Todo lists
  • Note taking
  • Calendars for the day and for the next 4 weeks
  • Disconnected routine (using the phone and computer as least as possible)

Conclusion

Issues with attention are becoming every day more common, and from experience, what really helps me is to understand them as an actual issue, which means look for proper treatment, adjust routine and understand that some days will not be so good, and you will not feel productive at all, at the same time that there will be days where you will be on fire and will accomplish lots of things. The fact that I can work with something I really love is a big thing, because if you can find something you're passionate about, ADHD sometimes becomes a strength.