ADHD: A Gift.

Let’s talk about some of the
positives of Attention Deficit
Hyperactive Disorder.

First things first, an admission: I have ADHD. No, it isn’t a self diagnosis but one backed up by professionals (albeit, from a questionnaire, which is how professionals diagnose such things apparently).

You might think that this is an unnecessary admission on my part, but I assure you it isn’t. See, writing about it helps both the people who communicate and interact with me on a regular basis, as well as myself, to better understand why I am the way I am.

Recently, I’ve read a lot about this condition. Some argue its a trait, some others say it is a disease. Some others call it a gift. I fall into the latter, honestly.

There have been lots of scientific papers out there about ADHD so I won’t rehash them all because quite honestly, they are difficult to follow (at least, for someone like me who has difficulty focusing long enough to fully comprehend something like that which doesn’t pique my creativity). There have also been some great descriptions written on popular web sites like Lifehacker which frankly do a better job of describing ADHD “sufferers.”

I can say from my own perspective, ADHD is a blessing. It is a gift (at least, most of the time). It has enabled me to create some awesome things, and accomplish a lot in my career and life so far. It has its downsides but they are far outweighed by the positives.

Often times, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) carries the stigma of lack of focus. This is only partially true. The flip side is that people with ADHD have hyper focus on things which engage and interest them.

While I was in college, the courses which found me in a lecture hall were unbearable — while the ones which put me in front of a computer or musical instrument were exhilarating. Sure, you could say that anyone would be bored during a lecture and you’d probably be right. But for people with ADHD its almost as if the person lecturing is speaking a different language. Literally the words pass through our brains and are immediately discarded. Same with reading a text book — words in, words out and no comprehension.

In an ocean of thoughts, every once in a while a sublime clarity is reached.

Where ADHD becomes powerful is when your put on a problem which requires creativity to solve. Thats when you can go into full “limitless” mode. Its during these times when the muse comes to you. Ideas seemingly materialize from thin air. Complete designs reveal themselves, tangibly before your eyes (they take this form for me because I am usually solving design challenges). This is an awesome thing and I literally live for these moments of total clarity and insight. I hunger for them, deeply.

I was offered medicine by a doctor to “slow my brain down” to combat the effects of ADHD. I’m not averse to taking medication, but the thought of potentially losing access to these moments of insight scared the hell out of me.

Its no wonder that executives looking for an edge or athletes operating at the highest levels take Adderall — a drug often prescribed for people suffering ADHD. They are looking for that moment of hyper focus and clarity that comes naturally to people with ADHD when they’re zoned-in. I haven’t taken Adderall, but believe it is used to balance out focus overall in people with ADHD.

There are clearly downsides to an overly active brain. Many of them manifest in being frustrated with other people who aren’t operating at the same break-neck speeds. Worse, relationships I value greatly have been damaged due to things I’ve said, without stopping to slow down and think about how those words come across.

But what I’ve come to accept is that ADHD isn’t a me problem. It isn’t an everyone else problem either. Instead, it is just an understanding problem.

I think that with education, the world will come to better understand ADHD — and through communication, the people who have it. I’m just like any other person, with the exception being I have higher highs and sometimes, lower lows. The things I get excited about (design, iced tea, Apple products) I get extremely excited about. The things that other people might find dull or less interesting, I find untolerable or incomprehensible. Neither case is intentional, and usually happens before I can consciously react to it.

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