Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

ADHD and the Gift of Being Distracted

I have ADHD. I strive to reframe and rephrase my disadvantages and turn them into advantages. It’s something I try to do as much as possible. ADHD is a serious disorder that affects millions of people. The symptoms cause very serious challenges. Each person develops their own, personal coping skills in order to deal with their symptoms. Many of us, as I was, can easily become overwhelmed and will need very specific, specialized treatment, perhaps even medication. My point of view is part of my coping skills. It’s been working for me and I will tell you why.

Over the years I have learned that I tend to get bored with certain tasks quickly and as a consequence I become easily distracted. To compensate, what I have learned to do is multi-task. That’s part of my answer to distraction. I spend short bursts of time on projects and quickly turn to the next. I don’t stay on any one task for too long unless I become hyper focused on one of them. In that case I have alarms preset in my smart phone (lunch, dinner – you know, the important stuff). I didn’t say it was easy to control my distraction, just that I try to use it to my advantage.

Many of us with ADHD think we have to do everything ourselves and we beat ourselves up for forgetting something, being distracted or juggling too many things at the same time. Even normal people have difficulty doing everything alone. Ask any housewife with a couple kids if she has enough on her plate! We have to find ways to allow ourselves to have assistance and there’s nothing wrong with hiring a coach, having a mentor or seeking therapy and reading helpful books. Doing everything alone can be overwhelming, even getting treatment for ADHD.

It’s interesting to note that I have less difficulty with certain ADHD issues, largely because I have learned not to beat myself up over them, or worry about them incessantly. Doing those two things tend to make the symptoms much worse for me. Oh gosh, indeed!

I have become hyper aware of my abilities and capabilities and, even more importantly, my limitations. With those things in mind I work in those directions that benefit me. Growing up with undiagnosed ADHD I was constantly pressured to improve my weaknesses and somehow be normal, but in doing so, my strengths were over looked and my talents were not nurtured. That’s a shame for so many with ADHD who are so talented, because they are never fully able to explore their talents. They are overwhelmed with modifying their behavior, complying and generally trying to overcome their faults.

As an adult with ADHD, I have taken the opposite approach and work hard on my strengths and find practical types of assistance for my weaknesses. I no longer spend inordinate amounts of time trying to become what I am not. However, I have found by utilizing the proper assistance, working in the areas of my strengths and cultivating a positive mental attitude, I cannot only survive, but also thrive.

I tend to think that too many of us with ADHD have come to believe that we must be something other than what we are, due to all the demands on us to be different. It’s a shame, because I think we lose a lot of our natural talents in the process. And we wonder why we don’t feel good about ourselves and too many of us become depressed. It’s little wonder, really. We all want to improve, but at what point do we take credit for our innate value, talents and other benefits? Too often in our efforts to deal with the symptoms of ADHD, our natural talents become a blur, if not completely forgotten or dismissed.

What’s the point of thriving if I don’t feel good about myself? That’s become most important to me. I perform much better in all areas of my life when I feel good about myself. I tend to think that many of us with ADHD are so used to being in trouble for not being good at this or that, that we come to ignore or even forget what we are good at. I truly believe that if we could just refocus a little on our strengths, talents and what we truly enjoy we would be much better off and feel more satisfied. This doesn’t mean we can ignore our obligations, but it does mean that we sometimes have value that we may ignore or disregard.

My distracted nature previously caused me a lot of heartache and I tried to find ways to fight it, compensate for it and overcome it, even curse it and stomp on it, but it wasn’t until I found ways to make it work for me and view it as a strength that it began to work to my advantage. Do I still have challenges with distraction? Of course, I do.

Interestingly, this process of reframing a disadvantage into an advantage wasn’t really what I would call a fully conscious one, it’s just that when through therapy I started to discover my worth and value that I started to turn in another direction mentally. If someone would have told me prior to therapy that this was possible, I probably would have told them they were out of their mind! Let’s be realistic, after all. Let’s not get my expectations up only to feel hurt and let down later. That’s peculiar really, because when already at the bottom, already feeling hurt and let down, the only way to go, is up.

Ah, the gift of being oblivious to reality. I tend to believe some perceptions of realistic thinking holds more people back than ADHD does. We just had Thanksgiving because someone discovered the world wasn’t flat after all, which wasn’t really realistic thinking, at the time. (Ah, this could be my Thanksgiving message!)

Curiously, the more I appreciate my distracted nature, the less distracted I am. When writing this I got up a few times just to look out the window, poor some coffee and chat with my wonderful wife. I didn’t do those things intentionally; they were impulses I recognize as my ADHD. Instead of beating myself up, I view them this way: I stopped to smell the roses and since it didn’t bother me in the least I was able to appreciate the view from the window (we had snowfall last night), enjoy the tasty coffee and especially savor talking to Joan, and I ultimately got back on track without a hiccup!

By appreciating what I am doing, instead of getting upset (did you see those kittens in the coffee cups!!!), my ADHD symptoms do not pose the potential downward spiral that they used to. Now, that my friends, is what I call an advantage and I accept openly the view out the window of the snow, the delicious coffee and especially the wonderful moment with my wife as precious gifts.

Of course, that’s me and part of my coping skills. Life’s too short as it is; I’ll take the gifts when and where I can, and be thankful for them.

Bryan

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Cyndy December 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm

This is helpful and a most wonderful insight. I am sending this to my teenage son who thinks he is the only person in the world with these problems. I truly believe he can use many of your working tools in his school work and life. Know once again Brian, you have helped! I find these articles empowering!
Cyndy

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Bryan Hutchinson December 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Thank you Cyndy, I am so happy you enjoyed this post. I hope your son finds benefit in it as well :)

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Mungo December 1, 2010 at 5:37 pm

You really just captured a very important and essential aspect of ADHD, one which I recognize in my own life. Thank you for sharing this,
Mungo

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Bryan Hutchinson December 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Thank you Mungo. We clearly are not alone.

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andrew December 2, 2010 at 6:57 am

:?
Thanks Bryan!

I guess I am still in the midst of my depression, but I cannot remember what being happy feels like anymore. That bothers me on so many levels, especially to think that if it has been that long since I wasn’t happy, then what must it have been like for my wife all of those years.
I liked your thought about our, “perceptions of realistic thinking” holding “more people back than ADHD does.” I know that is the issue my poor therapist is struggling to make me understand. I truly am my own worst enemy.
Thanks for always sharing your thoughts and “positive” perceptions about yourself and by default, ourselves too.
Andrew

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Bryan Hutchinson December 2, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Hi Andrew,

I know it’s not easy, sometimes things just don’t seem to be going the right way or at least not the way we want them to, but from reading your post it says allot about your awareness and that you are actively seeing a therapist and more importantly, listening to your therapist.

Oh, I don’t want to think what I must have put my ex-wife through. She is such a nice woman and deserved much better from where I was at back then. So, I feel you on that, but we can’t beat ourselves up for the past and continue to relive our mistakes. Alas, we must move on and it sounds like you are making strides to do just that. Good for you!

I don’t know if you are your own worst enemy, with such an awareness, I am kind of doubting that, but that is my opinion. I think you know what direction you want to go in and you are working on it. Sometimes that’s all we can do at certain points and that’s okay too, important actually.

Bryan

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Pete Quily December 2, 2010 at 7:21 am

Good post, ADHD is not 100% pathology nor 100% gift. It has real negatives and real positives. The more you find ways to manage it that suits you vs someone else, the more time it becomes something positive.

Important for adders to focus on amplifying the positives and delegating or dealing more effectively with the negatives.

The more you learn about the neurobiology of ADHD and accept how it currently affects you, the less it becomes a moral self judgement issue & the less you’ll “beat myself up over (adhd issues), or worry about them incessantly”.

From acceptance of reality, you’ll suffer & struggle less and if there’s action you can take, you’ll be more likely to take it and be more effective at it.

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Bryan Hutchinson December 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Absolutely, very well said Pete! Very well said, indeed. Thank you very much for your comment – you said it!

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Dan December 2, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Amazing! Just what I needed right now.

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Izzy December 6, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Hi there
I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 29. Always in a job where I don’t fit in, currently a data processor (goodness! can you imagine?!). Can’t say that I hate it, but it’s difficult. In the beginning my team leader said she understands, but now she starts pushing me, the more she pushes, the worse I do… It’s as if she expects this condition to improve as you would heal from a flu or something!
So the other day I told her that I feel that she’s pushing me too hard & that it’s not going to go away… Now it’s even worse! Looks like she hates me! Even my collegues (spelling?) asking me why is she picking on me like that… so it’s not my imagination.
Sometimes feel like I want to do everybody else a favour and just walk in front of a bus or something… but hey! I love myself too much for that hehehehe

Thank you so much for sharing, it made me feel a little better.

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Bryan Hutchinson December 7, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Hi Izzy,

Thanks for being so brave to share your experience with us. No buses now! No, nothing like that! Your too much or a bright one to even consider such a thing and you certainly would be doing no one a favors such as even thinking that! However, I know what you mean.

It is, though, very sad in our society that there are those who think or believe that the more pressure they apply the better someone with ADHD will get. That’s just not the case. However, it tends to work for a very short period, but must be repeated and repeated until it becomes a very serious problem for the person being pressured. You seem to me to be the type of person who does the very best she can in whatever she is doing, that’s a lot and deserves credit. I don’t know where you work, but it may be a good idea to seek advice from your personnel resource office.

I did enjoy reading that you love yourself so much :) that’s important and we all need a little of that in ourselves.

Bests,

Bryan

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Jem December 30, 2010 at 11:27 am

Thank you for this post. It helped me realize that being easily distracted isn’t a bad thing after all. Thank you for making me realize. :)

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