From Bryan: This is a guest post by Andrea Nordstrom. Andrea is a mental health therapist and the author of the blog The Art of ADD. Be sure to check out her blog and get a copy of The ADD Artist’s Toolkit (free).
Having ADD sucks.
Did I just say that? Hmm, looks like I did.
Not being able to breathe under water also sucks. Why are fish and a limited number of mammals the only sentient beings blessed with the ability to navigate life fully immersed in water? I would love to frolic under the sea for hours without coming up for oxygen.
But I wasn’t born with gills, so I can’t.
I also really hate the fact that I can’t fly. I could get to work a lot quicker if things like traffic and gravity wouldn’t get in my way. The view would be amazing and the commute a heck of a lot more exciting if I could soar above it all, the wind in my sails.
But my bones are too heavy. And then there’s the little matter of having no wings. As fate would have it, I can’t fly either.
Come to think of it, there are a lot of things that suck about being human. Dependency on clothes for dignity and body warmth is quite a hassle. Having wisdom teeth that force their way through your gums like a latecomer onto an over-capacity commuter train, only to be ripped out years later when they never fully emerge – is irritating and pointless. And don’t even get me started on the pain of child birth (or child-rearing, for that matter).
Being human sucks, when you think about it.
But guess what? We don’t. We don’t think about it because we’ll never be anything but human (in this incarnation anyway). So we don’t waste much effort wishing we were birds or fish or any other sort of being because… we are what we are:
While we can’t fly or breathe under water, we are capable of love. We are aware of ourselves and our world, and are capable of innovation to make the things around us better. We can make ourselves better. And we don’t eat our offspring or defecate on unsuspecting passersby (my apologies to those of you who do – I’m not judging, just making a generalization).
The point is that as humans, we accept we have limitations. And though we may stretch our abilities and boundaries to endless lengths, we still have limitations. But we find a way around them.
You and I just happen to be human beings of the ADD variety.
Clearly, certain aspects of having ADD suck. I don’t need to point out which parts – I’m sure you know what sucks for you. But some of it can be pretty good too, when you come to think of it. Ah, but there it is! We don’t often think about it. The sheer obviousness of our limitations makes it so much easier to focus on them rather than the fact that we are capable of so much more.
What’s good about ADD anyway?
I’m glad you asked. It’s about time I got to the point. My first answer to that question is … a lot. Too much, in fact, to get into it here. My suggestion is that a good starting point in discovering the answer to this question would be to get yourself a copy of Bryan’s The Brilliant Reality of ADHD.
How’s that for avoiding the question?
I can be a stubborn, insolent creature who won’t be told what to do unless there is a darn good reason. I suspect I may not be the only one. As such, I am going to ignore the “what” and delve straight into the “why” of the matter. In my experience, long before people will consider shifting their perspective on an issue, they need several good reasons as to why they should even bother.
So let me reframe the question…
Why should you consider having ADD as something positive?
For several reasons and here they are:
1. Looking for the positives helps you improve.
We know the ADD life isn’t an easy one. But no one ever said that “positive” was synonymous with “easy”. One definition holds the word positive as “tending towards progress or improvement; moving in a beneficial direction”.
ADDers are always in motion – in motion of thought and/or body. When you focus on the positives, you are pushing yourself in the direction of progress, improvement and beneficial direction.
2. Focusing on the negatives is futile.
Some people hold the opinion that seeing ADD as a positive thing is merely a “self-congratulatory delusion (that) makes a mockery of ADHD” (yes – an actual critical comment on one of my blog posts!). All they can see are the negatives.
I understand how easy it is to get trapped in this perspective. Sometimes experience makes it difficult to see anything but the downfalls of ADD, especially when the infrastructure of modern society is built on systems that favour organized, linear and didactic operating styles (aka non-ADD).
But still, when I meet someone who argues incessantly about the curse of ADD, I like to ask them:
How’s that BELIEF working for you?
While ADD is a real phenomenon, the idea of it being a curse is nothing more than a belief. “It is neither bad nor good, but thinking that makes it so” (some guy named Shakespeare). Focusing on the negatives won’t make them go away but it will keep you stuck. Building on your strengths will crowd out the effect that the negative aspects have on your life.
Is it a curse that you can’t fly? Maybe – but not if you have other ways of getting to your destination.
3. ADD makes you unique.
“A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.”
~Oscar Wilde. (Click Here to tweet that if you like.)
Normal is boring. Innovation, progress, creativity … all come from seeing and doing things in a different way than they have been done before. The ADD brain is built to be different for a reason. Yes, that is only my opinion. I can’t prove it scientifically, but no one can prove me wrong either.
We experience our environments through movement, get distracted by connections others don’t see, find roads less travelled inspired by unexpected impulses, and intuitively sense the less salient characteristics of any given situation simply because we can’t help but notice it all.
It’s not normal. But it’s not bad either. If there was no “different”, there’d be no Edison, Einstein or Branson.
4. Challenge inspires growth.
“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”
~Bernice Johnson Reagon
No one has ever understood the meaning of life but I happen to think that the endeavour of it is not the pursuit of happiness (that’s just one tangent), but the pursuit of growth. No one and nothing can stop you from growing as a person. You take that ability with you, no matter where you are in life or what your circumstances are.
Having ADD means that every day, often multiple times a day, there are opportunities of growth.
After metamorphosis, a butterfly lives on average 10 days. Seems a bit pointless to go through all that hard work of changing for such a short reward doesn’t it? But what would the world be like without butterflies?
ADD is your challenge. But you, along with your challenges, are important threads in the beautiful tapestry of life.
5. It is what it is.
“If you can’t have the one you love baby, love the one you’re with.”
~Crosby, Stills & Nash)
And if you can’t be the one you want to be baby, be the one you are.
The ADD way is how you are built. ADD isn’t going anywhere. You can rue the fact that you can’t fly, but you have feet made for walking and running and dancing my friend, so why neglect them in search of wings that will never manifest?
Having ADD, like being human, has both good and bad qualities to it. One quality doesn’t nullify the other. Focusing on the positives makes the experience a lot more enjoyable. Being okay with your “negatives” makes the experience much more authentic. And being authentic makes the whole thing a lot more beautiful.
6. Self-acceptance is not only for you, but for others as well.
I happen to believe that as ADDers, we are ambassadors for each other. Accepting my ADD self, as it is, has been extraordinarily helpful for me. But more importantly, it has opened the doors for others in this tribe to accept themselves as they are.
Lead by example. Nothing is better learned through example than self-acceptance. And most of life’s challenges are much easier tackled when you begin from a stance of self-acceptance.
I haven’t given you a lot of “how to’s” here but I hope I have given you some darn good reasons why you should start looking for the positive sides of your ADD.
What positives has ADD brought to your life? Share in the comments.
As you can tell I have opened my blog for guest posts. If you would like to guest post, please do read the guidelines and then feel free to send me your idea. ~Bryan
Photo by macieklew via flickr creative commons.