The Gift of ADHD

How to Transform Problems into Strengths

The Gift of Adult ADD: Catching Up With Captain Scott

A fire chief tells his story of overcoming ADD.

For those of you who read The Gift of Adult ADD, you couldn't possibly forget Captain Scott who showed us the creativity involved in saving a life. While most people may not think of firefighters as creative, Captain Scott Ohlrich would argue differently. Scott has read widely about ADD, trying to understand himself and gain tools for leading his crew, many of whom he believes also display the symptoms and gifts of ADD. Scott believes that firefighters illustrate the idea that if you find a perfect match for your ADD symptoms you may never suffer any impairment in functioning.

I am thrilled to share with you more insights from Captain Scott who will be the guest blogger for today. Below are his thoughts and reflections on how he managed to succeed in spite of being scarred by his own experiences in school due to symptoms of ADHD. He writes to me:

"One of the things that you've mentioned in our discussions is that almost no one with ADD/ADHD reaches adulthood without the scars that come with being labeled (and I'd say, misunderstood). That is true for me. As you know, I was a product of a parochial grade school and relatively strict home life (by today's standards) in the 1960's. There was little or no understanding for free thinking - rote learning was the accepted practice. I was punished and often felt ostracized for everything from "daydreaming," to not completing homework, to outrageous acts of insubordination against my parents and teachers. As tough as that was, I would propose that it set me up for success in many ways. Three things that I've learned and consider keys to my success are: Responsibility, "Healthy" Defiance and Trust.

RESPONSIBILITY
I cannot overstate my feelings on the importance of personal responsibility! My childhood experiences reinforced an action/reaction model which focused me on acknowledging my personal responsibility. I WAS disruptive to the classroom environment, I DID act defiantly toward my parents and teachers, I CHALLENGED authority at nearly every turn. For those who struggle with finding a way to be successful, one of the most important steps you can take is to acknowledge your personal responsibility in all that you say or do. Taking responsibility keeps you from ever being a victim. Victims are powerless. You are not a victim of a disorder! You may have a different view of the world, a different style of learning and a different way of contributing to the success of your family, work and personal environments. In those differences lie the potential for great success!

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"HEALTHY" DEFIANCE
Throughout my school years and on into my career, if anyone was going to challenge authority it was going to be me! It might be an overactive ego or the product of having so many people tell me that I was capable of so much more, but I believe defiance can be healthy. Gary Larson has always been one of my favorite cartoonists. For many years I have had one of his single frame cartoons posted in my locker at work. It shows a herd of sheep in a field with one of the sheep is standing on its hind legs, it's forelegs stretched over it's head, speaking to the herd saying, "Wait..Wait...Listen to me, we don't have to be just sheep!" We are all capable of so much more. In my mind, healthy defiance is not an act of subversion (though, it can come to that). It is an act of exploration. When you ask, "Why?" you are opening the door to seeking new answers. Often, coworkers, bosses, spouses and family will react negatively to being questioned. Refer back to "Responsibility" and acknowledge that they feel that you're challenging their authority. Assure them that you are seeking only positive solutions and then, work hard to contribute to a successful outcome for all. That leads me to probably the most important key to success...

TRUST
I have always viewed trust as the most important aspect of human relationships. And keep in mind, if we are seeking success, no one is successful in a vacuum. It takes relationships to be successful. Relationships require constant maintainence to establish and build trust. In my example of "healthy" defiance, trust is what will get you through unscathed. If you have established a trusting relationship with your coworkers, boss, spouse and family, they will be much more willing to see your questions as a search for alternate solutions than a personal attack. One of the more difficult aspects of building trusting relationships, especially for those of us who've been marginalized for the way we see the world, is to let go and put every bit of yourself on the line. Explain to others how you think, listen to how they've reached conclusions, have an open dialog where you express your feelings and use your empathetic intuition to understand their emotions. Once trust is established, success in all aspects of your life, is not far out of reach!

Lara Honos-Webb, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of multiple books.

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