- Rather than having a deficit of attention, adults with ADHD are taking in everything around them.
- It's good to think of adults with ADHD as high-energy rather than hyperactive.
- Adults with ADHD are able to make great leaps to creative solutions thanks to their ability to not get stuck in functional-fixedness and think divergently instead.
There is tons of information out there about ADHD and how it affects children, though little has been said about adults who come into this diagnosis later in life, and even less about adult women.
The world expects us to be responsible grown-ups, managing jobs, money, kids’ schedules, and more, and to do this all with ease and a smile. Yet, our interest-based nervous systems often redirect our attention, throwing a rather large wrench in our ability to “adult” like everyone else, leaving us with a lingering sense of shame and wondering what is wrong with us. Ironically, this same interest-based nervous system also drives us into bursts of creative energy that can explode with innovative ideas, the ADHD superpower.
To begin, ADHD involves a possible misnomer, which anyone who has it knows all too well. There is certainly no deficit of attention. Instead, we are taking it all in, with quick shifts in attention all day, every day. We’re talking about nano-seconds here. Take a glance inside the ADHD mind and you will likely see a flock of very busy hummingbirds, zipping in and out with each new and interesting flower, and with a constant buzz.
Next, I doubt any adult appreciates being referred to as hyperactive. This brings to mind someone annoying and chaotic, as opposed to someone considered high-energy, bouncing in the room wearing brightly colored joggers and a smile, bringing positive energy and giving a lift to those around them. Then, we would do the entire world a favor if we simply deleted the word “disorder” from every language across the globe, as disorder is a shame word. Shame is that excruciating feeling that we are flawed or defective in some way. We are different, not defective. ADHD can be renamed as ASHG or Attention Surplus High-Energy Gift.
And, I suppose this is one of the advantages of going through life with something extra to deal with, as we tend to shine in ways outside the neurotypical world. This is because we think differently. Studies have shown that those of us with an ADHD nervous system tend to use our intelligence differently, and by the time most of us reach high school, we are able to tackle problems and jump to solutions that no one else saw (Dodson, 2020).
This is because ADHDers are wizards at divergent thinking. As our minds are wired to wander, we don’t get stuck in functional-fixedness, meaning the usual ways of seeing. Instead, our minds naturally break free from the restrictions of neurotypical rules, and open the doors wide for creative energy to flow, even if this happens to be during an important business meeting. Once our interest gets hooked on a shiny new idea we can’t not chase it. We have entered the ADHD zone.
The irony here is that attention and impulsivity are a double-edged sword, as what brought many of us lots and lots of negative throughout our lives by redirecting us away from what we should have been doing, also lands us upon great creative discoveries. On one side of this interest-based sword, we have bad grades, detention, struggling relationships, job loss, impaired money management, and even legal difficulties. On the other, are the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, and Leonardo da Vinci. Ah yes, and David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways (Dodson, 2020).
We can also get in the ADHD zone when we are tossed into a competitive environment, such as when a metaphorical gun is pointed at our heads. We thrive when pressed at work to come up with solutions to complex problems and new ways of doing things. Realize also that there is a window for the ADHD gift of hyperfocus, so when we enter the zone it is best to stand back and let us do our thing. Think of Cinderella as the clock strikes midnight.
So, rather than dismissing us as immature, irresponsible, shiny object-chasers, perhaps it would be better to raise the bar and move past mere tolerance, beyond acceptance, and into a place of empathy and active engagement. Empathy and engagement are about genuine human connection. When there is a genuine connection we are able to see people for who they are and to embrace the gifts they have to bring to the table.
Also, genuine connection leaves no room for shame, the number one creativity-blocker.
No matter what, it does seem rather ridiculous to refer to something as a disorder when it brings so much laughter, positivity, innovation, and creative change to the world. And, the world needs neurodiversity now more than ever.
Dodson, W. (2020). Secrets of the ADHD brain: Why we think, act, and feel the way we do. New York, NY: ADDitude-New Hope Media.