Finding My Rhythm: Navigating Life as an ADHD'er
You’re in for a treat with this post because I’m starting with not one, but two anecdotes about my life. So buckle in. The first occurred about a week prior to writing this, when my supervisor Dr. Halpern asked if anyone would like to write an ADHD Awareness Month blog post. I jokingly said, “Well, I’m aware I’m an ADHD’er,” and settled the matter. It did get the requisite laughs, so I felt accomplished. The second happened on Rosh Hashanah, while I was in a service. For those who haven’t been to a Rosh Hashanah morning service, it’s almost three hours of sitting (with occasional standing), praying, and secretly wishing it was over sooner. These two anecdotes might not seem connected, but they are.
I was identified as an ADHD’er first in 6th grade, and I didn’t quite know what it meant then. I could tell there was something different about me compared to my peers - I had a harder time focusing, which was the ‘generic’ form of ADHD at the time, but there were a whole host of other differences that were connected. I was highly sensitive and lacked a “thick skin”, I had mood swings, it felt like there were walls in my mind that didn’t let me do homework, and I couldn’t for the life of me sit still. Which didn’t quite help during High Holiday services where you’re expected to sit quietly except for when you read along. No talking, no making jokes. It also didn’t help that for the High Holidays I had to wake up early, get dressed in uncomfortable clothes, and sit still for close to three hours. Watches were too heavy and didn’t feel right on my skin, and I knew I’d get scolded if I kept asking for the time.
Now, back to the two anecdotes and how they relate to each other - I went back home to New Jersey for Rosh Hashanah to visit my family and go to services. It was odd going back to the synagogue where I had had my Bar Mitzvah and attended so many services, only to find that it was easy to sit through the service itself. Time passed normally. I made a few terrible jokes to my parents. So what had changed? Well, first, my parents have changed. They’ve become aware of how I work, how my ADHD works, and what I need, and they meet me where I am. Second, I’m 27 now, and I have developed coping mechanisms. I can self-regulate effectively. And third, which I think is more important, is that I had agency. It was my choice to attend the service. If you’re a parent of a neurodivergent child, I’m sure you’ve found it easier to get your child to do something they already planned on doing; something they chose and wanted to do. Of course, the circumstances are far different from when I was living under my parents’ roof as a teenager versus a real, working adult, but the point stands.
So yes, I am ‘aware’ that I am an ADHD’er. It’s right there in my file, right next to anxiety. It’s something that is part of me, like so many other people whose ADHD shows up in a variety of flavors and tints of colors. It makes me different - I can’t sit still, I can’t focus sometimes, etc. etc. etc. But I wouldn’t really be me without it. Even though ADHD makes some things harder, my ADHD also makes me able to hyperfocus on things I’m really into, which allows me to master things and to become a true expert in them. It makes me a proactive leader and a good clinician, with a heightened sense of empathy. These are just a few of the strengths and positive mirror traits that are part of my ADHD.
Still, I’ve had twenty-seven and a half years to try to understand my ADHD, and it hasn’t always been easy. If you or your child is trying to force their way through a system that seems designed to punish them, I get it. I was there, too. If your child is the ADHD’er, find ways to meet them where they are, see what their interests are and care about them, look for and nurture their strengths, work together to find strategies to make non-preferred tasks more fun and doable, give them agency whenever possible, change the environment when and where you can seek accommodations when it just isn’t possible to shift what’s happening around your child, be their advocate, listen without judgment, nurture their empathic and sensitive sides, work on coping strategies that resonate with your child, strategize and support around sensory needs, and make home a safe landing place where your child can truly be themselves. This will likely help your child open up to you, find their confidence, and become their best selves. And if you are the ADHD’er, do all of these things for yourself, and look for the people who will embrace you as you are. This compassion will go a long way towards nurturing well-being, and it will bring more kindness to your relationships and to the world.
This world needs more kindness. Wouldn’t you agree?
If you need a little help with this, please don’t hesitate to reach out. WBMA is here to support you! firstname.lastname@example.org
Licensed Master Social Work