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ADHD is an Explanation not an Excuse!

So you found out you have ADHD. Yay! You can see the effects of it throughout your life. You don’t do your laundry consistently or brush your teeth or turn in your work assignments on time. You are impulsive and buy what you shouldn’t or don't need. You binge watch a series late into the night when you have something important the next day. You forget to sign your children’s permission slip for a field trip they have. You’re late renewing your licence, house insurance or paying your bills. You zone out and have a silly argument with your spouse that at the time feels not at all silly and derails your day. Please feel free to add to this list there are many effects from having adhd. While your symptoms may be involuntary you are still responsible for your behaviour. Having ADHD is an explanation for your behaviour and not an excuse for it. You are still responsible for the things that you are responsible for.

Now stay with me here all is not lost, there is hope for you and the things you would like to

change or for the things that you would just actually like/need to do. I totally get that your symptoms are involuntary, we can’t always control them even when we take medication. Your brain might not be firing on all of its pistons all of the time but it still has a great capacity to learn and make new connections or to change. All of those things that ADHD makes hard to do can become easier with time. So here is the hard part. It takes time and much effort, lots and lots of it. Like my colleague likes to say, there is no magic button that takes adhd away, no miracle fix.

While our brains may work differently they still work, can learn new things and make new neural pathways. How do we do this for ourselves? The first step starts with awareness, what are you doing that you would like to change? For me it was putting things off (other ways to describe this would be low task initiation or lack of motivation), for instance I would find it really hard to motivate myself to make appointments. I knew what needed to be done. I knew how to do it. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to do it so bad I couldn’t do anything else sometimes. This made me miserable because I knew I should be doing it. This feeling didn’t motivate me to do it either and just made me feel worse about myself. I would avoid it to the point that I was in a panic to do it, and would push through the wall and get it done.

However once I did it I would be like, "oh that was really easy and not hard at all", what was it about this task that I was so scared of? Eventually I realized that when I had a task that I wasn’t motivated to do, it was like I was pushing a really heavy rock up a hill. The first part was really easy (putting an item on a to do list) but the closer to the top that I got the harder it was (actually getting ready to do it) but once I pushed past the hump of the hill it was really easy. It was this realization that if I just kept pushing I would eventually get over the hump and it was down hill all the way. The more I worked on pushing that rock past the peak the easier it became to do.

The consistency of pushing of myself has led to new habits and I now trust myself to get things done. Did I have fun pushing myself? NO! Though I disliked making myself do things very much, I was consistent in pushing that rock over the peak and it got easier and the hill got smaller in time. One thing that got me through was I stopped listening to the negative messages I would tell myself and replace them with a lot of positive self talk. Instead of, “ I hate doing this task”, “I can’t believe I have to do this”, “I can do this another time”. I replaced it with, “I will do this today”, “I can finish this”, “I will feel so much better if I just get this done”. All of these things were true. This knowledge doesn’t always make it easier and I often still dislike certain tasks but I remind myself that I am happier when I get stuff done. I realized that I benefited more by doing the task than by putting it off for another time. If I push through it I feel better than if I wait for a moment of panic to motivate me, the stress of late is worse than the stress of pushing myself through it.

Now this is how it works for me. How it works for you may be different. It is complicated, it takes work, consistency and effort, many of the things that ADHD people struggle with. It however is completely doable and feels fantastic once you realize that you can do things and work with your brain. Doing things that work for you is much more important than doing it how everyone else does it. Maybe the reason you have trouble doing things is because you're expecting yourself to do it in a way that doesn’t work for you?

You might want to consider a few things on your way to pushing that rock up the hill.

  • Pick one thing you would like to change. Break it down into small doable parts.

  • Consider how things actually work for you. What are you doing when it does work?

  • Envision yourself doing the task in a way that you can see yourself actually doing it.

  • Talk to yourself about how you see yourself accomplishing it. You need to start talking to yourself in a way that shows you care and believe in your ability to do the things that you want or need to do.

  • Give yourself what you need to do it. Find the right equipment. Create an environment where you can be successful. If it is a reward for doing it, reward yourself. Do you need a soundtrack for your work; make one. Do you need a clear desk? A certain spot? Put everything in place that you need to be successful.

  • Make sure your preparations are not just a way of procrastinating more.

  • If you can’t do it alone get help. Use a body double. Tell someone you trust what your plan is. Let them help keep you accountable.

  • Use an app, there are many reminder apps to help you make new habits or app blockers to keep you off your phone when you're working on a task.

  • If this doesn’t work for you then you may need to hire someone like an ADHD coach who can help see you through the change in a positive supportive way while still holding you accountable to your goals.

  • Be nice to yourself in this you won’t always get it right but acknowledge that part and move on.

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