Case Study- Part four of four: My Powerful Lessons

AI generated image of a person walking down a hilly, windy path towards a brighter future

Lessons learned from over 20+ years of working with ADHD.

I’ll be frank here.  These lessons were not learned until I truly started to recognize, accept, and accommodate my weird and wonderful ADHD brain.  Interestingly, until I started really learning about it, I was never even self aware enough to see my ADHD challenges.  You can probably see that as you read through the prior three blogs – the case study I did on myself.  And in that realization is my first lesson learned:

Learn about your ADHD
  • ADHD can be a wonderful gift and it can be a terrible curse.
    • Even untreated, ADHD can be a gift, but treated and supported in brain-friendly environments, we can really shine!  We’re all different, but many of us: see connections and efficiencies, have strong empathy and compassion, are creative problem solvers, exhibit immense enthusiasm, know many things about many things because of our love of learning, and the list goes on.  
    • Untreated, the outcomes for people with  ADHD are worse across the board compared with neurotypical individuals.  
    • But remember, these can all happen with UNTREATED, UNSUPPORTED ADHD.  With medication (the only treatment that gets much attention in the studies), many of these negative outcomes improve dramatically and in some cases disappear.  With multimodal treatment, these outcomes improve even more… And this leads me to my next learning-
Invest in your ADHD in order to avoid the ADHD ‘tax”
    • Get treatment and accommodations.
      • Try the medications if you can, they are certainly the most studied treatment and therefore touted as the most effective.  They do work for nearly 85% of the folks who try them, but they are not for everyone.
      • Go beyond medication: Even if medications work for you now, they may not work forever, especially if you’re a woman.  AND treatment is more useful when you do more than just medicate. 
      • Live as healthy a lifestyle as you can.  Studies show aerobic exercise in the morning can be extremely effective at increasing focus through the day.  Getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet are also very affective. 
      • Try ADHD coaching.  ADHD specific coaching by a trained and certified ADHD coach is immensely helpful.  
      • If you hire other resources to help with life in general (therapists, professional organizers, financial planners), make sure they also have a strong understanding of ADHD.  
      • Use other accommodations as necessary: accountability buddies, body double work sessions, creating the right environment for concentration and focus, etc.  
Failure isn’t actually failure. 
“I’d rather regret the risks that didn’t work out than the chances I didn’t take.” – Simone Biles, Olympic athlete and fellow ADHDer
  • I went through some pretty intense failures…the thing is that those failures were only failures in one sense of the word.  I set out to accomplish something specific and I failed to sustainably meet that goal.  Does that mean they were wasted time?  It does not.
  • Running my own business for ten years prepared me to be a successful leader in many other realms and allowed me to be a flexible and present mom.  
  • Getting laid off from a highly esteemed position caught my burnout before I suffered more severe health issues and allowed (forced) me to take a step back and decide what I really wanted to do with my life.  
  • Even the long-unused degree in Outdoor Leadership for Social Change is finally becoming relevant again, all these 24 years later.  
  • My failed marriage resulted in the most amazing child!  AND many years of practice and learning about what I want and who I want to be in a relationship which means I now have a healthy and wonderfully supportive relationship.  
Work for your passions  
    • Yes, doing things for others will always be a motivator for me. I love to please people.  I love to be of service.  And that’s not a bad thing. 
    • And I need more than that.  Our brains are interest based which means that I have to be interested in what I’m doing in order to be able to truly give it my best.  I LOVED working for nonprofits.  I really liked a lot of the problem-solving I had to do as an executive in nonprofits.  And though I was interested in finance as a concept, I certainly wasn’t interested in the detailed work that came with it.  
    • I actually think I probably spent so many years in this career because it made me look successful to the outside world.  I almost feel like it was just about what I thought I “‘should” do and not at all about what I wanted to do. 
Saying yes – with boundaries
    • I LOVE saying yes to people.  I love to be the go-to-girl.  The one who has the answers to all of your problems.  
      • Who knows all the complex roots of this issue: I love doing new things, so answering questions and learning new things to be of use to people is fantastic.  I love to feel valued, and I’m not sure I do unless I can actively see someone valuing me – probably some stuff to work on there.  
    • Regardless of the roots of the issue, the results are the same.  I always take on too much responsibility.  I always do more than what’s on my job description.  I always go over and above.  I always work my fingers to the bone.  And I always place my self worth on how “successful” (a.k.a. needed) I am.
    • I’m still working on not saying yes to everything, but I know that to be truly helpful to others:
      • I have to take care of myself.
      • I have to be calm and not overwhelmed.
      • I need to have the time to invest in my needs.
Love your weird and wonderful brain: 
  • This is a process. 
  • Did you know that an ADHD kid hears something negative about themselves 110 times per day?  (I need to check that statistic, but I know the number is high.)  
  • It takes a long time to get through all the muck that got piled on us over time.
  • We need to to remember that our brains are different.
  • We need to stop expecting perfection and learn what’s ‘Good enough.’  In most cases, perfection is not even measurable, let alone attainable. 
  • We need to accept that we may not be able to work in the same way as someone else and that’s ok.
Create Accountability and Use Accommodations
 

All of the rest of my learnings are directly related to accountability measures I’ve found really helpful as an ADHDer. 

  • I need to acknowledge when I’m having a hard time and work on a solution instead of just powering through
  • I need to get help when I need it in the form of:
    • My wonderful husband’s partnership – he’s my ultimate (and gentle and understanding) accountability buddy
      • We both run businesses out of our home and we meet regularly to celebrate our successes, keep track of our finances, brainstorm challenges and iterations, and supporting each other where needed.
    • I hire coaches as needed.  Yes, I do have my own ADHD coach.  And I have used a career coach, a marketing coach, etc.  This support is so important to my success and has saved me much more than it’s costed me.
    • I love body doubling it really helps when I need to focus on things I’m not as interested in
    • Even though I’m perfectly capable of being my own bookkeeper (in theory).  In practice, having an external bookkeeper is essential for me.  Not only do I hate doing my own books (and therefor would really struggle to keep on top of them), I need that extra set of eyes to notice things I may have missed.
    • I do love doing things for others – it’s not bad that this is a motivator for me.  I accept that and am learning how to channel it appropriately.
    • Managing stress and recognizing signs of burnout is also a work in progress, but I am finally learning to take breaks when I need to.  
But wait, there’s more!  Just not today:

There are so many more lessons learned to talk about here, but this is getting overwhelming and I need to stop now.  Check me out, saying no to myself, setting my boundaries, and even deciding what’s ‘good enough!’  

Let me know if I missed anything here, or you want to hear more about some of these points.  

I love you all.  Your brains are great.  I would love to help you figure out how to work with them so that you can live your best life!  

In growth, 

Sue  

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