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Living with ADHD…. from personal experience

I will go right ahead and admit it- I suspect I have ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Why I said I only suspect? Because I have not gotten an official diagnosis on this but a number of symptoms mentioned in Wikipedia on ADHD quite describes me. This suspicion also came to me by chance  while I was researching about autism and Asperger on other people- and find the description on ADHD/ADD strangely familiar.

And so this looong post (typed from my hyperfocus brain), I am going to share with you how to make ADHD work for you. If you are ADHD and reading it, hope it would not bore the daylights out of you. ADHD is not a problem, nor is it a disability—- if you view it positively.  You can lead a happy and fulfilling life just like everyone else with your condition. It can even make your rich, like some of the famous people with ADHD.

According to Wikipedia, predominantly inattentive type symptoms may include:

  • Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
  • Have difficulty maintaining focus on one task
  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless doing something enjoyable
  • Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new or trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
  • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  • Struggle to follow instructions.

Growing up- and never fitting into the academic system

Parents who find that their kids are hyperactive or seemed to suffer from learning disability should check if their kids have ADHD or ADD. If known early, parents need not put their kids to medication. But to understand that their kids are not naughty, rebellious or stupid. They just learn things differently than other people. So that the poor kid need not suffer the way I did.

During elementary school, I seemed to have difficulty understanding what the teachers taught me. I was labeled as ‘slow’ and many teachers treated me as if I would never amount to anything. Because my results and scores were below par. Because I was daydreaming and don’t understand what the teacher taught in class.

But like most health conditions, I believe that love can turn things around. I saw how hard my parents worked to put us through school and I told myself I must never give up…. if I was really stupid, then I just need to study a little harder.I was lucky- 2 memorable noble teachers came into my life-  my Malay and Chinese language teacher who taught me for a year each. They motivated me, they gave me a little confidence in myself. Till today I never forget them.

So, I wished parents would know that academic results is never an indicator of a child’s success in life. It’s never, okay. NEVER.  So stop pushing the poor kid to excel.

The ADHD kid learns differently from others. The usual ‘memorise and then vomit out’ in examinations don’t jive with the soul of the ADHD.  Their hyperactive minds would not be able to remember and retain all those stuff that does not make sense. If there is a subject that they love, they can do well without much effort. But most topics like history, mathematics or language may be a challenge.

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Any kid that abide by the ‘memorise and vomit out in exams’ may excel in exams but would fare poorly in real life and a real job. Because life is not black and white. Life have a way of throwing to you things you least expect.

By the time I was in high school, I had figured out that I learned different from others. My journey is tougher and longer compared to other teenagers…. I knew I learned things differently so I did what is known now as ‘think-out-of-the-box’ but for me was survival:

  • Languages– I listen to English and Malay songs, read the novels and genuinely appreciate the beauty of the language. So when I was in school, I could write in poetic Malay by the time I was in high school. Till today, I still cannot resist translating Malay songs into English– because these songs are so beautiful. My English grammar is still not that good but I could write in a comfortable flow that is easy to read because I’ve read so many novels.
  • Chemistry– I create a flow or my own story in order to remember the formulas. I imagined when the different compound mixes together, how they become
  • Biology– imagination on how the functions worked. But now the internet provides excellent resources like in YouTube that creates a good visual of our body and even makes learning fun
  • History– it’s tough to memorise all the dates. But I’ve learned about the entire story, instead of in fragments….textbooks tend to give fragmented facts- you need to research elsewhere to put the pieces together. Picture yourself back in the era of the events.
  • Mathematics– practice, practice, practice and more practice

I tended to do well in subjects that I love like basic accounting, marketing and entrepreneurship. If I get past those torturous years intact, I am sure you or your child can too 🙂

How to study when your mind is hyper?

Resillience. For a better tomorrow. You need to do it for the reason above and beyond yourself. For me, my parents’ sacrifice touched my heart. My mom worked as a nurse in shifts- sometimes getting up at 5.45am to cook, then take 2 minibuses to work, work non stop and then come back on 2 minibuses with hands laden with groceries, eat, then do the housework- everyday she go to sleep dead tired only to begin everything all over again the next day. My dad struggled to adapt to technology in his 40s when computer was introduced, he ate mostly economic and cheap noodles but would not hesitate to give me money to buy a toy or food.

I wanted to repay them. And also we were often being looked down, so I felt I had  ‘proof the naysayers wrong’ (but in the end, I also realised if we don’t look down on ourselves, what other people think or look would not affect us much).

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Therefore, you need to know what’s your driving factor to motivate you to go uphill.

Next, putting  ADHD attributes to your advantage….

Creativity , the day dreamer & ability to think-out-of-the-box

Most ADHD folks are creative. Just that they may not be able so stay long enough with their ideas for it to bear fruition.  When we are born different from others and yet are expected to function like the rest, we would have learned how to think-out-of-the-box- because it’s for survival. For example, we need to develop your own learning methods because we just  don’t learn the same way as the rest. We need to learn to solve our own problems because other people don’t understand what we’re talking about.

Take for instance a left handed folks- fruit-peelers and scissors are designed for right-handed people. So left-handed folks have to learn to use the tool for right-handed people. Or else they would always need to eat the fruits with the skin (unless they could always get someone to peel for them  🙂 ). Because they are willing to adapt rather than whine, they end up with 2 good hands- thus activating both sides of their brains.

During the stressful times of exams, it ignited my creativity and I started making ribbon roses and beaded hairclips as well as listen to Andrew Llyod Webber’s Starlight Express (some people don’t understand why people can be crazy about talking trains…but what do they know?).  Years later, this eventually lead to interest in building sites and now blogs. So, find something that you love to do to distress and who knows, it may lead you somewhere, my friend.

 

Ability to Hyperfocus- exclusively in ADHD/ ADD folks

Hyperfocus- ADHD folks have it. I consider it a gift…. and probably it is with this that stopped my company from firing me, hee hee. When you are hyperfocused, you are so super concentrated in what you are doing that everything else in life goes to a blur. An ADHD person may be easily distracted but once he finds a task or hobby that he loves, the hyperfocus thingy kicks it.  Imagine if you find out what it is and does that for a living- you would be so focused and it may be difficult for another person to replicate you. And people may be willing to pay you for it.

But the task to find your mojo remains yours, and yours alone….because no one can figure that hyper mind of yours like you do.

And learn not to be so annoyed or stop snapping at people who interrupt you when you are ‘in the zone’. The person would likely have no bad intention.

Finally, covering up the bad… or making peace

Okay, not covering up.  But due to the hyper stuff going inside the ADHD mind, there are tendencies towards mood swings, impatience, talking without thinking, inability to concentrate, unable to finish what you have started, chronic fatique, impulsiveness….. characterics that may lead you to or say stuff that you may regret. Make you lose good quality of life.

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Love heals all- it sounds mushy but it’s true. Love yourself, but not to the point of vanity and being egoistic. But in the sense of self-acceptance. Love others, have kindness to other people and practice tolerance. Be humble- if you find your gift, don’t be cocky about it. Put your abilities to good use.

Meditation is really beneficial- practice helps to create more awareness and we become more mindful and stay with the present. It is the perfect medicine for the restless and wandering mind- works better than Ritalin or any medication.  The restless and hyperactive mind is not a lifelong condition- it can be deconditioned or thrown into dormancy with consistent practice.

Often the dreamer in ADHD needs grounding- too much ongoing dreams, procastination…. and unable to ‘process’ and get everything done can lead to fatique and depression or self directed anger.  The grounding effect of meditation helps one to stay in the present, to focus on the task at hand and not to have the mind wandering out all the time. It relaxes the mind and helps to overcome any panic attacks at times of unexpected stress. And there is nothing tortoring or religious about meditation- mediation is not about just sitting cross legged in an ashram tugged in an isolated part of the world. There is no point in achieving one pointed stillness and peace ….and then come back to the real world and started to yell at everyone when you ‘lose it’.

It is about daily and constant awareness- for starters, just be aware of your breathing. Know each breath- when it goes it and out. If your breath is shallow, breathe in deeper to deepen it….it will produce a relaxing effect. In everything you do, reading, typing, eating, drinking, exercising, before you sleep, right after you wake up- do your best  to be aware of your own breathing. With consistent practice, you will find the grounding and the focus that you need. I know it works because I apply it….

Finally, draw comfort from the famous and successful people have ADHD/ ADD:

  • David Neeleman, Founder of JetBlue Airways who credits ADHD for helping him think out of the box
  • Paul Orfalea, Founder of Kinko’s who despite failing 2nd grade, started a chain of photocopy stores because he was “curious”
  • Virgin Founder and adventurer Sir Richard Branson started his first company when he was 16
  • Actors Jim Carrey & Will Smith known for their signiture funny, comical talents… and they had problem reading and paying attention during school
  • Michael Phelps- channeling his restless energy into sports….and look at the Olympic gold medals he had won
  • Chef Jamie Oliver- who discovered healthy eating as a way to manage his ADHD and now teaching others quick, simple and healthy cooking

 

 

 

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