In the first panel of an old cartoon strip, a swimmer is out in a lake in choppy water, flailing. In the next panel, he yells to his dog on the shore, “Lassie get help;” in the next panel, the swimmer is going under; in the next panel, Lassie is shown lying back on a psychiatrist’s couch; in the last panel, the swimmer has gone under – and the water is calm.
We all can do just about any complex task. And if we can’t manage the complexity when we break it down, then we likely can. Most we don’t school for, most don’t need a team to help us, and most don’t need training. Tasks are easy, mostly, except when we don’t see them or break them down effectively enough to deal with them.
We can handle them unless they all come at us at once!
Not literally, but in our mind, where collisions of competing values collide, overtake and overlap our completing needs/tasks, requiring us to handle everything at once with an equal sense of urgency, which sounds a bit crazy until it happens to you.
For most people, that describes an infrequent manageable circumstance.
For someone with ADHD, it’s a daily constant, without escape, because our minds work differently.
Our ‘executive function’ works differently. That’s it. Simple really. Except it isn’t.
That function in ADHD folks, I’ve learned, can be managed to be better focused and more effective – a daily treat that lasts about 14 hours until my medication wears off for another day. I’ve had this joyous tool for only a few months after a lifetime without knowing of my disorder or if anything that helps me every day as dramatically as this. I have no desire to go back to a no-help life. I know some people who live with it, un-medicated by choice to avoid side effects. I would like not to have them too, but I can’t imagine living without a daily dose of pharmacology magic – rewards far exceed any inconvenience.
Sure, some very complex tasks require a Ph.D., years of training or innate talent – but for every one of those tasks, from brain surgeon to rocket scientist to janitor; from the front-door greeter, cab driver, toilet scrubber and garbage truck driver – anyone can learn to do them.
I know we roll our eyes when the task descriptor is ‘leader,’ guru, celebrity, billionaire, savant, or lottery jackpot winner – these are exceptional cases when exceptional people begin by mastering a simple task in an extraordinary way. Who knows where that might lead?
But seriously, when we break down all things we are great at, excel at, or are recognized for – these are tasks, plain and simple. Even the next laboratory breakthrough is just a bunch of highly specialized tasks people get schooled for. The magic is when someone says, “Ah-ha!” or “Hmm … that’s interesting …”
The difference between ADHD people and everyone who isn’t is not about tasks or our ability to perform them with care or skill, or even our ability to do many tasks at a time or on the same day, but how we organize and manage them in our brain – the executive function. As my learning curve continues to be steep with so much yet to learn, I am finding better ways to understand and develop better ways to explain what I now understand and tell the story of how I’m feeling – how I’m seeing nearly everything and everyone through a clearer focused lens, and understanding more of my choices in real-time as they are happening, realizing which are clear decisions and which are reactions of an ADHD person having too many competing/distracting things going on in the same space and time …
Two short informative videos have some “Ah+ha, and that’s interesting moments.”
Check them out if you have a few minutes. They might describe someone you know. If you are interested to learn more about ADHD – these are not comprehensive, but they will help you better understand ADHD and how some people like me experience the world differently.
P.S.: I find many resources to help us better understand ourselves or friends with ADHD, and there seems to be a growing body of print and video resources. What I find in short supply is much information about dealing with the side effects of various regimes of treatment which seem to be widely varied from ADHD type-to-type and one stimulant and not-stimulant medication to another – the solution, it seems, may or may not involve sinking or swimming, or sending yourself to a head doctor – it helps to “get help.”