Getting to Know your ADHD Brain

For those of us with ADHD, we know all too well how easy it is to be down on ourselves. We don’t need the world to be hard on us, we do a pretty good job of it ourselves. Negative messages are everywhere! They are in our homes, at our jobs, and in our classrooms. Sometimes we give in to so much negativity and we feel defeated. We feel like we SHOULD be able to do better. If we only knew how.

Boredom. It’s a huge issue for us. We get bored, we shut down. Our brains need lots of stimulation and if there isn’t any, we have a tendency to check out completely. We don’t pay attention to things that don’t interest us.

A’s school career thus far has been a mixed bag. She never really liked school – her personal issues got in the way most of the time and she had very little energy left to really care about doing well. She managed. Her grades were always fair. Some better than others. She would be frustrated and overwhelmed most of the time, and she felt like even when teachers praised her and told her something she did was excellent, she was still passed over and basically ignored. She always thought her depression and anxiety had a lot to do with that. I have always tried to assure her that she was an intelligent human being, but she never did believe me when I told her that grades were not an accurate measurement of intelligence. She pretty much felt like, if I’m so smart, then why can’t I make straight A’s?

She came home the other day telling me that one of her teachers took her aside and talked to her about the fact that A- is too hard on herself. No matter how good she is doing, she doesn’t think it’s good enough. Her teacher told her that her grades were excellent and she really had to cut herself some slack. The thing is, since starting high school her grades ARE excellent. She is doing very very well. I’m really proud of her.

After the conversation with her teacher, A- came to me and said, “I know why I didn’t make good grades before.” I told her she didn’t make bad grades. She said, “You know what I mean.” Then she said, “I was bored.” I looked at her, wondering why this suddenly dawned on her. I told her that I’d tried to tell her that. She told me, “I know, but I didn’t understand. I thought that if I was bored, I should have been able to make straight A’s without trying. Because I didn’t have straight A’s I didn’t think I was smart.” I asked what she thought now. She said that since starting high school in a school with a demanding curriculum, she could see now that she was completely bored in middle school, and that being bored, her brain just shut down. Now that she is challenged in class and teachers welcome lively discussions of the material, she is involved in class, participating and keeping up. She is doing well. She sees for herself that it was never her intelligence that was the issue. Her brain was not being stimulated. I could tell her all I wanted that she was intelligent, but she had to realize for herself that it is all a matter of how her brain works.

This is the knowledge that has the power to set many of us with ADHD free. I was a good student in school. But I was timid and lacked any confidence in my abilities. I didn’t challenge myself because I was afraid of failure. I took the safe, easy route every time. I always felt like I should be doing better. I always felt that I had much more inside of me, I just didn’t understand my own brain enough to tap into it. If I had challenged myself academically and took the harder courses, I probably would have done much better than I did. I made A’s and B’s for the most part, my biggest struggle being any of the maths. Still, I always chose the “safe” course for me. I look at A- and how hard she is on herself, and the only difference is that I didn’t vocalize my thoughts to anyone. I only told myself how disappointed I was in myself, and that my performance was never good enough.

I think this is familiar for many of us. Even when we KNOW we have ADHD, we still have a tendency to compare ourselves with the “norm.” We still look at others and wonder why we don’t do things the way they do them, or why we aren’t succeeding at the rate we believe we should be, or why we aren’t doing better. We are not made to be like everyone else. But we do have to find that path that takes us to our full potential.

I live in comfort zones. I know that when I am uncomfortable is when I am going to do my best. My anxiety still keeps me from pushing too far out of my comfort zones, but I know that is something I need to do.

We are all different, and yet I think we share a lot of the insecurities that can arise from having ADHD. I think the insecurities are especially apparent to me since I wasn’t diagnosed until I was an adult. I hope that my daughter is able to tackle the insecurities much sooner than I was. I’m hoping that knowing now, how her brain works, will help her to not feel the way I felt for so many years. I’m hoping the knowledge will enable her to find ways to make the most of her ADHD brain and find ways to learn and grow. She is definitely on the right path.

Once we start embracing our non-neurotypical ways there is no stopping us! We can truly do anything, and my wish is for every person with ADHD to see their own value, and to embrace their intelligence and creativity and make the most of it. We all have our unique gifts and talents and it’s up to us how to use them!



One thought on “Getting to Know your ADHD Brain

  1. I relate to all of this. That is hugely powerful that your daughter is recognizing this at her age. I have more to say but will have to come back (if I don’t get horribly distracted — which is highly possible.) Thank you for writing this. It is always so helpful for me when I read about others whose brains operate similarly to mine.

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