Tuesday, November 22, 2005

AD/HD: Underachievers Only in Our Own Minds

Did you find yourself being compared to the other kids in class and coming up short? Find yourself at the front of the class while the teacher handed mangy mangos out to your classmates to pelt you with because you forgot to bring in your homework again? As damaging as such things can be to a young mind, the person with AD/HD doesn't need any help to feel like an underachiever. By the time we become adults we have our own goals and dreams that we haven't realized yet. The media is filled with people who are "better than us" who fought against the odds to bring new meaning to people's lives and we can't even remember to take the trash out. I have some news for you. We may be scatterbrained, featherheaded, and absentminded, but we accomplish more than we give ourselves credit for.

Two events have shaped my thoughts today. First, the blow to my ego. The artist/author of Inverloch, a fantastic web comic, announced she would produce six pages a week for her loyal fans. Six penciled, inked, AND computer colored pages a week. She delivered seven. And I can't even make the time to pencil a cruddy little critter. Then came the boost to my ego. Tara posted the other day about Blogging with ADD. She seems to think we don't often give ourselves enough credit. That people with ADD are often focused only on what they should have done instead of what they were able to accomplish.

The number one symptom in Hallowell and Ratey's Diagnostic Criteria for Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults is this very problem.
1. A sense of underachievement, of not meeting one's goals (regardless of how much one has actually accomplished).
We put this symptom first because it is the most common reason an adult seeks help. "I just can't get my act together" is the frequent refrain. The person may be highly accomplished by objective standards, or may be floundering, stuck with a sense of being lost in a maze, unable to capitalize on innate potential.

Dang, doesn't that just fit me to a T. And why wouldn't I feel a sense of underachievement? Do you know anybody with AD/HD who doesn't think on a grand scale? My goals for this year are truly monumental. World peace with colorful rubber bands, cold fusion with household appliances, edible dirt to fight off world hunger... Time's a tickin' and the year is almost over. I better get hoppin'. I've got to patent McMud before McDonald's beats me to it. And I still need to finish that 1000 page novel by Thursday. What's wrong with me? Why can't I get things moving? Loser! Loser! Luser!

What makes me laugh is that I may not be overachieving by trying to make edible dirt but I sure do berate myself as if the fate of my entire world depends on whether I am rich, famous, and accomplished by the morning. Four blogs, two weekly podcasts, fulltime parental responsibilities, and my own line of scrapbook papers and I still don't feel accomplished. If I have any flaw it is that I'm doing too much. It's easy to tell myself that if certain financial goals are met - for example, if any of these blogs earned me more than 25¢ a day - that I might lighten up and congratulate myself for a job well done. However, let's be honest. Some of you are already there. Mansion, three cars, six figure job, summer cottage on Mars, and you're not happy either.

Is it faulty religion? The wrong political party in control? Your annoying roommate? Your mother who never loved you? No. It's you. You know what you can accomplish and you get mad at yourself for not accomplishing it yet. You're stuck in a maze of your own making. I'm not going to tell you that maybe your expectations are unrealistic because who am I to say what you can and cannot do? I'm not going to tell you to just relax because I want to slug the next person who tells me that, too. What I can tell you is that you are not alone. Others feel just as you do, and they've learned something that you and I haven't yet. They've figured out how to be happy right now even IF they're goals haven't been met.

This is something I have been trying to learn for years. I know what type of artist I could be if only I could remember to draw more often. I know what type of author I could be if only I could free myself from distractions and focus on that Great American Fantasy Novel. Whether I am deluded or not is up for argument, but focusing on what I haven't accomplished only sets me up for depression. And depression feeds rumination about underachievement. It's a vicious little maze, but I'm breaking down the walls. Mostly because I'm so ornery. I'll be darned and knitted if I'm going to let underachievement get me down.

Get ornery with me. Spit in the eye of self-doubt. Pick one grand goal to work on and go for it, but don't forget to give yourself credit for all the little things you finish along the way.

technorati tags: , , , , , , ,