Is being normal with adult ADHD worth the effort?
Situation One: I was asked by the parents of a college-aged daughter to help her recognize when her thoughts and actions prevented her from accomplishing agreed upon goals. To them, it didn’t make sense that she would make the same “mistakes” over and over again. Bright, articulate, creative and curious, she just could not seem to participate as a “normal” person. Missed classes, incompletes, lack of part time employment, and an overall failure to launch on time all added up to a sense of failure on the part of both the student and her parents.
Situation Two: A college-aged son who just couldn’t seem to pull his weight age-wise. College classes overwhelmed him, socially he fit in better with the elderly and infants than his peers. Lying was a commonly used coping skill to avoid shame and disappointment. A recent neurological assessment identified a cluster of executive function challenges that were presented to him as factual information about his mysterious behaviors. While the parents accepted the findings as “good to know, now we can start to fix it,” the son felt like he’d been hit by a semi. Not that he didn’t know that there was something different about himself, but hearing it from a doctor made it all too painfully real. In his mind, he really was a misfit.
At the heart of successfully managing ADHD is redefining or eliminating the measure of normal.
Many of our expectations are influenced by academic goals, the media, organized sports and our desire to fit in and be like everyone else.
The problem is that it doesn’t allow for the development and appreciation of the individual.
And while medical classifications help identify and define the symptoms, many times they become the labels that define the person, whether intended or not.
So here we are, walking this fine line between trying to help the individual succeed in our world, while sending them constant messages that they’re different, but it’s ok, “we’ll work on making you normal.”
Fighting to be normal is a lot like attending a professional conference where you feel the need to be “on” all the time. At the end of the day you are exhausted because you had to put out a lot more energy than usual just to appear engaged, engaging and on the top of your game.
People with ADHD experience this every day. As Linda Roggli, PCC said so well in her recent article in Attention Magazine, It’s Exhausting Pretending to be Normal.