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Changing the Narrative: Our Brains Are Not Broken

For everything negative about living with ADHD, you also have to recognize that everything good in your life is because of ADHD as well. This condition shapes how our brains are wired in ways that can provide unique strengths, even if society doesn't always make room for our differences.

Recently, I had the honor of doing a series of videos with Dr. Bill Dodson, one of the pioneers of treating and managing ADHD in adults. Part of our conversation was about challenging the Executive Dysfunction theory and how harmful it was.

One of his key questions that we should be asking ourselves was:

If you were interested in something, did you struggle to do it when you wanted to? I don't mean things others wanted you to do or things you thought you should do. I mean those activities and interests you feel genuinely passionate about. When something captivates your curiosity, do you find it hard to focus, or do you hyperfocus on it for hours?

When he asked me that question, it gave me pause. Looking back, I realize I've generally been able to deeply focus on activities and interests that genuinely captivated me. The times I've struggled have mostly been when forced to do tedious tasks I didn't care about or things far outside my natural strengths. And in discussing this further, I learned my experience was quite common among others with ADHD as well.

He pointed out that study after study has shown that people with ADHD who engage in tasks they enjoy can perform exceptionally well. The problems arise when we're forced into environments that are intolerant of minds that work differently. With the proper medication, dosage, and external supports in place, achieving more balance is possible. But we have to stop viewing ADHD as something broken in need of fixing by neurotypical standards. (Check Out The Videos Here!)

Our brains are wired in ways that provide unique strengths in areas like creativity, outside-the-box thinking, desire for novelty, and hyperfocus when fascinated. The emotional intensity often viewed as instability can fuel incredible passion. We struggle with time blindness, organization, and motivation around tedious tasks. But those weaknesses have less to do with ADHD itself than the rigid, unrealistic expectations of our society.

However, this doesn't mean we do not have to do our best to improve ourselves. We should work on our challenges and find the ways that work for us. But it's important to understand that we can strive to be the best version of ourselves while also honoring our neurodivergent needs. For example, Imposter Syndrome can be combatted by focusing on simply being better than we were instead of making false comparisons of needing to perform like others.

Honoring our neurodivergent minds means also recognizing that we have to put aside the shame that we often have around using external tools like alarms, timers, and to-do lists to manage time and functions. We spend much of our time in our lives feeling less than because others seem to be able to do things without these tools. In our discussion, Dr. Dodson points out that part of managing ADHD also means that we have to go back to the beginning and create a new understanding of how our ADHD works and what works for us in managing it. He talks about recreating our personal Owner's Manual for how we can best function within our strengths, weaknesses, and passions.

The part that resonated with me has always been my feelings about, well... My feelings. I realized long ago that emotional dysregulation goes beyond "negative" emotions to intensify joy, excitement, love, and other positives. Our curiosity, our passion, and all of our emotions are intensified by ADHD, just like many other parts of our brains. If that is true, then we also have to acknowledge that the good things in our lives are also because of how our brains work.

This has helped me, and so many of my clients have started journeying to improve their lives. You must learn to ride the wave of your interest-based motivation system versus constantly fighting an uphill battle to force yourself into someone else's box. When we stop wasting energy masking symptoms and failing to thrive as neurotypicals, we free up mental bandwidth. This allows more capacity to develop skills and nurture supports that bolster weaker areas, so they interfere less with pursuing passions.

Delegate tasks you dislike by asking for help or outsourcing. Build a personal support system to lean on rather than buy into unrealistic self-reliance standards. Every human needs community; for those with ADHD, that web of support becomes crucial. Setting pride aside to utilize tools and strategies tailored to how your mind works does not indicate failure. It’s a radical act of self-acceptance and advocacy.

The narrative that ADHD is somehow a “superpower” risks further stigmatizing those who don’t achieve greatness. Not everyone gains celebrity status like Simone Biles or Adam Levine. Simply put, our brains hold powers different from neurotypical norms. What gets labeled extraordinary or debilitating depends heavily on environment and opportunity. We each possess unique strengths and challenges in need of nurturing.

If raised with a compassionate understanding of our neurotype, many distressing ADHD symptoms could be avoided. Instead of teaching disjointed workarounds for “fixing” deficits, children need guidance on leveraging passions to fuel progress in weaker areas. They deserve to know their brains don’t exist as broken, defective versions of “normal.”

When we start to recognize the good in ourselves and our neurodiversity on a regular basis through mindfulness, therapy, journaling, or other means, our perspective begins to shift. Rather than viewing our differences as deficiencies needing to be fixed, we can start seeing our unique strengths. Of course, this doesn't mean we ignore the challenges ADHD can bring. Finding the right strategies and support to manage our weaknesses is still important. However, the goal becomes thriving as your best neurodivergent self, not masking symptoms or forcing yourself into boxes that don't fit. When external pressures relent enough to allow our abilities to shine through, ADHD can feel far less disabling overall. True healing lies in redefining ourselves based on our strengths versus limitations imposed on us by others. Our brains operate differently, with complex and valid wiring that is alternative to yet equally capable as neurotypical minds.

When you're ready to change your dynamic, schedule a Discovery Call with me today!

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