During the COVID quarantine, I started experiencing some of the worst anxiety I’ve ever had. Constant, low-level dread about not doing my work well enough, even though feedback from almost everyone around me was positive. After doing some reading and speaking to a therapist, I was diagnosed with ADHD. It was like someone put a puzzle piece in place that I didn’t know was missing. Turns out the anxiety was coming from not being able to cope like I normally do. Over the past few months, I made some changes in my routine, including meditation and more exercise, but I wasn’t satisfied with those changes.
I decided to seek medical help a couple of months ago and it has been life changingly positive. I discovered that medication helps my brain go quiet, that I’m no longer constantly fighting distractions. I feel excited to get my work done each day.
As I’ve been muddling my way through this process, I’ve spoken to dozens of colleagues and friends who have ADHD. I heard some horror stories about struggling to receive a diagnosis and received lots of great advice on how to handle things.
One of the things that has often been reflected back to me by family and friends who don’t have ADHD is this: it doesn’t seem like there’s anything wrong with you. My own mother, when I asked why I wasn’t diagnosed as a kid, simply said, “Oh, you were just energetic. I didn’t think there was anything wrong.”
God bless my mother for supporting me and all of my quirks. I think that support allowed me to be the productive, happy person I’ve always been, and still retain my uniquity.
But this experience can be disconcerting. I’m a successful professional with a stable, loving marriage. I don’t “look” sick. But others’ observations of my behavior didn’t reflect my own internal experience of myself or the world.
I’ve had ADHD all of my life, and all the diagnosis did was unlock some additional options for coping. So I wanted to share here how I personally learned to understand and cope with my own ADHD.
ADHD Is Common Among High Performers
I’m writing about this because our mission at Productive Flourishing is to help people finish their most important projects, and ADHD is an obstacle that shows up for a large portion of our audience. About 4% of all US adults have ADHD, and a higher than normal percentage of those folks are creators, business owners, and leaders. Indeed, a significant portion of our readers have told us that our planners work really well for people with ADHD.
There’s a ton of literature about ADHD and business. Some of my favorite books on ADHD for adults are written by professionals with ADHD themselves, such as Peter Shankman’s Faster Than Normal, which is a very honest peek into his personal and business life. Business magazines are very fond of calling ADHD a “superpower” because being able to hyperfocus and have the ability to make quick decisions are helpful. But the downside of those same traits can cause a wide variety of problems. People with ADHD struggle more than others to pay attention for long periods of time, can be disruptive in meetings, and have little patience with detail-oriented work unless it’s something they find personally fascinating.
It’s OK to Be Weird
Look: I’m OK with being weird.
When I was in high school, I leaned into it even more so. For my entire Sophomore year of high school, I wore a pair of skater shoes that each had one of my initials painted on them in bright green paint. It made me laugh and put me in a good mood, which made me more productive.
Now my weird manifests in different ways. I ride an electric scooter around town instead of driving a car. I obsess over chocolate. I write fantasy novels and play Dungeons and Dragons (I realize this used to be a lot weirder than it is now).
Being weird is what makes us unique, and the world needs more of your uniqueness.
Lean Into Your Own Experience
Everyone’s experience with ADHD is different. Health, environment, and other life factors color our experiences in powerful ways. What works for me might not work for others, and that’s OK.
Some of the most productive and successful people in the world have ADHD. Those people have learned how to lean into the things that work for them. And that makes them seem weird to the outside world. Emma Watson, Richard Branson, Simone Biles, and David Neeleman are all incredibly successful people with ADHD, and all have been called weird in some way or another.
My hope for sharing my journey with ADHD, particularly how it relates to my career and business ventures, is to destigmatize this very common diagnosis. (Tweet this.) If this post resonated with you or made you think of someone in your life, then I hope you can feel at ease knowing that we at Productive Flourishing are welcoming all types of folks in our community. You and all of your beautiful quirks can find your home here with us.