You might not have ADHD, but you might love someone who does. (My apologies for reifying, for those who dislike that. Using the label ADHD is just the easiest way to identify this cluster of challenges we face.) It might be other things that are making it hard for you to think or concentrate or be creative, but what matters is that it’s hard.
There are too many distractions, and some of them might be of your own creation. I’m thinking kids here, or maybe taking on too many things at the same time, like this:
Then there are things not of your creation, but you did invite them into you life. I know, I know, it’s very hard not to in our culture. Internet and all its lovely distractions… Music. Phones. Kindles. Tablets. Notebooks. Books. Oh, books! Partially-completed projects. Supplies begging to be used. Then, of course there are always the domestic things. Laundry. Dishes. Floors (how do the kids get so many things so dirty, so FAST?) There are some that are not of your own creation, and you didn’t invite them into your life. In fact, you’d do just about anything to make them go away. If you could change your brain, you would.
You want and need to get things done, but how can you, when you can’t think for more than a few seconds at a time? ADHD and creativity usually do go together, but it can be hard to make progress. Sometimes you start off thinking just fine and then it’s like you have oatmeal between your ears, instead of brain cells there.
How are you supposed to cope with that? How can you write or compose or do whatever it is you need to do? And how do you get other people to understand what it’s like to live with your brain? I wrote this story to help people understand what it’s like to have ADHD.
It is so hard for some people to think, to focus, to concentrate, to get anything done, and there are real reasons for that. Only a person who has no heart would deny that fact. Dealing with people who refuse to understand is frustrating, but what’s even more frustrating is when both of the scenarios above happen to you, and you never know which one you’re going to get.
It doesn’t matter to me what label is put on it, whether ADHD or some other name. It also doesn’t matter if it’s caused by what the cluster of symptoms called ADHD, or if it’s caused by diabetes, fibromyalgia, food allergies, brain damage, thyroid problems, PTSD, or having butterflies in the garden.
What matters is that there is very real interference; it is a real challenge, daily, and people who don’t have to deal with attention control issues will so often deny that our experience is different from theirs. I’ve had people tell me—in the same breath—that they understand the challenges I face and that they don’t exist!
Whether the changes in the brain are caused by a disease or disorder, are new developments/evolution in the human brain, are the effects of using technology, or are created by habits of thought and action… those things don’t matter to me, either, because that is blaming and really does no good. It certainly does not fix anything.
All that matters is 1. There is a problem. 2. How do we deal with it? and that includes “How do we get rid of the stigma and punishing people? Some would say that that right there is the problem. Many ADHDers embrace their brains’ way of doing things.
Some days I enjoy it, too: ADHD and creativity both reside in me. I love being able to respond quickly to things that come up in life. Most days, though, I curse the fact that I’m doomed to struggle in a world that values the farmer over the hunter/gatherer, the detailed plodder over the creative hopper. Most people I’ve known who have these issues hate it and would do just about anything to change it. I’d like to keep my creativity, that’s for sure, but I could do without the difficulty concentrating!
ADHD is an excuse
Does any of this mean that we’re “off the hook” in life? Do we get a free pass because our brains aren’t wired the same as everyone else’s? No. We still have to follow the same laws. We still have to earn money somehow (it’s just a lot harder for us than it is for others to find something we can do and not get fired all the time). We don’t get let off the hook. ADHD or whatever you want to call it is not an excuse. But it would be nice to have a little consideration, a little accommodation. And, at the very least, a little respect.
One thing I’ve learned from these decades of dealing with these issues and working with people who have other issues of their own: never assume you know what someone else is going through, what it’s like for them. You don’t, especially if you don’t have the same conditions, and even if you do! If someone says “my experience is this,” please, don’t ever tell them they’re wrong, it doesn’t exist, etc. Their life is hard enough without you calling them liars. I thank you on their behalf.
ADHD and creativity can work well together
If you don’t have to deal with the “impossible test scenario” every day of your life, thank God for that fact. Because many of us do have to deal with it. It never goes away, and it never gets better (or at least not for long). Some can’t or won’t take medication because of the drawbacks. Some get no relief from the struggle, and some can’t structure their lives in a way that lets them be successful. I’m very thankful that in the last few years, I have been able structure my life in a way that works much better for me. I’m able to move from one activity to another, most of them creative:
- painting with acrylics and watercolors
- sewing and mending
- cooking (though I don’t actually like to cook anymore)
- editing and coaching writers
- handling client work
- brainstorming and planning
I have my husband to thank for his understanding and acceptance. Not once since we met in 1998 has he said that my symptoms are not real, or that I must be exaggerating or lying. What he says is, “You know your situation far better than anyone else can. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. People need you.” Though the mixture of ADHD and creativity can sometimes try a spouse’s patience, he has been solid gold when it comes to accepting me for who I am, challenges, baggage, and all. I hope you have people like that in your life, too. Nurture your creativity. Set aside a little time each day to create. It can help you love your brain and your life.
What do you like to create? Share in the comments.