Note to the Reader: This post was written by Ian Ford. He has managed to control his ADHD, not with “meds and therapy” but using alternate methods that have given him the ability to be in control of his life. I think you’ll find his story to be interesting. – Jeff
When I was a child, I lived in the bliss of ignorance. I didn’t know I was different, at least not consciously. I did know that I was extremely good at things that interested me, and terrible at things that didn’t. I was called lazy and scatterbrained, smart and adept. I was, and still am, a math wiz and computer geek, but holding a normal conversation has been practically impossible throughout most of my life. Paying attention in class or doing any uninteresting activity eluded me and I was always distracted. I avoided any task that required mental focus. Fortunately, the other side of this difficulty contained an ability to comprehend and assimilate certain things very quickly, as long as they interested me and I didn’t have to think too hard. Concentration and focus were entirely foreign to me, but I struggled through somehow.
I started drinking when I was in college and discovered that a little alcohol helped streamline my thoughts. It even helped me study, and I earned a degree in computer engineering – hooray for self-medicaton. Unfortunately, I have an addictive nature so drinking got way out of hand after a few years and I had to stop entirely. This left me back where I started, and in fact, a little worse off as it affected my health and well-being. Feeling unhealthy most of the time really exacerbated my mental state, and I spent a few years being almost useless.
I was lost for some time, until I stumbled on the terms “A.D.D.” and “A.D.H.D.”. This gave substance and form to my struggle, and I was so gratified to discover that I wasn’t simply a freak but in fact had a condition that could be managed! I started seeking treatment options, and in short order discovered that, as with alcohol, the ‘normal’ means of dealing with this didn’t work for me. Well, if nothing else, I’m better at thinking outside the box than inside it.
The first thing I found is that fighting ADHD was pretty much impossible, so embracing it was a better answer. The medications made life even worse for me, and I found that some of my abilities – to see and hear things others didn’t notice, or to multitask efficiently – were gone. These things are vital in my work. I tried exercise, but going to the gym did not hold my attention, neither did jogging, nor yoga – although yoga helped a bit I had trouble following through with it.
Finally I stumbled upon a martial arts school near my apartment, and I started taking classes. It helped a little right away, but more importantly, it held my attention and therefore I continued to exercise. Pretty quickly I noticed that my attention and actions started taking a less scattered direction, not much at first but enough. After about three or so years of training and building up, I reached advanced levels and took some additional disciplines, some that included meditation.
Bingo. This is the point at which things really started coming together. The physical training coupled with Ch’an meditation techniques gave me a more consistent control which I had rarely experienced beforehand. I’m now able to use ADHD instead of fighting it. I can have a ‘normal’ conversation that others can follow. I can complete boring but necessary tasks (although juggling two or three is easier) and, once again, I can read a book. I can multitask in a way that makes me quite valuable at work and I can enjoy a cup of coffee with little fear of babbling. And I can still hear and see things others miss. There is still the occasional day when things are difficult, especially when I’m low on sleep, but good days are the rule and not the exception.
Meditation allows me to go beyond, or maybe behind, the scattered thoughts to a mental place that has continuity. There is a Mind behind my mind, and being in that place is my key to dealing with A.D.H.D. This is not to say that I have eliminated the problem; it still arises constantly. But I’ve trained myself to think before I talk, to listen to others before I finish their sentences, and to occasionally take a moment to compose myself before continuing. I’ve gained something and lost nothing.
This journey taught me to embrace my true nature and work from there, instead of ‘swimming against the current’ and making no headway. Good luck to everyone, everywhere, in finding themselves!