Jeff versus ADHD

For years I fought my ADHD as if it were a virus that invaded my body. I tried to eradicate it but it is more cunning, more resilient than I expected. So I tried a different approach. I would wrestle it to the ground, wear it down and constrain its movement.  Once I got the upper hand I would put on the straight jacket of normalcy. However, this had an unintended side effect — constraining my ADHD also meant constraining me. [note 1]

I can no longer tolerate being constrained. I am ready to own my ADHD, to embrace it, not as a foreign object but as an integral part of me. ( See Koretsky’s book on working with your ADHD.) I’m finally understanding the need to allow myself to be who I really am. I’m ready to go to the next step, to make ADHD a part of my daily existence in that other world, the world occupied by (self-described) “normal” people. I’m ready to open the ADHD closet door all the way. (See Coming Out Of The (A.D.D.) Closet)


I have one concern.

Letting ADHD out of the closet is like opening Pandora’s Box. The forces inside are tremendous, uncontrollable yet, as I swing open the closet door even further, I want to be able to contain the uncontainable. I want to find the balance, the pivot point, between letting out the ADHD forces while living a somewhat sane existence in the land of normalcy. I want to control my ADHD but not the way I did in the past. I am ready to ride the ADHD waves like a surfer rides a wave. I would be in control while riding the forces that are beyond my control. I will be in harmony with the wave knowing that, if the surf gets rough I can decide not to ride a particular wave. There will no doubt be a wipe-out or two but that’s to be expected when you are riding a wave. [note 2]

This different approach, this new attitude towards ADHD is not so much a sea change (pun sort of intended) but an evolutionary change. I still see ADHD as a curse that gets passed from generation to generation, much like King Tut’s curse. But I now accept that this “curse” is a part of who I am. It is not a foreign object. I’m sure I will still have my days when I wake up and wish I had a different curse, such as the curse of too much wealth. But in the meantime, I will accept the curse that I have, the curse that makes me different even if I think this difference does not make me sexy. [note 3]

The bottom line — I am ready to let myself be me.


Source for Image:

  1. Some examples of these struggles are Adult A.D.D. As A Form Of Madness, my writings on ADHD as gift and curse, and my recent post A Ransom Note From The Kidnapper. Of course, most of this blog chronicles this struggle.
  2. Despite my disdain for the beach, this seems the right metaphor for what I want to achieve. If they only got rid of the sand…I’m sure I would love the beach.
    The Walrus and the Carpenter
    Were walking close at hand;
    They wept like anything to see
    Such quantities of sand:
    "If this were only cleared away,"
    They said, "it would be grand!"

    Source: The Walrus and the Carpenter

  3. There are some who may believe otherwise. See Adult ADHD Can Be Sexy
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  • Gina Pera

    Very thought-provoking, Jeff.

    It’s one thing to “wrestle” with ADHD when you don’t know what it is — when it’s this invisible force that can seem to thwart your goals and desires at every turn.

    It’s quite another to make peace with it — to integrate ADHD as part of you — once it is visible.

    As you say, evolutionary.

    • Jeff

      I’m now looking for the balance between the two. When I was first diagnosed…I believed in the “gift” nonsense. Then I went to the other end of the spectrum – the “curse” – and now I’m gravitating to the middle…I hope. ;)

      • Neera

        After going through the internet almost everyday and trying to figure out what I can do to maintain balance within my mind, I really feel like what you wrote was EXACTLY how I feel. All of your words & sentences and how you would relate things is EXACTLY how I related things through my poetry & my own self reflection. … I’m so amazed by it. I also have ADHD. A horrible case too… I have gone through so much crap, I just can’t believe I’m even alive right now. And reading this really made me feel almost at peace.
        I take my medication everyday, and because of it I’m finally in the university of my dreams… but now its maintaing that focus naturally.
        You have truly inspired me in every way possible! Thank you so much <3

        • gina pera

          I’m so glad you wrote that, Neera. I know that Jeff’s blog has helped so many people over the years, and it’s probably nice for him to read about it. ;-)

        • Jeff

          Neera, there’s an old chinese proverb that talks about how long happiness lasts based on different actions one might take during one’s life. (It says, to be happy for a month…get married.) It ends by saying that if you help someone else you will have happiness that lasts a lifetime. So if what I have written has helped you see something, helped you understand something and this has had a profound positive effect on your life, then I am truly happy. So often us bloggers send our blog posts out into the world much like a child who releases a balloon. We never know how far it goes, we never know if someone has found it. Your comment has let me know, not only that someone has found the balloon, but also that the balloon has had a significant positive effect. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words.

    • Katy Rollins

      Great synopsis Gina.

  • gina pera

    Well, that’s the challenge, isn’t it? Finding the middle path. For all of us humans.

  • In Hoc Signo Vinces

    Like Fire, which can heat your home, cook your food and look alluring, it can also hurt, maim and kill you….We must be Watchful with it….A pet Dog has some attributes…It can protect you, hunt with you, play with you, be trained by you but you must be Watchful with it. If surprised or even being to playful it can hurt you……….We must be Watchful and try to control the ADD…Direct it like an electric current….Some days use it when it is helping work, concentration, happiness, relationships but when it is not “ground it” or isolate and insulate it when it can cause harm & distress….I can’t do it 100% of the time but can at least deflect its full force……Many things are a personal perception…..Try to “spin” your day in a happy way! On the Ship of Life… yours above the Waterline! Grab the Positives of what is in the situation and your mind & run with them!

    • Jeff

      Absolutely love the electrical analogy (it resonates with my amateur radio interests).

      • In Hoc Signo Vinces

        Don’t get me started on “Stray Voltage”….If done right by the Utility Companies with proper grounding procedures, cows & other creatures don’t die on the farm and fields. That is why We with ADD must have some workable procedures, preventative care, in place…Even though they may not work completely every time…. ….Contingency & Exigency plans..Always…

        • Jeff

          I have a small backup generator (puts out 800 watts @ 120 V 60hz). I wonder what the equivalent backup generator is for ADHD? ;)

  • In Hoc Signo Vinces

    Backup for ADD? Gratitude, that you can BE! You are a Sentient Being! Make choices whatever they be….Be able to Make a Plan…..I can see things from different angles and levels…Look at a painting….Look at your life…Many Interpretations depending from your viewpoint…..A Science Experiment, A Historian’s View….Or a Religious PerspectiveView….What would the Rabbi say? The same thing as the Gentile Jesuit? Sometimes we have to Change just to kinda be the Same….EXCELSIOR! eg Ever Upward!

  • Katy Rollins

    DUDE…I know EXACTLY what you are saying. I used to spend all of my energy trying to be something I wasn’t. Sometimes it worked, at least from the outside…most of the time it did not. And I was VERY anxious most of the time as a result. Now that I’m out of the ADHD closet, I sometimes feel that I am “more ADHD” than I was before. Really, I’m not…it’s just that now, I still have ADHD, but I spend less energy reigning it in when I don’t have to, INSTEAD of being all pent up and anxious, trying to be “perfect”. At first, I mistakenly thought that this was a bad thing. Now I get it…this is healing (psychologically anyway, since we can’t get rid of the ADHD). This is improvement…this is moving forward with my life and making better choices for myself because I’m finally dealing with myself AS I AM instead of as I used to think I “should” be.

    Yeah…I hear ya :)

    • Jeff

      I’ve got a (mental) limp and I can no longer pretend it ain’t there. The world better watch out though. I feel like I’ve kept my mouth shut for over 25 years and now I just can’t keep it shut.

  • Scott Hutson

    I like the idea Jeff. Or I should say: “Your decision”. It’s your honest: “But” “I have one concern” That I can relate to. The “evolutionary change” is something I have experienced, and still do at times. I have to accept the reality of the curse. But it so hard to figure out who I am, and be me. Some positive thoughts I may have today, will be gone tommorro when I think I know “who I am”. Who I am (the real me) is not so easy to accept.

    That sumo pic!! Great visual desciption of who I am (not the big guy) it seams at moments. But it may be because those shorts are so uncomfortable,and that distracts me and weakens my arms. ;)

    • gina pera

      Scott — I realize we’ve never met, but I’ve “seen” you throughout your comments and observations over the years, and for what it’s worth, I find you very easy to accept and am grateful for your friendship. :-)

      Thanks Katy.

      • Scott Hutson

        Gina–Thank You! And you know I am also grateful for your friendship! Being accepted as a friend is priceless! :) My observations and speaking them sometimes, have caused me to miss some chances of having more friends accept me. That’s life, and learning from mistakes, I guess. For everyone.

  • Betsy

    I don’t think ADD will ever be my friend, but I do mostly coexist with it more or less peaceably. As for the Pandora analogy, it might be, Jeff, that ADD seems to be of such undisciplined force when we try to keep it in its box, and that once released – unlike the real Pandora’s box – it is much easier to harness.

    • Scott Hutson

      I agree Betsy! For me is was realizing that I have ADHD, and learning from the many mistakes I have made and will make. Jeff’sADDMind has played an important part in my ability to see the truth about ADHD because of people like You,Gina,Katy,and the list goes on. I will never “Embrace” ADHD, but to “Own” ADHD is a goal well worth achieving!

      I’m am only a child who is still learning “With a little help from Me friends” (British Accent) :)

      • Katy Rollins

        I too, am grateful for the great ADHD connections I have made online. You’ve all helped me to really digest this journey in a useful way.

        • Jeff

          I don’t wanna get weepy but, heck, I think we’ve been each others (very) significant support team. Without the feedback of all of you (even the once-in-a-blue-moon folks) I don’t think I could have worked through some of the issues I faced.

          You know what this means…we’re gonna have to schedule a big barbecue when all of us can show up and do the group hug thing. ;)

          • gina pera

            Jeff — I’ll bring the BBQ, but only if you promise to sing Kumbaya. xo

            • Jeff

              I’ll sing Kumbaya and bring along my latest food obsession…the “stuffed” pizza…which I make on the grill (indirect heat) since it’s too hot to fire up the oven. Made it last night with broccoli, spinach, chicken, mozzarella and some plum tomatoes from the garden. See:

              • Scott Hutson

                I’ll bring some of my garden salsa. I will be kind and make a few different varieties. From realy, Realy, REALY HOT! —-To kinda hot. I’ve got at least 50 habenaros on the plants right now, along with 5 or 6 other kind of pepper plants. Already have 3.. gallon size zipplocks full of harvest this summer. :)

                • Jeff

                  Can you dry out habaneros? I once did that with red chili peppers. I had so many of them that now…four years later…I’m still using them in my cooking. I dried them out by running a needle and thread threw them and stringing them up on my window…and just let the sun dry them out.

                  • Scott Hutson

                    Probably can dry em out and use em. I do know that dry-ed and crushed cayenne peppers are sold as hot chili pepper seasoning at stores. And man-o-man it is hot and when I’ve used in cooking, I learned the hard way to not over do it. I have a (can’t think of the name) thing collecting dust that I used to make beef jerky,dry-ed fruits etc….That I have been thinkin’ bout’ using with some of my peppers. Glad you mentioned it Jeff. :)

          • Betsy

            Who are we going to cook?

  • Jeff

    Betsy, you wrote: “As for the Pandora analogy, it might be, Jeff, that ADD seems to be of such undisciplined force when we try to keep it in its box, and that once released – unlike the real Pandora’s box – it is much easier to harness.” I suspect that, in time, I will find that you are correct, that it seemed like an unbridled force because it was kept locked up.

    Hmmmm…unbridled force. Is there a connection between this and (some) ADHDer’s affinity for horseback riding? ;)

  • Jay

    First of all, I missed this post because I only subscribe to the ADHD feed. I shall remedy that problem if I can remember 30 seconds after I post this.

    I liked your post, but I’m having trouble applying the idea to myself. What would it mean to fully embrace my ADHD? The primary symptoms I have to deal with is difficulty concentrating, getting sh*t done, and “the fog”. I can’t see myself accepting that state of being. ADD’s unconstrained force is all directed inward and I can’t see how THAT doesn’t constrain me. Am I missing something? Is there a way to be at peace with that me?

    Does embracing your ADHD mean you stop medicating it? Is medication part of fighting or part of acceptance?

    Wow, look at all those questions. :)

    • Jeff

      First (and most important), I made a change to the feed. Now…on to that other stuff. ;)

      To “own” your ADHD is an attitude change. It’s to acknowledge it is a part of who you are, a permanent part of you. You can’t get it burned away with a laser. You can’t kill it off with an antibiotic. It is to acknowledge that you can’t become non-ADHD nor can you alter your behaviors to become non-ADHD. Yes, you can improve many things through the use of medication, through therapy, through beating up your kids (ok…threw that in to see if you were paying attention…please…don’t beat up your kids!!). To some degree, it means…go with the flow. Don’t try to stop the flow. None of this is to mean that being “in the fog” is your new way of being. But it means, for example, that you may take a somewhat circuitous route to accomplish things whereas, prior to owning your ADHD, you may have tried to do it by following a linear, straight-path route like those crazy non-ADHDers.

      The radical changes in my blog is an example of refocusing my intellectual and emotional efforts AWAY FROM containing my ADHD and instead, allowing my various interests to come to the foreground while seeing the ADHD as, well, sort of coming along for the ride. So instead of seeing the ADHD as something that I must first eradicate in order to let it all out, I now try to see it as being a natural part of me…just like my legs, my arms, my thoughts are a natural part of me.

      I hope I’ve clarified it a bit. Again…it’s an attitude change. It’s a matter of finding a balance point where I can get things done (NOT be stuck in the fog) while at the same time not fighting the ADHD. Quick example: as I write this, I’m looking at the clock that’s on my desk. I’m typing quickly. I’m thinking…”finish up this comment, set your clock timer for five minutes and walk away from your desk.” That’s my ADHD needing to express itself. That’s me ALLOWING the ADHD to be expressed as opposed to forcing myself to continue to sit at my desk. I’m getting done what I need to get done (this comment), I’m giving myself a five minute “ADHD break” and then I’ll focus on those other tasks (like the one’s that pay me money) that need to get done.

      Last…I wrote a piece that appears in the Fall 2010 issue of ADDitude magazine. That piece examines my technique for organizing work. What’s the technique? Turns out…it’s to use several different techniques! By having different techniques/methods: paper-calendar; to-do lists, etc., I can track what needs to be done AND keep myself (my ADHD) entertained. When I don’t feel like using method A…I just switch to method B, etc. The point is that, instead of constraining myself to using a single method (“put everything in your Blackberry”), I went with the flow, went with my ADHD, created a viable and entertaining method and *still* manage to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. But to do that…I needed to do what Sinatra said, I needed to do it my way. And that, in essence, is what it means to “own” your ADHD. It is to accomplish all that you need to accomplish – acknowledging there are some things that you may NEVER accomplish – by doing it your way.

  • Raksha

    Wonderful post, Jeff!

    Re “Once I got the upper hand I would put on the straight jacket of normalcy. However, this had an unintended side effect — constraining my ADHD also meant constraining me.”

    If you’re anything like me (and I have no reason to think you aren’t) you CAN’T constrain yourself for very long, simply because it takes too much energy to maintain a facade of what the world considers “normal.” And it’s never a very convincing facade despite my best efforts, because it’s unnatural and goes against the grain. And worse than anything else, I end up suppressing or constraining my most unique gifts in the process. Like it or not, the curse and the gift of ADD are inextricably bound together. That much has been clear to me ever since I was first able to put a name to the “curse” that has been sabotaging me my entire life. That’s why I call it the genetic booby prize, the Trickster in my DNA.

    More and more lately I’ve come to think of ADD not as something I “have” like a virus or cancer or some other disease–not even as a genetic disease–but as something that I *AM.” I usually say that I “am” ADD/ADHD and not that I “have” it. I’ve also become acutely aware that there are high-functioning ADD people who are often very high achievers, and then again there are the dysfunctional low achievers like me. That in itself could become a source of endless guilt, but it is NOT due to any lack of intelligence or creativity, or even lack of “will power” on my part.

    It’s because I never had a clue what “ADD-normal” is, and I truly believe there is such a thing. We just haven’t defined it yet. We will NEVER be “normal” by the conventional standards because we aren’t hard-wired for it. But if Thom Hartmann is right, if there really is a “Hunter” (as opposed to a “Farmer” neurology, a specific evolutionary type with its own built-in advantages and disadvantages, then there also has to be an alternate definition of what “normal” means FOR US, and what it might look like and feel like.


    • Jeff

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful, heartfelt words. You are correct to assume that I am like you in that being constrained saps too much energy. And I find it interesting that we’ve come to similar conclusions, namely that we *are* our ADHD and that it’s not a foreign virus.

      While we all have lofty goals for ourselves, more and more I see achievement as a relative, personal term and that achieving an inner peace and a basically pleasant life is a major achievement in itself…even if one is *not* ADHD.

      Perhaps you and I and the other regular visitors to the blog will come to define a new “normal” that applies to ADHDers.

  • Raksha

    You can keep your damn habaneros, Scott…I like my salsa with jalapenos, thank you very much–and with the membranes and seeds removed! Yeah, so I’m a wuss–but I already know that!

    FYI: That thing you dry out peppers and make beef jerky and so on in is called a dehydrator.


  • Rich

    Hi all.
    I’m new here and would like to give my 2 cents on “ ”normal” that applies to ADHDers.”
    I don’t think it is any more possible than having the same symptoms for everyone with ADD. 
    From Hollowells epic book his list of symptoms  your symptoms may be different from everyone else’s. In fact I have never met another one of us with the exact same set. Therefore normal should be different for everyone.

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      I think we’ll see in the next handful of years the acceptance of the idea that there are numerous types of ADHD and, as a result, “normal” will be different for different ADHDers. So, yes, I’m in agreement with you. You may find this post about Parker’s book to be of relevance here. See:

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      And welcome to the blog!

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