Time To Grow Up

There comes a time in life when we all must grow up, a time when we dispense with the mythology that brought us to our current stage in life. We stop believing in Santa Claus. We stop believing in the tooth fairy. We stop believing that ADHD gives us superpowers. Yes. You read that correctly. We STOP believing that ADHD gives us superpowers. No amount of heel clicking, hand clapping or fairy dust will turn disadvantages into advantages. To continually repeat this childish nonsense is to trivialize that which should NOT be trivialized. Perhaps if Sensei Hutchinson had to raise a child he would rethink the nonsense that he peddles as a sort of brilliant reality. Would he tell his child that the reason she doesn’t have many friends is because of the “advantages” of ADHD?  Would he tell his child that the reason she keeps forgetting her homework, the reason why she can’t sit still in her science class (even though she love’s that class), the reason why so many things are a struggle for her is because of the advantages of ADHD? [note 1]

This is not a trivial issue. We cannot simply “reframe” our disadvantages as advantages. We cannot simply take the blue pill instead of the red pill. To perpetuate this nonsense is to MISEDUCATE THE PUBLIC about the real seriousness of ADHD. In fact, based on sensei’s ADHD is a Superpower myth, IT IS NOT A DISORDER! IT IS A SET OF ADVANTAGES!! How in the world will anyone take you seriously — how will anyone take us ADHDers seriously?! — if you say that the disorder that has caused great hardship in your life now confers magical powers?

Maybe I have the wrong attitude. Maybe I should say “F**k the law of gravity! I’m an out-of-the-box thinker!” And as I jump off my rooftop shouting “Up, Up and Away!” and my body hurtles towards the earth, then it will become painfully obvious that ADHD is not fairy dust or a magic potion. If I should survive slamming into the ground of reality, I will finally come to know that reality truly is brilliant because it will always win in the end. Of course, I don’t really have to jump off of a roof to know that ADHD does not make me into a superhero. I’ll admit. Sometimes I do have that fantasy but I’m old enough and smart enough to be able to separate fantasy from reality. I’m an adult. I can handle the truth. I’ll swallow the red pill.

P.S. to Bryan: Though you have censored several comments that I left on your blog, I will not do the same to you. We learn through discussion. Removing comments undermines the learning process. I rather learn that I am wrong than remain in ignorance by believing in falsehoods.

  1. Where is the logic of saying that ADHD is like fairy dust and then saying that the burden of ADHD causes lost childhoods? Please! Be consistent! ADHD is good? ADHD is bad? ADHD is sexy? I’m very confused.
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  • Andrew Tetlaw

    I completely agree.

  • http://18channels.blogspot.com Katy R.

    Well…I always attempt the balanced response to this topic and so…because this is an issue that will come up over and over, and it’s important, I will respond again and say this:

    I do not believe that ADHD in itself is an advantage. But I do believe that by working to learn ways to make our lives and actions more effective, we can still succeed and learn and thrive. Occasionally, I do feel that because I have ADHD, I am forced to view or approach things in ways that end up being novel and useful and innovative in their way.

    An important next step in this conversation though is that intersection where ADHD and personality meet. We each have our own personalities, and these, as much as ADHD will determine our approach through life. Lots of variables there…lots of possible outcomes.

    • Jeff

      “But I do believe that by working to learn ways to make our lives and actions more effective, we can still succeed and learn and thrive.” – We’re in complete agreement.
      “Occasionally, I do feel that because I have ADHD, I am forced to view or approach things in ways that end up being novel and useful and innovative in their way.” – If you take intelligence out of the equation…that’s when it becomes obvious that ADHD offers no advantages and, yes, ADHD may force you to come up with somewhat more novel ways of doing things but it’s your intelligence that makes it possible to arrive at a solution. If, say, you were physically handicapped and you came up with a device that helps you to overcome that handicap…would you say that the handicap made it possible to find the solution or would you say that it was your intelligence that made it possible for you to find the solution?

      • http://addmsorboth.blogspot.com/ Scott Hutson

        I’ve been reading more about controlling (not curing, there are no cures) the symptoms of ADHD (and some other non ADHD personal probs). And there are some things that they all have in commen. One being that there is no proven evidence that any of them, including ADHD, that gives me higher levels of intellectual ability, intelligence, sex appeal, intuition, etc….than any other normal, healthy person may have or not.

        But you are right Jeff, it is intelligence that gives me the abilty to read and understand the science and methods that are recommended to help control these things as best I can. So it is, was, and will always be “Time To Grow Up”. Great Post! (it’s late and past my bedtime now, I better get to bed or I’ll be grounded. ;)

        • Jeff

          Obviously we are in complete agreement. What’s most worrisome is the misconception that’s created by seeing ADHD (or other problems) as being some sort of special gift. No one will take you seriously if you tell them you struggle with it each day. Even worse…what do you tell a child? You don’t have to say it’s terrible to have but you certainly don’t want to say that it makes it possible for you to see through walls.

          Hope you got to sleep on time. ;)

          • http://addmsorboth.blogspot.com/ Scott Hutson

            “What do you tell a child?”- That’s a question that I wish some parents would ask and take seriously before assuming they could cure the problem by spanking, screaming or “time outs”. And visa-versa, pampering and assuming the child is gifted because they read the myths that are endorsed by some blogs,salesmen…..etc.

            Something I remember that my Mom used to say: “Little Pitchers have big ears.”

  • Andrew Tetlaw

    I wonder if there’s any significant difference between the frequency of creative traits in the ‘normal’ population to that within the ADD population.

    Don’t forget about the large proportion of the ADD population who are either in jail, on the streets, living a dead-end life. I wonder if those people are thankful for their gifts…

    • Jeff

      “I wonder if there’s any significant difference between the frequency of creative traits in the ‘normal’ population to that within the ADD population.” – There’s no data that I know of on this but ask an articulate ADHDer and he/she is likely to say “of course we more creative than the ‘normal’ population.” And as you so rightly point out…there are many people sitting in jail who are enjoying the blessings of their “gift.” ;)

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      “Don’t forget about the large proportion of the ADD population who are either in jail” – Hence the problem of referring to ADHD as a gift. If the gift lands you in jail…perhaps it’s really a booby prize. ;)

      “I wonder if there’s any significant difference between the frequency of
      creative traits in the ‘normal’ population to that within the ADD
      population.” – I think only ADHDers think they are more creative. You may find this post to be of interest: http://jeffsaddmind.com/the-brilliant-reality-of-adhd-11226.htm

    • http://twitter.com/seorsamchugh George McHugh

      When I was in grad school I studied intelligence, and was specializing in assessing creativity (Two big caveats: 1) When I was in grad school ADD/ADHD had a dubious place in the world of psychology and 2) I did not finish my masters, though basically finished my thesis, sounds ADHD huh?). Some ADHD traits could very well support the creative mind. An important aspect of creativity is creative productivity. So and ADHD’er who can harness hyper focus(or even a person with OCD) to obsess on a subject, topic, or art work, could stay engaged long enough to say, produce several paintings in a weekend (I have a friend that does this). My daughter, who is totally ADHD, writes and and directs film. She has not been diagnosed, but now that I have been diagnosed there is no doubt in either of our minds that she is. Some times her ADHD brain gives her flashes of genius where whole films, from subject through screen play, and even shot by shot come to her. But she also has a hard time finishing things, especially formal academic stuff. She is reading something like 18 books, and the other day said, “I just want to finish one” in total frustration. Being the crappy parent I am I said, “Pick one”. I should know better and have more sympathy.  I do the same thing to myself sometimes. I am pretty open about my ADHD, and try to get peole to understanding of me, but I have such a long way to go. I also have so much to learn, but that is one of my favorite things to do, and why Jeff’s blog is the best ADHD blog I have read. And I appreciate him not censoring my long winded comments. Obviously I could not be a blogger!

  • http://twitter.com/seorsamchugh George McHugh

    First off, about censoring: i saw this in my feed this morning from @rickygervais:disqus : The only valid form of censorship is a person’s right not to listen. Don’t ban someone you think is an idiot. Let them prove it
    So that should be your message to the dude who censored you.  I am not sure how I ended up on this post from your twitter update, but I am glad I did. I am totally new to the ADHD world having been diagnosed after realizing I was drowning at work under piles of undone paperwork and projects. Like I told my doctor, if I had a boss I would be fired. Now looking back on my life I can see some really positive things about ADHD. One example, last fall I decided to become an EMT, and enrolled in evening classes. I passed my class, my skills certification and the National exam in short order. In my class dozens of people failed. It has enhanced my value as a volunteer Mountain Bike Patrol member, and I enjoy other volunteer opportunities now too.  So I think one issue is, and of course this is an inherent challenge with blogging, it is not really an either or question. People that have worked with me for years will admit I have mad skills, but if I have to lay them off because I didn’t pay a few bills out of last year’s money, they might not feel so positive about me. Two ideas are bouncing around in my head though, there are assertions out there that a significant number of people in prisons have ADHD, and that ADHD’ers make up 17% of CEO’s. So maybe if you have access to support, adequate food shelter and schooling, you get by. If you are poor, or a person of color, you end up in prison. I may be a CEO, but if I were to be totally honest about my life, there are plenty of things I have done that if they came to the attention of law enforcement I may have been sent to jail, possible even prison.  I have also been in really stupid dangerous life threatening positions, but in some of those my crazy ADHD brain saved me too.  So I haven’t read the other dudes blog, but I would definitely rule out fairy dust, but as extreme as your radioactive example is, it may be apt. That power can be harnessed, or it can eat away at us, or it can destroy us thermo-nuclear style.

    • Augie Weiss

      “If you are poor, or a person of color, you end up in prison.” 
      I hate the thought that these factors attribute to incarceration rates but it might make for an interesting study: “Do African Americans have higher rates of ADHD than other races” 
      It’s a fact that people of color have higher incarceration rates which many have suggested is caused by access to quality representation because of income or / and other sociological reasons. 
      Your other premise that “access to support, adequate food shelter and schooling” I would suggest has a more important role (I might discount food). Just the ability to get diagnosed at an early age is critical to correcting inappropriate behaviors. Access to early assessment is clearly lacking everywhere but especially so in lower income communities.

      Why did you decide to me an EMT? Bless you for helping society in such a noble way. I wonder how much of your ADHD played a role? You believe it has and I agree with you that it can be considered a great thing but looking at it from the other side had your skills in business had been better (without ADHD) how would you have contributed to the betterment of society? 

      You might also ask yourself how much better of an EMT would you be without ADHD?

      I don’t know the answers to these questions but I believe it is the point of Jeff’s posts but I should let Jeff speak to his intent.

      Good luck and thank you for being an EMT.


      • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

        “”Do African Americans have higher rates of ADHD than other races” – Not at all. They happen to engage in the types of activities that land them in jail. They don’t have access to the good stuff. White people are actually much more adept at being criminals but we don’t send in the police when they engage in such crimes. Instead we reward them and give them them special names: Wall Street Tycoons; Job Creators, etc.

        If you want to read about it, see “The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison.” http://paulsjusticepage.com/reiman.htm

        • Augie Weiss

          The question is why do they engage in these activities? Socioeconomics is a huge factor but without a study…

          Still statistics only go so far. 
          What about other groups ie: Asians, Jamaicans and others. I read this this evening and was surprised:
          http://totallyadd.com/perception-and-culture/ And then I saw this: http://mccamcentre.blogspot.com/2010/05/adhd-prevalence-study-in-jamaica.html.

          Kind of makes me wonder what’s going on. I would have thought it’s harder to mask in a faster pace environment.

          • http://twitter.com/seorsamchugh George McHugh

            I have not delved into the academic world of ADHD publications. But I loved both your links. THe second one  is interesting to me because in CA special education programs work with children as young as possible. If a speech therapist can work with a baby, rather than a five year old who has not spoken for years, they are much more likely to be successful. I only imagine how hard it must be for parents who have had years of bad habits with their ADHD kids then try and fix everything amongst the stress of being behind in school, perhaps even alienated from other kids because of their impulsive “weird” behavior like my nephew has experienced. So sad. I was lucky to have been so high functioning (at least I think so haha) for so many years. Looking back though, boy do I have regrets, but at least a new understanding too.

        • http://twitter.com/seorsamchugh George McHugh

          Jeff and Augie- I think the evidence that people of color are treated unjustly in the US Justice system is incontrovertible. There is a massive amount of peer reviewed information about this in the fields of criminal justice, law, social science and ethnic and gender studies. At the most basic level (I doubt i am there myself) one can see that people of color are treated differently than whites, and as Jeff point’s out, middle class and “upper class” individuals far better, though race is still a discernible factor even for wealthier people of color.

          There is an excellent book that takes a look at the history of convict lease systems (the basis of our modern prison industrial complex) that replaced slavery, and how that has led to our modern day system. “Are Prisons Obsolete” by Angela Davis is short, well laid out, and a page turner. http://www.amazon.com/Are-Prisons-Obsolete-Angela-Davis/dp/1583225811/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325741287&sr=8-1

           I have seen claims that as many as 60% of prisoners are ADHD. That seems high to me, but when you consider the role impulsiveness plays in the “stupid” crime, it may not be far off. I have not had time to chase down the sources of the 60%, but I think it was a news article about California’s massive scheme to reduce its prison population by releasing large numbers of non-violent offenders, and the new medical prison center being built in my city. Unfortunately the release of these prisoners is not being coordinated with a well thought out social support system, and especially behavioral medicine. We are hiring lots of probation officers, but that is not a comprehensive approach, and it is a job that seems to me something that takes quite some time to master. The article that mentioned ADHD talked about how difficult it is to get meds for prisoners, especially things like amphetamines, anti-anxiety meds like xanex .

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      “That power can be harnessed, or it can eat away at us, or it can destroy us thermo-nuclear style.” – I think this sums it up beautifully. I like the “nuclear” analogy.

      Being an EMT definitely makes sense. The adrenaline rush; the ability to think quickly and calmly in a crisis; the feeling of doing something that really saves lives. I could see the appeal.

      And welcome to the blog. Don’t hesitate to go through the archives and leave comments.

  • Dev

    It’s fire. Be careful, be mindful, or you’ll burn the whole forest down.

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