Adulthood is where the bright eyed and bushy tailed dreams of our youth fade into the meaninglessness of routine and dullness.
As children, everything was easy and exciting. We put on a blanket capes and boom we were a super hero. Not just any super hero, of course, but the best kind. The one that can fly and turn invisible or the kind that kind hang upside down and clime up tall objects, even if our parents said we couldn’t. The hero we became meant something to us and made us feel good to be that hero. But as we grew up, we lost that meaning. We do things, not because it’s meaningful and important to us, but because we have to or because someone else said we had to. Just like our parents did when we were kids. When it was time for bed, but we were still wearing our blanket capes and flying around the room. Our parents came in declaring it was time for bed, and when we asked why we had to go to bed, we were often met with “Because I said so.” That is what adulthood is. Why work meaningless full time jobs, why must we find a spouse, get married and have kids, why must we waste away our precious resources into the bottomless abyss of student loans in exchange for a degree? Because we were told to.
ADHD is unique because it’s almost as though your brain runs on auto pilot. It often decides for you, against your will, what it will and won’t do. With an ADHD brain, focus, essentially, is based on interest not importance. So no matter how important it is for you to start that report that’s due tomorrow and no matter how much you push yourself to do it, if your brain decides that it doesn’t want to do it, you’re in for a HELL of a time. Your head will hurt, your stomach might clench and you’ll find yourself literally in pain and you haven’t even started yet. Like a child, you’ll find your attention coming and going and your sense of responsibility practically non existent. If you’re in a relationship, your partner may constantly remind you of your childlike tendencies and how they feel they are always babysitting you. Those words resonate with you. As those words repeat over and over in your mind like a painful memory, you sink into self-hating depression wondering why you are the way that you are, how selfish you are, and how much heartache you’ve caused your significant other.
If this sounds familiar, here is my solution for you. Stop pretending that in order to be a functioning human you need to be an ‘adult’. You need to take pride in how you resemble a child because it is not a bad thing at all. Let me explain. Own up to the fact that you function like a child and do not let yourself be ashamed. It may present difficulties, but you must stop fighting it away. Because you can’t. You are not like everyone else and you need to stop trying to be. Instead, come up with creative solutions to your problems like you would a child. You are a child at heart and you need rewards, incentives, a tangible explanations as to why you have to do the things you need to do.
For example, say you need to create your budget for the week. I personally HATE doing this and everything inside me fights back when I even think about it. So what do you do if your ADHD won’t let you work? Make it something fun and give yourself a reward for doing it. Do not think ‘I should do this’, instead think ‘I want to do this because….’ I want to make my budget so I can plan what I can buy with any extra money! I want to do the dishes because I can catch up on my favorite show while I do it. I want to start my essay because I want to learn about southern African tribes and I will treat myself to chocolate afterwards.
Explain to Yourself the Reason and Make Your Argument Air Tight
It helps a lot to explain why you need to do something and give yourself some background as to why it matters. You may already know it’s important, but your brain, trying as desperately as it can to find a way out of doing it, will try to find any reason not to do it. So make sure you try to think of every reason you may not want to do it and come up with a way to deal with that issue. To others, it may appear as though you don’t care enough about doing that thing, but you must just disregard what others may think of you and just do what works for you.
When explaining to yourself the reasons you need to do something, try to keep it positive. For example, if you need to make a budget but you just can’t get yourself to do it. Try to avoid telling yourself that if you don’t do it, you may overspend and end up negative or that you may not be able to pay bills. If you say that, you’ll scare yourself away from doing it and make it that much harder to sit down and do it because not you’ve made an association with something negative.
Make sure you are thorough when writing down the reasons you may have for not doing something. Think about what has stopped you from accomplishing things in the past. What kind of thinking has prevented you from moving forward and how can you address that? For example, I need a tangible reward or enjoyment of some kind from doing something I hate doing. Because I hate doing it so much, it’s painful so it helps to have some kind of reward to say ‘YOU DID IT!’ It could be eating something sweet, or watching a show, or playing a video game. Just something that makes you feel good that’s not totally bad for you.
Accept and Anticipate Behavior
If you have a tendency to want to back out last minute from events because you don’t feel like going, anticipate that you will want to back out when making plans and figure out how you will deal with those emotions when they arise. If you’re having trouble thinking of some solutions try to think of ways that the event will benefit you or make you feel good. Will you get to meet people who like the things that you like, will you get to grow your network, improve your social skills, re-connect with an old friend, eat delicious food, do something you find fun?
I’ve found that it’s best to be honest with myself and not impose unrealistic expectations upon myself. Instead, I admit that I will probably do or be tempted to do something I don’t like and I work on creating a creative solution around the truth.
DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP
Do NOT. I repeat, DO NOT beat yourself up if you fall into the temptation of distraction or neglect some responsibility. While it’s objectively not a good thing, it’s best to move on quickly. Do not beat yourself up if you forgot something, didn’t complete something till the end, the result of some project didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, or if you couldn’t get yourself to start on something that you now have very little time to complete. DO NOT START BASHING YOURSELF. Instead, think about how to deal with these issues in the future. What can you do to avoid waiting till the last minute or finishing something to the end? Focus your thinking on solutions and positivity. If you lay into yourself when you make a mistake, your self-esteem will plummet and anything you wanted to do or planned to accomplish will just fall by the wayside as you succumb to your distractions for relief.