Many people with ADHD struggle with an array of challenges throughout their day-to-day lives. From time boundaries to memory difficulties to a million thoughts racing through their heads at a million miles an hour. One of my clients describes their thoughts as ping-ponging constantly between different thoughts which makes the ability to concentrate on any one task very difficult.
This can be difficult to understand because the other thing that comes with ADHD is hyper-focusing, so if someone with ADHD finds something they are interested in they can concentrate on that for hours at a time, often forgetting to eat or drink when in this zone.
The challenges are amplified when ADHDers are expected to perform and function like everyone else in society when it comes to things like work, parenting, socialising, school or learning environments etc.
Many people struggle with motivation and executive functioning and so are labelled lazy by people around them and by society. Society says we should work, work, work and if we are not working then we are not good enough... The impact on many people but especially ADHDers is that sense of incompetence and hopelessness. "why can't I just do it like that" "Why is this simple task so difficult for me?" "I'm so lazy, what's the point"
As people begin to explore the possibility of ADHD they are then faced with "most people have traits like that." "I struggle with memory loss" "Im always late too, it doesn't mean it's ADHD" "why do you need a label?"
Receiving comments like this dismisses the true turmoil that the person with ADHD has gone through their entire lives... it's not just a bit of memory loss, it's so severe it impacts every aspect of their lives.
Imagine having a tv in your head on 70% volume and flickering through each of the channels constantly, with no time to focus on the one channel because as soon as something comes on, the channels switched and we are on a different programme altogether.
That is one aspect of having ADHD, it's incredibly debilitating and overwhelming. So imagine having the same tv on and then going to work and trying to function in your work setting.
Already I am feeling overwhelmed just thinking about this.
Overwhelm builds up and that leads to either a meltdown of anger, tears, frustration or burnout which then results in an inability to even get dressed, let alone perform any tasks that day. It can result in arguments with loved ones and loneliness and despair. That then feeds the negative self-talk of "why am I like this, why can't I do this, why does everyone else function so well."
If you think you have ADHD or perhaps you have recently been diagnosed, it's really important to give yourself space to process and understand yourself. Whether this is with a trained therapist or a trusted friend, exploring who you are and the difficulties you face can feel liberating and emotional. Being responded to empathically and accepted without any judgment with someone who can help you process and understand yourself better is the kindness and compassion you have been unable to give yourself for a long time.
This creates space for you to begin to accept yourself and slowly begin to explore your neurodivergence with other people in your life.
After all, holding on to all that stuff that constantly goes on in your head whilst trying to function and not letting anyone know how much you are struggling is all pretty exhausting stuff.
To let go of some of that can feel significantly less heavy, liberating and freeing but it can also bring up vulnerability and feelings of being exposed which is why it is important to do this with someone you can trust.
Another important thing to note is that if a person has experienced trauma throughout their lives then the task of the therapist is to untangle what is trauma and what is ADHD, once you have untangled that, and processed that, you can then focus on exploring your neurodivergence; what it means to you, what it looks like and what support can be put in place to enable you to function throughout your day to day life.
One experience I had when in counselling myself was that my inability to sit still was observed by the therapist as trauma, my inability to speak when I'm overwhelmed was pre-verbal trauma, and my inability to emotionally regulate myself was trauma.
This made me feel even worse about myself because I wondered why I couldn't get to grips with certain things even after 3 years of therapy.
It was only when I established my own neurodivergence that I began to understand that sometimes there isn't a deeper-rooted meaning behind the way someone processes and responds to things, sometimes it just is what it is.
I say this acknowledging that my therapist at the time had no training in neurodivergence and didn't have any lived experience so her response was to find a deeper-rooted meaning - after all, she was a therapist and that's what I paid her to support me with.
Upon establishing my neurodivergence I would now search for a neurodivergent-affirming therapist unless I only wanted to unpick something trauma-related. So when looking for a therapist, look for someone who can help you process and understand all of you when you are in search of exploring your ADHD/autism etc.
This can enhance and help you unpick and untie the knots of trauma and your brain.