Is Your ADHD a Blessing or a Curse?
Sometimes conditions aren’t as straightforward as they’re made to seem. This is The Mighty Takeaway.
Lately there’s been a surge of adults realizing that “quirks” they’ve had all their life aren’t simply quirks, rather they’re traits of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). On one hand people may live with rejection sensitive dysphoria, executive dysfunction, hyperfixations, periods of hyperfocus and other general struggles with attention regulation. On the other hand, people may be able to multitask like none other, lead heart centered lives around things they’re passionate about and are known for being extremely creative. These numerous traits have left people with ADHD to figure out whether their disorder is a blessing or a curse.
As everyone’s relationship with their ADHD is different, we asked four Mighty Super Contributors their personal takes on what life with ADHD is like for them, and if they feel like it’s truly a hindrance, or something they’re proud to have.
Joining us today with their Mighty Takeaways are Brian Fu, Erica Chau, Christa Marie and Jill Alexandra. Comment your personal feelings about your life with ADHD below and make sure you join The Neurodivergent Crowd on The Mighty for support.
1. How long ago were you diagnosed with ADHD?
Erica: “Official” diagnosis and assessment would mean days away from work and thousands of dollars — I am self diagnosed as of eight months ago.
Brian: I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist with ADHD about two years ago.
Jill: I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist when I was 17, but my teachers had been making “gentle suggestions” since I was quite young.
Christa Marie: I was diagnosed this past February, so just a few months ago.
I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist when I was 17, but my teachers had been making “gentle suggestions” since I was quite young.
2. When reflecting about your life pre-diagnosis, how do you feel knowing that your “quirks” or “traits” were in fact a neurodivergent condition and not just you being “lazy?”
Erica: It feels very validating. All the things that annoy myself, my parents and people around me — it’s not my fault. My coffee consumption, ability to juggle a thousand tasks all in one go, my speaking, thinking and typing speeds, my inability to just “be” in silence all makes sense.
Brian: Living with bipolar disorder and ADHD can make identifying the source of certain symptoms difficult, since they can both express themselves in similar ways. Now when I look back on the times after receiving my bipolar diagnosis, but before the official ADHD diagnosis, I can see and differentiate very clearly what symptoms were, and are, fueled by either a manic/depressive episode, or spells of hyperactivity/inattentiveness.
Jill: I was told in school that I was very smart if I would just “apply myself.” I was working as hard as I possibly could. Looking back I see why I was so tired and self-loathing — I was putting in superhuman effort and it wasn’t working. I assumed it was still somehow my fault. I feel sad for that little girl who tried so hard and was so heartbroken because she was never “good enough.”
Christa Marie: I think what stands out to me most is my executive dysfunction. I would try and try to get certain things done and my brain just wouldn’t let me, and I felt so frustrated and defeated because I didn’t understand why.
All the things that annoy myself, my parents and people around me — it’s not my fault.
3. How would you describe your relationship to your ADHD? Has it changed over time?
Erica: I already have borderline personality disorder (BPD), anxiety, and depression — what’s another to add to the list? It’s just part of who I am, not a defining characteristic. Just like all my other “official” diagnoses.
Brian: My relationship with my ADHD has certainly changed since I first got my diagnosis. I went from hating my ADHD and seeing it as a roadblock, to better understanding it from my own perspective. After years of treatment and coming to terms with my ADHD, I would say my relationship with it is, at best, “complicated.”
Jill: Being almost 35 years old, I’ve been forced to make peace with my ADHD. In the working world I felt like I could never make it, no matter how hard I tried. When I discovered the film/TV industry and entertainment production, I realized that I could use my rapid fire brain for something productive. Being able to (and needing to) do something different every 10 seconds was suddenly an asset.
Christa Marie: I would say I’m mostly frustrated with my ADHD. Between RSD impacting relationships, executive dysfunction preventing me from doing things I need to get done and random bursts of hyperactivity at the most inconvenient moments — I find it really frustrating because it interferes with how I wish I could live my life. I often find myself wishing my brain could just be “normal” and work the way everyone else does.
I went from hating my ADHD and seeing it as a roadblock, to better understanding it from my own perspective.
4. Overall, do you believe that ADHD is a blessing or a curse ?
Erica: I see it as a superpower, when it cooperates with me. I’m able to delve much deeper into topics of interest for me, juggle many tasks at one time (who said multitasking isn’t real?) and I know that I am fast at everything that I do. It can get in the way of stuff (because I put things off, lose momentum or sometimes bigger tasks take a long time) but when it’s managed properly, it’s very effective.
Brian: I certainly would not say ADHD is a blessing for me because of how severely the cognitive impairments impact my daily life, but I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s a curse either. ADHD is a very complex neurodivergence, so even with the challenges I face managing symptoms, the camaraderie I’ve found with other people with ADHD has been comforting for me as I manage all of my mental illnesses.
Jill: It’s definitely something in between. ADHD can be an advantage, but only in small specific settings. In the general world it’s a curse, but if you find that little spot in life where you just click with the place and the people and the work, it isn’t quite a blessing, but it can be an advantage. At the end of the day, my ADHD “quirks” make me the person I am — and quirky awkwardness just makes me unique!
Christa Marie: Honestly, as much as it frustrates me, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a curse, although I most certainly wouldn’t call it a blessing. I’d say it’s somewhere in between. It’s still a core part of who I am, and I don’t know that I’d truly change it if I had the chance.
I see it as a superpower, when it cooperates with me.
- In one sentence, what advice would you give to someone with a similar relationship with their ADHD?
Erica: Whether you’re ‘officially’ or ‘self’ diagnosed – you are valid.
Brian: Don’t think your relationship with ADHD has to be “good” or “bad,” you’re allowed to have a “complicated” relationship with it.
Jill: It’s ok to feel uncertain about your relationship with ADHD, because every minute of the day brings something different and it may or may not be something your ADHD plays nicely with.
Christa Marie: Give yourself permission to work with the way your brain works; don’t try to shove yourself into the box of neurotypicality when that isn’t who you are.
Give yourself permission to work with the way your brain works; don’t try to shove yourself into the box of neurotypicality when that isn’t who you are.
What are your thoughts on the matter? We’d love to hear them! Comment below or post your thoughts in The Neurodivergent Crowd.