A lot of adults with ADHD don't feel like they worry too much or are too sensitive, but whenever I talk to my friends about how they see me, everyone says the same few things: I'm easily upset and sometimes I have 'drama' if something doesn't go my way.

I was diagnosed as a child and over the years I've learned that ADHD is so much more than a problem with distractions and forgetfulness. It's in every corner of my brain and personality...from reading, to overfeeling and oversharing emotions, to dealing with work processes and conflicts, to keeping a tidy house.

The people problems are the worst. I can't tell if my feelings of rejection are legit or made up. Feeling rejected is more painful to me than an injury. It physically hurts. Every time I feel threatened by someone else's rejection, I overreact and the cycle begins again.

There were years where I struggled to hold down a job and interact socially because the net result of my rejection cycle left me so anxious at the thought of getting into another rejection cycle with someone left me too anxious to function. No one in my life could even tell whether praise or criticism would set off another emotional bomb.

These days, I find it easier to avoid upsets. I work remotely from my home and can plan when I go out to meet the world. I am really assertive with managing my mental health and boundaries. The best way for me to do this? I shut off the TV, click “unfollow” on my social media accounts, and limit anyone who disturbs my peace. I also get out into nature - I feel better after some fresh air and movement.

I have a hyperactive mind and body, and I'm discovering that exercising my hyperactivity by using my body and neurodiverse mind the way they were created (that is, not in front of a screen) is the best way that I can rebalance myself with my ADHD and mental health.

It's still a journey but some days I actually feel like I'm winning when I consistently take care of myself.

Failure is a gift! As someone with ADHD, I have previously seen my cycles of excitement-to-burnout as failures. Reframing failure as a step towards eventual success has been enlightening.
As Carol Dweck said, there are two ways to look at the world: “In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented.”

Appreciate the process over the results:

  1. Don’t worry about the outcome and how fast you get there, but focus on how much learning you can get from the experience.
  2. Don’t say failing, say learning: This simple change in language helps shift your view of failure.
  3. Value criticism as a gift: Analyze all criticism, and take it as a useful point.
  4. Take time to reect: What lessons did you learn from your mistake?
  5. The “not yet” technique: Reminding yourself that you haven’t mastered this skill… yet

Viewing my unpredictable interests as a gift has been key in my transformation!

If I were diagnosed earlier, my life would have been much different.

I would not have had to put up with the abuse I endured growing up and after I left home. I was called lazy, stupid, and crazy and told that those with ADHD have lower intelligence than those with out it.

Nancy, diagnosed at age 55

"The collateral damage caused by ADHD knows no bounds. When I was diagnosed at 38, I began to understand the effect ADHD had on every aspect of my life: professional, personal, financial, etc. I wasn't just the guy who couldn't focus or sit still. I was deeply wounded. There was nothing it did not touch!"

- Craig, Newfoundland and Labrador

ADHD and autism both interfere with social skills, so it can take much longer for us to gain experience with our peers and potential romantic and sexual partners than it does for neurotypicals.

This experience however is often vital for us to properly understand our sexuality. For this reason, I feel there is a trend for many of us to not realize who and what we are until much later in life, and to go through a lot of unpleasantness on the way before learning to understand ourselves."

- Paul, Alberta
#PrideEdition #PrideMonth #ADHDSpeaks

Written by Lala

Having mental health disorders takes up such a huge part of someone's life, at least for me it does. It's something I struggle with and think about every day. It's always been a part of me. I have to decide who I feel comfortable opening up to about my diagnoses. I fear rejection, people not understanding my reality/struggles or using it against me. The stigma is real. ⁠

I see a lot of similarities between my identity as someone with mental illnesses and my identity as a queer person. Everything I mentioned can be applied to being queer, and I know there are other correlations. ⁠

These two aspects of my identity are the most important to me as they are something I have to confront on a daily basis, making it very present. But most importantly they make me unique and allow me to see the world in a different, more accepting and understanding way.

One thing I wish people knew is how affected individuals internalize the problems associated with ADHD, and struggle behind closed doors.

For a very long time, I felt an immense amount of guilt about my inability to perform in a way I knew I should be able to. My grades were bad not because I didn't understand, but because I couldn't make myself do the homework or pay attention in class. I would spend hours doing menial, unproductive tasks or browsing social media to keep my mind busy because I felt like I always needed to be occupied or active. I would take caffeine pills to stay awake at night because I felt guilty about wasting time sleeping, but find myself unable to actually utilize the extra time.

I didn't know until 6 months ago that my problems were because of ADHD, I just thought that I was lazy. That I was rude for talking over people or forgetting basic requests. I couldn't just sit and watch a movie or listen to an album or read a book like other people could, and I felt like I couldn't relate to anyone. Getting a diagnosis changed my life. More than being medicated, being understood made me feel less alone.

I want neurotypical people to know that ADHD isn't just the outward effects you personally witness or find frustrating. It is something that a lot of us internalize while trying to find answers for behaviours that feel out of our control.

By: Mick, from BC

To me, people’s approval is essential,

So when they say “I’m not reaching my full potential”,

Though they may think it inconsequential,

That statement can be detrimental,

And their opinions are influential,

But now I’m getting existential.

That sentence is tattooed inside my brain,

The message those words portray,

Is constantly on replay.

And at the end of the day,

The one thing that remains,

Is that constant feeling of shame,

And no, I don’t mean to complain,

But the thought still haunts me all the same.

You see, my “best” is hypothetical,

A concept that’s theoretical,

It's purely parenthetical.

It's honestly kind of pathetic, I’ll dream of this ideal person who I aspire to be,

But it’s not based in reality, it’s just the perfect version of me.

Now you think to yourself this is an unrealistic expectation,

And I agree which is why it can only lead to frustration,

I’m only complicating the situation by not giving up this infatuation

Of a preconceived notion that leaves me with reservations.

I start to doubt myself and all of my abilities,

Becoming blatantly aware of life’s perceived futility,

And so I end up greeting people with way too much hostility,

Causing them to question my mental stability,

Ultimately resulting in a mistrust of my facilities.

Then one day down the road I’m left believing I’m just the worst,

In fact, it’s even crossed my mind that I might just be cursed.

But by now it’s been so long that this thought process can’t be reversed,

And I’ve racked up so much self-loathing that I could surely burst.

“I don’t reach my potential”, yeah I’ve got that rehearsed,

And I’m constantly waiting for someone to tell me, lips pursed.

All because a trusted adult didn’t believe in me first.

If you took all of the things that were special about me,
you could put them all together and call it AD/HD
No better, no worse, just different that’s me.
I’m really now crazy, please try and see

Like a talented wizard in a world full of “Muggles”.

it’s no wonder all you see is frustration and struggles.
As I daydream and drift, you think no one’s there,
but nothing could be further from the truth, believe me, I swear.
I see your impatience as my mind starts to wander
But, you don’t know the depth of the thoughts that I ponder.
For creative thinkers, get lost in deep thought ,

which lead to the illusion that they cannot be taught.

I know trying to reach me can give you the blues,
but I wish for just once, you could walk in my shoes.
To see things through my eyes, you would be amazed,

at the speed and the sheer volume my thoughts seem to blaze.

I’m not lazy or stupid, if only you knew,
how truly difficult is it to limit myself and think like you do,
But, I can see things that you’ll never see,
it’s like a second nature, because I am me.
with lightening fast reflexes, I can switch gears,
to be firm and inflexible is the worst of my fears.
I’m calm in a crisis, and know just what to do,

For I’m in great company, Mozart, Edison, Churchill just to name a few.

So show me some patience, as I’m patient with you.
Just a little tolerance, it’s long overdue.
Please try and understand me, along with my AD/HD,

It’s a very big part of wonderfulness of me.

By: Robert, 58 years old

Written by Heidi Bernhardt R.N.

During this year’s ADHD Awareness Month’s Campaign CADDAC shared ADHD facts from peer reviewed research. Our media release and bus shelter posters stated that ADHD is a serious mental health disorder that can significantly impact one’s mental health as well as physical health. Consequently, a few followers shared that they found the messages too negative. They would have preferred more positive messaging, fun facts about ADHD and more comments on individuality and neurodiversity. As a mother, grandmother and spouse of someone with ADHD I can certainly understand these feelings. We want others to recognize the individuality, strengths and other wonderful traits of our kids and family members with ADHD and not just the down side.

One of our Facebook contributors suggested that it would be beneficial for CADDAC to let people know why we think people should know these facts and what CADDAC’s next steps are after this campaign and bus shelter advertisement. I though these were very insightful questions that should have been addressed earlier, so here goes. 

Unfortunately, medical research data by its very nature always removes individuality. It looks for commonality, raw data and percentages that can be used to draw conclusions. I remember when I first found out that ADHD was a part of our family, about thirty years ago, I read medical texts written for clinicians because little else was available. Even with a background in psychiatric nursing I found these extremely depressing. Most of the research data made it sound like my child was heading for a life of failure, unfortunately that has not changed much. After working closely with ADHD experts through CADDRA while building CADDAC I quickly realized that ADHD information, even if basically the same, should most often be nuanced according to the audience.

But here’s the rub. If we don’t share the negative facts about ADHD openly and bluntly, ADHD will never be recognized as something that requires society’s attention. We still lack resources for assessment and treatment nation wide. Access to multimodal treatments, even when strongly backed by research, are costly and difficult to access. Many students with ADHD across Canada are still unable to access the supports they deserve in order to reach their potential. Employers still do not understand that ADHD is actually a medical disability and similar to depression should allow the right to accommodations.

We at CADDAC also find it hugely concerning that: large mental health organizations still offer very little information about ADHD; many mental health centres still do not treat ADHD; many medical professionals still know little about ADHD and those that do often charge over provincial coverage to diagnose it; and large mental health awareness campaigns still do not include ADHD in their messaging. 

Almost on a daily basis CADDAC is reminded that our decision makers and elected officials do not understand the serious consequences of ignoring ADHD. They really don’t think about ADHD at all because they believe that ADHD is of no interest to their constituents. You see, their constituents do not speak to them about ADHD unlike parents of children with Autism. 

So, this year CADDAC chose to put out some hard facts about ADHD. Through our ADHD Speaks campaign this October, ADHD Awareness Month, we are asking that people share those hard facts with their elected officials or others that needed to be educated on ADHD.  

We ask you, our followers, to stay tuned as we further expand our online advocacy campaigns this fall and into 2021. We plan to highlight specific advocacy asks in each campaign and will be requesting those personally or professionally impacted by ADHD to help us inform our elected officials that their constituents actually do care about ADHD.

Warm Regards,

Heidi Bernhardt

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