UNDERSTANDING MY WORLD THROUGH THE LENS OF A LATE  AD(H)D DIAGNOSIS

16/03/2022
CADDAC Team


I am a secondary teacher who has always worked with students in alternative programs and special education. Over the years, a  large percentage of the students I worked with had a diagnosis of AD(H)D. I have always had an affinity for these students and could identify with their strengths and struggles. Deep down, I had always suspected that we had a lot in common. It wasn't until my fifties, and loss of my ability to utilize my memory as my calendar and watch did I finally understand why. In reaching out for help to adapt to the loss of my predominant organizational strategy, I received a formal diagnosis of ADD. 

You don't know what you don't know until you know… this statement highlights how insight can recontextualize lived experiences. When you are neurodiverse, understanding that a life of ease and far less overwhelm can occur by implementing a few externalized strategies is beyond your grasp. This is why a  diagnosis can be life-changing, as it provides a lens through which one can finally see and understand how AD(H)D impacts being in the world.

In becoming acquainted with how ADD shows up, I was stunned by the many ways my daily functioning differs from a neurotypical approach to everyday living. Keep in mind our world is constructed through a neurotypical lens requiring a sure way to organize and interact. So when you struggle to meet the unspoken standards, you unconsciously internalize negative messaging that can considerably impact your self-concept. I have felt inadequate in my ability to keep up and complete tasks in an organized, timely fashion. My messy, responsive way of life has always left me feeling chaotic and a little out of control. I now understand why.


BIG PICTURE THINKING

 I can usually see the big picture, the connections and tasks that need to be completed to make something happen. This capability has its advantages in program development, project management, event planning or situational problem-solving. Starting at the end and working backward,  filling in the details as you go can often lead to unique and positive outcomes. There is beauty in this engagement, leading to hours of focus and creativity. But big picture thinking can have drawbacks when there are many tasks, assignments and projects to complete within a short timeline. I see everything swimming in my mind's eye all at once, beckoning, requiring a response and a course of action. This leads to overwhelming and difficulty prioritizing tasks.

TIME BLINDNESS

I believe my orientation towards big picture thinking is partly due to the time blindness experienced when you have AD(H)D. I had never used a calendar or datebook to keep my appointments and meetings straight. I used to memorize every scheduled appointment that was to take place and hoped I would not forget. Did this mean double booking, canceling and rescheduling --you bet. Could this be overwhelming? YES!!!! But, I did not know any other way. I have always been busy in chaos, meeting each task or commitment when the moment to take action arose. This has always been my version of organization and how I approached each day. I remember hearing that living a life with AD(H)D is living each day as a novelty. No two days are ever the same, no structure, no actual routine, except one that is imposed upon you. I would have to say that this has been my lived experience.

OVERWHELM

As an engaged teaching professional, educational coach and consultant, I  have always worked hard to accomplish what is asked. I also take on additional projects that are important to the quality of my work and the students I have the privilege to work with. As someone with ADD, this impulse to engage and commit creates internal complexity,  competing priorities, and pressure to meet additional timelines and complete an ever-growing to-do list.  

I can now see why entrepreneurship or a  career as a  first responder are good choices for the AD(H) D brain. To compensate like most people with AD(H)D, I have spent time cultivating an ability to respond to the most urgent daily needs. This capability to effectively react to situations requiring immediate attention creates the impression that I am capable of handling the demands in my world. But I will confess that overwhelm can be an insistent companion, as priorities have a tendency to shift like sand as new information and ideas come flooding in unencumbered. It is easy to get lost in a mind full of all that needs tending but not quickly scheduled with adequate confidence. A constant influx of information, new opportunities and pressing tasks can distract one from the enjoyment of simply being.

In understanding the impact of AD(H)D, it would seem that big picture thinking coupled with time blindness is an expansive condition, stretching the content beyond the limits one can comfortably hold within. When immersed in the details, it can lead to overwhelm and an inability to move forward with any productive task or self-care capability.

The management of AD(H)D requires the intentional development of conscious awareness to impact and maximize daily functioning. My AD(H)D world is full of exciting possibilities but requires daily organization through externalized strategies and structures to truly take shape and manifest fully in a stress-free, healthy way.  In understanding what supports are needed,  my life can now unfold where chaos and order intersect, creating a life in balance.

Understanding the impact of AD(H)D is worth pursuing because it offers the development of self-compassion., self-acceptance and true authenticity. Developing the processes and supports one needs to thrive and achieve true potential is a gift. I am now a dedicated professional educational consultant and coach helping others seek understanding. As someone with lived experience and I must say each encounter with a new client is like looking in the mirror, a positive reflection of someone who desires to show up in their world.

Rebecca Dupont

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