One of the themes that comes up a lot when I’m working with people (and with myself!) is ADHD.
It’s such a loaded term, isn’t it?! I remember when my therapist gently brought it up with me a few years ago — have you considered that you might have ADHD?
I felt a hot rush of shame and defensiveness. What are you talking about?! I’m smart, I’m on top of things, I was always a good student! Just because I’m late to everything, just because I have a lot of ideas, just because I talk in circles doesn’t mean I have ADHD…!
I resisted it hard, and yet as I did some reading, I found myself resonating with a lot of what I learned. I had to ask myself: if this rings true, why would I not embrace it? What am I resisting?
One way of getting help is to go do a doctor or therapist or psychiatrist, to get a diagnosis and therapeutic plan, maybe some medication. I’m not knocking any of those things — but what I find helpful is to approach it as a creative challenge.
This is something we can do with any label.
We can redraw the lines, we can choose how we define ourselves, we can reframe our world so that we feel at home in it. If I notice myself devaluing and minimizing and dismissing traits, that’s a clue. That tells me it’s time to slow down and do some looking and questioning.
Here’s an interesting thought experiment: what if my therapist had looked at me that day and asked: have you considered the possibility that you are a GENIUS?
Same traits, same condition, same situation… but what changes for me when it’s seen as evidence of my greatness instead of a sign of disorder?
I imagine I would have felt a thrill go up my spine. A warm glow of validation, affirmation. An instant reframe of my traits: ahhh yes, I do thrive in big impossible situations. I’m never short of ideas. Sometimes my passions are so big, I struggle to find the right words. I am full of energy, I am brimming with ambition. I dive in without a plan and learn how to swim as I’m swimming. YES. I am a genius.
(I actually find the label genius to be just as unhelpful as ADHD but we’ll dive into that another time).
When I notice myself using mean language to describe myself or my situation, the first step is to change my language.
That doesn’t mean ignoring reality. It doesn’t mean that’s all I change. But I start with language, because the language matters.
When I change the language to fit what feels right to me, the nature of the problem changes, and so does the solution.
Which brings me back to my creative relabeling of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. What I’ve landed on for now is: Big Wild Super Power.
You don’t have a deficit of attention, you have a surplus of energy and ideas.
You have a variant form of attention, a different way of focusing that requires motion and multiplicity to thrive. (Guess what else works like this? Our planetary system.)
You are not too much, too loud, too crazy, you are at your best when given space to run and move and be big.
You have big wild super power and you need a big wild super project to contain it.
You have big, wild super power that can change the world when it’s channeled in the right direction. The world needs your big wild super energy.
There! Try that on for size. I encourage you to do your own word associating and creative relabeling, of this label or any that give you trouble.
(And of course, if you want help doing this, it is my great joy and I welcome you to sign up for a dreamtalk with me…)