October 2023 is ADHD Awareness Month. DWSP Music Therapist, Felicia, talks about what it’s like to live with ADHD.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is something that many people have heard about but few people understand. It conjures up thoughts of Bart Simpson or claims of over-diagnosing or over-medicating. As someone diagnosed with ADHD, I thought ADHD Awareness Month is a good time to share my experience.
Maybe the best way I can think of to describe life with ADHD is it’s like your brain is an internet browser with two dozen tabs open at the same time. It’s an overwhelming experience. It’s like entering a room and forgetting your purpose, struggling with organization, losing track of time, and constantly replacing lost items. Procrastination, daydreaming, and blurting out thoughts add to the challenges. There’s an abundance of restless energy, leading to fidgeting, and even reading a book takes three times as long because you need to keep re-reading pages.
It’s going into the kitchen to get something, noticing the dishes aren’t done, then in the process of doing the dishes remembering you need to feed the dog, then in the process of feeding the dog you start feeling cold so you go to get a jacket….well, you get the idea (and it ends with unwashed dishes, an unfed dog, and you not getting what you went to the kitchen for) .
It’s also hyper-focus, which means focusing your whole attention on one thing and blocking out everything else, and believe me, that can be a superpower. As we saw in the Bluey episode, “Army”, when somebody with ADHD taps into their special interest or talent, hyper-focus can lead to amazing things (of course it also helps if you’re lucky enough have a teacher like Calypso or a friend like Rusty to help you do that).
When it comes to managing my ADHD, having lists helps a lot, as does having a routine, and preparing for something beforehand rather than depending on remembering at short notice. So, if I put my clothes out, pack my bag or make my lunch the night before, it helps. Having a fidget toy or being able to move around helps too, as does taking regular study breaks and having an interest to channel my energy into, and the support to do so.
Finally, an important point to remember about children with ADHD is that, even though it might not seem like it from the outside, they are usually trying as hard as they can. Consistency is also hard for people with ADHD so it’s important to keep in mind that, just because they can do something on one day and not another, it doesn’t mean they’re lazy. Often, they are trying their very hardest, and when they fail to achieve what’s been asked of them they are all too aware of it.
We saw this, again, in “Army”, where the character Jack had heart-breakingly internalised the negative messages he had heard throughout his life that there is “something wrong with me” and that he is not good at remembering, sitting still, or doing what he’s told. And, as he later demonstrates, when a child with ADHD is channelling their energy into something that interests them they can, indeed, remember, sit still, and do what they’re told.
Felicia is DWSP’s resident Music Therapist. Felicia, along with many of our amazing clinicians can offer support and strategies to clients and families with ADHD. Speak to your clinician today!