ADHD adults are everywhere… So why do we feel so alone?
I've just finished delivering the pilot program of “Procrastination Transformation: Secrets to Getting Started.” The month-long course included an online interactive forum where class members were encouraged to comment, share, vent, express frustration, and — hopefully — post their triumphs as well.
However, for many, the greatest benefit of the virtual forum was the opportunity to feel that they were not alone. I gained insight into how rewarding people found it to open up and be frank with a group of other ADD / ADHD Adults. They weren't “weird” among a group of people who found it completely normal to put off doing a project until the very last minute, and then find themselves doing the dishes, surfing the web, and acting like they hadn't a care in the world — while inside, agonizing that they'll never get the project done on deadline … all the while, doing anything EXCEPT the project!
I think it's this pervasive feeling of “aloneness” that makes shame such a strong ingredient in the ADD soup. It's hard not to feel you have a dirty secret when you are afraid to let anyone around you know about your struggles. The ironic thing is, I believe in most work environments, the ADD / ADHD adult is NOT alone. You probably have colleagues, bosses , vendors and clients who share similar challenges behind the scenes, and are also being careful not to let anyone know.
Here's why I believe your ADD has plenty of company:
After I left my 20+ year corporate career and “went public” in 2001 about my own ADD and new career as an ADHD Coach, TWO of my former bosses told me they were ADD as well. Both of these individuals were quite high up, respected and successful in very large corporations of finance and management consulting. I don't believe either of these individuals felt ashamed. They seemed to simply accept ADD as just another facet of themselves.
When my coaching clients tell me about their bosses and colleagues, quite often it seems they are describing someone with ADD. It's ironic to me that my client feels so ashamed of having a “weakness” when the person they report to seems to have habits that could indicate ADD as well: ignored emails, poor communication skills, impatience, lack of follow through, lateness in delivery. Yet my client usually feels shame and is afraid to ask for help for fear of being judged!
Perhaps how alone one feels has to do with the company you keep. When I mention the kinds of struggles ADD people deal with to my friends, probably 70% of them say they have experienced the same kinds of challenges for all of their life, and have often suspected they were ADD. Since ADD adults often attract each other socially, I'm not surprised that so many of the people in my circle are ADD. These are all professional and creative individuals who just assume it's “normal” to experience procrastination, overwhelm and poor follow-through. While they're not happy about these challenges, and may be embarrassed by some of their procrastinating or disorganized habits, there doesn't seem to be the pervasive feeling of shame and aloneness about it.
So, the question that intrigues me is:
Is it ADD / ADHD that makes you feel alone, OR does feeling ashamed of having ADD make you believe that you are alone?