Letter #5 – Flying Blue, Flying with ADHD through Life

I am looking at your picture on my website. Awww…here is a happy version of you, conquering the world of social media and writing. This is the online persona you have created for yourself, and it’s the person you will never become. blog

And here is your (and millions of others’) real story.

The media always tries to convince us that having ADHD is a “blessing.” Dr. Dale Archer in his Forbes article (“ADHD: The Entrepreneur’s Superpower”) talks about the overwhelming success of superstar entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson and JetBlue founder David Neeleman, who attribute their success to this “magical” creative function of a human brain. In his article, Archer writes:

“If someone told me you could be normal or you could continue to have your ADD (the original name for what is now called ADHD), I would take ADD,” Neeleman told ADDitude Magazine, “I can distill complicated facts and come up with simple solutions. I can look out on an industry with all kinds of problems and say, ‘How can I do this better?’ My ADD brain naturally searches for better ways of doing things.”

Are you fucking kidding me? Leadership requires organization.

In her 2009 article “Thrill Seekers Lack Brakes In The Brain,” Sunita Reed writes about psychologist David Zald’s study linking thrill-seeking behavior (which is often exhibited by ADHDers) with a difference in a specific part of the dopamine system in the brain:

“Thrill-seeking is one of the things that leads people to explore new things, to discover new things,” says Zald. “The world would be a boring place if we didn’t have people who were willing to take the risks because they were so interested or drawn to the new and exciting.”

A BORING PLACE?? Where can I find it? Does JetBlue fly there? Whoever writes these stories obviously doesn’t know anything about the reality of life with ADHD. I don’t want to scare you, Tashie, but here is what it’s really like.

We start millions of projects at the same time: music lessons, French and drama classes—once I even joined a “nature lovers club,” even though I always hated the outdoors with passion. As soon as the tasks get harder and need our undivided attention or dedicated practice, we will find some “logical” excuse to quit all those activities at once. “Too boring.” “It prevents me from doing well in school.” (Not that we were doing anything in school either!) “Playing piano is a waste of time.” We (ADHDers) are known for making excuses.

  1. We can’t keep our relationships. Instead, we jump from one relationship to the next. (I’m still wondering how in the world your second marriage lasted eight years.) Once the initial excitement goes away, so do we.
  1. The more we procrastinate with our daily tasks, more we hate ourselves. We fall deeper and deeper into depression and drug abuse. An example of your own forgetfulness: you coworkers have to take your Tupperware containers (your lunch leftovers now more like “science projects”) out of the refrigerator on a regular basis, because you simply forget about them.
  1. You graduated from college only because you learned how to cheat the system. ADHDers are incredibly smart and creative in covering shit up.
  1. We blame ourselves for being bad parents. Not remembering to pick up our children from school or forgetting to pay for their activities. You were never a good mother. Your mood swings affected your son in a very dramatic way. Even now, at age 21, he doesn’t feel loved or good enough to succeed.
  1. The more we succeed, the more pressure we put on ourselves. Recently you ran a 5K race, and the very second after you finished it, you started preparing yourself for your next target: a 10K.5K
  1. You were diagnosed with a clear case of ADHD by your doctor, and I diagnosed you with an acute case of psychotic selfishness and assholeness. Your mood swings sometimes drive even YOU insane. You will take a daily dose of 50 mg of Zoloft (a mood-enhancing drug) and 30 mg of Vyvanse (a fairly new medication that targets ADHD symptoms) because of your lack of natural energy if you don’t feel excited.
  1. We suffer from suicidal thoughts, constantly feeling sorry for ourselves. And according to sciencedaily.com, people with ADHD are twice as likely to die prematurely, often due to accidents.

Please don’t let other people make ADHD a hero. Every little chore is a pain for us. Little things—like making lunch for the next day or even just brushing our teeth—can be torture.

Out of all the “abnormal” categories of people, ADHDers hate themselves the most—for the procrastination, the mental chatter, the anxiety and over-sensitivity, the defensive and passive-aggressive behaviors. People with alcohol addiction often rely on a Higher Power and the support of AA groups worldwide to relieve their compulsion to drink. ADHDers can’t rely on anything or anyone. God can’t remove our multitasking brain. We join closed Facebook groups to share our pain and try to find a little comfort in venting. Very few of us can step forward and admit that we are suffering. We take pills (and those are addictive drugs!!) which are supposed to help us to concentrate and cope with everyday life, but pills don’t solve the problem.

It is human nature to want to believe in happy endings. But in reality, until you start talking openly about the nightmare of living with ADHD, you will keep reading stories about how Clark Kent apparently takes Ritalin to fly.

I am not trying to say that people with ADHD are losers and whiners who cannot manage their own lives. All I want is to raise awareness of this mental condition without glorifying it. The only reason ADHDers are “hiding” in closed Facebook groups is because they think they are freakazoids. They don’t trust the outside world. They will only step out and seek help when they can read their own stories.

I want to wish everyone with ADHD—that so-called “blessing”—ONE day of a “normal” life. And if Mr. Neeleman wants a fair dose of ADD, I am happy to give him mine, at least for one day…

And you, my darling, you better be prepared to stand up and speak up. You have 24 years to figure it out.