So, today, someone in one of the ADHD support groups of which I am a member on Facebook posed this question: “We post a lot about the negative aspects of our adhd… but what if it were a superpower in disguise? What are your strengths- superpowers if you will- that are thanks at least in part, to your adhd?” (sic) Below is my answer.
Tl;dr YES we have superpowers, but the “real world” does not recognize superpowers, or if they do, does not like superpowers, and that is why our lives are so rough.
So, this turned into a dissertation. Read if you like, this is something that always really pisses me off, but I just went off onto a rant today because my depression has effectively canceled any impulse control I might have.
I have ALWAYS thought of my “differences” (what I used to call them before I knew they were from ADHD) as superpowers, and they really are. I mean, I can put ideas together that nobody has thought of, creating brand new and much better outcomes. I react like the fucking Flash in cataclysmic situations. Hyper focus is fucking amazing, when I can get it harnessed to do what I want. I can hold way more knowledge in my brain than the vast majority of people. Sure, some of the knowledge may be totally unrelated and random, but it is there. I literally know a lot about nearly everything, from neuroscience to eastern philosophy. Anything that I have spent anytime studying is likely retained, at least somewhat. And, I am absolutely immune to advertising because I am totally internally motivated. I have lots of superpowers, and I love them all.
That being said, I’m not idiot and I know that all superpowers also come with weaknesses. If you study the history of the Hero Myths, something I highly recommend for a hyperfocus session, you see that every hero had some special weaknesses.
For example, my hyperfocus is awesome for gaining in-depth knowledge in a subject quickly faster than anyone else, but sometimes I cannot control what it wants to learn. So, that means that sometimes I spend a few hours learning something that is not immediately relevant.
Likewise, the ability to hyper-react with clear thinking and time-slowing perceptions is awesome and has literally saved my life before. But, that means I get to be on edge all the time, leading to hypertension (high blood pressure), mental/physical exhaustion and other negative effects.
And so on. Would I give up my superpowers if it meant being relieved of the weaknesses that come with them? FUCK NO. Once you identify and understand your superpowers, you can start to harness them and use them for your benefit. Honestly, THIS is what more ADHD therapy should focus on.
And here’s the big but that ends up killing so many NDs. ME or any ADHD thinking/knowing we are superheros is not the problem. Yes, self-esteem and self-understanding is important, but low self-esteem is not intrinsic to the ADHD condition. The REAL problem comes from trying to fit into a “normal” society that not only does not recognize our gifts, but in facts sees us as broken, sub-normal, of lesser quality than they are. I mean, the BIGOTRY is RIGHT THERE IN THE NAME: Attention-Hyperactivity DEFICIT DISORDER.
I mean, the whole ass name of our condition is an insult!!! And, not to be bitter against some of our ND sisters & brothers, but many other ND conditions do not have actual insults in their name. Like dyslexia, autism, Asperger’s. I mean, can you imagine the outcry if they changed the name of the “Common Cold” to something like “Just breath you fucking Moron,” or “Stop coughing stupid you are bothering me.” It’s the same damn thing, don’t tell me it’s not. And we wonder why so many ADHD have low self-esteem, depression, and a lack of productivity? Fucking hell, how about they stop calling us broken and maybe we can finally stop acting broken.
Seriously, I cannot believe the psychiatrists, neurologists, and ADHD activists have allowed it to go on this long. There have been many diseases whose names and indications have changed over the years, as they became more well understood. I mean, the term was coined in fucking 1902, OVER 100 YEARS AGO, and was then defined as “an abnormal defect of moral control in children.” Many people still think of it as that, though the actual science has moved WAY beyond that. Hell, I am more moral than most NTs.
And I would like to counter the assumption that our condition is ACTUALLY an attention deficit. I have come to think that is total bullshit, honestly. When I am interested in something, I have excellent attention. Better than most NTs, in fact. There are a couple things that kill my attention and this is same for most ADHD. 1) the subject or presentation is boring or 2) depression.
Addressing that first one, it seems that NTs, especially in K-12 schools, have some perverse obsession over being boring. In school, they love to present subject matter in the absolutely most boring manner possible. Here I am going to diverge into a revelatory story, where I really learned this.
I’ve always loved learning about history. But, of course, I hated history courses in school. Most were taught by coaches as a requirement for them being coaches. Literally the stupidest idea, ever, but that’s school for ya. I did most of my learning on my own, tried to keep my head down in class, and got mediocre grades because I never did my homework, even though I knew it better than the teachers. Then, I got to college. One summer, I took a history course that started at 7am. Fucking 7am, for an ADHD with an altered circadian rhythm. But, this lady was amazing, she explained history as stories. It was so interesting, I was rarely late and paid rapt attention the whole class. Got an A, of course.
Second, depression really kills attention. This is true for everyone with depression and is a well-known and well-documented fact, so it is not opinion. As an ADHD person, especially if diagnosed young, you are being continuously told you are a disorder, aka broken, fucked up, less than good. OF COURSE YOU ARE GOING TO BE DEPRESSED. As I said early, even if you are surrounded by supportive and loving friends, family, and doctors, the very name of your condition reminds you that you are less than adequate every time you hear it.
So, the likelihood is that nearly every person with ADHD is depressed, at least to some extent. And, we know depression kills attention. Ergo, nearly every person with ADHD is going to have attention issues. How do they researches tell the difference between attention-lack caused by depression and attention-lack caused by a neurological misfunction (aka ADHD)? Answer, they cannot. Ergo, they think ADHD causes attention-lack. I completely disagree, and would be happy to challenge any neurologist to prove me wrong. The attention-lack is caused by depression which is caused by a world that hates us.
So, to answer the question, yeah, I know I have superpowers, and it really destroys me to know that I live in a world that hates superpowers. (please pardon any typos, written in a hyperfocus rant without proofreading)