Hello, fellow adult ADHDers.
If you’re here, you’re probably like me; newly diagnosed, or wondering if your symptoms are in fact ADHD and you can’t find the info you need. It could be scary, but if you’re like me and in a major hyperfocus cycle of finding any and all information on ADHD, I want to welcome you to the first part of a multi part series that touches on some of the topics I wish I had information for when I was first navigating the tricky world that is an adult ADHD diagnosis.
I want to make something very clear from the get go: I’m not a doctor. My information does not replace any information you could get from a trained professional. But, what I do have is anecdotal information based on what I’ve experienced, and responses based on what I’ve seen through my own personal research.
So, without further ado, I want to discuss my first topic: Good Days with Adult ADHD.
What does a good day look like with ADHD? If you google this, you may find several articles that tell you there are no good days with ADHD. That every day is a struggle, and if you feel like you “have a good day” you don’t have ADHD. You may also find there is a lack of information for adults with ADHD and how it differs from childhood ADHD, but that’s a different article.
However, this idea that “having good days” doesn’t exist is something that directly contradicts just about everything I know about mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders. ADHD people, by nature, are black and white thinkers, but mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders don’t exist on a “you have it or you don’t” spectrum; there will be varying degrees of impairment between individuals diagnosed. Even complex medical disorders have varying degrees of severity, so don’t assume that ADHD is all or nothing; your symptoms are valid, even if they aren’t as severe as someone else.
There are so many articles outlining what a bad day looks like, in fact it’s a very common theme because understanding our bad days helps educate others. But, in the same breath, it amplifies the far end of this disorder, and it makes it hard for us black and white thinkers to not feel as if those good days we have undermine our diagnosis. At least, that’s how I feel personally, and I do feel confident I can’t be alone in that thought process.
So, what does a good day with adult ADHD look like?
For me, a good day means I’m out of bed when I want to be, without having as bad of a mini meltdown and tantrum internally. It means that when I set my alarm for 9:00 and 9:30 a.m., I’m out of bed and taken my meds by 10:00 a.m…. Instead of snoozing my alarm, or losing track of time and taking my meds at 11:30 or 12:00. It means that at least I’m sitting in the living room watching TV, instead of laying in my bed scrolling Facebook for 2 hours before I even venture downstairs to start my day.
A good day means that once I’m up, despite my brain being vehemently against going to work, I can convince myself that going is the better option than calling out sick and it won’t be as bad as I think. It means that I can maybe get to work 5 minutes early or on time, instead of 5-15 minutes late. It means once I’m there, I can go, “See? It wasn’t as bad as you thought!” and I’ll listen to my internal dialogue mumble and grumble until I get back to my task at hand.
A good day means that I can convince myself that the overwhelming mess in the kitchen is worth trying to tackle, even if it means I only unload and put away the dishes, instead of tackling the chore of cleaning the whole kitchen. Sometimes it means that once I start the chore, I can actually convince myself to finish it, without stopping 20 times and getting distracted by other small things or find myself sitting on Facebook for the 4th time and not knowing how much time had passed.
A good day means that I can sit down to edit my galleries, and only need 30 minutes to talk myself up instead of an hour or two. It means that I can sit down and climb the metaphorical, “These photos suck and I’m a failure and the client will hate them” wall with a little better stamina to accomplish my 10 photo minimum for each day. It means that I can actually hit my 10 photo minimum, and not give up mid panic attack because “Why can’t I find the motivation I need right now? Why can’t I just make it HAPPEN? PLEASE JUST LET ME EDIT!”.
A good day means that I can take control of the volume in my brain, and crank it down just enough that I’m not constantly listening to white noise or indistinct chatter. It means that I can sit in my chair and not feel like my insides are constricting because I JUST NEED TO MOVE OR SCREAM OR BOTH AT THE SAME TIME. It means that I can let my husband finish what he’s doing, before I take his phone and put it on the floor because “I’m bored so let’s do something”.
A good day means that I can actually appear to be symptom free, even though I’m still struggling internally to get tasks done. It means that I can finally get to those little tasks that seemed like mountains the day before, even if it still takes me an hour (instead of days or months) to convince myself it’s worth it and doable. It means I might actually respond right away to a text message, instead of reading it and forgetting to respond; same goes with emails and phone calls.
A good day means that my brain, while still actively working against me, is just a tiny bit less annoying than usual and I can actually use all the skills I’ve learned through 9 years of therapy to help me actually put on the facade of being an adult… versus just sitting at home staring at the mess and going “I’m sure I can do this tomorrow” and never getting to it.
A good day means instead of starting at -5 like normal (or -10 on a bad day), I’m at -3 or -2 and that honestly can make the world of a difference between whether I stay in bed, or try to do what I need to do in order to not be crippled by feelings of failure and guilt and lack of motivation.
A good day is going to mean different things for everyone, and each good day will present a different set of “small victories”. Good days should not be dismissed by anyone, and shouldn’t be used as a way to say “you don’t have ADHD”. You can still have ADHD and focus sometimes. You can still have ADHD and get stuff done. You can still have ADHD and not present the same way as someone else.
We all know what a bad day feels like, and again, that will be different for everyone, but we need to talk more about what a good day feels like and looks like without telling people because they were productive or focused better than usual, that they don’t have ADHD. We need to focus on the fact that having a good day doesn’t take away from the fact you still struggle, and that on those good days when you actually feel capable of doing the things you can’t normally do doesn’t mean you don’t struggle with that issue anymore.
Always remember that your struggles are valid; and you don’t owe an explanation to anyone about how or why you’re able to function better or worse than usual.
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