Living Well with ADHD
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Table of Contents
Click on any chapter number to read a description.
Chapter One--Who You Are and Who You’re Not
Chapter Two--Wash One Dish: How to Activate Attention and Sustain Effort
Chapter Three--Attentive Listening and Mindful Speaking
Chapter Four--Bonds and Binds: ADHD in Relationships
Chapter Seven--ADHD is Funny…and It’s Not
Chapter Eight--Success Stories
Chapter Nine--The Color of Life: Living Skillfully with Your Emotions
Chapter Ten--A Labor of Love: Using the Tools in Your Toolbox
Appendix--Starting and Leading an ADHD Support Group
Chapter One – Who You Are and Who You’re Not
Chapter One dispels common misperceptions that you may have about yourself. It begins with what it is like to believe negative comments that parents and teachers made about you, and it presents alternative perspectives. It poses the question: If you are not what your parents and teachers said you are, then who are you? Chapter One challenges you to revisit your perception of who you are and what you can do.
Chapter Two – Wash One Dish: How to Activate Attention and Sustain Effort
Over 20 years ago, I heard Thomas Brown (Yale University professor and author of Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults) speak about adults with ADHD. He said one of the biggest and most understated problems for adults with ADHD is “activation.” Chapter Two frames the activation problem as a neurological feature and presents specific strategies for activating (starting) and sustaining effort (finishing). The metaphor of washing one dish at a time—versus cleaning the kitchen—illustrates a way you can circumvent negative mental activity and transcend the tendency to procrastinate. The chapter focuses on prevention of becoming overwhelmed and sidetracked.
Chapter Three – Attentive Listening and Mindful Speaking
Chapter Three challenges the notion that you are incapable of listening attentively to others, or speaking with mindful consideration of the listener. You may have problems listening attentively and being considerate in speech because you have formed maladaptive habits around your neurological differences. While those differences contribute to tendencies, tendencies do not have to become actualized. Old habits can be supplanted by new, competing habits. Chapter Three addresses how to cultivate and demonstrate mindful consideration of others.
Chapter Four – Bonds and Binds: ADHD in Relationships
Chapter Four illustrates special challenges to couples affected by ADHD in the relationship. It proposes that couple therapy is likely to fail without addressing the impact of the disorder on the partnership. Chapter Four challenges you to step up and share leadership with your relationship partner rather than react as if your partner is a parent. It highlights the need to understand specific effects of ADHD on your partner and how to rise above defensiveness and resignation in the interest of sharing power and influence.
Chapter Five – Unplugging
Are you unfocused or too focused? Chapter Five highlights the difficulty you probably have shifting between two types of attention: selective attention and open awareness. Plugging your attention into one focused activity requires unplugging your attention from another. This shift is difficult for your brain and represents the common problem of attention management. Your brain can be too focused, as it is when lost in a daydream, or brainlocked in an activity that is stimulating or urgent, but unimportant. Chapter Five presents strategies for shifting your attention. It addresses habitual mindlessness, time-wasters, destructive indulgences, and excuses.
Chapter Six – Creating
Your brain may be wired for creativity, but the neurological differences will not guarantee realizing your creative potential. I challenge a belief that you might hold: that you are not creative. Because you have difficulty activating and sustaining your effort, you may doubt your potential for creating. You may not have fully experienced the rewards of sustained effort. Chapter Six highlights how habitual, negative self-talk (“You’re not creative…you’re a fraud…you never finish anything!”) inhibits creativity. It cites evidence of exceptional potential in the brains of individuals with ADHD and encourages experimentation.
Chapter Seven – ADHD is Funny. . . And It’s Not
Jokes about ADHD abound. Many of them are harmless and even repeated by individuals with the disorder. But some are demeaning and offensive. You may laugh at yourself and joke with other likeminded individuals and family members. But some jokes imply a lack of intelligence or common sense. Chapter Seven relates your past experiences to current experiences of feeling misunderstood and devalued. In your past, you may have experienced victimization by bullies, alienation from peers, and punishment by parents and teachers. Jokes can trigger emotional memories associated with rejection. This chapter addresses how to relate to that history so it does not lend to rejecting yourself.
Chapter Eight – Success Stories
Chapter Eight highlights extraordinary successes of ordinary individuals like you. These particular adults with ADHD are people I know personally. Other books on ADHD typically identify successful, well-known individuals in history whose biographies suggest that they might have had the disorder—like Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Winston Churchill. In this book, I describe the experiences of individuals who overachieved relative to the expectations of their families, peers, and teachers. These examples provide inspiring models.
Chapter Nine – The Color of Life: Living Skillfully with Your Emotions
Emotion regulation is an understated challenge for many individuals with ADHD. Chapter nine reflects my interest in recent knowledge about neuroplasticity and the benefits of meditation. The brain concurrently perceives an external world and its own internal activity. The internal activity includes thoughts and emotions, imagined future events, and anticipated feelings (e.g., fearing the feeling of fear). We can easily confuse thoughts about experience with actual experience. The practice of observing external events (activity outside the brain) and internal events (activity of the brain) are themes of chapter nine. It illustrates the brain’s remarkable capacity to change itself and how that capacity can serve you.
Chapter Ten – A Labor of Love: Using the Tools in Your Toolbox
Chapter Ten describes the tools for living well with ADHD and encourages you to get started using them. Its aim is to move you beyond attention to obstacles, negative thinking, and even the tools themselves—toward possibilities and opportunities instead. It prescribes effort and practice. Its message is an alternative to changing your brain to change your life, focusing instead on accepting your brain to skillfully manage your life (which will change your brain). It assumes that your Zen mind is not to be left on the cushion, but to be used as a tool for living well in your daily life. This chapter includes a perspective on medicine as a tool.
Appendix – Starting and Leading an ADHD Support Group
I founded ADDNashville in 2005. This support group for adults has over a hundred current members registered on its Yahoo Groups site, which includes only those participants who signed up for automatic email reminders of meetings. The appendix addresses both the mistakes and successes I have encountered along the way as ADDNashville evolved. It includes tips for starting a support group, guidelines for participation, and suggestions for group leaders. It highlights some insights and strategies that participants have offered.