Our Pasts, Our Decisions, and ADHD 

You go visit your family or friends.  You all start talking about the past or the recent present.  Someone tells you new information about what happened regarding you.  It may be a fact or an insight into who they think you are.  All of a sudden you think you have to reevaluate everything.  You feel you’re world is turned upside down.  You’re not the person who you thought you were. Should you feel freaked out?

Of course, there’s no clear answer to this.  You should take a breath and not immediately decide everything is different or wrong.  So far you’ve lived your life under a certain set of assumptions.  You can hold on a bit further.  Life in many respects is still a choice. 

There’s an Arthur Miller play called “The Price.”  Briefly, two brothers are trying to wrap up their father’s estate.  The older brother is a police officer.  He took care of his father earlier, forestalling his own career plans because the father had no money.  The younger brother, a doctor, tells him that Dad did have money and that there was no need for him to give up his plans.  He offers him a position at his hospital.  The older brother refuses, deciding he can’t change his life.  That was his decision—again.

One has to deal with anger about what happened in the past.  One has to accept that one’s present path has its own satisfactions and frustrations.  One has to go on with others, trying to repair the damage that has happened.  It’s not clean and it won’t necessarily clean up.

One woman I know told her then mother-in-law that she was a mean person who hurt everyone’s feelings all the time.  The mother-in-law had no idea she was like that—according to her.  But she didn’t apologize or change.  She had seventy years in doing this. People expected it of her. So why change?  Yet some people do: One client of mine saw her sister after an estrangement of many years and decided to mostly forget what bad things had happened between them and see what could happen in the future.

Life is a mixed bag.  We can do the best we can.  We have the opportunity to change ourselves and things, to make nice and forgive ourselves and others.

What this post is about is how to help a person who has ADHD/ADD and has not been helped by schools, friends, jobs, and so on.  It’s about how to help the person who has been stigmatized and not accommodated and has gone through frustrating situations and not succeeded and now has a self-image problem and a history of not succeeding.  Here are some thoughts.

The first concern is convincing the person that s/he has ADHD/ADD. Some people already know it because they were diagnosed by their doctor or therapist.  Sometimes an understanding teacher or parent sees it. At least that person may no longer need to be convinced.

Some people do not know that they have it.  Taking that person to a counselor experienced in treating ADHD/ADD will help.  The person may see her/his life not in those terms but in failure terms.  The person may see the condition as shameful and would not want to reveal it.  This person needs to be helped to understand that much of what has happened in her or his life has occurred because of it.  Moreover, the person needs to be convinced that it is nothing to be ashamed of or to reveal to others and that it is part of normal human variation.  Then the person needs to be convinced that there are wonderful parts of her or him because of it and that many of the successes or good things that have happened in their life are a result of it.

Once convinced, the person can be helped in many ways.  For example, a medication assessment or other forms of treatment may be suggested.  The person may be helped in developing additional strategies to succeed.  The person may be assisted in asking for appropriate accommodations, such as longer test taking time or help in filling out forms accurately.  Most of all, the person can be helped in putting their past life in perspective, allowing the person to feel anger when her or his situation was not sensitively addressed and when she or he was discouraged.  Then the person can develop new confidence to see a way forward for a more successful, satisfying way of living.

One Response to “Our Pasts, Our Decisions, and ADHD”

  1. As to me, the past is not affecting me that much towards the decisions I am making in the present, especially when I know that it’s not that bad and is not something that is going to freak me out. I believe that the past is what makes my present so it’s not something to be affecting me until the future.

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