When we talk about managing ADHD, our ultimate goal isn’t to completely eliminate the effects of ADHD symptoms from our lives. It’s just to be happy.
A diagnosis of ADHD isn’t a life sentence. Well, OK, it may be a life sentence of having ADHD. But it’s not a life sentence of being unhappy. In fact, an ADHD diagnosis is often a turning point that lets people start making changes that lead them to a happier and less stressful life.
If you have ADHD, you can’t create a life where you’re basically happy without taking into account your ADHD to some extent. Although “happiness” looks different for different ADHDers, there are some common elements that I think are necessary to being happy with ADHD:
- Making sense of the past: People with ADHD, especially those who were diagnosed as adults, often have a history of failures, underachievement and missed opportunities behind them. Being at peace with yourself requires coming to terms with these parts of the past and the feeling of “if only I had been diagnosed sooner.” This process works differently for different people, but gaining an understanding of how your ADHD symptoms factored into your past can help. Ultimately, the goal is to have some sort of perspective that helps you make sense of your past and move on into the future.
- Finding the right job: People with ADHD tend to find that some environments clash with their symptoms much more than others. Finding a workplace that fits with the way your brain works, where you find it easier to stay engaged and motivated, can make managing your ADHD symptoms a lot easier. It’s harder to be happy if you don’t have a job that makes you happy, and for people with ADHD that means having a job that accommodates your symptoms.
- Accepting your symptoms: Trying to fight your ADHD symptoms and wishing you didn’t have ADHD means setting yourself up for constant frustration. Being happy with ADHD requires accepting your symptoms and realizing that you can build a life that fits with your symptoms – in other words, that you don’t have to make your symptoms go away to be happy.
When I look at my own life before and after diagnosis, these are three night-and-day differences I see. They’re all related in the sense that they involve moving from an attitude of fighting against my symptoms and wishing my brain functioned differently, to understanding and working with my symptoms.
Looking at your own life, if you see other examples of things that help with being happy with ADHD, please share them below!