Complacency is the enemy of mental health. This is true whether you’re currently in a bad or a good place.
When you’re in a bad place, it’s tempting to resign yourself to thinking that your life is just bad, and it’s going to stay that way. If you’ve gone your whole life experiencing failures and frustrations because of untreated ADHD symptoms, it’s easy to assume that those failures and frustrations are an inherent part of your life. You don’t know what life is like with ADHD symptoms that are well-managed, and you don’t necessarily even know yet that you have ADHD symptoms in the first place, so it’s easy to surrender to pessimism.
In psychiatry, the classic example are individuals who think they no longer need their meds because their symptoms have gone away – when, in fact, the symptoms have gone away because of the meds. In the case of ADHD, we can extend this idea from medication to coping strategies and any other tools you use to manage life with ADHD.
When your coping strategies are working, you can start to forget just what life is like without those coping strategies.
Or, say you’ve gone out of your way to put yourself in environments that mesh with your ADHD. You’ve found a job that accommodates your ADHD, you’ve surrounded yourself with people who are accepting of your symptoms. That’s pretty much the ADHD dream – but once you’re in an ADHD-friendly bubble, you can start to forget what it’s like to work a job that isn’t accommodating of your symptoms.
The years that follow an ADHD diagnosis can be a period of exuberant change, then newfound happiness. You begin to understand your symptoms, aspects of your life start to clarify in unexpected ways, you develop new coping strategies, and you make changes that lead to real improvements.
But as you settle into the new normal of living with better-managed ADHD, it’s important not to become complacent. Every once in a while, take stock of your ADHD situation. What are you doing that’s working? Are there things you used to do that helped you manage ADHD that you’ve stopped doing without even being fully aware of it? And are there opportunities for further improvement? In the words of Steve Jobs, “stay hungry, stay foolish” – we ADHDers don’t necessarily have any problem with the latter, but it’s worth reminding yourself to stay hungry for finding better ways of living with ADHD.
I’ve now written this blog long enough that I can go back and read my old posts and occasionally be surprised. Over time, I’ve forgotten about certain coping mechanisms that were helpful to me; and the memory of things I struggled with at specific stages in my life has become less sharp.
A visit from the ghost of ADHD past can be useful for avoiding having to reinvent the same coping mechanisms or relive the same struggles. One way to facilitate this reflection would be to keep a long-term ADHD journal. Every few weeks or even months, write down the state of your life with ADHD – what’s working, what’s stressing you out, what you hope for in the future. When you go back and read the entries of ADHD past, you might be surprised at how it gives you ideas for ways to cope with ADHD present and ADHD future.
Of course, it’s impossible to become too complacent with ADHD. When your ADHD management lapses, there’s a certain point where complacency turns into simply getting your butt kicked by ADHD, which reminds you of the need for active coping. But if you stay hungry and stay on the lookout for ADHD coping complacency, sometimes you can avoid getting your butt kicked in the first place.
Image: Flickr/julien haler