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ADHD: Awesome or Awful? Depends…

Zoë and her birth mom, 2006
Zoë and her birth mom, 2006

So I’m interviewing an adult with ADHD. His resume is intimidating. He’s brilliant, funny, accomplished. And his ADHD stories are off-the-charts.

Suddenly, impeccable professional that I am, I burst into tears. And no, it’s not because I’m jealous (I am; but that’s not why I’m crying).

He was talking about his childhood.

“I remember when I’d do something crazy as a child, and I’d have to be punished.

“Later, I’d be at the dinner table after the punishment was over and everyone was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you did that.’”

Were they shocked? No. They were awestruck. Impressed, even.

His family agreed he’d earned his punishment. On the other hand, they understood why he did what he did, because they’d all done similar things themselves.

‘Round about the time he was explaining this, that’s when I burst into tears.

His story hit me like a ton of reclaimed bricks.

It was pretty embarrassing to be sniffling on the phone as my interviewee shared his childhood anecdotes. That’s the last thing I expected to be doing, but his story hit me like a ton of reclaimed bricks.

Considering that over 20 years ago I wrote a book about the importance, as an adoptee, of meeting others like me, it’s astonishing that I’ve never, ever imagined what it might be like to be surrounded by others who have ADHD.  (After my reunions, I didn’t spend much time with the side that I now suspect gifted me. Besides, I didn’t even know what ADHD was then.)

Even though my interviewee was punished for some childhood behaviors, his family “got” him. This spared him the additional trauma of being seen as odd or strange, and (due to a lack of understanding of ADHD) possibly from being judged as morally or intellectually deficient.

The idea of growing up in a family with other ADHD minds got me thinking:  could this be another difference in childhood that factors into determining how severe our ADHD symptoms are, and how successful we are in later life? My guess is that it is, and that it has a positive influence. (This is in contrast to the presence of physical abuse in the home, which I explored in New Research on ADHD and Childhood Abuse)

We all need the validation of knowing there are others like us out there. This is why I was willing to bare my soul in my recently published memoir, ADHD According to Zoë – The Real Deal on Relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys. I’d learned from writing my first book about growing up adopted how incredibly validating it is for others to see themselves reflected in others. It’s both validating and psychologically grounding. If it happens late in life, it can heal the emptiness caused by thinking we’re alone.

I can’t help but think that growing up surrounded by others with ADHD would offer a mooring in an otherwise turbulent sea of normalcy.


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ADHD: Awesome or Awful? Depends…

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2014). ADHD: Awesome or Awful? Depends…. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Mar 2014
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