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Adapting to ADHD --- It isn't good or bad, it just is what it is
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The Problem with Fighting ADHD with Effort

Posted 04-12-12 at 02:55 PM by KCTang
There has been a number of posts/threads lately that have been echoing the whole "Rah rah --- I'm going to battle my ADHD with effort" type of passion, which is admirable. I can relate to that burning desire to surmount the endless problems caused by our disorder...

But that type of thinking has its limitations and can bring a lot of frustration.

This is just from my own experience, of course. But I've banged my head fighting my ADHD this way, a lot. Now I think it's well intentioned, but a little naive.

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The Problems:


Quote:
1) A lot of the time, when I used to fall into this type of mindset, it was because I was riding at the top of the emotional rollercoaster. As much as I felt 'hyped' and like I could overcome anything, it was just an emotion, a neurochemical release. The dip often came quickly after.

Now I'm not just trying to pour cold water.

The ADHD brain has an area that's malfunctioning that regulates the strength of emotions. Normal brains are supposed to have a range of 1 to 10 of emotions, and everything in between. For us, we only feel 1 OR 10, with nothing in between. That's why we see in black/white, flop between perfectionism and complacency, etc. This is especially true when unmedicated or meds have run out at the end of the day.

This is also why we get very 'over-excited' about things... things like overcoming ADHD. Excitement is ok. Hoping that excitement will overcome our ADHD neurology is not. That excitement will not last forever, and when your attention gets pulled elsewhere, like on a distraction/interest/guilty pleasure, your new '10' will be that interest of yours, you'll forget about your original goals, and 'overcoming ADHD' will drop from a 10 to a 1.

When you realize what's happened, you might blame yourself, hate yourself for forgetting (I did), even though it was a neurology problem to begin with.
Quote:
2) The other problem is that this type of thinking does not logically work.

Saying "I'm battling ADHD with effort" is just another way to say you're battling ADHD with "willpower".

Let's look deep into the issue. Why are we frustrated with ADHD? The frustration we feel is because "I'm tired of not being able to control myself, my actions, my results." You're tired of not having self-control. Which is understandable because ADHD is a self-control problem in many ways.

But the answer is not "more willpower".

What is willpower? Willpower is consciously generating positive emotions to overcome negative emotions. Creating and using the 'Rah Rah' feeling to overcome the 'I don't feel like doing this' feeling.

But what's the problem? The problem is conscious thought is generated using Working Memory. For those of you who've read some of my other posts, you'll know that Working Memory is one of the things our brain lacks.

We lack the very thing that gives us willpower, which is why we have a hard time controlling or motivating ourselves to do what we don't want to do...

...So the thought of "I'm going to battle my ADHD with effort/willpower" is like saying, "I'm going to fight my lack of willpower with willpower!" Kind of backwards, right?
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When you're at the top of the hill, feeling a 10, your emotions are in line with your goals so your willpower will actually be pretty good. And you might think you can conquer the world. But because of your emotions fluctuating and distractions interrupting that line of thought, when your feelings fall to the bottom of the hill, your willpower will be terrible. Leading to poor self-control and poor results.

And that leads to guilt, shame, self-loathing, and the additional build up of self-doubt. All because you were trying to fight your lack of self-control with more self-control.

Treat yourself better. Don't lock yourself in this loop, and save yourself from the frustration.

Hope this helps someone. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


(ps. If anyone's ever told you to just 'try harder', and you knew you couldn't but didn't know why... well, isn't saying 'try harder' the same as 'apply more willpower'? ... feel free to share this.)

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  1. Old
    Lifesnotfair's Avatar
    I have been at this point before, and as I have grown older the more I realize that I have absolutely no power on my feelings, it is either 1 or 10, yes at 10 doing the right thing is easy to see and mostly do but I do go to 1 at some time or another, that is when it all falls apart again, this is sometimes a daily occurrence. I feel that its like trying to put out an oil fire by drowning it in more oil.

    'And that leads to guilt, shame, self-loathing, and the additional build up of self-doubt. All because you were trying to fight your lack of self-control with more self-control.'

    Oh and yeah this is the end result, always, I have a mailbox at the corner of Misery and Shame streets. LoL.
    Posted 04-24-12 at 02:06 AM by Lifesnotfair Lifesnotfair is offline
  2. Old
    KCTang's Avatar
    Quote:
    ...its like trying to put out an oil fire by drowning it in more oil.
    That's so true. I can totally relate to the feeling, that helplessness.

    Hope your stay on this forum will help you heal those painful feelings. You're not alone, and these problems are a natural occurrence. They still suck, but at least you can absolve yourself of the blame.

    That mailbox of yours is just being filled with junkmail. You can leave the letters unopened and just dump them in the recycling bin.
    Posted 04-24-12 at 07:52 PM by KCTang KCTang is offline
 
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