Recently, many of you in my ADHD tribe were with me when I rushed to my son’s side as he recovered from a very serious car crash. For 10 days I alternated between sitting next to his hospital bed holding his restrained hands, watching as fluid dripped into his body and slept in his hospital room in the ICU so when he woke I could reassure his confused mind that he was safe. During that time I realized the blessing of each of you who reached out to me, sending prayers of support, messages of comfort, likes and thumbs up on my Facebook posts, texts and emails with positive thoughts. I appreciated every single one of them and realized something else about myself and my ADHD…I am not strong…not in the typical sense of being tough or indestructible with an “I can handle whatever comes my way” attitude…it is different. I realized that strength is not what others see, it is more inward, quiet and reserved and comes as a result of my innate ADHD qualities like determination, persistence, resourcefulness, tenacity, stubbornness, and single-minded hyper focus.
What I’m realizing is that too many of us with ADHD, or those caring for someone with ADHD, are telling ourselves that we need to be “strong”, or worse, that we aren’t “strong enough”. I think this is perhaps because our definition of “strong” is flawed.
Maybe we believe that being strong means we will never break down and cry…and I’m talking about the scary, fall apart in a million pieces curl up on the bed cry. Or experience times when we admit to ourselves that the journey is just too tough, or the emotional pain and heartache too great. Or perhaps, somewhere we came to believe that being strong means we will always have the right answer, never back down or never be afraid… that we will handle each day single-handedly, blindly optimistic, unscathed, no regrets, trudging on ever forward.
None of this is true.
Being strong doesn’t mean these things. In fact, these are the most common misconceptions I recently noticed in myself and my clients when they talk about what they expect from themselves and their own ability to be strong living with ADHD or their perception of someone else’s strength. Following are what I think are some of the most common misconceptions of what being strong means and the real truth about being ADHD “strong”:
Myth #1: Strong people don’t cry.
Truth: One of the greatest signs of strength in a person, man or woman, is when we allow ourselves to cry and release emotions that get to be too much. Whether they are tears that spill over or soul cleansing sobs, strength is allowing those feelings to pass through us, instead of repressing them. Crying shows that we can be vulnerable and to feel what is truly there. And to me, that is being strong.
Myth #2: Strong people do it alone.
Truth: It’s not within our human nature to be capable of tackling every problem, situation, and dilemma on our own. We need each other. We were built to work together, to struggle together, to help each other move toward solutions in order to come out on the other side. Together, we will always be more than the sum of our parts. At times we can be capable on our own. But we’re never going to be as strong as we are when we accept other people’s help into our lives. The strongest, most capable people invite other people into their lives when struggling.
Myth #3: Strong people aren’t afraid.
Truth: Some people think that being strong means never being fearful. This isn’t true. All of us experience fear. It’s part of being human. Strength comes when we can realize we are afraid, and not let it control us. It’s realizing that fear is in this moment, and will pass. It’s trusting that the trial or challenge we are experiencing is leading us to something greater beyond the fear.
Myth #4: Strong people don’t complain.
Truth: Wrong! Strong people complain or break down when things fall apart. During times when life unravels, it’s natural to have a mixture of emotions and it’s healthy to have a way to process verbally what’s happening. Complaining for a period of time can help to let off steam, and then allow us to forge ahead as best we can with what we’ve got.
Myth #5: Strong people don’t doubt themselves.
Truth: It may seem that some people always know what they want and go after it with confidence not considering they may be making a mistake or heading down the wrong path. The truth is, there are no “right” paths in life. There are just the next best steps. This is what strong people know. And if they find they are not on the path they want, they hit the reset button, back up and head in a different direction without beating themselves up. They know they are making the best choice they can in the moment with the information available at the time.
Superman and Wonder Woman have super powers to make them strong. We are simply human beings, living with ADHD. However, if we tap into our ADHD superpowers such as persistence, compassion, resourcefulness, determination, and single-minded hyper focus, we might all start to see how these powerful, quiet ADHD strengths help us at the end of the day to be okay.
What do you consider to be “strong”? What ADHD strengths do you have? I’d love to hear back from you.