Recently, I shared a post about how I like to read several books at once. I like to do all kinds of of things at once, really. That’s part and parcel of being a scanner and MultiTalented Writer. But for some people, there’s more than just being a scanner at hand. No one likes to talk about it, but sometimes, mental health issues may be involved.
Although I was never diagnosed (it wasn’t recognized as a condition in the 80s and 90s in Brazil), I more than likely have ADHD. Not all multi-talented people have ADHD, but some do, and I think might be one of those people.
I don’t like to self-diagnose, but as I was doing research on this for someone else, I started reading myself into the description: often has trouble when things are going slowly, fidgets and feels the need to leave their seat in social situations, talks too much in social gatherings, is impulsive, interrupts people… check, check, check, check, check, check, and… check.
Personally, I feel some of these descriptors are simply talking about someone’s personality—a personality that’s different from the norm, and so we feel the need to label it as a disorder. Having said that, there are definitely times when people may need help—those who have difficulty accomplishing activities of daily living, for example—but I do believe ADHD is over-diagnosed and over-treated.
My personal opinion is that my ADHD (if indeed I have it) is a different way to think, not a condition to be treated. And I may be thrown under a bus for saying so, but I question the validity of a lot of ADHD diagnoses… it seems we are diagnosing personality: if you don’t fit exactly what society expects, we need to diagnose a medical condition, and often times, medicate your behaviour so you act the way that’s expected of you. It seems over the top.
Having said that, for those of us whose ADHD behaviours affect our everyday lives, sometimes strategies are needed. In rare cases, medication may be appropriate as well, but again, I think medication is over-prescribed. I prefer behavioural change strategies when needed—I think we could use more acceptance for personality differences as well, which is why I say behaviour modification “when needed.” It has worked for me, but it’s been a long road to get here, and I had to do it on my own. I learned some hard lessons along the way.
I’ve lost some friends because of my impulsiveness, which sometimes leads me to put my foot in my mouth. But for the most part, the real friends, the ones who love me for who I am, have stuck around. And I’ve learned to live in the world in a way that helps me to honour my personality while still being able to function.
This website is but one example. The 10+ diverse jobs I’ve had (and excelled at) in the last 19 years give another glimpse at how I have embraced my multi-talented personality.
While I give myself the room to be creative and impulsive, I’ve also learned to devise strategies that work for being a responsible person, which is why I did well in all those jobs.
Over the years, I’ve trained myself to behave appropriately in social settings. I’ve taken courses on active listening, and although it’s difficult, I force myself not to interrupt and to try to remember whatever I want to say for later. Of course I never do remember what it is I wanted to say, but the point is that I’ve become a better listener—and that’s always a good thing.
I still talk too much at social gatherings, but I happen to be hyper-aware of people’s feelings, and I’ve learned to read a room to see if my over-talkativeness is bothering people, and if it is, I ask a question to divert attention elsewhere. Sometimes this is really difficult, but I’ve taught myself to do it, and I think I’ve become better company for it.
It wasn’t always this way, and I have had more than one person ask me really impolitely to please stop talking. Hence the active listening courses. I’m working on it. And those people should work on their manners, too.
I’ve also taught myself to be hyper-organized and to write absolutely everything down. I keep a creative day book where I doodle, journal, and distract my busy fingers. In that day book, I also write what I have to do each day, minute by minute, when it comes to having to go somewhere and be someplace.
If I have to take my kids to an appointment, I write down the time for the appointment, the time I have to start driving there, the time I have to start getting the kids ready, and what time everyone needs to be awake by (if the appointment is in the morning).
I promise you, if I don’t do this, I’ll be late or miss the appointment all together. I of course have to remember to look at my day book each day to check those minute-by-minute notes. I’ve developed strategies and routines that help me do this.
I’m well known among my friends and colleagues for being very punctual and organized. But I’m organized because I have to be, not because it comes naturally to me—I’ve worked for years on becoming an organized person. I was also a military clerk for 7 years; that certainly taught me some more organization skills.
Ask me for any important document and I can get it for you in less than 2 minutes—a place for everything and everything in its place, if the everything is something important. Don’t ask me to find inconsequential things, there’s too much in my brain to fit that in.
I’ve also become well-known in some online freelance writing groups for my mind maps. I love them because in addition to helping me organize my thoughts, they also show a picture of why that’s necessary: what you see on those mind maps is what is constantly happening in my brain. I’m constantly making connections.
I often go on tangents and forget what the initial point of the story or conversation was. I go on those tangents because I see connections everywhere. Over the years, I’ve trained myself to make this work for me—such as using mind maps and creating a lifestyle around my many interests.
All this is to say that yes, I probably have ADHD, but that’s not the reason I’m multi-talented. Perhaps these two go hand in had, but many people can have many interests and not have ADHD. Whether it is or it isn’t, I don’t see it as something to be fixed.
I’ve learned to embrace my many talents and build a life, career, and hobbies around them. Reading Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose was a turning point in my life. After reading that book, I accepted who I was, realized there were other people like me out there, and that I can live the life I want to live and do all the things I want to do. Yes, I often don’t have enough time to do everything, and balance is always a challenge, but I’m working on it. One step at a time.
Will I ever seek a diagnosis for ADHD? Probably not. I’ve learned to create systems and strategies that work for me in the world I live in, while still honouring who I truly am. Whether or not I have ADHD is inconsequential now.
Part of me also feels that had I been diagnosed as a young child, things would have turned out much differently for me. Having high expectations on me both at home and at school helped me to forge the path I’m on today. Perhaps I wouldn’t have tried as hard if I had the crutch of a label to fall back on.
Today, I choose to call myself multi-talented, because that is what I am. I have many different interests and excel at most of them. I also have other interests that I’m not entirely good at, but that’s not the point. The point is that I enjoy my “jumpy brain,” and I don’t see a need to try to fix it. I like the way I think, and it helps me live the life I want to live.
Do you have ADHD? Or are you multi-talented? Or both? If you do have ADHD, what are some of the strategies you use to stay organized? Let us know in the comments.