Why ADHD is Not a Bad Thing

It's so common to hear a lot about the negatives to being diagnosed as having ADD/ADHD, but given that this kind of brain has been around for as long as people have, doesn't it seem odd that so many people throughout history have thrived with the condition? In fact, there are many who will point to some of the most brilliant people in history and see ADD in them.

My ADD was not diagnosed until I was in middle age, when my life was such that it began to cause problems for me in daily functioning. Prior to that, I clearly had the disorder, but had managed to make my way through life quite successfully -- and happily. Like so many others with ADD, I was an underachiever in school. At least through high school. I chose to not attend college right out of high school because I had been so frustrated until then. Many years later, when I wanted to make a career change, I did go to college, and then I really thrived. I mean REALLY thrived, earning a 3.8 GPA. One of my shining moments was when I took Chemistry, and went from failing (literally) the first two tests in the class, to not only leaving the class with an A, but being the highest scorer on the final exam.

For me, the difference was that when I did go to college it was to pursue my dream, so I was motivated. And in such a typically ADD way, I became hyperfocused on the classes I really cared about. And I really cared to not have that Chemistry class drag down my sterling GPA up to that point.

Another thing that made a huge difference for me was that in college, the professors embrace students who think creatively and there are many ways to study in a non-traditional way. In fact, much of my college was done online, where I had the time to think through questions or responses and didn't have the pressure on myself to come up with the answer or question NOW. For ADDers, sometimes things percolate around in our brains for a while before we even know we had a question.

I was lucky in grade school and high school as well. I had a handful of teachers that, while not knowing anything about a condition called ADD, knew and cared enough to bend the rules at times in order to stimulate my easily distracted (and bored) mind. They also knew enough to recognize a bright mind was being stifled by the usual way of doing things. In particular, I had a history teach who asked us to do a final report that would be presented to the entire school. I asked her if I could do the history of rock 'n roll, a passion of mine at the time. When I look back, I realize how extremely fortunate I was that Mrs. George was not the average teacher. She asked if she could think about it, and I'm sure she was considering how the school administration would receive such a "history" project. But in the end, she said yes. For anyone with ADD, they know that her consent was such a shot in the arm for me that I dove into that project with gusto no-one had ever seen from me before! I even contacted a local radio station DJ and asked him to be part of my presentation. For the little girl who refused to make phone calls for my mother, who thought I was too painfully shy to do so (when that wasn't really the problem, I just didn't WANT to make those phone calls to neighbors), that was a huge step.

My project was an enormous success and lauded by all the students (because it was fun) and the teachers who appreciated the creativity of it. I'll be forever indebted to Mrs. George for being wise enough to allow me to do something that made me feel smart. Actually, she made me feel brilliant. No wonder, then, that after high school I went into the music industry!

The point here is that ADD is really about the way a person's brain works and learns, which just happens to be different from the way the majority of the human populations' brains work. Because of that, schools and large societal organizations are geared away from the way we think, sometimes making it hard for us to thrive in those situations.

But thrive we can, with the right understanding, from ourselves and others. There are myriad ways in which the ADD brain works that are more than positive. ADDers tend to be creative, intuitive, able to see alternatives that others don't, and we can focus (when it's right) like no-one else on earth. Yes, finishing long projects can be challenging, but there are things we can do to help improve the odds that we'll get it done. We can't do it the way so many other people do, but sometimes we can do it better!

Reining in that hyperactive brain can be difficult and make us feel scattered, but we can learn how to remember what we wanted to do long enough to take much-needed breaks, and then actually return to the project and complete it. The key is to be gentle with ourselves when we can't get to the goal the same way others do, yet still get to the goal, just by doing it our OWN way.

In retrospect, I see now how all through my life I adjusted in order to "get through," and later in life how I had created my own "systems" to make things happen. I believe I can help you with your own challenging ADD mind by helping guide you to find ways you can succeed, too!


Need a tutor for my daughter at La Hacienda for a self study booklet and pretest for a self study school she attends. She is ADD and math is foreign to her.
Great thoughts Martha!  Thank you for sharing your insights!
Sorry.... I meant Virginia! :-)
Bravo! Thank you for this article.  I too have ADD and have never thought of it as a disability in anyway. I know my limitations and I have learned ways to keep my mind engaged and on topic. My children have varying degrees of ADD (undiagnosed) and my youngest son has by the school's demand been diagnosed as ADHD. He passes with flying colors and gets in trouble for being distracting to others. He was so disappointed in himself and has told me several times "Mom... I'm not different. There's nothing wrong with me." It's heart breaking that they label children as behavioral problems because their minds work differently. I just smiled and told him, "I'm the same as you are. I got into a lot of trouble in school, but got by with most of it because I was such a great student. So... No. There's nothing wrong with you. It's not our fault that they are all dull and boring and you were meant to shine."
So anyways. Long story short. Thank you. Thank you for saying something positive about ADD.


Virginia B.

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