ADHD as an Adult – My Superpower

ADHD as an Adult – My Superpower

18 April 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 3 mins

It is 5 am as I am writing this to you, and I am wide awake with excitement. I wanted to write about my ADHD as an adult and how you can turn your ADHD traits to your advantage. Working with adults diagnosed with ADHD, I realized that there are undeniable similarities in this tribe.

You might relate to the following: 

At school, hearing that you “have so much potential,” yet, it felt that not many helped you harness or tame those potentials. You always have a thousand great ideas but struggle to finish the simplest tasks, such as changing your address at the bank. Everyone tells you how important routines are, and you agree, but you struggle to stick with them. You can go from starting your day at 5 am, going to the gym, working full days, attending to your children, cooking and cleaning to absolute “freeze mode” in the space of a day. Often you might wonder if there is something wrong with you or feel anxious that the unproductive days will last longer than the “in the zone” ones.

I get it – I was diagnosed in my 30s by two doctors, one in Hong Kong and the second in South Africa. At first, I felt a bit offended by both professionals. I wasn’t asking or looking for a diagnosis but rather explaining an idea that I thought to be revolutionary in support of neurodivergent individuals. Once I let go of the offense I experienced, I started to find ways to optimize my ADHD traits and let it work for me. According to Pinzone et al. (2019), most ADHD adults in their study shared features of emotional responses to stimuli and irritability. How can we change these temporary irritations to superpowers?

Optimizing ADHD as an adult 

Yes, we find routines boring, yet we know they are good for us. So, how do we include them in our daily schedule? We have to give ourselves a reason, and a good one, for including these tasks in our schedule. For example, if you feel you need to meditate, you won’t find it practical to meditate at a specific time every day. You need to identify when you are feeling anxious, frustrated, tired, or uninspired, and then do a meditation specifically for that feeling.

Guided and immersive meditations work best for me. My phone or device takes me on an interactive journey and vibrates at times to keep me focused and entertained. I sometimes feel jealous of people who can “not think” – there is no button in my brain for this. I can focus on meditation for a specific purpose when there are exciting add-ons, such as the immersive and sensory experience. This goes for all daily tasks – I try and give myself a reason for needing to complete them. The reason needs to be specific to my interest. Using the earlier example – I need to change the address at the bank as I am going abroad. And it needs to be right before I dive into the red sea in Egypt. Interest included – check. I am more motivated to complete this (not so dull anymore) admin task!

Flow days versus float days. Some days you will feel totally focused and get through work that most might take a week to complete. On other days you will struggle to complete basic tasks.

Be gentle here – work on your strengths, and don’t be too hard on yourself on those unproductive days. Our brains work differently – we find balance in these two extremes. We might not have a very balanced day every day, but our weeks balance each other out. I start some days at 5 am because I am excited about the topic (like today). On other days I struggle to wake up and wait for coffee served in bed by my partner. I love the way I switch from the productive beast to the cuddling bear in a matter of days. Your partner, family member or friends should know this is your normal.

There are many other strategies for fellow ADHDers, but I want to leave you with this. Your ADHD traits make you interesting, highly intuitive, and empathic. You notice subtle changes in people’s demeanor that most might miss. Maybe you feel emotions more intensely, and your sense of care is something the world craves. You are perfect, just the way you are, and I am honored to be in your tribe.

Pinzone V, De Rossi P, Trabucchi G, Lester D, Girardi P, Pompili M. Temperament correlates in adult ADHD: A systematic review. J Affect Disord. 2019 Jun 1;252:394-403. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.04.006. Epub 2019 Apr 8. PMID: 31003108.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental