Finding meaning in the imperfections of ADHD

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It was a year ago this week that my therapist first suggested that I could have ADHD. So in that way, I consider this my first year of having ADHD but I also recognize that it’s been along for this ride I call life since the beginning.

Endings and beginnings are natural places to stop and reflect and I really wanted to take a moment to do that today. There’s nothing really all that special about today though it is the last day of 2020 and frankly, 2020 can kiss my ass, so you can rest assured that I will be ringing in 2021 with appropriate enthusiasm. But as far as my life goes, today is just another Thursday.

As 2019 was drawing to a close, my life felt like one of those scenes in the movies where the pilot looks left and sees the engine on the left wing sputter and die and then looks to the right wing just in time to see the same thing happen again. It was that feeling of inevitable doom that ultimately led me to seek therapy and set me on the path to discovering I have ADHD. So 2019 wasn’t exactly a stellar year for me.

Of course 2020 has been a shitstorm. I can’t even begin to list all of the crap we’ve dealt with this year, from the Covid-19 pandemic to murder hornets. My only wish is that an election cycle never again hit during a pandemic because I felt like a captive audience for the never-ending press coverage and that wasn’t nearly as entertaining as watching The Tiger King.

But 2020 has also been a year of self-discovery and growth for me. I saw my therapist regularly until the shutdown began. I was able to get an official diagnosis of ADHD Inattentive from a psychiatrist and that opened the pathway to medication. That journey has been fraught with frustration as well, but it’s a story for another day.

The most important thing I did in 2020 was to connect with the ADHD community. More than therapy, doctors, and any medication you can find, connecting with other ADHDers has made the biggest impact on how I manage my symptoms and learn new ways to get through the challenges that ADHD brings. The support that I received from our community from Day 1 was amazing, and I could think of no better way to repay that than by paying it forward.

As much as 2020 sucked, it is also the year that I: started ADHD surprise (the blog and later the YouTube channel), and I have worked with some amazing people to create the ADHD Support Group on Discord, We Are ADHD, and I recently joined the Camp ADHD team.

I will not make any claims on perfection. Finding out I have ADHD has made me scrutinize my life and my actions more intensely than ever before. It’s also forced me to see the beauty in imperfection. I read Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly this year and she shared something I have really tried to take to heart: “Perfection is the enemy of done. Good enough is really effin’ good.”

It’s important to know and understand your imperfections. Goodness knows I have a lot of them. But knowing what they are isn’t enough, and the point isn’t to dwell on them…this just sends an open invitation to RSD, anxiety, and depression to come to the table and discuss your imperfections with you at length.

Imperfection is part of being human and makes sure life is interesting. When you roll up a new D&D character, it can be tempting to try to make someone who is simply great at everything–I mean, isn’t that what we all really want?? But if every roll went your way, and everything you tried was simply a success, your D&D play would be very boring and your life would teach you nothing.

I used to coach scholastic chess and I was fond of telling my players that with each game, you either win or you learn. Of course they wanted to win every game they played and there is nothing wrong with that desire. The reality though is that not every game will be won. And when you lose, it’s your opponent showing you a weakness or imperfection that they found. By beating you, they have literally shown you where you need to improve.

So while it is very easy to focus on our imperfections in non-productive ways, I challenge you to shift your perspective just a bit. I do want you to learn where your rough edges are. Learn where you need help and support and then go get it when you need it. Find good partners, friends, and colleagues who will benefit from your strengths and who can help support you where you are weak.

When you’re stuck fixating on your flaws, take a moment to recognize the opportunity that they present for beauty, growth, and connection with others. Managing ADHD is a constant struggle, but there’s no rule that we have to face it alone. There are plenty of DREAD pirates out there happy to help you navigate the choppy seas of life.


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Which ADHD symptoms are helped by Medication?

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I have been working on this post for a very long time. Medicating ADHD is a divisive topic to begin with, and then the combination of millions of unique ADHDers using a wide variety of medications meant that writing a post like this would need a very thoughtful approach.

I originally began this as a discussion on Twitter back in January. If you prefer hearing about what specific people have experienced using specific medications, this is a great thread to get you started:

But as good as that thread was, it didn’t feel like something I could really turn into a blog post. So last summer I introduced the #ADHDmedsMegaPoll on Twitter, in which I asked for ADHDers who have used medication to treat ADHD to rate the effectiveness of their medications on 20 common ADHD symptoms. I received over 850 responses to each question, up to 1300 on the highest! If you’d like to read the original poll and see the responses for each symptom, you can see it all here:

What we can learn from the data

I am so excited to finally have data that I believe I can share in a way that will be meaningful for just about everyone! For each symptom, I asked folks to determine if their medication 1) Helped significantly, 2) Helped a little, 3) Didn’t help, or 4) Made the symptom worse. I converted all responses to a numerical equivalent, and created a scale to rate the totals. What follows is a summary of the data that tells you and me which symptoms of ADHD we can reasonably expect meds to help with.

The Near-Guarantee! | 1.25 or higher

These symptoms had overwhelmingly positive responses, with greater than 88% of respondents reporting positive impact from medication. When you find the right medication and dose, you can have a high degree of confidence in seeing improvement with these symptoms.

Maintaining attention on boring tasks – 1.46
Concentrating on conversation – 1.37
Follow-through and finishing projects – 1.34

The Good | 1.0-1.25

With these symptoms, most respondents saw some improvement, but with a much smaller percentage claiming significant improvement. When you find the right medication and dose, you should be able to expect some improvement with these symptoms.

Avoiding/delaying tasks – 1.19
Leaving your seat – 1.08
Distracted by activity/noise – 1.05
Impulse control – 1.02
Organization – 1.01
Making careless mistakes – 1.00

The Okay | 0.60-0.99

In this range, more respondents saw improvement more often than not, ranging from 52 to 66% positive responses. While the results stayed overall positive, there were a significant number of responses indicating no improvement. Even with the right medication and dose, you won’t necessarily see much improvement with these symptoms.

If you’re not having success with some of these, you may try another medication, or it might be a great opportunity to build some positive routines to support yourself, like carrying a notebook where you write down things to remember or keeping a fidget in your pocket so you can pull it out when needed.

Remembering things – 0.86
Regulating emotions – 0.85
Waiting your turn – 0.73
Misplacing things – 0.72
Feeling restless/fidgety – 0.72
Fidgeting/squirming while sitting – 0.69
Feeling driven like a motor – 0.66
Interrupting others while busy – 0.63

The Bad | 0.59 and below

These were the worst rated in the bunch, with the majority of the responses being negative, indicating that medication ether did not help, or actually made the symptoms worse. My best recommendation with these is to find a good friend who can help give you a good nudge when you need it. If you have any great tips for working with these, please let us all know in the comments below!

Finishing others’ sentences – 0.51
Talking too much – 0.44
Difficulty relaxing – 0.35

So now what?

Please remember that we are all different, and each medication is also different. Some folks had marked improvement even on the lowest rated symptoms on this list, while others struggled to find relief with the highest. Take this for what it’s worth, simply a guide for what you might hope for. My meds journey is far from over, and it’s terribly frustrating at times. But I don’t want to waste hope on improving symptoms that aren’t likely to be improved through medication, and that’s what I wanted to pass along. Where you can most likely find hope.

What do you think? Does this list reflect your experience? Has it been different for you? Please share in the comments below or add to our conversations on Facebook or Twitter.


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I’m grateful for Camp ADHD

Camp ADHD was held a week and a half ago. If you missed it, don’t worry, they’re working on preserving the sessions through video and the written word. But I am sorry to have to tell you that nothing will replace the feeling of actually being there.

I was asked to be one of several speakers for the day. I was happy to accept and put together a presentation that was meaningful. As the camp was scheduled to begin a bit earlier in the day than I typically wake up, I intended to join in to just listen to the presentation before mine, give mine, and then return to my typical day.

As luck would have it, I woke up exceptionally early that day. So I was there when the camp opened. I was there when we watched Dani Donovan’s personalized message for us. I was there when Tanya gave her wonderful presentation on telling others about having ADHD. Then I gave my presentation.

And I stayed on the rest of the day.

Camp ADHD drew together around 150 people from around the world. People with diverse backgrounds and stories, and many different reasons why we came. But we all received the same thing when we got there.


I’ve been part of the ADHD community for just over six months now, ever since I first joined Twitter and was immediately welcomed in and shown the way that we care for and lift up one another. But Camp ADHD brought this to a level I hadn’t experienced before.

Perhaps it was the stark contrast with Covid. Literally everything in my life has been shut down to some degree or other since March. This canceled nearly all social events and severed nearly all of my social connections. But that Camp ADHD Saturday I was connected with people who understood me. People who struggle with my struggles and who have the same fears and share many of the same problems. Being at Camp ADHD was being with Family.

So this is my thank you. Thank you to the organizers of Camp ADHD – Halo, Abby, Ana, and Gwilym. Thank you for bringing us all together–for having a vision of what this could be and making it happen. You orchestrated the single most important event that I’ve experienced since learning of my diagnosis, and in doing so you have given me an experience I could have received nowhere else. It’s a feeling I want to hang onto and an event I want to have happen again and again.

The song is admittedly cheesy…but also accurate.

I reached out to the other speakers from that day and have messages from a couple of them as well, which I’ll post below:

From Tanya | Twitter | Instagram
I was so excited to talk at Camp ADHD; such a fantastic idea, and wonderful to watch it all come together. I felt thoroughly supported and appreciated at every step, from chucking ideas around by email to on-the-day getting ready and setting up. The organisers were all so helpful and friendly, and provided such a welcoming platform to share thoughts and ideas – it felt really holistic and the energy was so positive. I can’t wait for the next one!!

From George | Twitter
In my humble opinion, this was one of the most well organised, fun, and life-enriching events I’ve ever attended (both on- and off-line). The attendees numbered over 100, and included YouTubers, ADHD advocates, people from all four-corners of the globe (as one of the organisers put it), and I am both humbled and honoured to have been given the opportunity to speak at the event. I’ve connected with so many more people during and since the event, both through social media and by virtue of having simply listened to their story during the event. I have no doubts in my mind that the next CampADHD will be just as good, if not better.

If you’d like to make sure you’re connected and ready for the next Camp ADHD event, be sure to follow the official Camp ADHD account and organizers:

Camp ADHD | Twitter | Instagram | Mailing List
Halo | Twitter | Instagram | Website
Abby | Twitter | Instagram | Blog
Ana | Twitter | Art Website
Gwilym | Twitter | Instagram |


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