A while ago I was talking to someone like me who was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD. Our different perspectives were interesting to me. He was bitter and I was hopeful when first diagnosed. He was bitter because his first thought was how his life had been wasted. When I was first diagnosed I was hopeful and relieved. I was relieved because it meant I was not a bad and lazy person just someone facing legitimate challenges. I was hopeful because now that I was diagnosed maybe I could get proper help and my life would improve. That is what happened!

People don’t wake up and say, “I wish I had ADHD.” Nor do they say, “When I have children I hope they have ADHD.” Having ADHD is a hard life and obviously the earlier you get help the better. But I don’t think life before diagnosis is a waste. What it is, is a struggle. After a diagnosis life is still a struggle. It is just a different struggle. A hopeful one I would argue.

Prior to diagnosis our struggle can feel hopeless. We believe we are lazy and maybe even bad. Also that life will always be this way. I believe the diagnosis gives us understanding, forgiveness and hope. Understanding why we do or don’t do things helps us not to judge ourselves. Explanations don’t necessarily remove problems but they give us clues on how to solve or manage situations better.

Forgiving oneself is important. We can’t go back and change the past but we can shift how we deal with the future. There is hope in that shifting. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. It is not always a solution but it can lead us toward opportunities that may provide solutions. If not solutions, at least better ways to live our life post diagnosis.

I also believe that every experience is an opportunity. Even negative experiences can present an opportunity. We always have a choice to dwell on the negativity of the experience or to seek out what we could learn from the experience. Many years ago I had back surgery and unfortunately ended up being in more pain post surgery than prior to surgery. The chronic pain lasted for years and could have stolen my life. Instead I decided to look inward to see if I had gained anything from the experience. I found I had. I had survived something really difficult. This gave me a sense of accomplishment. It helped build up my self esteem. It also made me realize that managing chronic pain for over a decade involves internal strength. I could use that strength in other areas of my life. I also developed a greater empathy for others struggling.

Just as those with ADHD struggle we can choose to find strength in that struggle. Getting up each day and facing the world knowing it is going to be struggle shows great fortitude. Simply not giving up is true strength. There is also a hopefulness in the act of getting up each day and not giving up before you even begin. I tell many of my clients when they are discouraged that simply coming to coaching is a hopeful act. You wouldn’t have bothered to find much less see an ADHD coach if you had totally given up. What would be the point?

Part of having ADHD is messing up. But you have a choice as to whether or not you forgive yourself in that moment and endeavor to try to do better. You have the choice to try and understand what is happening and look for solutions. You have the choice to maintain hope.