The ADHD Diagnosis

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the 1999 Bruce Willis film, The Sixth Sense.

This is an excellent blog post on working with ADHD by Stack Overflow. Let’s talk about it.

ADHD as a superpower

In particular, I liked their discussion about ADHD being less of a ‘superpower’ and more of an invisible disability.

I’ve heard people mention ‘hyper-focus’ as an ADHD superpower. I don’t get hyper-focus often, but when I do, it’s rarely what I wanted to do today.

As the developer in the article says,

You get into flow, and you’re being really, really productive, but on the opposite end of that, time goes by really quickly, and you realize, ‘Oh, crap, I had three other things I promised somebody today, but I just lost a few hours.‘

I can’t choose to go into hyper-focus, and I can’t break out when I’m in it.

Superman’s laser eyes are a cool superpower. They’d be a lot less cool if they only fired at random times.

The diagnosis changes everything

One day I was telling my therapist about my difficulties focusing, as it was becoming a real problem.

”Have you ever considered you might have ADHD?"

"Nah. I looked into it years ago, but I’m pretty sure I don’t.”

She gave me a test, and much to my surprise, I got high scores for ‘attention deficit.‘

The importance of the diagnosis is another thing the Stack Overflow article nails.

Being diagnosed as an adult, said the other interviewee, “is really interesting, because you all of a sudden understand where a lot of your weird traits come from. You realize, ‘OK, that’s why this is hard for me; that’s why I struggle with this or that.”

My diagnosis was like learning that Bruce Willis was dead the entire time in The Sixth Sense.

When you’re first watching, little things are odd. Only the kid talks to Bruce Willis. He doesn’t interact with physical things. He’s wearing the same clothes throughout the movie. Then he gets diagnosed with being dead, and everything clicks.

In my life, it was similar. I always needed help staying organized. I need help with planning and time management. I get ready for things at the last second.

When I got my diagnosis - you’ve had ADHD the entire time - all these scenes from my life suddenly made sense.

What changes most is how you view yourself. I always thought I had a character flaw. I thought I was lazy, and if I tried harder, I could be like my classmates.

I’m not lazy, just neurodivergent. These things are more difficult for me, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make me a bad person.

That had the largest impact on me.

It also gives you opportunities for treatment and strategies that work for people with ADHD.

You get very different results searching “car won’t start” and “electric car won’t start.” Some tips from the first search won’t apply to electric cars and could complicate the issue further.

It’s the same with “productivity tips” and “ADHD productivity tips.” Trying things that work for other ADHDers has made a big difference.

The Stack Overflow piece is one of the better articles on working with ADHD. Rather than a writer Googling or asking GPT about ADHD, they asked real people dealing with it.