I am not a pharmacist or a drug dealer. I mean the Medicine more in the metaphorical sense – like the wrong magic, the wrong spell, the wrong theme.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and bet that you’ve been trying to get fitter, happier, more productive… for a long time. You’ve been turning over a new leaf – one every 3 months.

You find out you’ve got problems with organization and focus. You ask around. What comes back?

  • If you believe in the right spiritual or religious thing, you’ll be completely ok.
  • If you pick the right diet, one that matches your blood type or your sensitivity, or your ethical principles, or your weight goals, you’ll be all set.
  • If you learn and adopt the right set of habits, based on your strengths, or your weaknesses, or your goals, or your zodiac sign, or your social aspirations, or your personal choice, or your sexual preference, or your race, or your gender, or your personal style, you’ll be good.

You decide it’s time to turn over a new leaf. Let’s call this New Leaf #1.

What happens? You adjust your beliefs to match the new system, take on internalizing the message from the new health, identity, or productivity guru, and things get mildly better. For a while.

But without a correct diagnosis that helps you understand how your unique brain works, you will find most of the new improvements really hard to put into practice, and you will have trouble digging into the most important and valuable aspects of these traditions or innovations, and then the first pattern emerges. This is when the New Leaf withers and falls. 

You gradually stop reading the new books – whatever it was, it hasn’t really worked. The new habits you learned in the weekend seminar have not taken hold in your daily life, and your desire for change has been aroused but not sated. You realize you’re still having the same problems, but now you’ve actually tried something and it failed.

So eventually you slink away from New Leaf #1, which may cost you some relationships. Maybe you still like meat, so your vegetarian friends start to see you as non-committal. Or you still like meditation and foul language, so your religious friends are hard to be around. The end of the first new leaf can be gradual or sudden, but it’s usually painful and confusing.

What happens next?

What could happen: you could get diagnosed, confronting the core problems of your unique brain setup and get started taking better care of it, and arranging your life to better fit your own cognitive fingerprint.

But instead, it’s probably going to be a New New Leaf. It’s not 7 Habits – that’s so 90s. It’s Choose Yourself. Or distance running, or Crossfit… 

This repetition can be expensive, tiring, and discouraging. No matter how committed you are to momentum, to not getting discouraged, to improving no matter what, a shadow forms in the back of your mind:

What if I can’t find the right thing? What if it’s not a matter of finding the right thing? What if something is wrong with me that cannot be fixed?

your search for change might become by turns more or less fervent. You may have a mental list with a few things I Have Not Tried Yet. So you start going down the list a little further, into things you had originally rejected as too extreme.

Acupuncture. Veganism. Sky diving.

You begin casting about more widely, checking out what other people have done. Is it time to join a different church, a more hardcore gym, a more dangerous job?

If you have ADHD, any of these new solutions might help you a great deal, but without understanding and addressing your symptoms, you will find it maddeningly difficult to benefit substantially from any solution, because they’re mostly packaged and presented for normal people.

I have been diagnosed twice with ADHD – once in 1994, and again in 2019. The first time I tried on on the lens of ADHD to evaluate my problems was revolutionary, and taking even a single minor step to treat the symptoms made such a change that I spent the next two decades thinking I had solved the problem and eventually that the whole problem had been a mirage in the first place.

This is pretty common.

Why?

Because understanding this disorder is difficult, and the medical and psychiatric treatment system is not set up to deal with more than the most extreme symptoms. Usually, if you’re fortunate to be diagnosed properly, you might get a book referral with your prescription, and a periodic visit to check on your dosage and side-effects. 

If your blood pressure and sleep are both in the clear, you’ll probably leave the doctor’s office thinking the problem is fixed, and you can just go on your merry way.

Unfortunately, ADHD, while very treatable, does not respond very well to just one approach at a time. If you want to win back the lost life expectancy we talked about in another post, and to really improve your performance in any area of your life, you’re going to have to be willing to put in sustained effort over time, get out of isolation, and take a multi-track approach.

So, if ADHD is really your problem, are you ready to take a more concerted approach?

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