A personal and transpersonal view of ADHD
Imagine being born in an environment or culture where your differences were not just embraced but also celebrated. How do you think your life would be right now? Do you think your ADHD traits would still be a hindrance? Do you think they would define who you are today?
There’s still a lot we don’t know about ADHD, especially in women. There are various views on what it is exactly and how we can “cure” it. But is it something that needs curing?
From my personal experience, a life lived through the ADHD traits lens is a messy and humbling journey. Messy because it challenged my societal beliefs and expectations about being a woman. Humbling because I failed to hold on to the distorted idea of perfection passed down to me by my environment, culture, and past generations.
For most of my life, I felt that I was different. But I had no idea why. I struggled in school and found it traumatic at times. The first time I realised that I had ADHD traits, I was in my mid-30s. It was during a weekend when I was on my counselling training. We were working in pairs and had to do an exercise. But I struggled to remember the instructions mentioned a couple of minutes before. It was not the first time this had happened. But it was the first time I became fully aware of it and found it impossible to deny it anymore. I realised later that I had other ADHD traits: struggle to focus and express myself, awkwardness in social situations, and a super busy mind. The question that has always been on my mind is: Why was it so hard for me to do the things other people found easy to do?
I believe a common thing for someone with ADHD traits is the feeling of failing at being human.
Life can be hard when you don’t fit into a societal box. Mainly because this implies that something must be wrong with you if you are different from the norm.
As a therapist, I saw this in my practice as well. Without even realising it, I worked with women with ADHD traits; they were just not aware of that. Every week, I would sit opposite these lovely women who struggled to see how amazing they were. They were intelligent, funny, beautiful, caring, and the list could go on. But they could not see these qualities in themselves. Instead, they felt helpless, hopeless, and that something was wrong with them. These feelings were familiar to me. It dawned on me that they were more painful than having the traits themselves.
Is it truly the ADHD traits that are a struggle? Or is it the feelings of inadequacy, constant self-judgement, disappointment in oneself and others, anxiety about showing the true self to the world, and getting things wrong? I believe it’s easier to handle these traits when a woman has compassion for herself; when she forgives herself for not being the “perfect” child, mother, wife, girlfriend, partner, friend, colleague, etc.
There are many views on ADHD today, but the one that resonates with me the most is Gabor Mate’s: that it’s genetic and environmental. In his book Scattered Minds, Gabor offers a brilliant new perspective on ADHD, gained from personal life experiences and professional experience as a physician.
Gabor doesn’t just focus on the issues hidden underneath the traits but also offers hope. He doesn’t see it as a disease. He acknowledges the struggles the people might have been through and still do and invites us on a holistic and compassionate journey of self-discovery.
His views match the therapy model that I use, which is Psychosynthesis. Psychosynthesis is a beautiful blend of psychology and non-dogmatic spirituality. This model helps me see the woman in the session not from a place of mental disease but as someone on a healing journey of self-development and self-acceptance. In my work, I acknowledge the struggles and the trauma and offer a safe and empathic place for women to heal themselves. I make space in our sessions for the parts that might feel awkward and not nice. To allow their true self to come out. The self that long ago was rejected by their environment and their culture and went into hiding.
When a woman focuses on what is wrong with her, that will be what she sees the most. By doing that, she fails to see her potential and the unique qualities that make her one of a kind.
I believe there is no one size fits all approach when dealing with ADHD traits. We are all neurodiverse and have varied life experiences; therefore, the healing journey, in my opinion, is about acknowledging these differences and the struggles and allowing the therapy work to unfold in a way that is specific to each woman.
So, are you celebrating your differences? If you are trying to fit in a societal box, but none of them is a fit for you, create your own. But is that truly what you need? Maybe the only one who needs to accept your differences is you, and that is your real healing journey.