Stronger Together: How to Build a Rock-Solid ADHD Support Team

Let Me Start With the Why

From one ADHDer to another, I believe we need people in our corner who really “get it.”

I know I personally have always found (even before my ADHD was discovered) that everything’s better when I have people in my life whom I can trust and who believe in me. Now that I know I have ADHD, people having my back — or having an “ADHD support team” — seems all the more crucial.

After being diagnosed, there’s a wave of relief as suddenly so much finally makes sense, but then there’s the flood of contrasting emotions that follow. It kind of turns your world upside down. There’s no better time to enlist supporters who understand that ADHD is a real thing and who will still love and advocate for your best interests in light of the news.

It helps to have people who understand ADHD is an explanation, not an excuse … that having ADHD doesn’t mean we are malfunctions or flawed, but that we’re just wired this way because we have a neurobiological difference. I mean — in the end, ADHD or not, we ALL need understanding, acceptance, and to be embraced just the same.

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
—Albert Einstein

1. Be Your Own Advocate First

First things first, it’s critical to be your own best advocate. You are the most important person in looking after your health. We need to remember that we play a major role in the success of our support teams. We need to actively participate as a team player on our own support teams and not stand in the way of those that could help us thrive.

If everyone you choose for your team isn’t privy to all things ADHD, enlighten them. This includes yourself. Start with educating yourself and then your supports. Explore the nuances. Debunk myths. As you grow in confidence, keep spreading ADHD Awareness outward into the your community. It will only make us all stronger, together.

2. Cultivate Your Champions

In light of our idiosyncrasies, it surely might be frustrating at times for an ill-informed person (neurotypical or not) to interact with an ADHDer. It can make all the difference in the world though, to have a well-informed ally that can see through any confusing or frustrating behaviors, and know deep down we’re not “doing it on purpose.” We might just need a little help, a reminder, a reassuring nod. What we need most are supporters who can remember the whole picture of who we are and be willing to remind us of our strengths whenever we need reminding.

“You want to have the supports around you where you can be real and be honest and get the kind of reassurances that we really do need.”
— Dr. Edward M. Hallowell

3. Celebrate the Uncommon

Make sure you and your support team understand that your ADHD isn’t the same as anyone else’s! Meeting one person with ADHD is just that — meeting one person with ADHD. ADHDers are as diverse as there are colors in the rainbow. Don’t let anyone white-wash you into a generalized stereotype.

4. Choose Wisely

Consider the character of those closest to you. Are they the best supports for you? Do they have your back? It matters because who we are is often reflected by and in those closest to us.

“You are the average of the five people you most associate with.”
— Tim Ferriss

Let’s face it, ADHDers tend to be more sensitive than neurotypical folk. We have an uncanny intuition and a tendency to pick up on the slightest things that others might miss. That strength can backfire though, especially in regards to self assessment, because we also have a predisposition to focus on minuscule negatives and overlook the positives. For example, we can get a glowing review on a performance, but concentrate on one little criticism … and completely forget about the standing ovation that came with it.

Jon Acuff talks about this kind of “Hater’s Math:” 

“Critic’s math: 1 insult + 1,000 compliments = 1 insult.”
—John Acuff

It’s so easy for us ADHDers to lose focus of the big picture. This makes it all the more crucial for us to surround ourselves with people who actively remember the whole picture of who we are and who are equally willing to remind us of who we are and willing to help refocus us on the positives.

5. Silence the Negative

Contrary to negative feelings many of us ADHDers are prone to have about ourselves for your past achievements (or lack thereof), people who would demean us or who are overly critical of our performance are not the ones we should surround ourselves with in order “to keep us in line.”

We need people who are constantly reminding us of our strengths and encouraging our best selves — not people who are constantly trying to get us to be good at the things we are bad at.

Don’t stay too long where you aren’t understood or appreciated. Those of us with ADHD tend to do that. We want to be liked, and we tend to over-share, over-give, over-stay.

“Just as people with ADD gain a great deal from supportive groups, they are particularly drained and demoralized by negative groups, and they have a tendency to stay with them too long, vainly trying to make things work out, even when all the evidence shows they can’t.”
— Dr. Edward M. Hallowell & Dr. John J. Ratey

My ADHD Support Team:

I’m working on building my own Imgy ADHD support team, and I’ll share more about them soon. What about you? Do you have any suggestions or anything you’d like to share about your team?

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