“We are stronger and smarter than our reactive selves.” I wrote this in an article shared on elephant journal, and I was referring to our intellectual self — versus our reactive self. I received many questions and comments about this statement, so I took some time to reflect and dig further about what this means to me. And as a woman with ADHD (inattentive subtype), it is a daily struggle to control my impulses from reacting quickly.
I trust my “intellectual self;” she has solid judgment, but my reactive self can be stronger. Almost as though my mind and my body are in constant conflict.
As humans, all of us have the capacity to feel genuine, deep thoughts and emotions. As we mature, our brain, and intellectual self, helps to guide us. But, sometimes our emotions can feel so strong that we don’t take the time to stop and process what our brain is telling us, or maybe we don’t want to accept it?
ADHD in children is a popular topic because many children possess characteristics of ADHD, especially their lack of impulse control. A visual example is to picture a TV sitcom where the character needs to make an important decision. The person’s inner angel sits on one shoulder whispering wise advice, while his/her inner devil tugs on the other shoulder offering more fun, yet risky advice. And this is when our reactive self takes over our actions.
My emotions have become stronger as an adult, and my ADHD has not disappeared. I am proud to feel so passionately about the people in my life and my career, and that I have developed the courage to speak my mind more easily. Although this is healthy, I have also found that it is much harder for me to accept a frustrating situation. Intellectually I am aware and I know remaining calm and in control is always best; yet I still react too quickly when I feel a situation is out of my control. This mostly occurs in regard to the relationships in my life versus my professional life; probably because I’m selective about who I allow to enter my world, and my connection with them becomes extremely passionate.
I am certain that I am not the only one who has severed friendships and sabotaged romantic relationships; more than likely caused by my explosive temper and harsh words. I believe there is a great lack of understanding about ADHD in adults, and the impact it has on our ability to react in a healthy manner during stressful situations. And when my reactive self takes over because of disappointment or feeling insecure, there is no stopping her.
I am hopeful that through my disclosure and offering some suggestions, I can provide more understanding when connected to a woman with ADHD. And I refer mostly to those in love with her…
Capturing the love of a woman with ADHD can be a surmountable experience. However, along with this loving journey, there will most likely be some frustrating behaviors. Her partner may feel enamored with her affection and attentiveness, but there will be times when she seems distracted. This does not mean she isn’t listening, or that her partner is unimportant. At times, her senses need to be engaged in multiplicity and she is probably hearing every word said; even if she is cleaning the kitchen or moving furniture around!
An ADHD woman may often appear disorganized. Perhaps there are several unfinished projects in the making. Try to stay relaxed and go along with her flow. This is not hurting anyone and she will complete these projects in her own unique timeframe. Her office or closet may look like a tornado hit, but she knows where to find what she needs. Allowing her to claim her own physical space can be helpful.
She will often be late. This does not mean she is being disrespectful or lacking the seriousness of where she needs to be. Her concept of time is different. Maintaining a high level of patience is necessary to prepare for this. Keep a healthy sense of humor to try and help her be more prepared.
Lastly, and most importantly, her mood or emotions seem to move from one side of the spectrum to the other almost instantly. If she becomes upset or angry, she may be quick to say hurtful and disheartening things. Her partner needs to be understanding and forgiving, and know the difference is that someone without ADHD also thinks derogatory thoughts, but their ability to refrain from saying it aloud is much stronger. I know firsthand that she will feel apologetic and angry with herself for losing control.
Of course everyone has his/her own unique qualities, and not all women will possess the same ADHD characteristics that I have mentioned. Generally, we are intellectual, ambitious, and persistent. Loving us means that our partner will constantly be entertained, have a lot of fun, and feel truly loved.