December 23, 2014

The Emotional Journey of an ADHD Hero: Sheryl Greenfield

Interview by Judy Brenis, ADHD coach, AAC

“Mom, you seem so happy,” my 26-year-old son said to me the other day. “And I am,” Sheryl Greenfield said, smiling, “but I wasn’t always.” At age 54, Sheryl has finally discovered what it means to trust herself, to believe in herself and to be her own cheerleader.

“It wasn’t easy,” Sheryl said, looking back on her journey of self-discovery. “I grew up feeling broken, like I never fit in. It took me more than 50 years to find my voice, but I finally did, and it feels amazing!”

Sheryl, who has ADHD, though she was not diagnosed until well into adulthood, grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia in a family that looked perfect from the outside, but that was not so perfect on the inside. “In our family, it was all about appearances,” explained Sheryl. Keeping up the façade was so demanding that by sixth grade she was seeing a psychiatrist. She was overweight, dealing with a lot of insecurities and (the old standard), ‘not working up to her potential.’

“I was so embarrassed to be in therapy, I would sneak home from school and hide out in the bathroom before appointments,” Sheryl said. “I never said one word to the psychiatrist during the entire year and a half I was seeing her.” Her mother tried putting her in group therapy, but that wasn’t much better. Sheryl said, “I still didn’t participate. I was totally shut down.”

At school, “Reading was always very difficult for me. I couldn’t concentrate, and while I was good at certain things, I did very poorly in others. I tried glossing over my struggles, lying about my grades, even though my parents always found out. I had low self-esteem and I was very frustrated,” Sheryl explained. “But the lesson I learned at home was that the important things was to be able to hide my problems behind a beautiful smile so no one would know how unhappy I was or how much pain I was in.”

“Because I had so little self-confidence, I did whatever my mother told me to do,” Sheryl said. Sheryl’s mother encouraged her to study interior design because she was artistic. Her mother’s plan for Sheryl’s life was simple: go to college, get a degree, work until you find a husband and then raise a family, Sheryl explained.

“The pressure for me in college was unbelievable,” Sheryl said, “I felt I had to work 10 times as hard as anyone else. If I loved what I was doing, I would do well. I aced economics, but always had poor marks in other subjects. I was shocked when I managed to graduate.” And even then, though she had her degree, Sheryl recalls, she never had the confidence to even look for a job in interior design. “I worked as a waitress and then as a bank teller until I met my husband, Bruce.”

“Having children only made it worse,” the mother of three said. “I’d felt like a failure most of my life, but I thought surely I would succeed as a mother. After all, it’s a maternal ‘instinct,’ right?” But things got worse, Sheryl admits. She found she was bored with her young children and wondered what was wrong with her, thinking, “What a terrible mother I must be!”

But, once again, Sheryl hid her true feelings. After all, how could she admit not liking motherhood, not liking her own children? Sheryl quickly fell back on the lessons she’d learned at home. Reality’s not important if you keep up appearances. “Everyone thought I had the perfect life,” Sheryl said. “I was the president of the PTA, served on a variety of boards and always looked well put together. The house was always clean and organized only because I had a housekeeper – of course, I felt guilty I couldn’t handle it myself – and I enjoyed entertaining and throwing parties because of the stimulation, but do you know how much energy that took?” she asks. “Something as seemingly simple as packing a suitcase was overwhelming.”

Stressed with the effort to keep up appearances, Sheryl was miserable, dealing with bottled up anger, anxiety and a feeling of hopelessness. While in her 30s, Sheryl again sought the help of a therapist, but he prescribed anti-depressants. They took the edge off, but were not the solution. “I screamed a lot back then,” Sheryl admits, remembering those days tearfully. “I would lose the kids’ papers for school. I just couldn’t keep it together.”

Sheryl is quick to credit her husband for helping her get through that period of her life. “He is so even-keeled, he picked up all the loose ends and never made me feel bad about it,” Sheryl said. Things became even more difficult for Sheryl when her oldest son, Josh, at the age of seven, was diagnosed with ADHD. He was unable to sit still for one minute. “I knew something was wrong,” Sheryl said. “From the time he was little, I knew he was different and that he struggled like me in many ways.”

“We had him tested and it confirmed what I had known all along.” From that point on, Sheryl said, she fought hard for her son to get the accommodations at school that would help him succeed. He also began taking Ritalin and went from barely scraping through school to straight A’s, although Sheryl admits that, on the down side, Ritalin quieted her son’s exuberant personality. But today Josh is a very successful musician and chef with a catering business he owns along with his younger brother, Michael. “He’s worked very hard on himself,” Sheryl said proudly. He graduated with a degree in marketing from the University of Delaware, but went to New York to follow his dream of making it with his rock band and “we encouraged him to follow his passion.”

Once Josh was diagnosed with ADHD, Sheryl was sure she too had ADHD and one day tried his medication. “For the first time, I could sit and read a book and really focus,” Sheryl said, and shortly thereafter I was diagnosed with ADHD as well. “Honestly, at first,” Sheryl confesses, “I didn’t really read much about my ADHD. I would merely use it as an excuse, blaming my lack of organization on my ADD. But a friend of mine suggested I read her sister-in-law, Sari Solden’s, new book, Women and ADD.”

“That was five years ago, and when I began to read Sari’s book, followed by Lara Honos-Webb’s The Gift of Adult ADD, my eyes were opened. I’m not screwed up. I have strengths, I have a voice.” This epiphany eventually led Sheryl to want to bring what she’d learned to help others who have struggled like she has. Sheryl explained that she spoke to a therapist friend who told me that I could help her run some support groups, “but first you have to become more knowledgeable,” she said to me. “Go and learn.”

So Sheryl did just that, and in her search for more information, she discovered David Giwerc and the ADD Coach Academy. “When I first listened to his online video, I cried from the moment he started talking until he stopped,” Sheryl said. “What he was saying hit my heart. This man is talking about me; I’ve got to sign up for this.”

Unbeknownst to Sheryl, this was not the end of her story, but merely the beginning. Taking classes through the ADD Coach Academy, Sheryl not only learned how to help others, but to help herself as well. “For nearly four months, I was sick in bed,” she said. “I wasn’t physically ill. I was dealing with a lot of emotions. A lot of that old stuff, regrets, self-judgment, mourning, and so on was coming up and I had to learn how to let go. I cried a lot.”

Sheryl also began to do the “work,” as she explained. “I remember David telling me that he could only take me so far. ‘You have to be the one to believe in yourself,’ he said.” And working with David as her mentor coach, together they pushed through Sheryl’s walls and she began to discover who she really was.

However, Sheryl recalls how things came to a head during a recent ADDCA conference Sheryl and David both attended. David realized that Sheryl had not fully developed her self-confidence and independence… he had become a surrogate decision maker. As Sheryl explains, “I had put him on a pedestal and needed to learn how to trust myself.” Knowing how important this step was for Sheryl’s development as a coach and as a confident adult with or without ADHD, David withdrew from her during those days at the conference.

“It was really tough for me when David wasn’t there for me, but I knew from the beginning I was learning something important from this. And as hard as it was, I have come out of it stronger,” Sheryl said. “I have so much more confidence in myself.” Today, Sheryl is grateful to David for what he did, and their friendship is stronger than ever.

Sheryl is now working as an ADHD coach herself, and wants to help others find their own inner voice. She has also developed a wonderful relationship with her own children, and she’s brought her new confidence in her ability to relate to young people to her career. She particularly enjoys working with young men and women about to go to college and their families, knowing the struggles that those with ADHD have during this important time in their life.

As for Sheryl, “The most important lesson I learned is to trust myself, to believe in myself. It’s nice when people notice my transformation or notice all the hard work I have done to get where I am today, but I no longer need the confirmation of others because, “I know it inside,” she said, “in my heart.”

“I’m comfortable in my own skin, I feel good about myself. I’m content. No, it’s not easy. I still work very hard every day. My ADD is not going away, but I know how to manage it. Things still come up, but I don’t let it immobilize me. I get out of bed saying, “How can I make a difference today?”

Duane Gordon: Creative Genius and ADHD Hero

Duane Gordon, Successful artist with ADHD

Duane Gordon

Interview by Judy Brenis, ADHD coach, AAC

Fifteen years ago, Duane Gordon was about to lose yet another job. His marriage was on the rocks and he admits, “I was a lousy husband and father.”

Flash forward to today and Gordon, who was officially diagnosed with ADHD in 1998, can now boast, not only of keeping his job, but of rising rapidly through the ranks and landing on his feet through four mergers and acquisitions at the same company in Montreal for 15 years. It was his wife who suggested he tell his story for ADHD Heroes, he has a good relationship with his two grown daughters, and on top of that, he has rediscovered his love for art and carves out 20 hours a week in the studio.

So how did Gordon turn his life around? It was the discovery of his ADHD at age 33, and ultimately working with an ADHD coach, that helped this Canadian native create a more productive, happier, successful life for himself and his family.

As a youngster, Gordon said his undiagnosed ADHD didn’t prove too much of a problem, probably because, “as weird as it sounds,” it proved to be an advantage that his family moved around the world, living in more than 23 different places while he was growing up. “I never had a chance to get bored,” Gordon said. He managed to get good grades in school though he never studied, and Gordon admits that on nearly every report card the teacher would state he was not living up to his potential, he didn’t pay attention or he often disrupted the class, but he made it through school fairly easily.

Life became much more difficult, however, when Gordon entered the military, attending the Collège Militaire Royal in St. Jean, Quebec. It certainly was not the school he wanted to attend. Always passionate about art, Gordon had won a scholarship to the prestigious Banff School of Fine arts in Alberta, Canada, the summer after high school graduation, but his father refused to allow him to go there. My father felt I’d be wasting my life pursuing art. He said, “You’re going to military college, you’ll get a career, and when you’ve done that, if you still want to paint, then you can pursue art.”

Once enrolled in military college, Gordon soon found himself in trouble of one kind or another. Failing classes when he could no longer get by without studying, and always on extra duty for one transgression or another, the problems became ever more severe. “I wasn’t trying to cause trouble,” Gordon insists. “I wasn’t a rebel. But there were rules like you wouldn’t believe and I was always forgetting stuff. The older I got, the worse it became. Life just gets more complicated. In school, you have teachers telling you what to do, you have your mother telling you what to do, but once you are on your own, it all falls apart. At least it definitely did for me.”

And trouble continued to nip at Gordon’s heels when he graduated from the military college, and shortly thereafter, left the military altogether, but couldn’t hold a job. “I will say one thing for the military… when you have ADHD, that much structure in your life can be a big help. Once returned to civilian life, I wouldn’t follow directions, I would yell at my bosses and get fired, or get bored and quit,” Gordon said. Married by now, with two young daughters and personal and financial commitments, Gordon admits “it would drive my wife insane.”

For example, in 1988, Gordon flew from Montreal where he and his family had been living, to Newfoundland for a friend’s wedding and while he was there, without consulting his wife, he applied for a job as a teacher at a local college. “I returned home only long enough to help my wife pack up our belongings and move clear across the continent to teach school.” Eight years later, which was actually a record for Gordon, he decided, once again, to switch gears, and this time become a computer programmer. So again the bags were packed and the family returned to Montreal. “My wife agreed only because her family was living in Montreal and she was happy to be returning home,” Gordon said.

All went well in his new job, too well, because soon Gordon was promoted to a managerial position, and then once again, he found himself at risk of being fired. “I could barely manage myself, let alone be in a management position,” Gordon said. In the meantime, Gordon had figured out he had ADHD when his then six-year-old daughter was diagnosed. He and his wife were reading “Driven to Distraction,” by Dr. Ned Hallowell to understand what their daughter was living with. “My wife and I immediately recognized my symptoms, perhaps even more than my daughter’s (after all, she was just getting started).”

When Gordon was officially diagnosed, he began taking Ritalin, and it helped, but didn’t solve the problem, he said. “We always say ‘pills don’t give skills,’ and I’m a prime example of that.” Now, with his job, his marriage and pretty much everything else he had worked for at risk, Gordon decided to apply for a study on the effects of training and coaching for people with ADHD which he had seen advertised in the local newspaper.

It was expensive, Gordon said. He had to undergo extensive testing and be re-diagnosed, and then once accepted he had to attend classes which, while educational, didn’t seem to change much. He still he found he was unable to apply what he had learned to his life. Finally, at his wits end, Gordon visited the psychologist heading up the study and asked him if he was crazy. “I don’t know what to do,” he told the doctor. After assuring Gordon he wasn’t crazy, he recommended Gordon hire an ADHD coach. The results were “phenomenal!”

“It was really just taking the stuff I’d learned and step-by-step putting it into practice in my life,” Gordon exclaimed

Gordon said he went back to work and explained to his boss about his ADHD, and agreed to take a demotion and the pay cut that went along with it. But working with his coach to improve his performance at work, in less than three months, he had his old salary back and more, along with a promotion to a more senior technical position rather than in management.

Gordon also found that with coaching, he was able to create systems to better manage his finances, his relationship with his wife soon flourished, as he was able to become a responsible, reliable partner instead of one extra kid his wife had to care for. Working with his coach, he soon began to recognize his strengths and weaknesses, and learned to use his strengths more and avoid, delegate or manage his weaknesses so they would no longer be such obstacles to success. “Before and after coaching was like night and day,” Gordon said. “It’s not a panacea, and it’s not easy, but there are ways for you to really turn your life around if you want.”

In addition, Gordon is now a successful artist. He had completely given up art that fateful day when his father sent him off to military college. It was his wife, who hadn’t known about his artistic talents, who surprised Gordon with drawing classes as a Christmas present after noticing him drawing animals at his daughters’ request. “I remember her asking, ‘Did you know you could draw like that?’ before I explained why I’d given up art.”

“After much hesitation, I went to the drawing class and never looked back,” said Gordon, who has had numerous exhibitions and shows over the last few years. He said he thrives on the rush of ideas. “For me the ideas have always come so fast. I’m overwhelmed by them,” said Gordon, who believes his ADHD probably plays a role in his mental hyperactivity. “In fact, I will never live long enough to paint all the ideas I’ve already had.”

“It’s not the ideas, people appreciate though,” Gordon said. “Every ADHDer can vouch for the number of ideas we have that never become reality. You have to create something from your ideas. That means you have to carve out time in your schedule. You have to stop procrastinating. You have to get your paint and your brushes and get your butt in the studio. You have to get started, and then you have to keep at it until you’re finished. There’s work to be done if you’re going to create anything,” he said.

On weekends, Gordon is in his studio at 7 a.m. and during the week he hits the studio as soon as he gets home from work after grabbing a quick bite to eat. “Believe me, I have every excuse in the world not to make time for my art,” Gordon said. “I have a full time job, I have a wife, kids — lots and lots of reasons not to do this. It would be so easy to let my ADHD take control,” Gordon admits. “It would be so easy to procrastinate or watch television, or give in to that voice that says I don’t feel like painting tonight.”

But now, Gordon has learned how to manage his ADHD. He has learned to appreciate the gifts of ADHD and to overcome the struggles. Returning to his painting is just the icing on the cake.

“Painting makes my soul sing.”

Jay Carter: ADHD Hero

Jay Carter: ADHD HeroBy Judy Brenis, ADHD coach, AAC

Jay Carter’s resume reads like a Who’s Who in Business, but it wasn’t always like that. His psychologist once said, “Jay Carter has taken a rather circuitous route to his present success.”

“That couldn’t be truer, says Carter, who has ADHD and has worked at a Fortune 100 company for the past 14 years.

Labeled a troublemaker as a child, Carter could never quite figure out how he ended up in the principal’s office or how he’d gotten into a particular fight. “I never set out to get myself in those kinds of situations,” Carter says.

Carter came from a ‘normal’ family. His dad was a lawyer, his mom a nurse. His grades were pretty good in elementary school, because he didn’t have to try too hard, but at parent-teacher conferences, the teachers always told his parents that Jay was a delightful child, if only he would stop fighting and keep his mouth shut.

Inconsistency was the only constant in his years at school. His grades were erratic, totally dependent on his interest in a given subject. In high school Carter felt very isolated, a feeling fed by some of the situations that had occurred in elementary school. He tried attending boarding school, but was kicked out, so he returned to high school; this time, however, he excelled, skipping his senior year and attending a branch of Emory University, where, of course, everything fell apart. “I did pretty well my first two terms, but then I was dismissed for missing too many classes.”

Carter also admits to a fairly common experience of people with ADHD; he spent a year in rehab. “If you understand ADHD, there’s a lot of self-medicating related to the ADHD and the baggage you pick up living a life that’s out of control.”

After rehab, Carter bounced from one job to another, either quitting or being fired. But at age 25, he began to turn his life around. First, he married the “right” woman and then he got serious about school. “One of the big differences for me was that when I went back, I went to school full time and worked full time. Even now I find I do much better when I’m busy. School by itself provides too much free time. I was busy enough that I couldn’t mess around and that helps focus my attention.”

Being a bit older than his peers, when Carter returned to school, he differentiated himself by majoring in international business and German. Then, as a college junior, he and his wife moved to Germany, where he attended the University of Heidelberg, followed by a year at the University of Trier in Trier, Germany, where he studied finance and strategic management.

Upon graduation, Carter served as a German language interpreter at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Georgia. “That opened a lot of doors and gave me a great deal of confidence,” Carter says. He then went to work for the German airline, Lufthansa. Again, while working full time he went back to school to earn his MBA, receiving all A’s and one B. “It really is amazing when you remember how erratic my grades were earlier. It is part of the paradox of ADHD, but it also gives people hope when they see that you can have ADHD and still focus long enough to get an MBA or get through school,” Carter says.

In the midst of all of this, Carter and his wife began their family. They now have three children, ages 14, 12 and 4; two have been diagnosed with ADHD. It was only while researching his daughter’s learning challenges that Carter read Driven to Distraction, by Ned Hallowell and John Ratey. He says, “On every page there was something I could relate to.”

Carter visited a local assessment center in Chicago, where he was living at the time, and was officially diagnosed. He began taking ADHD medication, and upon moving back to Minnesota to work at a different job in the same company, “a job that was a much better fit,” he began seeing a psychologist. Carter attended ADHD support group meetings as well, and it was there he met the person who would become his ADHD coach.
In 2008, Carter took an even bolder step when, in an effort to help provide publicity for the ADHD Awareness Conference that was going to take place in his home town, he contacted the local newspaper and spent hours being interviewed about his ADHD. Carter wasn’t that nervous about disclosing his ADHD. “But I had decided it was the right thing to do and I thought my company would be supportive enough that it wouldn’t be an issue, and it really hasn’t been.”

Carter admits he was very lucky that his employer understands, but he assures others that in most cases people with disabilities can get what they need to be a more productive employee without disclosing everything. “I tell people to disclose to the extent that you need to, in order to get what you need. You can say I have trouble concentrating, or ask your boss to give you a list of things in order of priority so you will know what to work on first.”

“Unfortunately there’s still a stigma around the ADHD diagnosis because people don’t understand it. It’s a challenge we are working through. The same thing applies to some other disabilities as well, but with ADHD, a lot of the symptoms are the things lazy people do, so there’s almost a moral judgment by people that don’t understand.”

While accommodations can help people with ADHD be more productive at work – Carter uses speech-recognition and mind-mapping software, and receives administrative help from a virtual assistant – he also pointed out how its poor social skills rather than poor productivity that often holds people with ADHD back. He admits that was one of his biggest challenges.

“Most people don’t realize what that means in a work situation. I was never comfortable with classic networking,” Carter explained. “I wasn’t really good at communicating. I didn’t communicate what I was doing so people didn’t realize the contribution I was making, and for the first 12 years with the company, that really had a negative impact.” Carter says he also had to learn how to stop saying dumb things in meetings. “I did it too often; I could recognize that, but I just couldn’t stop doing it.”

Since being diagnosed with ADHD and working with a coach, however, Carter has made tremendous strides in his career, even receiving a promotion despite the economy. “The piece I was missing was the understanding of my ADHD, how it manifests itself and how it impacts my life,” Carter says. “And one of the biggest breakthroughs I had with my coach was re-examining the beliefs I had picked up like tumbleweeds throughout my life. As an ADDer, I’m a poor self-observer; one of the great things about a coach is how they can stand back, reflect and witness from an objective standpoint. I have been able to change many of my beliefs, and there have been many positive results from that.”

In fact, Carter is now a certified ADHD coach himself and runs, Hyperfocused Coaching Systems, LLC. “The training taught me a lot about my own ADHD and I really wanted to help others and have the same kind of impact on others that my coach had on me.”

Carter speaks to organizations about success in the workplace with ADHD, and hosts a weekly podcast, The ADHD Weekly Podcast. “I like to share what I’m learning as I go along in life. I let people know what works for me and what might work for them too.”

“I also like to help people unfamiliar with ADHD to understand what a struggle it really is and that it’s a serious condition. As ADDers we have a hard time believing it ourselves,” Carter says, “especially when we have gone through years of undiagnosed ADHD. Coaches can help us change our limiting beliefs.”
“I wouldn’t trade my ADHD for anything. It’s a part of who I am,” says Carter. “There really is an aspect of giftedness to it, and if I can focus 99 percent on my strengths and keep my weaknesses from tripping me up, that’s great.”

How My ADHD Changed My Life**

by David Giwerc, Master Certified Coach, Founder & President, ADD Coach Academy.

David Giwerc

When I was diagnosed with ADHD, at age 38, I realized the signs were there all along. But there was no name for it then — “it” being my limitless energy, exceptional strengths in certain areas and seemingly insurmountable challenges of attention, interest and inhibition in others. My mother said I was a very active child from birth.
That’s a bit of an understatement.

As a toddler, I couldn’t slow down long enough to sleep. I was so hyperactive that in the middle of the night I hopped on my tricycle and peddled to the kitchen to drink the glass of milk Mom left for me on the lowest shelf of the fridge. My Energizer bunny-like energy was great on the playground, but at school, my abundant energy and propensity to bore easily were a constant challenge. I struggled to sustain my attention in the classroom. I’d get restless and squirm, unable to sit still. I’d seek any stimulation to get my brain going so I could focus on the teacher’s presentation. I’d blurt things out, shoot my hand into the air at inappropriate times or fidget loudly in my seat — I literally could not sit still. My hyperactive energy had no outlet. I practically lived in the principal’s office, and eventually my parents were asked to take me out of the school permanently. By age six, I’d been kicked out of two nursery schools and a kindergarten.

Even my way of watching television was so… unusual, my parents couldn’t keep a functioning sofa in the living room. While watching television, I would rock back and forth on our couch with such violent force that by age seven, I had broken two couches. To prevent the demise of future family sofas, my grandmother bought me a very expensive and sturdy rocking chair. She hoped the rocking chair would provide me with enough motion to calm me down so I could sustain focus on whatever I wanted to watch on TV (and save the poor sofas). Her idea worked! (I still have the same rocking chair at home, and when I need to think through issues or process important events, I retreat to that chair. Fifteen minutes of rocking usually gives me clarity.)

Despite the scrapes I got myself into, I always felt very loved at home. I knew I was different, but I was never made to feel bad about my tremendous levels of physical energy or my inability to sit still. I didn’t know why or what it was, but I knew intuitively I had a different way of thinking about and seeing the world.

I spent hours in my bedroom, imagining different scenarios for my life. I would have wild daydreams like being in the backcourt with Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe of the New York Knicks, fighting with Bruce Lee or being one of the von Trapp kids in The Sound of Music.

I owe my confidence to the people who supported me no matter what, always searching for creative solutions to my challenges — even though no one had yet identified the ADHD that was the culprit behind many of my impairments. My grandmother never focused on my weaknesses and refused to let me feel sorry for myself. She emphasized my strengths and acknowledged me every day for the things I did naturally well. My third grade teacher didn’t judge my excess energy, she helped me get focused in the morning: She let me exercise for 30 minutes straight before I sat down for class, helping me expend and channel my energy. And my parents stood by me through all the challenges, never judging or blaming me. They never pressured me to meet others standards. Miraculously, they didn’t punish me when I destroyed our living room sofas or when I talked nonstop or sang constantly. Despite my challenges of attention and excess energy, which often led to impulsive decisions or reactions, I knew that no matter what I did “wrong” outside my home, I would always be loved and listened to as a human being on par with everyone else.

But I was often my own worst enemy. Though I excelled in certain areas, especially sports, I dwelt on my failures, struggles and challenges instead of celebrating my strengths. My own recriminations plagued me throughout my life until I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 38. It wasn’t until I had the diagnosis in hand that realized I wasn’t inferior; I wasn’t broken after all. I was unique.

The world, however, created a pervasive belief that I needed to focus on my weaknesses to meet their standards. I had a strong belief — a dominant program — that the path to success was in identifying what I did not do well and working to strengthen those weaknesses. This programmed belief so consumed me that I actually worked on my weaknesses at the expense of what I already did well. Of course, this only exacerbated the challenges of my ADHD. Things I don’t do well don’t ignite the parts of my brain that actually can help me pay attention. The harder I worked in my areas of weakness, the more my brain shut down. Soon I’d be immobilized — at work, at home, throughout my life.

My ADHD diagnosis changed my life. Once I put a name to my problems of attention, interest and hyperactivity, I was free to explore new ways of living and being in the world, ways that supported my unique brain wiring.

I decided to become an educated expert. I would work to make sense of the invisible challenges of ADHD. I’d demystify them for myself and for other people who did not understand them — which was most people, at least back then. Even as recently as the 1990s, there was a poor perception about, and a weak understanding of, ADHD. There were too few facts and little science showing what ADHD really is, and how it can impair a person’s quality of life. It quickly became clear to me that there were countless people with ADHD — diagnosed and undiagnosed —needlessly suffering because the challenges of ADHD were invisible to them. After my own journey of discovery and understanding with my own ADHD, I wanted to share my discoveries with everyone and anyone who would listen.

Since I founded the ADD Coach Academy in 1998, I have supported thousands of people as they discover their unique brand of ADHD, take responsibility for transforming their lives from despair to hope and give themselves permission to proceed in creating a life of passion, purpose and possibility. My experience has consistently been that people with ADHD have tremendous strengths that are buried and concealed. These hidden strengths must be set free so all of us may contribute to the world the gifts we were born to share.

**This story was excerpted and edited with the permission of David Giwerc from the introduction to his groundbreaking book, Permission to Proceed: The Keys to Creating a Life of Passion, Purpose and Possibility for Adults with ADHD, pages xi-xiv, http://addca.com/adhd-coach-training/Permission-To-Proceed/