My Mother, My Sisters, MySelf

Holiday visits and reunions are often enlightening when ADHD is part of the family, as in, I get to see myself disguised in the person of my mother and sisters. It's always so much easier to see the glaringly obvious traits we deny or minimize in ourselves when other people demonstrate them for us. Not that any of us are bad people – we're not. We are simply very much alike - a bit bossy, a few control issues, know everything, prone to create things to worry about, etc. And we are family, for better or worse, I hope.

I managed to choose a husband who is so much like me/us that he may as well be from our family. In fact, people have asked if we are siblings (not to our knowledge). He appears to have what we casually refer to as “ADD without the H”. He's a good reminder of my inattentive symptoms. It is usually when I am 'on task' that I notice those inattentive traits in others – meaning they are not keeping up with my chemically induced ability to get things done (as opposed to busily doing ten things at once and finishing none). Fortunately, he doesn't take it personally when I am judging myself by getting mad at him for doing what I dislike about me – does that make sense?

Since coming into my own ADHD (again) at the mid-century mark, both of my sisters and my mother have recognized the red flags in their own lives. Being both a sister/daughter and clinical social worker, I could have saved them some time and money on the diagnosis, but my credibility suffers a bit with them. There seems no overcoming the early and lasting impressions we make on the people who know us better than we know ourselves. And, when you are the oldest and have bossed the others around for 40-50 years, they tend to ignore a lot of what you say.

Imagine this scene from the holidays – the makings of a great ADHD commercial. The three sisters (ages 50, 46 and 40 – not kids) are sitting in a small room lit only by faint Christmas lights and candles. We each have a glowing laptop in front of us and are glued to the screens. We are playing 2-3 games each (with each other) of a word game online – barely looking up – rarely ever speaking – shooting words via computer without comment to and from each other from across the living room.

Classic hyper-focus – two of us are on medication for ADHD – the other trying alternatives to avoid meds. It was a pretty funny scene, if a sad statement of our times and perhaps, our family life. The revealing part is that we did this for HOURS. I fear the Scrabble board may never see the light of day again during the holidays!

Everyone behaved pretty well – no major outbursts or stomping around. This gave me an opportunity to observe (and judge and criticize) everyone else and myself. Had someone acted out or melted down (this is usually me) during the visit, it would have been easy to keep the focus on them and miss the bigger lessons. Since we had no high drama as a distraction, I had time to bring my observations full circle and realize (again) some uncomfortable, if valuable, truths.

1. It really is all about me. I may presume to know what others are thinking and intuit what others are feeling, but in the final analysis, I am the one with these feelings and thoughts. Period. Regardless of what anyone else thinks or feels – these are my own thoughts and feelings.
2. The very behaviors in others that are my least favorite are, in fact, the ones that I engage in the most with the least insight about. These are the shadow behaviors I discuss in my workbook. Ruminating about right and wrong or good and bad thoughts, feelings or behaviors in the name of analyzing them only keeps them active and gives them more power.
3. Until I stop judging these shadow behaviors and accept that I am not so self-actualized (or even nice enough) that I do not engage in these things I would rather not admit, these shadow traits will persist. Paradoxically, I'm told that by accepting and normalizing them as neither good nor bad, they seem to be less problematic than when being judged, denied or repressed. I'm not talking about things that are horrible – just human. Admittedly, some are exacerbated by ADHD, and like it or not, I must accept that, too.
4. No matter how many times I accept my less desirable traits, there seems to be another opportunity to remember that I still have these on some level. Guess what – most of them I will always have to some degree. Being human, we all deal with these or similar issues to some degree – they are universal. I'd probably be wise to take my own advice (borrowed from the Serenity Prayer) - accept what I can't change, change what I can and learn to let it go (practice meditation as much as possible, take meds regularly, exercise and eat healthy food. . .).
5. I must learn to give myself a break – beating myself up for having critical thoughts and judging myself for being judgmental, is redundant.

Check out this meditation by the Dalai Lama about acceptance of all our pieces and parts - .

How about you? Anyone out there have any shadow traits you'd rather not acknowledge? Here's your chance to talk about it without being judged.

Author's Bio: 

LuAnn Pierce is a freelance clinical social worker and writer. She has worked with teens, young adults and families for over 20 years. Previously the Teen Editor for Self Help Magazine, she now runs Adult ADHD Help,, and acts as a contributing expert for, the online publication of 1-800-THERAPIST and others. Her practice is in Denver.