Often the experience of success for those on the autism spectrum or with adhd can be a bittersweet experience. Whereas others celebrate their victories and accept the well deserved praise that comes along with it – those of us who work so hard every day to get things to work at all quietly fears that the success we worked so hard to create is something we won’t be able to repeat.
As positive as you know me to be I spend most of my day thwarting negative thinking and stemming the tide of frustration as I push and push to be productive with a nervous system that doesn’t fly in formation and actively sabotages my ability to focus on a moment to moment basis. The mental exhaustion I end my days with is an experience few understand and yet it’s critical that they do.
The best we can do often changes from day to day. Our productivity feels more like a roller coaster than a cross country train ride on a steady, even track. The resulting frustration over this inconsistency can result in hair trigger sensitivity that looks like hour to hour mood swings.
The days I feel everything working are the days when I may skip meals or even sleep because I don’t want to waste a moment of the pure joy that comes with the experience that everything is working the way I want it to.
As we push to succeed, produce and please those who demand so much of us, our efforts are in tandem with the merciless inner critic tirelessly working to break through and dominate the conversation we’re having about our experience. We work to quiet the voice often moment to moment and try to replace it with a voice of encouragement all while outside voices are telling us to try harder, pay attention or to learn to be more motivated.
The moment arises when we are able to make things happen. Our best days and organized moments happen to coincide with the opportunity to put it to use and voila – success! Then the congratulations coupled with a few I told you so’s are very short lived when we’re asked to do it again. It is very difficult to enjoy your successes when they feel so random and are so hard to produce consistently.
Of even greater concern is the fear that pride will be replaced with disappointment when we can’t produce the encore on demand.
Those around us cheer the athletes and their observable physical effort as they charge toward victory. But they observe us, unable to perceive or conceive of the immense mental effort that goes into our everyday lives as they tell us that we’re just not trying hard enough.
If this is your experience you may be saying, “I can relate to this but what the heck do I do about it.” I have a suggestion.
Let the people closest to you know how hard it is to do what you do day in and day out. Let them read this if need be.
What’s most important to convey to them is that the days you’re at your best are the days you need them to stand back while you ride the wave of an organized nervous system and feel the satisfaction of success on your own terms through your own efforts.
But when you need them is likely the next day or the day after when things begin misfiring again. That’s when you will need their gift of organization to help you produce the same results. Remember that success in life is measured by the results you get and NOT whether it was accomplished alone or together.
Self-Advocacy is a critical skill for each of us so we can educate others about this unique challenge. More importantly, so we can enlist their support when our continued success requires us to work together.
Unfortunately our current school and work environments expect us to perform at the same level each day with little or no assistance. This is a problem I hope ongoing education of the public can remedy. Remedy it by increased opportunities for collaborative learning and work environments that allow us to give more on certain days and then look to others to give more on our off days.
One of the best experiences of life is knowing that even when we can manage things under our own steam that we’re never alone. That the help we need is a call away. That’s the kind of support system any human being needs but one that is called upon far more often by us. That is a perfectly acceptable way to live because after all, we’re all in this together.
Thanks for being you.
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About Brian R. King
Brian R. King LCSW (ADHD & ASD Life Coach) is a #1 Best Selling Author, 25-year cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Asperger’s. He’s also the father of three sons on the autism spectrum. He is known worldwide for his books and highly engaging presentations that teach the power of connection and collaboration. His strategies empower others to overcome their differences so they can build powerful and lasting partnerships. His motto is: We’re all in this together.