I was 33 years old and about to lose yet another job. My marriage was on the rocks and I was a lousy husband and father. It was only when I was diagnosed with ADHD that I was able to get help in the form of special training and working with an ADHD coach that I was able to create a more productive, happier, successful life for my family and for myself.
I was always passionate about art, and right after high school, I was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Banff School of Fine arts in Alberta, Canada, but my father felt I’d be wasting my life pursuing art. He said, “You’re going to military college, you’ll get a university degree and a real career, and when you’ve done that, if you still want to paint, then you can pursue art.”
The problem with that approach, as many adults discover, is that, whether you struggled with ADHD as a child or not, the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to hold it all together. Life keeps getting more complicated. In high school, teachers tell you what to do, your parents tell you what to do, but once you are on your own, it all falls apart. At least it definitely did for me.
Many adults with ADHD are also artists of one kind or another, and it’s no surprise studies show people with ADHD tend to be more creative than most people. However, creating a successful life as an artist demands that you work with your imagination and creativity, yes, but it also demands an underlying structure that enables you to deliver on the creative ideas generated by your imagination. As an entrepreneur, your structure could be business, as an employee, your structure could be the corporate world.
After I graduated from military college, and shortly thereafter, left the military altogether, I found couldn’t hold a job for long. I will say one thing for the military… when you have ADHD, that much structure in your life can be a big help.
We finally figured out I had ADHD when my then six-year-old daughter was diagnosed. Linda, my wife, and I, were reading “Driven to Distraction,” by Dr. Ned Hallowell to understand what our daughter was facing when we both immediately recognized my symptoms.
I learned that I had to develop my own structure to manage my life. It didn’t happen overnight, but I created systems to manage my finances, to get organized to handle my responsibilities at home and to manage my time so I could get my work done at my job and still have time and energy to enjoy life at home. My relationship with my wife soon flourished, as I was able to become a responsible, reliable partner instead of one extra kid my wife had to care for.
Once I began to master my ADHD, developing the skills necessary to get work done at work, to have time for my family obligations and to have energy left over at the end of the day, it was my wife who surprised me with a drawing class as a Christmas present.
I went to the drawing class and never looked back. I’ve had numerous exhibitions and shows over the last few years. I’m never at a loss for ideas. For me the ideas have always come so fast, I’m overwhelmed by them. That’s probably my ADHD creating my mental hyperactivity. I’ll never live long enough to draw and paint all the ideas I’ve already had.
I work with two organizations who help adults with ADHD achieve their full self-expression.