by Lisa Wills
There is power in your journey. Your life, your adventures along the road, how you cope, how you succeed, even how you fail but pick yourself up again… those are the elements that make up your journey, and that journey is your story. Rick Green, one of the amazing keynote speakers at the ADDA conference taught us about The Power of Story. The way you tell your story can and will change people’s lives. It can change your life, and it can reach out and change the lives of others, giving them hope and courage and joy.
The Power of Story – Don’t Underestimate It
Imagine a conversation with a friend sharing the experience of driving your daughter to college this summer. You could just report the facts, "Saturday, I helped my daughter pack and drove her to college. It was hard, but I’ll see her at Christmas time.”
That’s fine, it’ll work. But when you tie in the "why” and "how,” it makes all the difference in the world.
Imagine if, instead you shared, "I knew I had to help Jenna pack for her big move to college 5 states away. God I wasn’t ready for that. I cancelled my weekend plans to focus on helping her pack… I had to cancel my chemo appointment, I haven’t even told her about THAT yet. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her the news knowing it would completely overwhelm the experience we were about to have; I’d dreamt of this moment since she was little. We spent the entire weekend sorting, going through her photos, folding and packing the handmade quilt I made while she struggled in 9th grade. I remember that time because it was right after her ADHD diagnosis. She and I worked together on that quilt, it was the only thing that seemed to give her relief from her anxiety – time stood still. We found an old essay she’d written and lost about how she would never be accepted to this University because she wasn’t smart like everyone else. So many of the things we came across sparked conversations we’ve never had before. I can see now that she is leaving a mature woman – and I can’t wait to see her at Christmas break!”
Recently, at a support group meeting I hold monthly for adults with ADHD, I shared a simple but important story about my son. Tears were shed because of the way I shared it – it resonated with many members as women, as mothers. It connected us.
In the power of a story lies that personal connection – which is what life is all about. The facts are great, essential even, but if you can share them in a way that people will remember and so that they listen long enough for you to get to the good part, they become invested – that’s powerthrough story. That real human connection beats "social” media, impersonal email and the express drive-through coffee chats about the weather and the latest TV show we have with our friends, hoping to connect but falling short.
Be the One to Inspire Others
Be encouraged and hopeful as you navigate these sometimes tumultuous waters of ADHD and how it manifests in the multitude of ways in all areas of our lives. Yes, it’s important to carefully judge how much we tell about our circumstances, and to think twice about who we share them with – stigma is alive and well. But connecting through story made all the difference one afternoon in a meeting between my husband, my son, his counselor and me.
We met because all hope was lost. My son wasn’t passing 10th grade. We’d already been on this rollercoaster with my 18 year old. And although my adopted daughter is only 7, she is right on track to keep me on this ride, which for the record, I didn’t stand in line for! I went from hopeless to helplessly hopeless, if that’s possible. I made a last attempt and reminded her that he deals daily with ADHD and ODD. She heard me, but she didn’t hear me.
I knew she cared deeply for my son, but genuinely expressed disappointment and perplexity in his lack of effort. He wasn’t trying hard enough. "You did the work, just hand it in!”
A moment of clarity came to me once I realized nothing had been resolved – at all! I noticed that the counselor kept saying that when she’d see him on the video in the hallways between classes, he seemed so depressed. She was concerned.
Yes, he was depressed. We were working on fine-tuning his medication and he was failing High School. Of course, he’s depressed. But she never mentioned any of his other qualities – what I see at home; his brilliance in song writing, his ability to produce a track from scratch in his bedroom of "Something” from the Beatles. Just three nights prior, he let me hear his song, his voice – I’d never heard him sing before. Before we ended the meeting – that went nowhere, I asked her if she would give me 3 minutes, that’s all I needed.
I pressed PLAY.
I looked away so the attention would be on what we were hearing, but first glanced at my son’s face, which was beaming with pride.
In my head, I kept whispering, "Wait for it. Wait for it!”
The song was over, I looked at his counselor; she’d been looking at him the whole time.
She was discrete, but I KNEW IT! She saw what I saw. She was wiping tear after tear from her cheeks. "Evan, you are amazing. That was unexpected. Wow!”
What transpired was the revealing of the other parts of him she didn’t understand, didn’t know. I offered her the power of his story. I advocated for my son, as any mother would, but in pursuing his passion, he advocated for himself. He created his story. He chose positive things to spend his time on. I acknowledged him by celebrating that. Yes, ADHD is complex and very difficult to work through, but often you don’t get to see the other parts. They matter too! We are different – not less.
Lisa Wills is an ADHD coach in Denver, Colorado where she runs ADHD Support Groups and Workshops. She’s passionate about bringing out the strengths and talents of people struggling with ADHD. ADHD herself, she has three children diagnosed with ADHD and co-existing conditions. She can be reached at www.adhdlifecoach4U.com.