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How ADD helped me with my training

When people speak about learning disabilities, there’s this usual sense of apprehension and something of an unknown. I consider these conversations to be hard ones and to some, they are still quite taboo although the trend is gradually beginning to change (for the better).

As I close in on the big 40, one of my goals in life is to share openly about the various learning disabilities I live and cope with but yet not seem as though it would be a shout-out for attention or a pity piece because that isn’t my intention at all. Instead, I find it important to share as much as I could possibly know from my own experiences, the beauty of being blessed to see things differently and to be able to share and educate those around me for a more inclusive society.

ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder is something that during my time growing up wasn’t diagnosed easily or was usually skipped past. These days however, with the advancement in medical diagnostics and more sophisticated methods, ADHD and ADD are becoming more widely diagnosed in children. Diagnoses aside, the stresses and inter-connectivity of the world seems to exacerbate these conditions and associated symptoms. Often mistaken to be part of the Autism spectrum, ADD/ADHD pretty much stands on its own although some of the mannerisms that come with it are sometimes confused with being autistic (something that I was also diagnosed with).

Fast forward past the medical facts and general knowledge, I found that in life, working with what we are given is extremely important and that is something I’ve been trying to do since I was diagnosed in my mid 30s. I honestly don’t think we can say we are disadvantaged or advantaged as compared to others but it is often a reflection of how we choose to see ourselves. We may not always like a crowd setting or a being in noisy places or sometimes just enjoy doing things on our own but that’s not always a bad thing.

The one thing that has always fascinated me the most about ADD though, is something that is completely counter-intuitive to what ADD actually refers to. While we are terrible at maintaining our attention for most things, we are however, excellent at holding our unwavering attention in things we have a true passion about. And I’m not talking about just paying attention but an obsession that most people may not understand if they don’t know us well enough.

Have I gotten your attention yet?

I’ve always struggled with staying focused at many things – paying bills, household chores, homework… yawn, BORING!

But when it comes to physical activity amongst other hyper focus items, my world changes. I call it being monocular or tunnel-visioned but regardless what I call it, this deep hyper focus takes over and I lose all sense of time and everything that is around me. A full immersion in the experience takes place and this is something that I have unknowingly applied to my ultra training and tennis. There’s this sense of being completely in the zone and sometimes overdoing things (which I’ve been told I do a lot) but there’s also this freedom, a liberation I cannot explain when I am indulging in pushing harder, faster and further than I’ve ever gone before. In fact, I used to be terrified of it and would avoid activities that would cause me to hyper focus but I’ve learnt over the years that when carefully managed, it does result in positive results in other parts of my life.

For example, I’d reward myself with a nice long run if I complete my set tasks for the day or play a lung bursting round of tennis if I’ve met my deadlines – indulgence without the guilt. I train multiple sessions a day knowing that my time is compartmentalised and it allows me to stay focused on the job at hand. In this case, I use the reward first to spur me on to keep to my daily tasks and responsibilities which has worked wonders for me as well. Then on weekends, knowing I’ve given it my all, I go for long sessions that usually stretch beyond my intended duration. Where I used to allow a vicious cycle of inattention to get to me, I’ve now used my hyper focus to reverse the cycle to continuously force me to do better, go further and to keep myself in check.

For those of you who are parents blessed with children with ADD/ADHD, you might want to try using their hyper focus activities as a reward for completing tasks that they need to do. I believe that everything is about balance and taking a hyper focus activity away only makes things worse for all of us.

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