The other day, I was listening to a client talk about her relationship with her ADHD medication. She had struggled for months to make an appointment to ask her doctor for the prescription, then, when she got it, was very pleased with the results. The meds, as with so many people, allowed her to do many things that she either couldn’t do ordinarily or at the very least would have been far more difficult. And then, without telling anyone, she stopped taking them.
There’s a scene in The Avengers (2012) where Bruce Banner is talking to Tony Stark. Both these characters have extraordinary abilities. One can, in Tony’s words “turn into an enormous, green, rage monster”, and the other build suits of armor that can, among other things, allow him to fly.
Bruce: I don't get a suit of armor. I'm exposed, like a nerve. It's a nightmare.
Tony: You know, I've got a cluster of shrapnel, trying every second to crawl its way into my heart. [He points at the mini-arc reactor in his chest.] This stops it. This little circle of light. It's part of me now, not just armor. It's a... terrible privilege.
Bruce: But you can control it.
Tony: Because I learned how.
This is a theme I’ve seen over and over in fiction, most particularly, for obvious reasons, in superhero fiction. The main characters are indisputably more powerful than most people, and it is this very fact that distances them from most people. Many heroes struggle to accept their powers.
The Thing’s love interest leaves him because of his appearance. Batman and Superman choose to keep the secrets of their identities from the women they love. By the time Captain America wakes up from his frozen slumber, his “best girl” is old and had married someone else. And although I’m struggling to find an example that doesn’t trade on that particular situation, I think the point is well made.
Medication isn’t the only thing that allows people with ADHD to do the extraordinary. I don’t take any, so I rely on routines, systems, and apps to get me where I need to be, showered, and on time. The client who was talking about not wanting to take her meds, or me resenting the boring routines, we are both like Bruce Banner. We haven’t yet come to terms with what allows us to amazing things.
Furthermore, Bruce is a really smart person. He can already do amazing things, just like all of us with ADHD. When he’s the Hulk, however, he can do things no one else can. For example, before I had my diagnosis or had any treatment, I’d written and produced a few plays. This was largely supported by my parents helping me with, what I now know to be, executive functioning. And that’s great. I’m super proud of those accomplishments.
...but if I’d known more about my brain back then, and had the tools I use now, how many more could I have written? Could I maybe have made them even better? Edited and published them, maybe? Perhaps I’d have been able to pursue a career in theatre. And even though I love the career I have now, I do wonder.
***WARNING: Below is a slight spoiler from Avengers: Infinity War. If you have any intention of watching that movie, skip this section.***
In Avengers: Infinity War, we watch as Bruce, desperate to help, tries to intentionally activate The Hulk, as he’s done many times before. This time, however, “the other guy” refuses to make an appearance. I can 100% empathize with this. Lately, I feel like my superhuman abilities are sulking. We haven’t yet gotten a full explanation as to why this is happening, in the movie. This theory, though quite easy to disprove, is still one of my favorites. My theory is there’s a rift between Bruce and The Hulk.
I floated this idea to my client. “Do you need to make peace with The Hulk?”
That is something I really struggle with. Every time I feel behind, late, or rushed, I instantly blame my routines. “If only I didn’t have to do all this stuff, I’d be fine.” Which is utterly bonkers because it wouldn’t matter what extra stuff I tried to get done because I’d have headaches from dehydration so I couldn’t concentrate, my calendar wouldn’t be functional and I’d be late or fail to show up to things altogether, and I’d skip exercise, all of which would end very poorly for me and my productivity, just so name a few. I struggle to remember, every time, that far from impeding my productivity and functionality, these structures are what allow me to produce and function.
And, magically, when I’m not rushed, when I’m doing fine and feel in control, I have no problem with my routines. If Bruce Banner had to demolish a house, for some reason, in that particular moment, I bet he’d be more ok with The Hulk.
What do you do to make peace with those things that allow you to function?