adhd, "disability" vs. "superpower" 

There’s something to the framing of ADHD as a "superpower", I think, but it’s also unsatisfying.

Many things that most people find relatively easy seem to be very-hard-to-impossible for me (e.g. sending a form, planning a day, remembering to do a thing, staying with a hobby after I got the hang of it). And I find it easy to do some things that most people seem to find hard (devouring the entire textbook on the first week so that I'm done with the class for the semester; learning from widely divergent fields and combining them; taking big risks).

A lot of the ADHD material concentrates on what I lack, and how can I compensate for it, which is useful but kind of depressing. I’m curious about how to try to work with what my mind got, rather than forcing it to grudgingly fit average patterns of working.

There’s some neurodiversity material out there that treats ADHD as a superpower instead. For example, consider the fact that I always write my stuff on the last couple days.

  • Standard framing is blaming myself for my apparent perpetual laziness and irresponsibility.
  • Disability framing means being bummed about this incurable hardware defect that puts some sort of impassable repulsive force between me and The Thing.
  • Superpower approach is when Perpetua Neo (pause to appreciate her name!) calls it "timebending". Timebenders have little control over their powers, and will unconsciously bend a short interval (the time to take out the trash or shave) for hours without end. But in an emergency, they can also compress superhuman amounts of output into impressively small amounts of time.

I guess from one point of view it is kind of impressive that I can write a publication-quality, professionally worthy article in 2 days. I can look at the full list of my accomplishments and feel like I’m an impostor tricking everyone because 99% of the time my mind was jumping all over the place, and all I did was done in the remaining 1%. I can fantasise of how much I could achieve if I got that hyperfocus for even 50% of the time, and then be disappointed in myself because that feels physically impossible. Or, I could pat myself on the back because with this mere 1% time I could get all these titles, accolades, positions, monies.

But this doesn’t feel quite right, either. For one thing, it reeks of meritocracy, which is to say ableism. "The Power of Different" by Gail Saltz has some pretty interesting case studies of how neurodiversity can be leveraged and not just lamented. Sadly the subtitle is "The Link between Disorder and Genius". It buys into the myth of the genius wholesale, never considering how much "genius" is shorthand for "useful to capitalism", and never considering what happens to diverse minds who don’t qualify as "genius". For people like me, who spend their childhoods hearing "you’re such a genius, if just you tried a bit harder!", the word itself is filled with trauma.

I’m trying to think of this as not a disability and not a superpower, but something like a character class. Most ADHD books read like this: You’re a rogue. That means you can’t wield two-handed swords or full armour. Let’s discuss some mitigation strategies, like how to layer boiled leather with chainmail, and how to avoid dungeons with large monsters. "Superpower" materials instead read like this: You’re a rogue! Your DPS can be quadruplied ! wow! you’re first tier!

I figure what I should do instead is to stop trying to function as a defective fighter, and try to acknowledge my strengths and limitations without ranking ppl into tiers. (I always thought parties are more fun when the game is _un_balanced anyway.) Like if my DPS is all-or-nothing, is there a way to increase the rate of critical hits? If I have this big range of lateral skills like detecting traps and opening locks, maybe I should embark on adventures where they can be put to use, rather than purely kill-the-monster quests. If I’m forced to run through a gauntlet full of attacks from all sides (=distractions), don’t feel bad at taking a defensive potion to increase my AC to levels approaching that of a less fragile class. I’m stretching this metaphor way too far amn’t I.

In real life: on the one hand I can only work in short bursts, on the other I know I’ve done some pretty neat stuff in these short bursts. It is what it is, neither genius nor lazy. If I just accept that this ain’t changing anytime soon, then what? How does one make a living on short work bursts, without being fired or called lazy? Is there any technique to doing the bursts right at the start (the way I got through school and college), rather than right at the deadline or past it (as I do in grad school and professionally)? Can timebending be, at least to some degree, tamed?

A potential use use for my private instance: long rants x3 if anybody is curious about me ranting longly, follow @elilla .

The only issue is that my workflow is post-and-edit, rather than edit-and-post. Maybe I should use that writefreely blog instead. Still experimenting with this. Right now I’m trying to wrestle with my probable diagnosis of ADHD so I guess I might word dump about that for a while, to process stuff I’m reading.

@elilla ooh I accidentally turned on Markdown and now the formatting is missing from vanilla instances >.<

I wish there was a way that vanilla would show it as Markdown-like at least. but that would require a patch and there are zero chances it’d be accepted…

adhd, "disability" vs. "superpower" 

@elilla I found this a hugely interesting read, so thanks. :)
I've been thinking a lot lately about the external, and how orgs or communities could be structured to better suit the neurodivergent, particularly ASD/ADHD. And I find this framing around "timebending" fascinating.
For example, if I would be _capable_ of cramming an entire uni module and delivering a dissertation on it at the beginning of the module, that would still rely on the info being available

adhd, "disability" vs. "superpower" 

@elilla e.g., it was usual in my undergrad (>10ya) for lecturers to only share slides, nodes, and some idea of the next lecture's contents *at the end of each lecture*, so they were pace-carring the entire class to their lecture course, spread over the year. That pace doesn't suit the kind of learning that wants to capture the whole concept at once and build a consistent abstraction. I think, from your essay, that maybe it did harm: it forced end-cramming.

adhd, "disability" vs. "superpower" 

@elilla To your last question, I found a place for myself in the industrial automation / machine vision sector.

Projects are short (generally under 8 weeks PO to buy-off), need diverse skills (optics, lighting, programming, electrical hookup, diagnostics), and varied tasks (one will be verifying bolts are present; the next might be measuring the color of paint). Oh, and everything is on fire forever since these are quality inspections.

adhd, "disability" vs. "superpower" 

@elilla so I can hyperfocus on lots of interesting things and still be making meaningful progress, and the pressure of the industry tends to keep me centered.

Now, the recent script for Adderall has made me even happier, since I find I am more willfully focused than my prior ping-pong ball M.O. But I think the industry is the reason I have done as well as I have in over a decade of work with an (until recently) undiagnosed neurodivergence.

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