So there is this myth, I think, that success equals happiness, always, without question. For most people, that is probably how it works: struggle, success, smiles, harder struggle, bigger success, bigger smiles, repeat. I wish it were that easy.
About a year ago, I started doing some research into adult ADHD. I was diagnosed with ADD as a kid (we’re calling it all ADHD these days, apparently), probably right around 7th grade. I took Adderall to treat it for a while, and that may have helped, but I stopped taking it because I didn’t like how it made me feel. Cracked out and without an appetite is not ever really a great feeling. I also remember a conversation with a psychologist who told me, basically, “we don’t really know how or why these drugs work. And we may have to try different doses and combinations to find something that does work.” Cool. Happy to be your guinea pig, sir! Tried different doses, different drugs, and the best way that I can describe how all of them made me feel is “just not myself”.
Anyway, it turns out that I’m pretty much a classic adult ADHD case: Difficulty organizing, relationship strains, distractibility, poor listening skills, difficulty starting tasks, lateness, smoking, trouble with repetitive tasks… really just a list of things that make you feel super great about yourself. There was one symptom that made me take a big step back: depression after success. Those three words don’t make much sense together, but reading them made me realize that it is something I’ve experienced for most of my life. When things are going well, it’s easy for me to feel down.
The going theory is that the ADHD brain craves conflict. Maybe conflict is the wrong word, because I’m really kind of a pacifist. The ADHD brain craves stimulation through deviation from patterns and extraordinary situations. It craves problems to solve. And, where is meaningful success really rooted, if not in solving problems. So, once the problem is solved and success is achieved, my brain doesn’t know what to do with itself, and defaults to depression.
I can pinpoint so many times in my life when I should felt happy, but couldn’t muster it: graduating high school, getting a promotion, relationship high points, successful events. Small successes or big ones, it doesn’t really matter. When things are going well, I can fall into a depression that can last for a couple days or a couple weeks without even seeing it happen. Sometimes, it is easy to recover, to bounce back to my normal self. Other times, not so much. If I don’t keep it in check, depression can start wrapping it’s tentacles around various parts of my life. It’s really easy for me to neglect friendships with people I truly care about. My job can quickly fall to the wayside. Schoolwork definitely suffers.
So, what is the solution? I don’t know. I know that writing things out like this usually brings about some clarity. I know that medication is not that answer for me.
Just realizing that this is how my brain tends to operate helps curb depression. I find that I can catch it earlier and earlier in the cycle as time goes on. Usually. There are still periods of backpedalling and there probably always will be. Hopefully just less and less frequently.
Really, I think it comes down to something that has repeated over, and over, and over again in my entrepreneurship classes: play to your strengths.
I like solving problems, so thats what I’m going to do. My list of problems to solve isn’t going anywhere, especially with a new business underway. The new mantra is this:
Work hard. Be successful. Relish it for a moment. Solve the next problem. Do it again.