Every superhero has an origin story. It usually starts off as a somewhat normal life, but is radically altered through a revelation of superhuman abilities. This discovery is often a very frightening experience for the person. I'm reminded of the movie, Man of Steel (2013), where a young Clark Kent becomes frightened at school and hides in a closet after discovering he has x-ray vision and super hearing. As his mom comes to check on him, he tells her, "the world is too big, mom." And her reply is simple: "then make it small." In that moment, he begins his journey to gain control of these powers, learning to see them as a gift to use to change the world.
Initially, super powers can be very destructive. But over time, heroes begin to learn how to control their powers, learning the discipline to select when to take action and when to refrain.
I am in the midst of my own super hero origin story, a journey of discovering a very unique, unexpected super power. I wish it included the power of flight, super-strength, or super-healing. I'd find any these to be incredibly helpful...and fun! I'd even settle for a set of web-shooters. I may lack the graceful agility to take full advantage, but at least I'd never need to leave the couch to grab the remote and a snack.
Instead, this power can feel like a defect. Or a curse. It doesn't come from a lightening strike or through some freak gamma radiation accident. Those who have it don't come from an alien planet, although some may argue I'm an exception. This super power is ADHD, and I'm one of the 4.4% of adults that have it.
The Origin Story
It wasn't until early 2015 that I began to acknowledge it and explore how it's affected my life. I do remember having a lot of challenges in school. I remember working with a specialist after failing many of my reading comprehension assignments. I remember plenty of after-school detentions and visits to the principal's office for being disruptive in class. I never set out to cause trouble. I was just disinterested and bored. As an adult, my impulsivity has affected relationships, job success, and overall decision making. But I never thought pursue an official diagnosis or treatment.
A few months after losing my mom though, my symptoms became much more exaggerated. I had major struggles with focus and impulsivity. I was extra forgetful of routine tasks. I couldn't prioritize even the simplest of tasks, and I would constantly day dream. The emotional stress of grief was amplifying my symptoms enough to consider taking action.
While at a bookstore with my wife Cheryl, I noticed a book about adult ADHD. As I skimmed through the content, I found a checklist of symptoms that sounded more like a description of my life. I showed the list to Cheryl, and she agreed. I remember talking with her about what to do next. I was torn. One one hand, I felt like my life made more sense. On the other hand, I was scared about what I'd discover if i pursued a diagnosis. But as someone reminded me, ignoring a broken leg doesn't change the fact that the leg is broken. It needs to be addressed so it can heal and be rehabilitated. So, after a few different tests with a counselor and psychologist, I had a report that confirmed our suspicions - I had a pretty strong case of Adult ADHD.
Just like a young Clark Kent, I didn't see this as a super power. Initially, I viewed this diagnosis as a weakness. I was discouraged. I felt broken and devalued. My self-worth took a big hit.
Maybe your story doesn't involve ADHD. You might struggle with something else that you view as a weakness or defect. It's so easy for all of us to make excuses or view ourselves as inferior. We can quickly build our identity around this condition and allow it to define us. In doing this, we can often (and unknowingly) slip into a victim mindset that prevents us from experiencing life and reaching our potential.
Changing Our Thinking
If we think of ourselves as broken or defective, we will soon live in a way that reflects this belief. However, both modern psychology and scripture (Romans 12:2) point to the fact that life transformation begins with changing the way we think.
Through prayer, meditating on scripture, and regular meetings with my counselor, my perception of this condition began to change over time. I no longer felt "broken" and in need of fixing. I was a man learning how to control his super human abilities. I was in the midst of my superhero origin story, learning how to use these powers for good.
Who remembers the wonderful Saturday morning cartoon from the early 1990's, X-Men: The Animated Series? One of my favorite characters was Cyclops. He was a powerful mutant, able to shoot blasts of focused energy from his eyes in order to stop Magneto and the other villains. Pretty cool superpower, right? But imagine what his childhood was like, discovering that every time he opened his eyes, he destroyed whatever he was looking at. I can imagine he'd be in constant fear, feeling broken and wanting a cure to his "disease." But instead, he began to work with Professor X. With the right training and discipline, this destructive power became something he could use to save lives.
Maybe we can't shoot lasers from our eyes. But as we grow in mindfulness and self-control, our unharnessed ADHD becomes a powerful assortment of super powers for the benefit of others.
I am summarizing my super powers into 3 C's:
Curiosity: The desire to learn, research, and explore new things
Creativity: Thinking outside the box, not being limited by "what's always been done"
Connection: Finding commonality between two seemingly different concepts, or connecting people with other people/resources
Recent research on ADHD confirms this idea, pointing out that the ADHD brain's pursuit of exciting new possibilities was a survival trait linking back to the early days of humanity. One educational blog points out that two of the most innovative minds in recent human history, Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, had numerous traits commonly associated with ADHD. It was this "neurological wiring" that inspired such innovation. Edison was even expelled from school for behaviors we now associate with ADHD. Their stories are an example of how the ADHD brain (Or the "Edison gene" as one book calls it) is a gift rather than a problem. Sounds like a superpower to me!
Join The Conversation
Do you have a superpower? Is there something in your life that you view as a weakness that could actually be a strength? Or are you in the beginning chapters of an origin story, struggling with seeing yourself as broken or defective?
Please know that while I am discovering this, it is not a quick fix. There are many times that I still get frustrated by certain limitations I have at work and at home. I still make careless mistakes. I still speak and act before thinking things through. This story is an ongoing one. But changing the way we view ourselves is the first step towards embracing the journey. I'd like to share a scripture verse that has helped rewire my brain. It reminds me of my value and purpose in life:
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) - We are God's masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus to do the good works He prepared for us long ago .
I would love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comment section below. Or, you can contact me on Twitter @RickGuttersohn.