Adult ADHD General

A Recurring Dream Theme and My ADHD Diagnosis

In my last post, I shared about how I don’t feel that an ADHD diagnosis is a disability, but rather it is incredibly liberating. In case you haven’t read that post already, here is the portion where I talk about this:

Let me begin by saying that there is something very liberating about my diagnosis. I don’t see my ADHD as a disability in any way—in fact, just like with Steve Jobs, Ted Turner, Bill Gates, and Albert Einstein, I feel it has been a strength and a contributing factor in my success up to this point. However, there are challenges and difficulties. One of those challenges is that it’s difficult (and sometimes impossible) to stay mentally focused and engaged on tasks that we don’t find interesting.

Imagine that you were wrestling with The Invisible Man. He has you pinned to the floor and no matter how hard you try to get up, you can’t; there is this unseen resistance that you can’t overcome. You feel paralyzed for no reasons and just feel like if you tried harder you get up. You’ve never heard of The Invisible Man before, you can’t see him, he’s bigger and stronger than you are, and he’s got you pinned to the floor. Then suddenly, someone (probably your clinical psychologist or psychiatrist) throws a bucket of paint on the two of you. All of a sudden, you realize you aren’t paralyzed after all—you just have a big man on top of you holding you down. Now you can see your challenger! After he has been identified, you are then on a level playing field where you can meet his challenges.

This is what my ADHD diagnosis was like for me. Now that I can see my challenger, I can find ways to overcome those challenges. To those without ADHD, these may seem like small insignificant challenges. That’s OK. You’re wrestling with The Invisible Man. But those who are need some strategies and techniques in order to win the fight. This article is one such strategy that I’ve stumbled upon that helps me tremendously.

As I was writing this analogy of wrestling with The Invisible Man, I happened to remember something I had shared with my psychologist. I shared with him about a recurring aspect of some of my dreams. I must admit that I very rarely remember my dreams, but I typically do remember a few each year. For the past 4 or 5 years, I would periodically dream that I was in some threatening situation and that I was unable to move at all—I was totally paralyzed. In the earlier parts of the dream I was normal, then I would be threatened by thugs on the street, invaders in my home, or in some other situation. I was never hurt in the dreams, but the threat was very near. I would struggle to move, but couldn’t move a single muscle. Then I would suddenly break free and simultaneously I would wake up.

I’ve never been one to think much about dreams as a window into the subconscious. I do believe that God revealed things to people in the Bible through dreams and that He can do that today as well. I think that most of the people who try to interpret every dream as having either some deep spiritual or psychological meaning are making dreams much more of a god than they deserve to be. Having said all that, I do think these dreams of mine had some relation to what was going on inside my mind.

I had been searching for a few years for the cause of some of my challenges in life. When I was diagnosed with ADHD, a lot of things suddenly made sense. Just like in my story above, I could finally see my challenger, and since I could see him, the playing field was leveled and I could look for ways to beat him. In my dream, as soon as my muscles broke free from the paralysis, I woke up. In real life, once I realized the cause of the challenges it was like waking up from a dream.

It’s interesting to note that I haven’t had this particular theme in a dream since then. I don’t know if this should be explained as psychological or spiritual, but I do believe there was some connection between this dream theme and my diagnosis. Now that I’m ‘awake’ I’ve been finding lots of ways to cope and overcome The Invisible Man of ADHD.

So, has anyone else experienced anything like this? Have you experienced something where a dream turned out to have a deeper connection to something going on psychologically inside you that was undiagnosed? I know I can’t be unique here and I would like to hear other’s stories.

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  • Reply
    2/7/2012 at 5:59 am

    I had a dream…. I was in a room, a hotel room of some sorts maybe, and afraid of something that was waiting outside the door, in the hallway. But I had to go through it to get to my room, where I could go to sleep. The door was open and I was about to go through it…and my gaze went to the ceiling. I couldn’t move my eyes down to focus on what was ahead of me. I was so afraid of what I might see that I couldn’t look straight ahead. I forced my head down, but my eyes would continue to look up. Only with greatest efforts could I catch a glimpse of the hallway. It looked empty. I went through it, trying to find my way without really seeing where I was going, because the fear made me look away. When I arrived at my room and felt safe, my gaze relaxed.

    This struck me, because it’s the way I approach the writing of my thesis… I open all the documents, and then turn my gaze away from the screen. And in my head my thoughts race around the thought “What else could I do now?”. It’s crazy. I constantly tell myself that I need to work on my thesis, but I’m so afraid that I avoid it at all costs. It’s so huge and terrifying and I’m embarrassed by how bad I am at it that I can’t even look at it.

  • Reply
    3/11/2012 at 11:46 am

    June – Sorry to take so long to reply. It’s been a hectic month.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I don’t know if you also have ADHD or not, but as a writer, I can certainly relate to feeling overwhelmed by a big writing project, such as your thesis. I’m spending this morning catching up on email and related things from the past month or so. What I normally do in this case is make a list of everything I need to do and then work through those items. In this case, I’m just taking one thing at a time, without regard to priority, and purposefully focusing on just that one thing. I write it down on my list when I start it and mark through it when I’m done. I’ve been doing that on some of my other writing projects too and it’s helped a lot. Sometimes I’ll focus on writing one sentence or one paragraph or one title of one PowerPoint slide. It’s a small step, and I have to make many small steps, but it’s helped me tremendously to make progress on some overwhelming things. I guess to compare this to your dream, it’s like looking down to see just where you’re putting your foot next, but not seeing anything else beyond that.

    Good luck with your thesis!

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