Unleash Your Creativity

As early as I can remember, drawing was my favorite activity. I would draw pictures for my sisters to color. In school, if anyone needed a drawing for an assignment, they’d come to me. I would draw anything. I had hundreds of drawings of my left hand! I’m right handed, so I would use my left hand as the model. I kept drawing through high school – girls think it’s very romantic when you draw their portrait – reveling in my talent and passion. My heart soared when I drew, and no matter what else happened, I knew I was truly good at something.

Like many ADHDers, (although I had not been diagnosed yet)  after high school, university was a shock to the system. I almost failed many of my courses the first semester, and I did fail three in the second semester. My first year of university was definitely a low point for me. Everything was hard, and very early that first year, I put away my drawing kit. Who has time to draw when you’re failing at everything

I did eventually scrape through university, and upon graduation, married and moved to a new city to take on a new job. I soon found the work world was even harder than university. I struggled to keep jobs, and constantly changed careers, hoping to find something I would excel at. Within a year, we had our first daughter, and a few years later, a second. The years flew by. They say time flies when you’re having fun, but I think maybe time also flies when you’re too busy struggling to savor the moment. By the time my oldest daughter started school, it had been years since I had drawn anything.

One day, my daughters were playing, when I heard Jenn ask, “Mom, can you draw me a frog?” Linda attempted to draw a frog, but neither of them was happy with the result.

“Why don’t you ask your father? Maybe he can do better.”

I took my daughter’s pencil and paper in hand, and quickly sketched out a frog. She was delighted, and next asked for a bunny. I drew that too, and her squeals of delight soon drew Linda out of the kitchen. She looked over my shoulder and said, “Duane, do you know you have talent!?” She never even knew I could draw; I had given it up years before I met her.

I revealed that I used to draw all the time and loved it. Once upon a time, I even had dreams of making art a career, but all those dreams, and my drawing, fell by the wayside given the realities of struggling with my (still undiagnosed) ADHD just to keep up, first in school, then at work. Linda encouraged me to take up drawing again, but we were struggling financially, facing the demands of a young family and, as always, I was still overwhelmed trying to meet my responsibilities, at home and at work. It was folly to think I could possibly find time to draw!

Days, weeks, even months went by. I didn’t draw. I didn’t have time. Like many ADHDers, I refused to give myself permission to “indulge” in such a frivolous activity until I had fixed everything else in my life. Life went on. The struggles continued. It was not a fun time. Everything was a constant struggle; it was little wonder I was angry, anxious and ashamed. After all, I’d always been told I was intelligent, talented, capable… why was life so hard?

Christmas morning, later that year, my gift from Linda was an envelope tucked in the branches of the tree. Given the state of our finances, I opened the card, expecting that the card was the only gift we could afford. Imagine my surprise when I discovered Linda had enrolled me in a Saturday morning drawing course at the university’s school of fine art. I protested. “We can’t afford this! I don’t have time. There are so many more important things I should be doing.”

Linda replied, “It’s paid for. It’s non-refundable. There’s always time to do what’s really important. This is really important.”

Returning from the introductory class, my first opportunity to draw in over a decade, I thanked Linda again for my gift. I had forgotten how drawing lifts me, transports me to a different world, a world where I am at ease, where I am capable, where I excel. When I create, I surpass myself each time. I immerse myself, hyper focusing for hours at a time. And I emerge calmer, centered, at peace with the world. I finished that class and signed up for the next one. I haven’t stopped drawing and painting since.

Recently, I reminded Linda of that amazing gift she gave me all those years ago. She replied, “It turned out to be a gift for me too. When you have art in your life, you’re calmer, you’re not angry, you’re not anxious. When you return from creating a new drawing or painting, I see the difference immediately. I gave you the gift of a drawing class, but I gave myself the gift of a better husband.”

If you’re an adult with ADHD and you don’t allow yourself an opportunity to create, you’re doing yourself and the people in your life a disservice. Believe me, I understand the desire to fix your life before you give yourself permission to do something just for yourself. But it’s a “chicken and egg” situation. Making time to unleash your creative genius will go a long way to fixing your life.

    • Kathy Stafford
    • August 10, 2016

    64 and learning how to feel good about myself. I recently learned about this site and joined the next day. Being diagnosed a few years back my gift to myself is learning about ADHD and letting me be OK with mysel!f.
    May we all grow in confidence though these article and others journeys!

    • Katherine
    • July 14, 2016

    Wow. Your story was an eye opener for me. I am recently diagnosed at age 60. What you said, how you wouldn’t let yourself do anything you enjoyed until the important things were right in your life has been me for years. I have been & still am frequently frustrated, resentful & at a loss about why & what to do. This is both sad (because of all the years of struggle & not knowing) & freeing because I can give myself permission to create as I learn about ADHD.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Belle
    • May 15, 2016

    What were your issues and How were you diagnosed? I’ve been dancing around the diagnosis for a few yrs, afraid to land at 63 but tired of struggling.

      • adda-ADMIN
      • May 16, 2016

      It’s never too late to benefit from knowing exactly what you’re up against.

      Determining whether you have ADHD requires professional testing. ADDA offers the World Health Organization’s online test here: https://add.org/adhd-test/

      This test is only sufficient to give you an indication as to whether you should follow up with an appointment with a professional for a diagnosis. In all cases, if you have any doubts, you should follow up with a qualified professional who understands ADHD in order to determine if you have ADHD or one of the many other conditions that can mimic ADHD in some circumstances.

      To help you get the professional help you might need, ADDA provides a directory of professionals serving adults with ADHD at https://add.org/professional-directory/

      Good luck!

      To your success,


    • Cris
    • May 12, 2016

    that’s not the reaction I expected, Duane…this brought tears to my eyes. I have met you at a conference or two… I don’t even know where to go with this. I know just this morning I was “given the permission to feel” by my mentor coach…and one of these ways is doing my art. I guess I need to just suck it up and start somewhere. I’m afraid of getting lost in it. but how many hours do I waste getting lost in technology that I could be spending immersed in my art?

    • Michelle
    • May 11, 2016

    Thank you so much!!!!! You hit it “on the nail”. I wasn’t diagnosed until my early 60’s. Your article resonates with me too!!!! Tears are rolling down my face. You hit so many points!

    • Sue
    • May 11, 2016

    Wow, thank you. Your story really resonates with me. I can pretty much say, “ditto,” to the whole thing, as it really mirrors my same experiences with art, life, work , school, financial struggles. I’ve gone through life with the feeling that once I get my #$%& together, then I will relax and start taking time for all the things I love. It’s a horrible way to go through life. Thank you for the reminder to find my creative self again!

  1. Reply

    So true. I am at my best when I have my guitar in hand and sing for groups.

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