Coaching a lost college student with ADHD
Wes, 20, was a student at a university about 400 miles from his parents’ home. He was considered “the quiet/thoughtful one” while his younger brother was the frat boy/big man on campus. Brad (the brother) was the star and Wes had no sense of how he fit into the big picture. While Brad didn’t care one way or the other about what people thought of him and his ADHD, Wes felt misunderstood, and he was apprehensive about how others viewed him.
I started working with Wes when he was 19. His parents hired me to be his ADHD coach but what transpired was more than any of us could have imagined:
Living someone else’s life
The thing that became immediately noticeable was that Wes was surrounded by people that he didn’t like and that didn’t like him. As a thoughtful 19 year old, Wes wasn’t interested in partying every night or doing drugs. I thought he was well-spoken, engaged, good-looking, and he had a kind soul. This was confusing.
What made him the most happy and the most calm was meditation. He meditated a couple of times a day, every day, and was connected to an online community of college-age meditators. Wes felt that his calling might be as a spiritual teacher or a coach for kids. Cool, right?
Oh, and did I mention that he was in business school??? Wes was expected to go into the family business.
Quite quickly I realized that he wasn’t living HIS life; he was living someone else’s life (his father’s in this case). ADHD didn’t really seem to be his biggest issue.
Assessments can give everyone great perspective and directionWho am I? Where do I fit in?
I gave him two online diagnostics: StrengthsFinder 2.0 (for which you purchase your test & resutls) and 2 Myers-Briggs tests: This one and this one (just to confirm the results). The results were fascinating.
The life Wes was living was that of an ESTJ – sort of a Leader and Guardian of values and routines. As a father, the ESTJ supports his family but isn’t much interested in “Woo-Woo” theories or experiments. An ESTJ would deal in facts more than feelings.
INFPs. As common as unicorns.
Wes, in fact, is an INFP. Two things are very significant here. First of all, only about 20% of men are NFs (the middle two letters) and I’ve learned from seminars on the subject that NF men are often prone to anxiety and depression if they’re denying their natural temperament.
And male INFPs make up only 4% of the total population.
This is a staggering statistic. It explains why Wes didn’t feel he fit in. He didn’t.
But what was so miraculous is that Wes finally felt he had an identity. When he got his results he suddenly saw why he didn’t like parties and the drug culture and being around other 19 year olds. Wes wanted to make his life meaningful, not waste it.
“INFPs are introspective, private, creative and highly idealistic individuals that have a constant desire to be on a meaningful path. They are driven by their values and seek peace. Empathetic and compassionate, they want to help others and humanity as a whole.”
Within a few months, Wes was able to manage his ADHD symptoms and pass all his classes. Today he understands that, at times, he’ll feel a bit dejected, but that when that happens it’s likely that he’s with the wrong crowd and needs to spend more time helping people and hanging out with “his peeps.”
I got this email from his mother during our last month of coaching:
“[Yafa], I’ve been sitting here with tears of gratitude thinking of how you helped Wes. Thank you Thank you Thank you. I love you and I want you to share this with anyone who might be helped as you’ve helped us:
I hired [Yafa] to coach my son in college. Before we hired [Yafa], he was struggling with academics and depression. He was certain he was going to fail two of his classes. He was in a negative living situation, homesick, and isolated. As you can imagine, I was very concerned and felt scared for my son. One morning the light bulb went on and I remembered [Yafa] Crane, who works with people with ADHD. In my family, 3 out of 4 people have ADHD. I called [Yafa], we met, and even though my son was skeptical he committed to working with her. What came next was beyond any of my expectations. Two months after we began working with [Yafa], my son said: “She saved my life”. I truly see how Margit’s work transformed my son’s life. He completed the semester with good grades, and he moved to a new apartment where he is safer and happier. I will forever be grateful for [Yafa]’s approach to the ADHD challenge, her expertise in helping others learn, and her laser-like intuition.
I will add that Wes was on medication for both depression and ADHD but he felt that neither was really working – he felt a little better but was still struggling.
One thing that it’s important for people to realize is that medication doesn’t solve everything. There are so many other factors to consider, such as family of origin, temperament, school history, likes/dislikes, habits, and the way people are wired to perform tasks – we’re not all the same and we don’t fit into nice, neat (small number of) categories.
ADHD is nuanced
It’s helpful to have basic, textbook information about ADHD, but most of us need more than that. That’s where coaching comes in. No pill can do what a coach can do.
Copyright 2016 Yafa Luria/Margit Crane All Rights Reserved
What troubles you about parenting an ADHD child or teen?
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