Musicians with ADHD, and the colleagues who work with them

I’m pretty open about the fact that I live with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s part of who I am. I sometimes even enjoy having it: the periods of hyperfocus are what enable me to write incredibly quickly, and my head practically bursts with creative ideas more or less non-stop. I talk faster than anyone I know, because that’s how fast the ideas come out.

It still isn’t easy, though. Before I received my diagnosis in my late twenties, I’m sure my ADHD behaviours caused me to miss out on a lot of professional opportunities. Forgetting rehearsals, or being calamitously late to them because I vastly underestimated the time it would take me to get there; forgetting I had students coming for lessons; losing my music and other important possessions; zoning out in rehearsals; never having a pencil; having to borrow other people’s rosin because I’d left mine somewhere; forgetting previously agreed-upon bowings and articulations; impulsively blurting unflattering remarks (“Did you know that you drag behind the beat all the time?”)…and my self-esteem really suffered at the negative comments of my understandably irritated colleagues.

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Is narcissism necessary?

As part of a current project on self-actualization for musicians, I’ve been reading a number of books by psychologists and therapists. So many of them referred to a  book called The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell that I felt moved to check it out of the library.

Talk about uncomfortable reading! Twenge and Campbell’s scathing descriptions of narcissism in the Millennial generation (a generation for which I just qualify) made me feel very sheepish indeed. The “self-esteem” movement of the 1980s was a huge part of my early education, and I remember singing a catchy little number at primary school that went “Tell yourself you’re beautiful, tell yourself you’re smart, tell yourself you’re wonderful, and say it from the heart!”

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