Most of you know by now that October is ADHD Awareness Month. I haven’t had a lot of free time this month to ponder, but I couldn’t let it slip by without commenting on ADHD Awareness, either. I am all for anything that raises awareness for mental health issues. They are misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and the stigma surrounding these things is stronger than any force field ever conceived of in any science fiction film ever made. Some of you may know that my daughter only received her “official” diagnosis the summer before last school year. After much soul searching, I agreed to trying medication as part of her treatment plan. We’ve had good results both with the medication AND all the other forms of treatment we implement. Some things still need LOTS of work, but by goodness we are going to get there. Some of you may also know that I was too dumb to realize my own ADD symptoms. While my daughter is primarily the hyperactive type, I am primarily inattentive type. I’ve struggled with Anxiety Disorder my whole life, and a whole slew of other feelings that I never had any clue under the sun meant that I had ADD. As of right now, I do not take medication.
So…what do I want to say about ADHD Awareness? I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned in the little over a year that my daughter has been “officially” diagnosed. I’ve learned much about her, and much about myself as well. I see things in a whole new light now — things just kind of clicked one day in my head and I was able to see my life in all its ADD glory and while I may have been shocked and horrified, I was also terribly amused. Here’s what I learned:
Hyperactive does not mean bouncing off the walls. At first I did not understand the hyperactive part of my daughter’s diagnosis. I knew she was ADD, but hyper? um, no, I don’t think so. Right? Wrong. I learned that she doesn’t have to be trying to use the ceiling as a trampoline to be considered hyper. She constantly taps her foot. She twiddles her fingers. She bobs her head. She talks. She talks all the time. She sings. She hums. She mumbles. She narrates every single minute of her life. Out loud. There is constant sound coming out of the child’s mouth, all day every day. Even when she sleeps. I learned that all these things play a role in declaring her hyperactive. Ah, now I get it!!
Impulsive behavior. What does that mean? I always considered impulsive behavior to be LARGE behavior. Know what I mean? Impulsiveness leads to drug and alcohol abuse. Impulsiveness leads to trying to bungee jump off the bridge over the river. (not a good idea, you will break your neck.) Impulsive behavior may lead to being sexually promiscuous. Impulsive means big time self harming behaviors. Right? Well, not exactly.It can be all those things, but impulsive behavior is anything you do right now, this very second, without thinking of the consequences. It can be using your mom’s spray insulation to tack a bouquet to the wall. It can be taking all the shampoo and pouring it into a container to see what color it all makes mixed together. Impulsive can be mixing the talcum powder with glue and glitter just to see…well, I don’t know what that’s for, but I’m sure it was for some good reason at the time. Impulsive is putting on thick red lip gloss and then kissing the bathroom wall. It’s cutting things up without thinking. It’s a whole mess of things just waiting to be gotten into.
In a year it has dawned on me that I am not the only person that experiences things like finding your car keys in the refrigerator right there in the bowl of grapes. I’m not the only one who gets so overwhelmed by tasks that I all but shut down. I’m not the only one who picks at her fingers til they bleed, or whose anxiety skyrockets if I have to make a phone call. I’m not the only one who has forgotten to shave one leg, who puts laundry in the wash only to forget to put it in the dryer, who is chronically five minutes late for work every day, and feels like there is so much information clanging around in my head at any given moment that it is going to explode and look like a scene out of a really bad horror film. I’ve learned that being an introvert is not the same as being shy and that I should embrace my introverted ways and not try to conform to society’s loud mouth standards. (If you are an extrovert that is fantastic for you — but that’s the point — it doesn’t matter which you are, it’s just a personality trait, not a prison sentence.)
Being ADD is not reason to get all worked up. I do things differently. I see things differently. My kid sees things in technicolor and we should think that is fantastic. We should celebrate that fact. We are not drones, we are not robots. We are creative, intelligent individuals. and we should hold our heads high and be proud of that. Do we need to curb our impulsiveness sometimes? Sure we do. I mean, if I could curb the impulsive decision that leads me to the french fries I might could lose some weight, right? Another things I’ve learned this year. I never considered myself very impulsive, but being impulsive is THE reason why I can’t stick to a healthy eating plan. Knowledge is power though, and I’m coming up with ways to make it work for me.
ADHD Awareness? You bet. This year I’ve been more aware than ever before. I’ve learned so much about myself and my child, and through that I’ve learned to accept myself in ways I never ever have and it is like being set free. A weight has lifted and as I understand more and more about why I do the things I do, I find myself feeling less and less shame and embarrassment about them. I still fight with my Anxiety Disorder. I still have those moments where I have to give myself a stern talking to so I don’t dwell on a conversation picking apart anything I said that may have been wrong. I have to remember not to get so mad at myself when I do some dumb thing, and realize that lots of people before me have done the exact same thing. The world will still turn. The poles did not shift causing catastrophic climate change to occur. We’re gonna be okay.
I’ve learned that if I can keep a sense of humor and positive outlook, then ADHD can be a blessing. The “flaws” can be turned into positives, and even when things are bad, really, really bad, it shall pass and you shall learn something important. Use your mistakes to make better treatment choices and find the things that work for you to make your life easier, better and happier.
It’s good to be aware. Now go out there and make other people aware that ADHD exists, it is NOT an easy path, and we will not be made to feel like we are broken or less of a human being because we have it. Most of all, keep your sense of perspective, and more importantly, your sense of humor. Believe me, you’ll need it next time you find your bra in the freezer.