As ADHD Awareness month arrives in October, there are some things I have been thinking about. If I could tell anyone anything about ADHD what would it be? What do I want people to know? What do I wish they understood? What would help the most?
Those are all valid questions, but they are also hard to answer. Yes, ADHD shares common symptoms, but just like anything else, we all experience them differently. What I wish people knew about me and my ADHD might be different than what I wish people understood about my daughter and her ADHD.
Understanding. I think that is the biggest issue we face. We get so many negative messages. We are misunderstood by so many people. Okay, I don’t expect the clerk at the grocery store to understand my ADHD and my needs, but sometimes even the people that love us the most don’t understand us. Sometimes we think they don’t even try.
I am still faced with family members that think ADHD means something as simple as not being able to pay attention. They fail to grasp the seriousness of the issue and how it can affect every single aspect of our lives. Even as A- becomes a teen and makes more friends, she sees this. She had one particularly good friend who thought it was no big deal that she had ADHD (and it isn’t.) But then he often didn’t understand her behavior or why she had to do things a certain way. He didn’t understand how it affected her if he tried to change plans at the last minute. She tried to explain it to him. I often heard him asking her things like “Why do you do that that way when it would be so much easier if you…” She tried to tell him about her brain and how what was simple for him might not be so simple for her. She asked me to gather some websites for him so he could read about ADHD and maybe understand a little better. Then one afternoon I handed him a book and told him that the book would probably explain it all better than anything else. I told him that if he wanted to learn about ADHD and what it was like to have it, it could be found in that book. He looked at me like I had lost my mind. Mind you, this wasn’t a particularly large book. He kind of laughed and told A- “I told you I’d look at some websites, I’m not going to read a book.” She was hurt. And disappointed. She thought they were good enough friends that he would try to make an effort to learn about the effects of ADHD. No such luck.
Mind you, I’m talking about a teenage boy here, but I’ve seen the same thing in adults. I’ve seen parents who were amazing and the best advocates in the universe for their children, and I’ve seen parents that just didn’t see the need to learn because they believed they already knew what they needed to know about ADHD. I’ve seen spouses that were wonderfully supportive of their partner, and I’ve seen others who get so frustrated with their spouse for the things they do. To not learn about ADHD and not figure out how, together, to deal with the situation, a giant rift can be created.
The truth of the matter is, if you love someone with ADHD, then you owe it to them, and to yourself to learn all you can. Yes, we are still going to frustrate you sometimes, but at least if you make an effort, we know that you understand WHY we are so frustrating. And if you make that effort, then I guarantee you that we will make the effort to not be so frustrating. We are still going to lose our keys. And our phones. And our wallets. And our brains. We are still going to go out of the house dressed, only to realize a mile down the road that we are wearing our slippers. We are going to be late. We are going to be disorganized, messy and chaotic. We will have stacks of papers and we will have no idea why we have them or what to do with them. We aren’t going to do things in the order that you would do them in. Our organizational system is not going to make sense to you. There is a good chance we will cover the entire house with sticky notes and have so many alarms going off at any given time that we have no idea what they were even for. We are going to blurt out random things, zone out when you are talking to us, forget what we are doing in the middle of doing it, and occasionally you may even find a hairbrush in the freezer.
We are intelligent. We are creative. We are deep thinkers and we have lots of energy. But we also get so overwhelmed sometimes that you’d think we had no energy at all because we will be so confused as to where to begin something that we often won’t begin at all.
I guess what we want people to know is that we cannot, for the life of us, be more like them, and truth be told, we don’t want to be.
We want people just to accept that ADHD is real, and it’s okay for us to behave the way we do. No, I don’t mean it’s a license for us to be insensitive assholes, but you know, it’s okay for us to be US. It’s okay that our brain isn’t typical. It’s okay that we do things in a way that doesn’t make sense to us. Stop trying to make us do things like you do them. What’s even the point?
Understanding. Tolerance. Patience. Kindness. Those are my wishes for ADHD awareness month. Heck, those are things I wish for ALL people ALL the time.
I didn’t choose to have ADHD, but I’m not sorry I have it. It’s part of me. It frustrates me a lot of the time, but it makes me who I am. I don’t want to fit into anyone’s mold and I wish people didn’t expect us to. (I guess my anxiety disorder holds me back far more than my ADHD, but that’s a story for another day.)
I’m slowly learning to be the person I want to be. I’m slowly learning about myself and how to deal with my “shortcomings.” I’m learning the benefits of my ADHD and I’m learning to embrace the positives of it too.
I will always be a work in progress. And that’s okay. What do you want people to know about YOUR ADHD?