What’s in a Label?   1 comment

I have a cold, but here is me reading my poem. It’s just a first draft but the poem is supposed to be spoken word, so I recorded it. The words of the poem are reproduced after the Soundcloud widget for the benefit of anyone who needs them.

I hope you like it. I hope you learn something. I hope you feel validated. I hope it speaks to you.

What’s in a Label?

I. Identity

This one time someone said
“I don’t believe in labels”
when I told them I have ADHD.
     I said nothing.
     But I wanted to.
I wanted to ask how they describe themselves.
Sexual orientation, gender, hair colour, career, height, weight,
Name.

II. Condescension

This one time my doctor said
“you’ve gone this long without treatment, you can wait a little longer”
when I came in with the file that held my testing results.
     I said nothing.
     But I wanted to.
I wanted to ask if he’d ever been at the end of his ability to cope.
If he’d ever called his mother crying because he’d just spent four hours organizing his books
instead of cleaning his apartment.

III. Disbelief

This one time a relative said
“ADHD is made up by the drug companies to get children addicted to drugs”
when I was driving them somewhere.
     I said nothing.
     But I wanted to.
I wanted to point out
that appropriate treatment in childhood lessens the likelihood of drug abuse.
And that I was taking those self-same drugs so I could function like other people.

This other time someone said
“everyone loses things or is late or gets absorbed in activities”
when I mentioned I had ADHD.
     And this time
     I said something.
I said that everyone does those things,
but not every day.
Not multiple times a day
     every day
     for their entire life.
I invite you to live with my brain for just a day
and then try and tell me ADHD doesn’t exist.

IV. Jokes

Too many times I hear
“Look, a squirrel!” or “Wanna go ride bikes?”
like it’s a punch line to a hilarious joke about my attention span.
     I often say nothing.
     But I want to.
I want to point out that most ADHDers can hyperfocus on stuff longer than non-ADHDers
depending on the circumstances, the topic, the activity…
we just can’t always choose what we focus on.

And then there are people who say
“I had an ADD moment”
when they forgot something for a moment or did something silly.
     I usually say nothing.
     But I want to.
I want to point out that ADHD is a neurological disorder
and if you don’t have that neurology
it’s impossible for you to have “an ADD moment.”

My disorder is not for you to joke about.
You know how when you’re a kid and someone picks on your kid brother
     and you yell at them that
     “nobody’s allowed to hurt my brother except me!”
You know how that is?
That’s what ADHD is like.
My kid brother.
Leave it alone.

V. Excuses

Sometimes I hear people complaining about ADHD
“they just use it as an excuse to be lazy!”
and other things like that.
     I’m learning to say something.
     Because it needs to be said.
It needs to be said that ADHD is a disorder,
that it’s distressing and difficult and invisible and it can look like so many moral failings,
but that’s not what it is and you
are
hurting
us
when you say things like that.

VI. Disability

So many people try to cushion ADHD
“it’s a difference not a disability”
they say, and feel proud for enhancing our self-esteem.
     I speak about this more and more.
     Because it needs to be said.
It needs to be said that disability is not a bad word, not an insult,
not demeaning:
it’s just a word.
And saying that ADHD is just a difference
hurts our ability to get accommodations
and can damage our self-esteem,
not help it.

VII. Reality

My daily to-do list has over 30 tasks on it,
     and that includes eating lunch
     because I forget to eat sometimes
     and because food is hard when it’s just me I’m feeding.
Most days I manage about 10 or so tasks.
     The other day I did over 20 and I was so excited that I’d accomplished so much
I nearly cried.
I have to write everything down or I forget the details.
I have to ask a lot of questions or I miss the point.
I have to take time to think about things or I don’t understand.
I have spent days locked into Facebook or Tumblr,
     refreshing the screen over and over
     even though I know there’s nothing new to look at
     and I need to do the dishes,
     or I want to read a book,
     or I need to start dinner.
I’m not lazy.
I put in more effort to work through the steps to the simplest tasks
     to remember what I came into the kitchen for
     to recall what I was talking about when I forget in the middle of a word
     to laugh at my mistakes when they’re funny,
     to apologize when they’re not.
I put in more effort for all of these things
than probably anyone else
(except other ADHDers).
My successes cost me more than they cost you.

ADHD is a part of who I am
     it is neutral
     it is annoying
     it is fun
     it is exciting
     it is devastating
     it is pervasive.
I don’t know who I would be without ADHD.
It colours my perceptions
     my interactions
     my life.
It’s not a gift —
     some days there is nothing good about life with ADHD.
It’s not just a difference —
     I’ve accommodated it as much as possible and it’s still disabling.
But it’s a part of me.

So what’s in a label?
A label in isolation doesn’t define me
but pull them all together
stuff them into a box
and that box is me.

One response to “What’s in a Label?

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  1. You did a good job at showing what it is like to try to live in a world full of non-ADHD people. I’ve spent so much time and energy trying to understand the world of “normal” people, maybe it is time that they put a few minutes into trying understand ours. Thank you.

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