Archive for May 2014

Acceptance II   Leave a comment

My self-esteem has gotten a lot better since I was diagnosed with ADHD. I no longer had to wonder why I was so different from other people, and I finally knew where to look for help with the things that caused me the most trouble in my life. Medication helped manage my symptoms and made it easier for me to learn and implement strategies to help me live my life on my own terms, and those strategies have been amazing for my overall quality of life. But mostly just knowing what the heck was going on was a huge relief.

Labels are not bad. We use them all the time. Every noun is a label, after all. Book, chair, table, car: all labels. Dog, cat, guinea pig, human: labels. John, Sally, Marie, David: again, labels. So this “I don’t believe in labels” that I see from presumably neurotypical people is ridiculous. You do believe in labels, you just don’t like categorizing people by their neurology or perceived brokenness.

Here’s something you maybe haven’t considered: I’m not broken. I have ADHD, and that does not mean that I am worth less than you in any way, shape, or form. I may have difficulties with things that you don’t have difficulty with, but I suspect that I am very good at things that you do have trouble with. Because I am a person, and there are lots of labels that apply to me besides ADHD. For example: I am a woman, I am a wife, I am a writer, I am an editor, I am occasionally an artist, I am a Christian, I am an Anglican, I am a guinea pig mom and a kitty mom, I attempt to be a housewife, I am sometimes a seamstress, I am a cook, and I am an ADHDer. I am also a brunette, I am tall, I am overweight, I am strong, I am enthusiastic, I am silly, I am serious, I am happy, I am a musician, I am good with computers, and I am an adult.

I work very hard every day to do the things that I want to accomplish. It’s not easy because having ADHD means that my executive functioning isn’t very good. But I work at it because it matters to me and because this is something I want to become good at, if possible. I don’t work so hard at this because I want to be neurotypical. I don’t do it so that my life will be more like yours. I don’t even try to do things the way non-ADHDers do them. I’m just living my life, trying to accomplish the things I choose to focus on, in the way that makes sense for me. Sometimes how I do these things is very different from how other people do them. Since it’s the results that matter, not the method, I don’t worry about that… and you shouldn’t worry about it either. As long as the dishes are clean, does it really matter that I wash them in the morning instead of after dinner every evening? Probably not. So I do it the way that works for me.

It took time for me to get to this point. I spent the first 28-30 years of my life trying to make my life what I thought everyone else’s lives were like. You know what you get when you do that? Depression. Anxiety. It’s not a satisfying existence. You’re forever struggling to achieve something that not only isn’t really something anyone does, it’s something that you in particular cannot accomplish due to your neurology. When I was diagnosed with ADHD at 28, I started to figure this out. And it’s only in the last few years that I really began to embrace it.

I have expectations of myself, but they are far more realistic and they take into account the things I struggle with when it comes to getting stuff done. I try not to beat myself up over things I don’t achieve in a given day, because there’s always tomorrow and I can try again and maybe do better then. Things are no longer life or death for me. I have deadlines for work, but it’s a lot easier to meet those deadlines when I’m not also stressing over how many other things I need to accomplish because if I don’t my life is going to fall apart (even though it won’t).

When I tell you that I have ADHD and you respond with “I don’t believe in labels,” you are telling me that you don’t actually care about the challenges I face. You are telling me that you will not be understanding when things get buggered up because ADHD is unpredictable. You are telling me that you are not a safe person for me to be around, because you do not understand the importance of this label to me and my life.

Because ADHD is important. It’s not separable from my identity, because it’s been present since I was a very small child (possibly since birth). It has affected (and continues to affect) how I perceive and interact with the world. I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist, and I don’t want to, either. I want the world to stop pretending it doesn’t exist. I want the world to stop acting like labels are bad. I want the world to stop making labels bad by treating us differently if we have one of these “negative” ones. I want the world to stop caring about how we do things and start caring about what things we do.

I think that it is horrible that there are people who have ADHD and autism and other neurological and mental disorders who are made to feel like they are broken or “less than” simply because they are different.

I am not neurotypical. I have ADHD. I am not broken. I am exactly who I am supposed to be, and I think that is amazing.

This is part two of a series. I’m not sure when the third part will be posted. It will probably be about how “treatable” ADHD is, unless something else catches my attention between now and then.

Acceptance I   Leave a comment

I’m tired.

I’m tired of being told to think of my ADHD as a gift instead of as a disability. I’m tired of having things suggested to me as ways to overcome my ADHD. I’m tired of being encouraged – expected, even – to try and force my brain to function like that of a neurotypical human being. And I’m tired of being told, when I express my dislike of these kinds of things, that I am being too negative or something like that, when I’m not.

I see it everywhere I turn. It’s all over the ADHD web sites and you can read all about it in ADHD books of all kinds. And the people saying these things are, just as often as not, ADHDers themselves.

I can be negative, absolutely. And in my youth I was angsty as heck. I’ve even been clinically depressed (more than once, though I was only diagnosed and treated once). I don’t think that my objection to the above is negative. It’s realistic, and it’s evidence that I don’t think of ADHD in quite the same way as other people.

Here is how I think of ADHD. You do not have to agree with me. This is what works for me, and it is what I wish I could see more of on the web sites and in the books.

ADHD is not a gift. It is a disability. It is a disorder that causes serious problems, regardless of how many accommodations you have at school or at work, and regardless of how much you twist your life to make it fit the ADHD mold.

ADHD does not need to be “overcome.” I’m not sure what that even means, since at its most basic level ADHD affects how we perceive and interact with the world around us. It’s a pervasive disorder, after all; it affects every single aspect of our lives. I would prefer to work with my ADHD, to find ways to use it to my advantage and ways to convince it to allow me to get stuff done when I really want to do so.

My brain does not need to function the same as a neurotypical brain. It is my brain, and it is an ADHD brain. I think that’s beautiful, even if it is disabling and annoying and frustrating most of the time.

Is this revolutionary? It feels like it must be, because it flies in the face of so much conventional wisdom.

I run the Actually ADHD blog on Tumblr, and I answer a lot of questions every day about what ADHD is, how to deal with ableism, and what kinds of things might help people accomplish things they need/want to achieve. On Tuesdays we have “Terrific Tuesday,” which is a chance for people to send in things they’re proud of having accomplished lately so we can all cheer for them. It doesn’t matter how big or small the things are, we want to hear them all. On Fridays we have “Feel Good Friday,” which is a chance for people to share any positives they have found in their ADHD.

When I’m answering people’s questions, I do research. I look up medications at drugs.com so I can discuss potential side effects. I look on PubMed for studies about things that I don’t know a lot about (sometimes I’m not very successful). When they’re asking how to deal with ableism, I try to use common sense. Same with things like how to study for a test or disclose their diagnosis to a friend.

Throughout all of this, I try to maintain a positive tone. I don’t pretend that ADHD is all sunshine and roses, because it definitely isn’t. But a lot of the time, if someone asks if something is normal, I will tell them that obviously it’s normal for them and as long as it isn’t hurting anyone or disruptive to others, it doesn’t matter if it’s normal for anyone else.

I still recommend those writers and those web sites, even though I disagree with some of their ideas on a very fundamental level, because it’s all we have right now. And I find it so frustrating that the way I think of my ADHD is not something I can find anywhere except on a blog that I run. Sometimes I don’t want to be revolutionary, I just want to be supported the way I support other people. I want to be accepted as an ADHDer, no strings attached. No “as long as you don’t talk about how disabling it is.” No “as long as you work to overcome it.” No “as long as you’re trying to pass as neurotypical.

I shouldn’t have to “pass” to be accepted.

ADHD is part of me. Accept me, accept my ADHD.

I won’t accept anything less.

This is part 1 of a series. I’m not sure how long the series will be or when I will post the next part, I just know I’m not finished with this topic.