I love to read stories about those with ADHD that have achieved some level of ‘success’ (a term I will address in a later article) in their lives. They usually speak on the trials that they had as children, but typically they had parents that understood them and drove them to be themselves and reach for the stars and gave them every opportunity yada yada…..
Did that sound bitter? I have issues.
If you’re anything like me, you know that stories like those are not the norm. Far from it. I know that in my life, growing up with ADHD was no picnic. Actually, that was an understatement. My life tended to angle towards the feeling you get when you finally-bought-that-huge-lollipop-from-Disneyland-and-are-minding-your-own-business-walking-down-the-street-when-some-jackass-comes-along-and-smacks-it-out-of-your-hand-shattering-it-on-the-ground-like-some-metaphor-of-your-childhood-dreams-leaving-you-nothing-but-a-short-stick.
I told you I had issues.
Now, don’t get me wrong, not everyone has had a terrible life. And I’m not saying we’ve had it worse than anyone else. But when you have ADHD, there are struggles that are simply more real. And as an adult, I tend to look back at the people and events that shaped who I am and sigh (I should be celebrating the fact I’m actually remembering something!). So much ignorance, misguided fears and negligence it can be a bit depressing. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t played the “If Only…” game. If only I’d done this. If only I’d waited. If only I knew what I know now, things would’ve been different. Let me tell you something you already know. That game sucks and does absolutely no good. Unless you can travel through time, in which case we should probably have a chat because I need a favor.
I look back on the little boy that used to be me and tend to apologize to that poor little guy. I wish I could go back and change things. Make life just a little easier. Give him some hope and let him know everything isn’t as bad as it seems. You have something to look forward to.
Funny thing. I actually can.
Now, before anyone starts moaning, “Here comes the self-help guru speech about letting go and finding your true self >Urp< and letting the universe show you your path to the light >blecch!<”. No. That’s not at all where I’m going. The little person we once were is gone. We’re what’s left. Wreckage or not, we have to claim our lives and keep moving forward, even if it means trudging on. But, we can find some semblance of peace when we take our own pains and show someone else how to avoid such a life.
I once gave my son a speech at the ripe age of 16 (No, he does not have ADHD). I knew that the typical “when I was your age” speech would go over like a Kardashian at a high school pep rally (Was that a cheap shot?), and I knew that my boy was very bright. As a parent, our main goal is to have our kids avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. Yet, somehow, when we’re making the attempt to convey these facts, we stumble over the words, miss the mark and end up with our children looking at us like we’ve just drank the Kool aid and have jumped on the fast track to loserville. Whether it’s our pride, confusion, ignorance or simple fear for our beloved offspring, something gets lost in translation. I couldn’t let any of that get in my way. I wanted to do right by my son. And if there’s one thing I wanted him to do, it was learn from my mistakes to avoid the same pains. We’ve been there. This isn’t foreign territory to us. And if we can get these kids to understand this path has already been traveled, they’ll see the shortcuts. It was a really risky move, but damned if it didn’t work. My boy paid attention and has dodged some serious pitfalls for himself. Pride is not a strong enough word, I’m telling you (Move on Will, you’re getting squishy about your son, Dammit!) Taking a clue from that moment, I realized that, even though it wouldn’t really help my children who would never face the same trials I did, I can make use of the miseries I suffered.
I recently met a woman in my Facebook group whose young daughter was suffering some rather undignified treatment at her elementary school. This woman (I’ll name her Sarah) was really distraught. Her child has already been ‘labeled’ ADHD. She enters her class with dread knowing somewhere along the line she’s going to do something to make her teacher, principal or even her mother, upset. She feels the judgmental looks from the staff when the inevitable occurs. She goes to the playground and cannot even attempt to try to focus on not going overboard before doing something that will get her picked on. Then, back to class for more judgement. Then, when her mother gets pulled into a situation that really shouldn’t be a situation, she gets to look at the sadness (and, yes, even despair) that floods her mother’s eyes, and will instantly judge herself. All that judgement will invariably sink into her little psyche and she will live her life silently growing to despise herself. This is the typical result of the female with ADHD (us boys usually end up acting, well, like boys do…). It has gotten so overwhelming for this poor creature that she literally cries when she wakes up simply because she has to do it all over again. Every day. With no end in sight. Interestingly enough, this poor kid is actually getting bullied by the staff more than any students. Isn’t that shocking?
Not in the least.
Nobody should be surprised at the attitude displayed towards ADHD. It’s not your “typical” disorder. Many people have many different types of issues, physical, emotional and psychological. Most of the titles and acronyms used are looked at with a range of reactions from pity to shame. But they’re all accepted as issues to be taken seriously. They’ve all been researched and vetted. Results have been found, medications have been created and laws have been passed to protect them from discrimination. Yet, somehow, ADHD seems to be the odd man out. It’s been researched, vetted, resulted and medicated successfully, yet it’s still considered by the majority as an “excuse for bad behavior”. Such as the case of Sarah’s daughter (I shall call her mini Sarah).
What do we do about this blatant willingness to be ignorant of this disorder? Yes, you have to be willing and aiming towards not understanding this disorder to be as under-educated as many professionals are (I’ll try to keep the ADHD warrior at bay. But this is a child we’re talking about and that really chaps my ass). How do we get those that will impress their judgment and personal disdain on these children to wake up and smell the Adderall?
The short answer is, we don’t.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe if these people actually were educated and exposed to the reality of this disorder, they could do some good for their students. But, for some, well, you can lead a donkey to water, but you can’t make him drink (however, just watch how easy it is to get him to start braying relentlessly, which is also a really good metaphor for some of these people, but enough of my issues!). Educating the uneducated is not going to save this little girl from decades of self loathing and disparaging personal issues. She doesn’t have time to wait. she’s growing up now and she’s not slowing down (ADHD. Duh).
So, parents, you need to realize you cannot depend on any system to help your child accept their disorder. They wouldn’t listen anyway. You’re the one their turning to. You’re the shelter in the storm. And you’re the one that needs to arm them not only to accept themselves, but accept the ignorance that will surround them their entire lives.
I already hear the anxiety out there (please let that be what I’m hearing in my head). The resounding mass of parents wanting so badly to spare their little angels this agony. But in a deluge of frustration and fear (approaching borderline psychosis) try to spew forth every question they’ve catalogued in their mind but can only come up with one word. “How?!?”
Tell them the truth, silly.
What would I tell little mini Sarah? Quite simple.
Kiddo, you know what’s going on. You know you’re trying and you KNOW you’re not bad. I know you’re not trying to disobey, be distracted, lose focus and forget. I know you aren’t meaning to make simple mistakes because you’re moving too fast. Let me tell you what I see. You get the lesson, but feel stupid because you forget almost immediately. You do something and then don’t even realize you’ve done it until you’re getting scolded for it. Then, you feel bad because you think , “Maybe they’re right. I should have known better.” Not true. You DO know better. Had you realized what you were doing, you’d have stopped. Why? Because you’re a good girl.
Sarah, you think more thoughts before breakfast than anyone you know thinks all day. (It’s a meme! I’ll post it below). You have this little tornado in your brain that simply will not stop. That’s not your fault and it doesn’t make you a bad person. You’re bright, smart, interesting and amazing. Those that don’t understand you simply do not know you. They think they do, but they’re blind. They want you to be someone else. They want you to be a different version of you. But you can’t change who you are any more than a zebra can change his stripes (That’s an old cliche there. So you know I’ve been around a loooong time). All they see is ADHD Sarah. They want you to be “normal” Sarah. But, why would you be anyone but the Sarah you already are? Are you ADHD Sarah? No. You’re Sarah that has ADHD. They just don’t understand. So, don’t fear them. Don’t be afraid to do your best and make a mess. Don’t be afraid to forget, lose focus and fail. Because learning is all about making mistakes until you learn how not to make them. When they give you a hard time for forgetting, or being too loud, or being distracted, look at them and smile. Because they just saw the real you. The same person that you see in the mirror. A girl with all the talent and brains she needs. Do not apologize for being you. I know you hope that might make things better, but it never does. (Go to my first blog post and watch the video about apologizing. It’s really good!)
You just need to learn how to manage that little tornado in your mind. And you will, I guarantee it. And that very fact makes you smarter and stronger than most of the people in the world. And they’ll never forget you, that’s a promise. You’re just that special.
So go out there and let the world do it’s worst. You have ADHD and you an out think them all! Go and do your thing. You’ll blow us all away!
And here’s a meme….just because!