One of the driving forces is accumulating knowledge for better understanding of my own mental health journey. But the other driving force is that I will graduate from grad school soon and when that happens my free access to scholarly articles will be terminated! Ack! So I am always looking up the latest studies on ADHD, ADHD in women, ADHD in highly intelligent people, ADHD in outer space…unfortunately the devil makes me also indulge in articles in lay publications, and even more unfortunately this usually means that someone who clearly has no idea what they are talking about has posted a comment below the article to the effect of “ADHD doesn’t really exist” or “ADHD is just an excuse for bad parenting” or “you’re gonna murder your babies with all the Ritalin you’re giving them”. Great stuff. Makes me wanna reach into the computer screen and slap ’em right upside the ignorance gene they must have inherited…I’m sorry, that wasn’t very nice…is my Strattera working?
Anyway…I’d just like to share a few points based on my personal experience, AND my rabid perusal of these articles both scholarly and otherwise:
1) No, they don’t know exactly what causes ADHD.
2) That doesn’t mean “it” doesn’t exist. Ahem…if it didn’t…I would be TOTALLY normal or there would be some other explanation for whatever it is that makes my mind racy and pleasantly impulsive, makes me exist in constant motion, and makes me a bit moody, makes me hyperfocus at both convenient and inconvenient times…and hate overhead lights…and too much noise…and…yeah…
3) Yes, it’s entirely possible that in the next several years they may discover that ADHD is actually several different disorders with different causes…again, that doesn’t mean ADHD doesn’t exist, just that it’s the most accurate term we have right now for people experiencing a certain collection of symptoms that can’t be otherwise classified. (A collection of symptoms that yes, needs to be updated because it doesn’t apply to adults or women very well…but that is a whole other can of worms).
4) Just because some people are misdiagnosed doesn’t mean that ADHD doesn’t exist. It means they have a support system that is doing a shoddy job of whatever it is that they are supposed to be doing, OR that a child simply has a set of behaviors or symptoms that their support system does not understand.
5) No matter how many times you say it, oh doubters, my brain does not fall within the spectrum of what we call normal. Maybe that means the definition of normal is effed. Maybe that means you’re arrogant. Either way, I still have to figure out how to life most peaceably and productively with my fellow humans and personally I find the label helpful and reassuring. It gives me a framework for direction, and honestly, treatment has made me more creative, because it has made me more productive.
6) Have I mentioned lately that I was an honors program student, a multi-instrumentalist, and a participant in really geeky overachiever clubs in school? I completed a BA and am just about to finish a Master’s Degree. And yes…I have ADHD. And no…I wasn’t just bored in school…I was tortured by the overhead lights in the classroom, absorbed in whatever other kids were doing in the room, distracted by the insistence of my own thoughts, and spent way too much energy on pretending to be doing whatever it was I was supposed to be doing as a result…so I wouldn’t get in trouble…so I could pretend to fit in…I endured comments from teachers like “but you’re so smart, why can’t you focus” and “if you’re late for class one more time you’re going to Saturday school” even though I had no idea how to correct either of these issues on my own. I did not have bad parents, in fact I had good, attentive parents, both extremely intelligent people who helped me in the ways that they knew how but who likely have mental health issues themselves. I have fought hard to learn the organizational skills that I DO have on my own, to learn the follow through that I do have, I have suffered through OCD-like symptoms that resulted from my desperation to control my environment…and I have worked through many, many crappy nights during this graduate degree where reading one journal article would take 12 hours instead of 1 or 2…and guess what, it’s not because I can’t read. I was at a college reading level in the 4th grade. It’s because I can’t still my mental impulses…can’t keep my body still, can’t say no to a new idea…
I learned to cope on my own because nobody believed that I had any kind of issue, and while I felt out of place and out of synch I had no way of knowing that everyone else didn’t feel that way too. I finally had to ask for help because it was all too much after all of these years and how dare you tell me…that I don’t exist. How dare you.
I am the example that blows your doubt sky high. I am all of the variables removed all at once. I am not lazy, I am not willfully ignorant, I am not a seven-year old boy, I am assertively intelligent, I am successful in many areas of my life, I don’t have another learning disability and I am not diagnosable with any other mental illness. I work hard to be accountable to other people, and to follow through with my commitments, to stifle my impulses and to “fit in”. I work my ass off.
And I don’t need your belief to make me real.