Breaking the Stigma Around ADHD

“I am so ADHD!” ‘I’m so bipolar!” “I’m so OCD!” We’ve heard them all, but frankly they are terrible misuses of what are truly mental disorders and illnesses people battle on a daily basis. As someone whose been diagnosed ADHD since childhood – not to mention several times in my life – I am tired of the uneducated opinion towards ADHD in our culture. While most people in society want to associate ADHD with someone who frankly can’t sit in their chair or is “too” talkative, it is so far beyond that.

 

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyper-Active Disorder, yet it is thrown around like some common phrase you’d use at your family dinner table. If you have or understand ADHD, you would also know that it is incurable, just like several mental health disorders. Yet, as a society we often believe it to be some joke and the pharmaceutical industry, would rather prescribe this “miracle” pill, Adderall, to hopefully “solve” it; instead of fully addressing the issues that brings. Ever since the age of 10, I have taken or been put on trial for virtually every ADHD stimulant available. 

 

“ADHD is just an excuse for Adderall bro…” Boy, if I had a dollar for every time, I heard that in my life, I could easily pay off my credit card debt. Yet as someone who struggles with ADHD on a daily basis, I have never wanted Adderall or honestly needed it. I despise stimulants. They rid me of the one thing I define myself as unique, my “crazy,” extroverted, social self. Sadly, we have a medical industry that whole-heartedly believes these stimulants will truly “help” children with ADHD, much like how I was, and overcome their struggles. What they never account for, is these stimulants, while they help “calm” these children, they also take away their beautiful personalities – just like they do to me. Eventually, these stimulants will lead to dependencies, depression, anxiety, & pain no child should ever go through. Everyone is different but ADHD is very hard to address and aid at a very young age. I spent the majority of my elementary school experience in the hallways and principal’s office than I ever did in the classroom. As that child who couldn’t literally sit straight in their seat or honestly involuntarily blurted out in class, I was always met with punishment. This is no way to treat children as it causes horrendous pain and makes them feel like a burden and an easy target for bullying.

 

As a result, some of my elementary school experience was spent in special-education classes. My teachers felt I was too different to be in class with the normal kids and that right there, is the highlight of these overbearing nation-wide issues. As a result, I was bullied and picked on a daily basis because I was different and while it is not the social norm now, I was sometimes the “retarded” kid or crazy kid, or so my classmates said I was. Yet to the irony of that, I constantly read as a child as a void from the pain, and to my credit, I even had one of the highest reading levels in my class. Hell, I read the Hobbit in the 4th grade. Today, I pain over the fact that these kids have to go through what I went through and I want to point out that, there is a major issue in the teacher industry we refuse to address. In what stages of schooling are teachers equipped to handle and respond to children with disorders? I can tell you right now, there is little to none and that’s where I promote change. 

 

Now everyone is different, but these stimulants are highly-addictive, depressing, over-powered-drugs, and yet we supply them like candy to children and adults on a daily basis. However, I think this has led to much greater issues. Issues of depression, anxiety, and eventually suicidal tendencies. Did you know that 60% of ADHD adults suffer from at least 1 other mental health disorder or illness? Did you know also know that ADHD diagnoses have increased by at least 40% in the last 10 years? While I think there certainly is some over-diagnoses there and I can attest that some people are taking advantage of Adderall prescriptions, – which is a terrible issue – statistics show this is surely a growing issue in our country. Yet, it is never talked about. We assume this is a disorder that only affects children, yet at the same time, we know it is incurable and never goes away. It affects adults differently and I want to bring light to that. While I surely don’t involuntarily blurt out in class… I still shake in my seats with anxiety. I interrupt my friends when they speak, and I can see the frustrations in their faces. Not to mention, it has affected so many of my friendships and led me to lose several friends in my lifetime…

 

ADHD as an adult is not so much a lack of focus. As a society we only address the attention deficit part, never the hyper-activity. Yet isn’t that the other half of ADHD? For me, it’s the constant 30 thoughts racing through your brain at once, especially when you try to focus on just one. For me, it’s the constantly cracking my knuckles in class or my neck, as a nervous habit. It’s the nervous ticks or the anger associated with my lack of courtesy. It’s the unnecessary anger with misreading or over-analyzing situations on a daily basis. It’s the firing away at texts at your friends without hesitation, then panicking because you feel people hate you. Every day, I beat myself up for interrupting people and over-riding conversations when I truly never mean to. Yet, at the end of the day, this has led to so many conflicts and losses of friendships and respect from people. Did you know the most commonly associated symptoms of ADHD are impulsivity and constant mood swings? Yet, no doctor tells you that.

 

As someone who struggles with ADHD daily, you experience very high highs and very low lows. One day you’re so randomly the happiest you’ve ever been – yes, it is completely random and you cannot explain it – and during that same day, you find yourself crying your eyes out because you unintentionally interrupted the people closest to you; and they evidently yelled at you for being rude and called you a “narcissist prick” or a “selfish asshole.” Man, if I had a list of people who thought I was a narcissistic prick, it would be heavy… Yet at the same time, I want to apologize to those people and explain myself, I feel explanation and excuses intertwine and we as a society refuse to believe either. I often find myself explaining my actions due to my mental disorder, but also many of those listening, view me as the guy who refuses to take credit for his actions. That eats at me every f*cking day. I hate over-explaining myself and at the same time, when I mention ADHD, I feel I am making excuses for myself and no one will ever trust me. Ultimately, some of the hardest issues with having ADHD is the constant conflict with others and explaining your disorder to explain your actions, as it will destroy any self-esteem you have. Because at the end of the day, I still feel like a prick who makes excuses for his actions and congratulates himself for being “brave.” Maybe it is the overcoming of blatant masculine issues that we, as men, refuse to address these issues. But I also refuse to accept certain issues because they play with who I idealize myself as. ADHD is a very troubling disorder and while I would love to write it off every chance I get, the more I analyze my actions, it is very hard to see I have nothing but ADHD – whether I like it or not, and that’s the most conflicting, to come to terms with accepting a mental disorder, ADHD or not.

 

ADHD is more than an attentive issue. It is a mental health issue. It is no excuse to get Adderall. ADHD is the random switch of emotions. It’s the person who “talks too much” about their favorite things because it provides them comfort and at the same time, they don’t realize they are upsetting people and inadvertently being rude. Every day, I try to work on catching these issues before hand, so I don’t cause more destruction, yet every day I slip. ADHD is hard man. And that’s all I want to be known. It is never what people think it is and that’s what bothers me most. 

 

Whether you found this to be helpful or a heap of bullshit because you’re probably a hater, I hope you take away at least one thing. ADHD is a legitimate mental disorder and should be treated as such. Also, at the same time, you should never abuse throwing it around like it’s some inherent term to describe for your momentary struggles. Just like you would never say “I’m so bipolar” because if you understood bipolar disorder; you’d also understand there’s two different types of bipolar disorder and can’t group this struggle into one. You’d also understand that bipolar disorder is full of immense pain and mental suffering that is is so inexplainable. As a society, we love to compare our issues to that of others, yet what does that accomplish? If there is one thing I’ve learned as an adult, it’s that just because I have inherit mental health issues, it also doesn’t mean others don’t struggle with mental health issues. At the same time, just because there are other people who suffer more than me, it also doesn’t discredit my issues and suffering as a child and as an adult. We must break the irrational social stigmas associated with mental health issues and that starts with addressing ADHD, as well as issues such as bipolar and OCD. 

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