So today is Bell’s Let’s Talk Day – a day where people can be open and honest about their mental health struggles – which really SHOULD be every day but it’s another positive step towards the ending of mental health stigmas and the stigmas surrounding invisible illnesses.
I’m so proud to see friends of mine and people I follow stepping up and being real about the struggles they face and are facing.
I have my own struggles I’ve been trying to figure out for over the past year or so. I’m still figuring it all out. But let me rewind for a moment. Back in high school I was diagnosed with ADHD after extensive meetings with a doctor.
But I’m not hyper. I’m not a 6 year old boy. I’m not a class clown.
No. You’re right. I was, however, a daydreamer. A procrastinator, a “Forgetful Jones” as my family called me from basically as far back as I can remember. I was flakey and lost things I was supposed to be responsible for. But – I also got basically straight A’s, was always afraid of getting in trouble, a “goody-goody” – definitely not disruptive or a troublemaker.
These stereotypes – and really, some of the stigmas – are why many girls are not diagnosed as frequently as boys. They simply don’t call as much attention to themselves in a lot of ways.
Back when I was diagnosed they still referred to ADHD as both that and ADD – which was the “inattentive” variety, not hyper. Now they actually refer to the entire thing as ADHD which can be broken into 3 types – Hyperactive, Inattentive, or Combination.
I was put on medication for a short time and through it I actually learned what it felt like to be able to focus wholly on one task that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the interest to. See, the name ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – is a little misleading. It’s not always a DEFICIT of attention, or lack of attention. Honestly it can be a surplus of attention – the ability to “hyperfocus” is a superpower those with ADHD are actually blessed with. But there’s a catch to our superpower – it’s only with things we really want to focus on, or have interest in. If we don’t really want to do that thing it’s nearly physically impossible to get focused on it.
So anyways, fast forward a good 10 … ok fine 15+ years later, and here I am, a Mama of 3 beautiful children. They are joy in my life. But I’m a gigantic hot mess. And I start recognizing some behaviours in my kids that I’ve seen in myself in the past. At this point, I felt like I have “grown out of my ADHD” because that was just “a kid thing” and now I am a grown up and don’t deal with that. Except…
Maybe I do?
I’ve been doing a ton of reading this past year and realized that no, ADHD is not something that is “grown out of” … it’s literally the way my brain is wired. Yes – being a mom can result in becoming a hot mess in an otherwise normal* woman. But it can also exacerbate the symptoms. Lack of sleep? Makes it worse. Stress? Makes it worse. ADHD can be the root cause of anxiety and depression. And you know what? Women (especially adults) are WAY more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression rather than the root cause of ADHD.
*I like the saying “normal is a setting on a laundry machine”… there is no “normal” but you know what I mean here*
So here I am a year into this, trying to figure myself out. Afraid to say anything because while we’re making strides to end the stigmas on many many mental health issues, I still hear and read things like “ADHD is made up” and “ADHD is just an excuse for bad parenting” – not to mention all the “SQUIRREL!” jokes and ADHD jokes that get thrown around as though there is no one at the butt end of them. People still think of ADHD as something an elementary school boy has. Just recently a mama in a facebook group I am in got a nasty noise complaint letter telling her to put her children on ritalin because they were too noisy for them in their condo. So that stigma is still very much real.
But I’m going to add my tiny voice to the few speaking up to say I’m here, “This is Me” (thank you Greatest Showman!) and I may be a hot mess but it’s ok to be. I know for sure I’m not alone in this.
*** If you want to watch an AMAZING Ted Talk on this topic given by a woman with ADHD please please watch this one – it’s amazing and really explains so much of this topic.
Another super helpful website I’ve been reading is https://www.additudemag.com