I am currently sitting in Starbucks trying to work as I wait for my Adderall prescription to be filled. I find myself going from chatting on Facebook, emailing our designer about new light fixtures, and trying to promote a fundraising event I am hosting.
I feel like I am doing things, but I know I am wasting time. I know I am working inefficiently, yet I am trying hard to focus to get things done that are on my list. I know what I need to work on, but I cannot prioritize those tasks to save my life.
And so I check my phone to see how much longer until that prescription is filled…
Over the last couple of weeks I have read more and more comments and posts from people about how ADHD is fake. That it is made up. Over-diagnosed. A result of diet and lack of exercise. And as I sit here in this coffee shop it brings me to tears that people think they have me all figured out. That if I just ate better, exercised more, or maybe didn’t check my phone so much this daily struggle of mine would just be fixed.
Stop. Please stop it.
There is so much more about ADHD that you are missing. I bet most of you didn’t know that ADHD has three types. That the reason I wasn’t diagnosed as a child was because I don’t fit into the “typical” category most people place kids who have ADHD. I actually bet you that for as many kids who are misdiagnosed as ADHD there are equally the same number of kids who aren’t even considered ADHD. We fly under the radar with passing grades, fantastic behavior, and don’t even see the effects of ADHD until we hit adulthood.
You see, I have had ADHD my whole life. I didn’t have the diagnosis, but I have always had ADHD. I had it through grade school when I couldn’t keep my room clean to save my life, but I somehow aced all of my tests. My brain wasn’t stimulated by picking up my room, but I loved to learn and school came easy.
I had ADHD when I was in high school and had 2 hours of volleyball practice a day. That daily exercise couldn’t do much to help me when it came to misplacing my car keys, keeping my locker organized, and time management.
I had ADHD when I was on the Weight Watchers. I was eating healthy, yet the only thing I could do to stay on track was to focus almost 100% on my points. My ADHD couldn’t be successful unless I hyper-focused on my nutrition, which meant other areas fell apart, and eventually I exhausted myself with burnout.
I have used essential oils that might take the edge off or calm me down, but they don’t take ADHD away. They didn’t “fix” the problem for more than 20 minutes.
And don’t even get me started on the doctor that looked at me and said “hmmm, why don’t you just try some deep breathing exercises?”
ADHD is as real for me as the sweaty palms I get when I am nervous, the overstimulation I feel when I am touched too much, the anxiety I feel when there are too many noises all at once, and the mental exhaustion I hit at about 11am which makes me want to shut down and take a nap.
And you know who else it is real for? My husband.
He has watched his wife shut down, he has seen her frustrated with not being able to focus on how to accomplish a task, he has seen her ignore every other responsibility as she tries a new stimulating activity, and he has watched as she instantly relaxes as she draws or paints or crochets.
You know who else it is real for? My kids.
They have seen their mom lost her S!@#$ and come back to them apologizing because the constant need for her was overwhelming. They have seen their mom be frustrated with forgetting important dates at school or question why she can’t follow through on a chore chart. And they have watched their mom sit down with them for hours while they make a mess but create beautiful art or try a new science experiment.
I am not saying that ADHD is not over-diagnosed at times (which I have a lot to say on this but that’s for another day), but I am saying to stop calling it fake. Saying it is over-diagnosed is completely different than claiming it is fake altogether. The two concepts are completely different, and one should never be used to defend the other. Ever. Every time you say it is fake you tell someone like me that I just need to get my !@#$ together, because there should be no reason I can’t.
Every time you say it is fake you tell someone like me that I just need to get my !@#$ together, because there should be no reason I can’t.
And you are right. There is no reason I can’t. However, there are resources, tools, and coping skills available to me. I take hold of these and hold on tight. I share with my husband what I need. I make lists. I set boundaries. I am certain to make sure self-care is first and foremost.
And you know what helps even more? Adderall.
Meds aren’t for everyone, but for me they are.
Imagine with me for a minute that you are trying to watch your favorite TV show. And as you are watching other TVS around you start to turn on and play other shows. You want to keep watching your show, but the noise and the distraction become overwhelming. There are three choices here. You have to work SO hard to focus on your TV if you really want to make sure you don’t miss anything, you get so overwhelmed that you turn in circles watching all of the TVS, or you simply pull the plug on all of them and shut it all off. Even the show you really wanted.
Now imagine for me that you found the plug that all the other TVs were plugged into, except yours. You pull it. They all shut off, except yours. Now you can watch your show. You can pay attention without the mental exhaustion, and when it is done, you can turn it off and turn on the next TV.
This is what Adderall does for me. It turns off the noise of everything else so I can focus on what I need to. It calms me down and helps me prioritize and tackle things one at a time. However, Adderall doesn’t just take away my ADHD. Most days it just takes the edge off and I still have to work hard to keep myself on task.
I have learned to love my ADHD amidst how much I hate it. I have learned that it is where my creativity stems from and it is what drives me in my passions. However there are many days I get mad about it. Days I ask God why he made my brain the way it is while my friends and sisters have clean homes and organized papers. There are days I feel that I am failing my husband because I can’t get the laundry done, and I am disappointing my kids because I forgot about another school activity.
Having ADHD comes with enough of its own shame, and the last thing those of us need who have this very real diagnosis is for those who don’t to seek to understand, to stop assuming you know all about diagnosing, that we need to stop taking meds to alleviate symptoms and start eating better and exercising to “cure” ourselves.
Let me show you the face of someone who struggles day in and day out with the complexities ADHD brings, and I will also share with you someone who celebrates the gifts her ADHD has given her, but don’t you dare say her ADHD is fake. Don’t you dare say her struggles aren’t real. Don’t tell her that what brings her the greatest shame, but is the source of her greatest pride isn’t legit.
Before you want to share all of your thoughts about how and why ADHD is fake let’s talk first. Follow me for a day. Come have coffee with me. I’ll invite my husband too. Let us share with you the reality of life with someone who has ADHD. Let us share with you how ugly, chaotic, messy, beautiful, exciting, and very REAL ADHD is.
Let us share with you how ugly, chaotic, messy, beautiful, exciting, and very REAL ADHD is.
Enough hyper-focus for one day. I’m off to pick up that prescription…