Neurodiversity: As part of DCC’s spotlight on neurodiversity, Toni shares her struggles with ADHD, which is prevalent in 4.4% of the US population.
Dealing with ADHD: Hello! I’m Toni. I want to talk a little about ADHD/Neurodiversity, which I have. When I was first diagnosed with ADHD, I remember everything clicking in my mind and thinking, “Ohhh, that explains all of these things that happened, and it explains all of those things that people said to me.” I used to hate being labeled “ADHD”. I hated myself for having it. I couldn’t sit still or make up my mind or remember things. It would seem so simple to remember something, but I’d forget and people would be so frustrated with me. I kept my feelings to myself about how it felt to make people so uncomfortable. I actually developed anxiety from trying so hard to stay focused and on top of things, to remember to stay seated and quiet. I was so tense that if I made a mistake, I’d be so stressed. It felt like people expected me to be perfect, but I couldn’t please everyone. I heard so many stories about people complaining about me, that I became timid and withdrawn.
ADHD as a gift: This lasted for a long time, until one day, I finally was able to recognize and accept that within ADHD, there is a gift. It’s a gift and a reason that I have ADHD. It’s not something to be proud of, but it’s just a fact that I have it. I’ve learned that sometimes I can’t please everyone. If people can accept who I am, that’s helpful. Instead of talking negative, change it to positive, like asking how you can better support me or what I need. Keep communication open. Don’t talk negatively about me behind my back. Tell me upfront that you notice I’m jumping from one task to another and not finishing anything. I’ll be able to recognize this an apologize. This will make me feel less anxious about trying to do everything just right.
Counseling helps: I appreciate my counselor, who has helped me a lot. I’ve tried and struggled to communicate with people about my ADHD, but it hasn’t been easy. Many friends have reacted to my sharing about having ADHD by responding, “That’s impossible!” There is actually a wide range of ADHD, with some people have very mild symptoms, others moderate symptoms, and still others severe symptoms. I’ve worked with many kids who have severe ADHD, which doesn’t look anything like my ADHD, but I still have ADHD. My symptoms are more in the mild range. Because of this, people expect me to be perfect. I don’t mean literally perfect, but they expect me to behave myself, to remember things, and to know exactly how to do tasks in the correct order.
Tips on how to handle people with ADHD or Neurodiversity: Don’t gossip or talk badly about people with ADHD. Be kind. Approach them gently and have a dialogue. Instead of saying that someone could never finish their work or have any common sense, let them know that you noticed they haven’t finished their work and share your concern. They might go “oh shit’ – excuse my language here – and then talk about it. It’s really important to communicate about ADHD. That’s everything I want to share. Thank you.
Toni is sitting in a living room, signing her story.