Archives for Stigma
It has come to my attention that there is a persistent idea that ADHD is not a valid mental health issue. It's perceived kind of like the new father's mixed up son from a previous marriage that stay's mostly with his mother but every now and then you have to put up with him visiting. Or like those e-bikes out on the street that aren't cars or trucks, but they're not really bicycles and they sure aren't motorcycles.
Let's examine a few facts. Current statistics tell us that somewhere around ten percent of the population is affected by ADHD. We know that there is a still larger segment of the population that does not fall into the category of neuro-typical. And I'm not going to attempt to guess what that percentage is. Now I'm okay with the word normal, it's the antonyms that I have problems with. The idea is that those of us who fall outside the realm of neuro-typical are not normal. We're abnormal, sub-normal. But down through the ages, ideas have been wrong. And this one is wrong also. This one is very wrong. It's wrong because there are many of us. How can we not be normal if there are so many of us. Well, that's easy, because there are only one to five of us in any one classroom, only 10 to 50 of us in any ten classrooms. In any work place with more than 10 people there is likely to be one or more of us. That's not a lot of us.
Some people say labels are a bad thing. Sometimes I agree. But not always. Here's the deal, sometimes labels are bad. If you label someone, you marginalize them. What does that mean? It means that they are being relegated to the outskirts, they are being set aside either because they are deemed to be not salvageable or they will be dealt with later if there is time and money. Additionally, if you label someone, you run the risk of that label being used as judgment by others. You may not have intended any negative stigmatization, but others may not perceive the label that way.
I do. I have ADHD. It isn't something you catch, so don't worry, I'm not contagious. On the other hand, if you already have it but are oblivious, close proximity to me might cause you to catch on. See, I'm pretty aware of my disorder, pretty aware of the things it does to my life, the issues it causes, and yes, even the bonuses I can derive from it. And I'm not a quiet guy. So if you hang around with me, you'll start hearing all about life with ADHD. And if you recognize yourself in the picture I paint, you may catch a bad (or good) case of understanding.
There can be a lot of differences in lives with ADHD depending on where the light shines in them, and where the shadows fall. Acceptance or denial can mean so much in the long run. Let's consider two boys, the same age, in the same grade, in similar schools, in similar towns, each with ADHD. Let's call them Art and Bert. Sorry if your name is Art or Bert, this is a fictional scenario, so this isn't you. This is them. And here they are:
You see that meme there? I stole it. Well, to be honest, it has no copyright on it. Maybe it did where it was posted originally. Maybe there was something in the comments. I don't care. Why don't I care? Because I'm doing the person who created this meme a favour by not including their copyright. I'm not telling the world who the person who created this lie is. If they're smart, they'll take down their copy of it. Let it become an urban legend, and internet mystery. Who was it that first created and posted that stupid lying meme about 1980 and 2014?
You know that there are millions of horses out there, hundreds of breeds, dozens of colors and markings. Horses are cool because people talk about them by their markings and color. Palominos, paints, buckskins, pintos, bays, every one is a mark of distinction. And who doesn't love horses? Right? I did own a palomino once that seemed to have some weird ideas that made me question his intelligence, but I treated him as well as the other horses in the stable and possibly a smidgen better since he was my ride. When we differentiate among ourselves by color, however, it usually isn't for positive reasons. We're never as good to ourselves as we are to horses in that respect.
I noticed a week ago that October was ADHD month. I thought, “Well alright. I didn't miss it, it didn't sneak up on me.” Then I kind of forgot about it. Now we're a week in. And rather than being embarrassed, I'm kind of proud. What better way of heralding our own month in but by doing so a week late, but with the best of intentions. And besides, ADHD awareness month is kind of a joke. Well, at least it is for us. If you have ADHD, you either know it or you don't. If you have it and don't know, it's because you don't yet know what ADHD really is. And if you have it and do know, then you're already aware. Well aware. And you're aware in the other 11 months too, not just October.
I'm not ADHD. And ADHD isn't me. I have ADHD, but that's not who I am. You can get to know me and never suspect that I have ADHD. Because again, that's really not who I am. I can take a course in just about anything. I may do well, or I may struggle. Either way, it may be because of my ADHD, but you will never know that, because I'm a person. I'm not ADHD.
One of the most needed commodities in the life of a person with ADHD, is acceptance. Many of us seem to crave positive social interaction. Yet, when our social interactions take on a negative caste, many of us are understanding of that. It's as if we just believe that we don't deserve to have positive experiences. Or as if we were trying to hide our flaws, but had to admit that, of course they would be discovered. But I've become aware of an interesting thing with regards to acceptance. It seems to be contagious.