So here’s today’s pet peeve: I’m at a crossroad. I’ve been working hard at overcoming my ADHD deficits; I’ve come a long way, baby. But how do I know how far I’ve come?
Here are the stages I’ve gone through:
1) Living 46 years with severe, undiagnosed ADHD
2) Diagnosis, accompanied by grief, shame, depression, panic, shock, relief
3) Decision to speak out publicly about ADHD, in particular, my own
4) Four years of medication, education, therapy, and self-administered behavioral modification, resulting in noticeable improvements
5) Crossroad: what now?
Here’s the problem: do I tell my new friends, new men, new employers, etc., that I have ADHD? If I do, how will I ever get the opportunity to find out how far I’ve come?
If I don’t, it’s like I’m trying to “pass.” Yesterday, I wrote about trying to imagine taking a vacation from ADHD. I really couldn’t imagine being ADHD-free. Yet, even though I can’t imagine a completely ADHD-free day, I certainly do think that under some circumstances my ADHD does not necessarily have to rear its ugly head. So why mention it at all?
On the other hand, if I don’t say anything upfront, I feel like I’m being dishonest. Worse, I might be setting myself up for an embarrassing moment made all the more embarrassing because I haven’t disclosed. Kinda like being gay but “passing” as straight – until you’re caught kissing your girlfriend.
Historically in North America, it’s been important to pass as White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, or at least, as white. If you were from another ethnic background, if you were gay, if you were anything deviating from the “norm,” you could only advance socially if you were seen to fit in. Anyone with any eccentricities of any stripe knew they had to suppress them or be doomed to the lowest rung on the ladder. Everyone would step on you on their way to the top. OUCH! So why would I proclaim ADHD? Especially if I want to marry a nice, “normal” guy?
At this juncture in my ADHD journey, I feel as though I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Take, for example, my new date. I want to be honest with him. During our first few dates, I felt stymied because I couldn’t talk about my work here at Psych Central, the book I’m writing (called Chick-A-D-D, and it ain’t about birds learning the alphabet), or much that makes up my current life’s purpose. Finally, I felt that I had to tell him about the ADHD, because I just couldn’t answer his questions about my work without feeling like I was being cagey or deliberately obtuse.
And I could just see the conversation if I hadn’t told him. The scenario goes something like this: we’re chatting, and he says something perfectly normal. In English. My mother tongue. Suddenly, it’s like he’s speaking Martian (and it’s not just because he’s a guy). And I haven’t told him I have ADHD.
I tell him I don’t understand what he’s saying. He looks at me like I’m an alien in Men in Black, and not one of the cute kitchen ones running around on spindly legs. More like one of the slimy, repulsive, incomprehensible, globby ones. One of the ones that will ruin your life if you let them live. Like that.
So, I quip, “Hey, I can’t understand you because I have ADHD. Please try to tell me what you’re saying in a different way.”
Now the spaceship hits the fan. “ADHD? What do you mean, you have ADHD?! Why didn’t you tell me?!”
He’ll either think I was holding out, or that I’m now using ADHD as a convenient excuse.
See what I mean? Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.
On the one hand, I want to see how far I can get without a confession. On the other hand, I’m scared that any one of my ADHD symptoms might suddenly appear, and be even more incongruous without the context of ADHD. What to do?
I’m truly baffled at this stage of my, we’ll say, “recovery,” even though I’ll never fully “recover” from ADHD. Maybe I’m overthinking all of this, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve tortured myself with what the right path is at a fork in the road. Usually, I just sit down and eat.
Maybe I’ll start, lead, and attend an ADHD support group – and date only men in the group. At least that way, I won’t have to disclose my ADHD!
But where’s the challenge in that?
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