I like the ADHD blogosphere. Before I had my own ADHD blog, I enjoyed reading ADHD blogs as a way to find people who really understood what life with ADHD was like and who approached the topic of ADHD in openminded and empathetic terms.
In this sense, the ADHD community can be a sort of oasis from stigma. Once you step back outside the bubble, though, things get more complicated, as the recent recent story about a woman who lost her job over an ADHD diagnosis demonstrates.
That’s why while I enjoy sharing my experiences with ADHD online, I prefer to play my ADHD a lot closer to the vest “IRL.” My diagnosis is something I share with close friends and family, and even then it’s not always something that has to come up much.
Everyone with ADHD has a different list of who they’re comfortable “coming out” to, but my advice to anyone recently diagnosed, for whatever it’s worth, is to draft that list intentionally and carefully. More often than not, you’ll find that coworkers and supervisors don’t need to be on there.
For every person you’re going to disclose you’re diagnosis to, the question to ask is, “what are the benefits of telling this person about my ADHD and what are the possible costs of doing so?” Because many people don’t really even know what ADHD is, you’ll find that with acquaintances and people you interact with in a professional setting, the benefits are practically nil!
Meanwhile, because so many people have a stereotyped, uninformed idea of what ADHD is, the possible cost is a subtle (or not-so-subtle), stigmatizing shift in how people view you and interpret your actions. Disclosing your diagnosis is a bell you can’t unring.
Even when I share my diagnosis with family and close friends, I always do so under the assumption that they don’t know anything about ADHD. As a result, I only share my diagnosis with people who I think will take the time to listen and really try to understand. Unfortunately, even close family members can have biases or worldviews that prevent them from doing this.
When it comes to sharing your diagnosis, one group that’s somewhat of an outlier is teachers. You’d expect that teachers at every level should have a basic understanding of what ADHD is, but this isn’t a safe assumption. If you’re going to seek specific, ADHD-related accommodations, as you have a right to under U.S. law, that’s a clear case where disclosing your diagnosis is necessary. Otherwise, you’ll want to proceed with caution and use your best judgment because teachers aren’t by any means immune from thinking you’re using ADHD as an “excuse.”
Of course, there’s a line of thinking that says you should tell everyone about your diagnosis because it’ll help destigmatize ADHD. I think there’s some truth to that, and I have respect for people who aren’t afraid to be vocal about having ADHD. But personally, I’m not ready to make myself a martyr in the name of raising mental health awareness.
Really, this shouldn’t be our problem. It shouldn’t be our responsibility to factor other people’s ignorance into our decision-making – rather, it should be those people’s responsibility to not make judgments about things they don’t know much about!
But it is our problem, and until the day when it’s just no big deal to tell your boss you have ADHD, the best we can do is be deliberate and thoughtful about who we share our diagnosis with.
Who do you reveal your diagnosis to? Please share your thoughts on this in the comments!
Image: FreeImages.com/John De Boer