A few days ago, I heard someone laugh and say, “Ugh, I always forget everything. I’m so ADD sometimes.”
I’ve heard people joke about ADD/ADHD most of my life, but this was the first time it made me stop and think. I suddenly realized these people were joking about having “ADD” (which technically isn’t even the correct term anymore) and acting like it was a tiny little annoyance that occasionally interferes with their life.
They were acting like having a disorder that affects your daily function isn’t a big deal. Like fighting against your own mind every day is something to be laughed at while walking through the grocery store. Like it’s not something that can hurt you every single day.
I know I’ve made jokes about ADHD before, too, but that was before I loved someone who became diagnosed with it. I know that people can’t truly understand what it’s like unless they go through it themselves, or see someone they love go through it, but still.
It’s time to stop. We’re a socially aware culture that has people constantly blogging, posting, making statuses about how painful it is to have their disorders joked about. People are speaking up.
Why aren’t we listening?
Because the truth is that ADHD is not something to be joked about. It’s not something to be laughed at. Having ADHD means your brain can convince you to do something reckless (and potentially life-threatening) without considering the repercussions. It means you can’t control your arms, legs, or motor functions. It means when your parent/friend/spouse/teacher is trying to tell you something really important, and you’re trying your hardest to pain attention, your brain still won’t let you.
It often means struggling with self-confidence in school. It means not having friends as a child, or feeling dumb and uneducated as an adult, or having difficulty maintaining relationships as a teen, or struggling to keep jobs. It means having lower dopamine levels, which makes it harder to feel a sense of reward when you’ve done something good… which means feeling “bad” a lot of the time.
Just like other behavioral/mood disorders, ADHD means being controlled by your brain instead of being in control of your brain.
ADHD is not debilitating (in the physical sense of the word), but it affects almost every aspect of daily life. It causes frustration constantly … for the people who have it, as well as the people around them. And it’s definitely not something that causes you to forget things every once in a while, while allowing you to live normally any other time of the week.
Without treatment, therapy, medication, diet changes, etc., ADHD makes life harder every single day. It can last well into adulthood or even for a person’s entire life, depending on the brain. It’s not temporary and it’s not flippant.
In the same way that it’s not funny to joke about anxiety or depression or cancer, it’s also not funny to joke about ADHD or any other brain/chemical/mood/behavioral disorder.
Don’t say, “I’m so ADHD,” unless you know what it’s like to get in trouble thirty times a day, every day, for not paying attention, not sitting still, or not acting safely… even though you’re trying your hardest to obey.
Don’t say, “I’m so OCD,” unless you’ve ever felt your heart race when someone breaks your blue crayon… because now there won’t be a blue crayon to fill the blue crayon hole, and maybe you should just throw them all away before your whole world collapses.
Don’t say, “I’m so bipolar,” unless you know what it feels like to think about killing yourself during lunch, be irrationally happy during dinner, and then go through the cycle three more times before bed.
Don’t say, “I’ve got the worst anxiety,” unless you know what it feels like to be choked to death–throat closing up, chest aching, breathing becoming rapid–every time you see a news article about terrorism… or anything else for that matter.
When someone tells you they have a diagnosed disorder, don’t dismiss them or tell them you think you’ve had a touch of that before, too. Disorders don’t come in little touches. They don’t stick around for a few days and go away.
They’re big. They’re overwhelming. They’re crushing. They’re life-altering.
Don’t joke about things that cause other people heartache. Don’t joke about things you don’t understand.
Believe people when they say their brain is different. Ask them how you can help. Ask them how they’re doing.
Do whatever you can do, but DON’T joke about it.