The “Let’s Talk” campaign from Bell will be hitting our social media this week and although I still strongly believe in the message, it gets lost in the corporatization of the day.
So this is my own early “let’s talk.”
One of my absolute favorite quotes is by Brene Brown: There is no courage without vulnerability. It has taken me a very long time to get to this point, and it would have taken even longer had I not read the stories of women-friends* here on social media as they told their own journeys with mental health.
*there are so many but Jen M, Kim D, Shauna D, Michelle D, you made a difference!
Each time I read one, something would resonate.
I’d feel waves of familiarity.
I’d draw a little strength from their courage.
I’d feel a nudge to pay it forward.
A handful of people know what I'm going to say already, but I’m sharing this more widely in case it can help even one other person.
It took me one brave conversation with my family doctor literally just before she retired to get the ball rolling, then several psychologists, a mis-diagnosis, rejections from psychiatrists not taking patients, a ten-month wait to get an appointment, before finally an official diagnosis:
(And generalized anxiety disorder, but that’s a different post to make!)
I know there’s people reading this that think ADHD is only about hyperactive little boys. Trust me, as an educator, my understanding didn’t go much past that either.
But the more I learn about ADHD, the more my life makes sense.
All you 1970s, 80s, and 90s girls out there? We were missed.
This is in no way placing blame: brains aren’t as simple to sort out as a malfunctioning pancreas. The fact that in the 80s, ADD and ADHD were considered separate but then were lumped together under the name ADHD, only seemed to reinforce that this was solely about hyperactive behaviour.
The ‘attention deficit’ part of ADHD is also a bit of a misnomer. One of the best descriptions I’ve read said: ADHD is not a deficit of attention. It’s an abundance of attention. To everything! We lack the ability to regulate our focus, which means we might hyperfocus and tune the world completely out, or have a connect-the-dots focus and go distractedly from one task to another and never finish anything.
Soooo, if you’re still reading this, here’s the gist:
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. That means it affects how our brain works and it changes our neurological development. It’s in the same category as autism and intellectual disabilities. You don’t suddenly ‘catch it.’ You’ve always been this way, maybe seeing your ADHD tendencies as personal failings or quirkiness. You probably also have a lifetime of coping strategies!
For girls especially, maybe we sat still because societal norms expected us too, or that the hyperactivity was 100% in our brain and not our body….either way, we didn’t present the way ADHD said we would. With the world not moving fast enough to keep our attention, we’d sit quietly but day dream, doodle, and otherwise entertain ourselves inside our head.
Even then, if you watch someone with ADHD long enough you will probably see stimming (self-stimulatory behaviour) as they try to fire up their brain when they need to focus. Jiggling legs? Finger counting? Tapping? Stims.
As teachers, we often view kids who can’t sit still as being purposely disruptive and NOT wanting to focus. But for the ADHD kid, stimming could be their unconscious attempt to try and focus! (I’ve taught a long time…FOR SURE some kids are purposely disruptive too!)
There’s so much to write about, but I’ll leave it with this:
I’ve had people ask me, “How did you know?”
ADHD isn’t like diabetes. If you have to pee all the time, a simple glucose blood test or urinalysis will tell you if you’re a diabetic or it’s a UTI.
There is no simple brain test.
And like many psychological disorders, ADHD has co-morbidities….conditions that like to hang out together. ADHD’s common buddies? Anxiety and depression.
That’s part, but in many ways I’ve always known but not had a name for it. I’d chalk it up to not trying hard enough (despite trying REALLY HARD lol.)
I’ve had a horrendous memory my whole life. I use MULTIPLE strategies (and take a million pictures) and even then, I thought I just was terrible at remembering things. Turns out, my brain’s inability to put things into short and long term file folders is ADHD.
For me, nothing is linear. I can side-track myself many times when telling a story, let alone remember what I was going to say when I have to wait for my turn in a conversation.
I can’t sit through a movie, or I multi-task several things while doing so.
I am easily bored. I move fast. Speak fast. Think fast.
I have periods of crazy sleep patterns and feel things intensely.
I have multiple stimming behaviours that cross into obsessive-compulsive territory.
I have lost (and found) my keys more times IN A DAY than I can count.
I have overflowed sinks when washing dishes and drove home from work (partway!) with a kid still at the babysitter.
And. So. Much. More.
There will be some of you reading this that think, “But that stuff happens to everyone.”
Even the temporary physician I saw was quick to chalk it up to menopause, doing a complete run-down of tests, only to rule that out and start to listen more to what I was saying.
Plus, we cope until suddenly we don’t.
I want to talk about all the amazing things that ADHD has brought to my life too, but this is too long already (if you got this far, THANKS!) so that will be for another day.
If you need to talk or have questions, please know I’m always here to listen (and not just on Let's Talk Day!)
Here’s to more good days,
Perpetual amateur. Lifelong learner. Vice-Principal. Teacher. Musician. Mom. Annnnd if you're reading this, then I'm still a blogger.