I am a seventeen-year old girl, I’m pretty sure I’ve had ADHD my whole life. I was diagnosed as a small child and prescribed medication to help me with concentration as well as to prevent my harming myself from my impulsive behaviors. I would jump off of tables or act without thinking and end up hurting myself or others. I actually broke a bone because of it at one point.
All my life I remember my parents explaining away my behavior even before I was introduced to people. Before spending the night at a friends’ house, I could hear my parents speaking in hushed voices. “She has ADHD, that basically just means that she’ll get a little bit hyper when it gets late and her medicine wears off. She has medication in her bag to help her get to sleep and one that she’ll take as soon as she wakes up.”
When entering a new school, they would tell the teacher, “Sometimes she does things without thinking about what’ll happen afterwards. So, if she starts getting in trouble or hurts herself, just call and let us know.”
I know my parents always had my best interests at heart and they only wanted people to know that there was a reason for my behavior. I appreciate their efforts because I probably would have embarrassed myself a lot more than I did if they hadn’t taken those steps.
What really bothered me was when other people saw my ADHD as a means to an end. When I was nine or ten I was in competitive cheer along with my two sisters. We went to a warehouse furnished as a cheerleading/gymnastics gym about three times a week. One time, we had stayed a little bit late; my sisters and I were bouncing on the Olympic trampolines and running tumbling crosses across the mats. I started to get tired and went to sit by my Dad in the parent’s section. I listened to him speak with one of the coaches and caught a snippet of their conversation. “She actually has ADHD so she takes medication on most days to help her focus on what’s going on around her”, presumably in explanation of something the coach had mentioned. The coach replied, “Oh, really? You should bring her to practice next time without her medication and let us play around with her. I think she’d be a lot better at cheer without something hindering her energy.” I remember taking offense to that, but I kept my mouth shut. I hated that she saw my ADHD as something she could exploit to get me to throw a better backflip.
I’m seventeen and still experience the stigma that comes with people knowing about my disorder. One of my friends asked if I would want to spend the night at a house that her cousins had offered her to stay in for the weekend (the house had a pool and a large game room, a really cool place). I agreed and warned her, “I have ADHD. I’m just letting you know because later at night I start to get kind of hyper and I’ve had a lot of people get annoyed with me.” She proceeded to laugh and said, “I hope you get really hyper! We can stay up late and hang out when you start acting crazy.” I bit my tongue and brushed off the remark with a chuckle, but I was hurt that my friend would take my serious explanation as an excuse to use my ADHD and try to get me to “act crazy”.
Feeling as though I would be judged I began changing my behavior. I developed severe social anxiety caused by repeated stints of public humiliation after I said or did things that I immediately regretted. It was a very intense feeling of “I can’t believe I did that. WHY did I do that?” Over time I became afraid that everyone around me was judging me for every move I made. It became difficult to make friends, to talk to people–even just talking on the phone with someone or walking into a building by myself fills me with a feeling of dread and fear. I’m afraid I’ll do something wrong and people will start to see me as “that stupid girl that fell down in the hallway”. I know it’s irrational but it doesn’t change how hard it is to deal with these things.
It’s of huge importance that a child with ADHD is able to see they aren’t “crazy”(I speak from experience). I felt very left out in school and thought kids didn’t want to hang out with me because I acted weird. Because my impulsive behavior was sometimes harmful to myself and others they didn’t want to be around me.
In third grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. Barnes. Mrs. Barnes had ADHD too. She was scatterbrained and hyper, bouncing around class and making jokes, playing music from her computer while we read textbooks, having us get up out of our seats and dance at random intervals. Every so often she would even announce that she was tired and call a nap time, (even though we hadn’t had nap time since kindergarten).
Mrs. Barnes knew that I had ADHD but never let that stop me from doing anything. When I got distracted in class and started doodling in the margins of my assignments, she complimented the drawings instead of taking off points for them (I had several teachers who would dock points for doodle on assignments). I wrote poems during lessons sometimes and she loved each and every one of them. She gave me a new folder for me to keep the poems in. When we started the poetry unit of our English lessons she would often call on me to stand and read one of my poems as an example for the rest of the class.
One time during class I cut out several small pieces of paper, each of them no bigger than 1-by-2 inches. I stapled them together and wrote a story in very small writing on the inside about a boy and his flying bed. I named the story “The Big Book” and gave it to Mrs. Barnes as a present. She loved it and asked me to read it to the class and they loved it too. She encouraged me to write more and I created two additions to the series, titled “The Very Big Book” and “The Even Bigger Book”.
Mrs. Barnes is my all-time favorite teacher. Even now we still keep in contact. She invited me to her retirement party a couple of years ago and comments on pictures of me my mom posts on Facebook.
I couldn’t see it at the time but she saw some kind of potential in me. She always encouraged me to write and to draw and I did….I idolized her as a teacher. Mrs. Barnes had ADHD and she was the best person I’ve ever known. She’s the reason that I still write today and I hope to get a book I’ve written published soon.
My mother always tells me, “I’ve met people with ADHD. They’ve always been some of the most intelligent, creative, amazing people I’ve known. And you’re no different.”