Disclosure: Should I Keep My ADHD a Secret?

By Rick Green,

Those of us who qualify as ADHD are, well, different.  Not just from the 96% of the world who are ‘neuro-typical’, but different from each other.  We are indeed a tribe, but a diverse tribe.

Each of us struggles with a distinct combo of challenges.  We each have our personal potpourri of symptoms.  Some ‘symptoms’ may be more of a problem for you.  Some less.  Some not a big deal at all.

People with the ‘Predominantly Inattentive Subtype of ADHD’ are, by definition, not struggling much with Hyperactivity or Impulsivity.  (Less likely, perhaps, to become a shopaholic, but prone to forget to pay their bills.)

Explosive Anger was never an issue for me. Rumination, on the other hand…(RRrrrRRrrrRRrrr… “I shoulda… If only… Why didn’t I…”)  For me, it’s a constant challenge.

There’s You. Then There’s Your World.

While our brains are different, so are out life situations.  We live unique lives: single, divorced, widowed, married.  Male, female, or transitioning.  With kids or without.  Maybe your parents live with you.  Or they’re a thousand miles away but haunting your life. (Ha!)

We work at a range of jobs.  Often several in a row or at the same time.  And most jobs are changing. “We’re upgrading to a new system…” “We’re automating check-out…” “Our new TV show is broadcast online…”

Where we live, our age, our health, our religion, our culture.

Most folks with ADHD also struggle with a second ‘thing’.  They’re called ‘comorbidities.’ ADHD often has a ‘friend’ helping to mess with your life.  Learning Disorders. Depression.  Anxiety… In fact, 40% of adults have three or more challenges.

And finally, your ADHD lives in a unique ‘environment.’  You may be lucky in that your friends, family, and coworkers are fully supportive of you and understand your ADHD.  (At a rough estimate, I would say about .0000001% of us are in that situation.  And whoever this lucky person is, I envy her.)

Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell.

At some point we all face resistance, dismissal, or hostility.  Most of us have put ourselves in this situation because we’ve given the game away.  We have spilled the beans about our ADHD.  You may tell a few friends about your diagnosis.  Or a parent or sibling who’s been on your case, assuming that now that they understand they’ll be supportive.  (SURPRISE! You’ve just given them more ammo.  “It’s always something with you, isn’t it?”) 

Some of us tell everyone we meet.  At least until we get fed up with people’s hostile, dismissive, or superior reactions.  I don’t mind a debate, but not with people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

Disclosing my ADHD was never a big issue for me.  Or rather, I didn’t think it would be.  Delighted at figuring out what was ‘wrong’ with me, I told everyone.  It didn’t occur to me that it could damage friendships or undermine my career.  I learned the hard way.  It was awful.  I was so mortified, indignant, and righteous about all the stupid things people were saying.  Furious in fact… Hmm, maybe I do have an issue with Explosive Anger?

“Who should I tell?”  is a very tricky question.  Trust me.  Revealing your ADHD is fraught with peril. Telling the world that you, your child, or spouse has ADHD can backfire.  Badly.

Disclosing will remain a dangerous decision until we have managed to totally eliminate the ignorance and stigma around this disorder.  Which I suspect, ain’t gonna happen in my lifetime.

Ironically, one way to raise awareness about the truth is for more people to be open about what they have, what they’re going through, and how better life is now that they understand.  Catch 22.

We Love To Talk…

This was brought home to me by a message from a TotallyADD member who is also a nurse.   She was concerned that entering one of our contests, or commenting on our Facebook page, could be risky because, as she pointed out, ADHD people sometimes have a bit of a problem with limits.  As in ‘no limits.’ TMI.  ‘Oversharing.’  ‘Blurting out.’  ‘Did I just say that?!’

I had to laugh.

“Perhaps I’ve said too much…”

As I said, when at first I told people about my ADHD it rarely went well.  In fact the disdain and dismissal triggered a fury that fueled me to produce ADD & Loving It?!  and create TotallyADD.

Today, every few people are actually dismissive to my face.  However, I have learned, often years later of some of the nasty things that colleagues have said behind my back.  My favorite was, “If Rick Green has ADHD then I’ve got ‘ass’ cancer.”  Nice.

In fact, that nurse who wrote to me admitted that disclosing her ADHD diagnosis with colleagues had backfired.  It was used against her.   Being open and ‘out’ had damaged her career.  Tragic, considering her intention was to make things better at work.

If you’re wondering whether you should ‘share’, our video on the risks to disclosure outlines why it has to be done very carefully.

It’s easy to spill the beans.  Try scraping the beans back up into the can.  Not easy. Or fun.

You don’t have to go far into the TotallyADD forums to find other stories from people who have met hostility, disdain, disbelief or loss of friendships and even jobs.

We had a Meme Contest on our Facebook page, “What’s the dumbest thing anyone’s every said to you about your ADHD?” and the results were gob-smacking.

Among the top 10 finalists:  “Just drink more water.”   “You have to stop thinking so much.”  and the ever-so-helpful, “Wear proper shoes with insoles and use this type of mattress and it will go away.”  Wow, a new mattress can eliminate a highly genetic neuro-developmental disorder?  Does it come with a matching box-spring that can cure diabetes?

“Drug Addict? Unreliable? High-Maintenance?”

The negative consequences of disclosing are probably the highest in the work place.

(Oh! Talk about timing.   My wife Ava just interrupted me as I’m writing this to read me a letter from a TotallyADD member who say he would have had his pilot’s license revoked by the FAA if they had found out he has ADHD.  Whether he was taking medication or not.  As it turns out, he doesn’t have ADHD. But his email does make it clear that ADHD/ADD can still be used against you, by colleagues and governing organizations.)

I know several young people who have had to lie about their ADHD to pursue their dream of a career in the military.  They’re in the army now, and soaring.

So, “Who Do You Tell?” Is A Big Question.

For me, and I suppose for Patrick McKenna, the star of ADD & Mastering It!  the cost of letting the entire world know that I have ADHD has been hard to gauge.  Or rather, the negative costs have been hard to gauge.   Because as I said, the eye rolling, snorting and, “We don’t want to work with him, he has some kind of weird mental thing!” happens behind my back.

So I’ll never know the cost I’ve paid in ‘coming out of the closet’ about my mindset.  But I’m sure it’s there.  Perhaps the phone stopped ringing so much simply because the television industry itself has slowed down in the past 10 years. Who knows?

I could try and figure out who has cut me off, or continues to spread malicious crap, “What’s he talking about? He’s made all kinds of successful TV shows.”

As someone said, “Don’t look back because you’re not going in that direction.”

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

I can tell you the positives I’ve experienced since disclosing.  The hundreds of people who have hugged me, thanked us, and shared their story.  The families who have thanked Patrick and Janis McKenna, tears in their eyes, for sharing so much in ADD & Loving It?!

“Who to tell?” is a topic we explore a bit in The Perfect Career for ADHD and in depth in what may be my favourite video, To Tell Or Not To Tell.   There’s some great advice on who to tell, what to say, and especially what NOT to say.

Just know that being open about your ADHD/ADD to the wrong people will have negative consequences.  Sharing it with the right people can be hugely helpful.  Having allies is a wonderful thing. None of us manage this on our own.  If we did, we’d never have ended up in a Doctor’s office, wondering, “ What’s wrong with me?”

Eventually, at some point, when enough people have stood up and said, “I have ADHD,” there won’t be any stigma. No negative fallout.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

By the way, have you disclosed?   Who did you tell? What did you say?  And how did it go?

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19 Replies to “Disclosure: Should I Keep My ADHD a Secret?”

  1. Oh no!
    You mean I might have ass cancer!!! great!, what next… but I have to be nice?, hmm. I gonna read again…

    <> Very well said Rick. I trip on it some… well lot’s, but it’s too late for me too. I’m just not as invested as you. Hek man, not even close. But maybe I’ll make a funny video… As I define success, you’re very successful!. It’s not possible to calculate how many people and families you’ve helped.

    (((((Hug’z for you n the whole gang))))

    So a video, huh?
    Hey yeah! a puppet!, but someone might think I’m a politician, hehe get it?. My lady friend next door wants to braid my hair real tight and make me look “like a little black girl” lol. I bet we could pull that off. And easily avoid any racist or offensive content. My hair’s so curly maybe I’ve got black DNA anyway… Maybe I’ll do a video dressed up like a black woman!. I have a friend who’s African American. We can dub in her voice!. (I think, maybe she’s Jamaican American?) Some people of color don’t like any type of label. I agree with that. We’re all from lot’s of different places. The easy way would be to do it in silhouette.

    I’m seriously thinking about ending my current alias here, and creating a new one. Different, less like my real name alias. Unfortunately my writing style might be too obvious. I hope that’s just a unrealistic fear in my head. A lil feedback on that won’t kill me you guys. Both barrels please.

    Deep in the endless writing on my facebook page there is one reference to “an ADHD support site” but I don’t name this place. It’s the cookies and other spyware like stuff web sites stick our browsers with that we don’t or can’t control much. That’s how my car insurance company is likely to find out. But I drive really well. I’m confident that in 15 years I’ll turn out to be an success story for people who “went public” about ADHD. At the church I go to a couple times a week I asked a group of folks to come and pray with me about it. That was a bunch of months ago when I first got involved with that one. I’ve talked about it at another church too. I still really struggle with being in social situations. I’m finding other places where I can socialize a bit easier. It just takes time.

    It’s too bad people are still dumb enough to think we’re all the same. We’re all a little nutty, but there are many different kinds of nuts in the world!. Lot’s not even the ADD kind, huh?

    Thanks Rick. And thank you to Ava for helping get this site started and keeping Rick held together, as a man I know how much a strong woman can help us do the best we can do. Of course Rick’s got real talent, but a loving wife completes most men. I may surrender my singleness some day, but I like freedom, and the way my apartment looks the way I’ve set it up. I’m not lonely like I used to be either. That’s a miracle. I don’t think I want to reach 60 and still not be a husband. There’s a woman out there that deserves a hunk like me! ***smirk***
    Peace

  2. I guess that’s one good thing about being diagnosed at a fairly advanced (67) age; one doesn’t have to worry about bosses, etc. I have told a couple friends–they probably think it explains a lot. Sometimes I just can’t shut up! Other times, I act fairly normally. But I’m slightly goofy and most of my friends don’t mind, and my husband and I have been married so long, he expects it. I am thankful that he is understanding, though, because I’m not sure I’d have done as well as he has if the tables were turned.
    Housekeeping is my big challenge, and after about six weeks on Strattera, the third med I’ve tried, I actually decluttered a room!! I am pretty pumped about this, as it is the first time I’ve willingly cleaned a room for I don’t know HOW long! Usually, I only work like this if someone is coming to visit. So I’m pretty happy right now. Is there a deadline for the video? Maybe I’ll make one..I don’t think most people think a person can be ADHD and not be diagnosed until they’re 67; that would be one piece of “conventional wisdom” to correct.

  3. Thank you Thank you Thank you RIck . . . For being so responsive and bang on. You are right – until more of us stand up, speak out and demand the services, consideration. . . and for our children’s ADHD to atleast be considered as a learning disability, and a potentially serious mental health issue that deserves services just as much as children with anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue. . . the discrimination – the LEGAL discrimination continues. The bullying and harrassment by poeple Ithough to be well informed health care workers. . . no different than JOhn or Jane Doe on the street. The misinformation is rampant. Along with the assumption that we are “less than capable”. . . I have stood up for other mental health isses, and had fellow maanger refer staff to me behind closed doors so I could tell them . . .it is going to be OK . . . you are not crazy . . . there are many like you . . .me included. . . life will get better.

    But right now, isolated by fear and anxiety . . . the call to go public frightened me – for myself . . and for others. . . which I could do easily! I am very articulate. I have sat at health care policy discussion tables at provincial and national levels. I am a persuasive speaker, a natural performer and storyteller, with over 20 years of experience in the health care system.

    I am having to teach my “WalMart Greeter son” who has no personal boundaries and great difficulties making friend the difference between keeping secrets (like parties and presents) and information that is private . .. for discussion with family, people who he trusts, and love him, and who need to know. . .as I have started to explore with himn what ADHD means to him. There is no shame in having the same busy brain that he has from his Dad and his Mom (me) . . . but there can be others who can be unkind . . .

    And yet he dearly wants to know – I am the only one ? Are there others in my class like me ? and yet he has been the the receiveing end of bullying all year because of the social challenges his ADHD shows. I dearly wish I could go in at the beginning of the school year . . . like a friend did with her diabetic daughter, and taught her daughter’s friends, classmates, teachers and support workers about her chorinc health issue. No one makes fun of her daughter if her sugar drops, and her behaviour changes. They all rally and run to her aid. If only I had some inkling that it could be the same for me son. . .that I could explain his incessant talking in monologues, his difficulty listening, his difficulty in joining into a games without taking it over. RIght now, he can’t help it . . . and he is at a point where is is strating to become painfuly aware of it. BUt I could not even get it through to his teacher that his drawing and doodling is not a matter of willful ignoring. How can I expect kids to understand and support him . . .

    Maybe I will figure out a way to make a video – using the term loosely – and talk about the stigma and how it has both destroyed my life, mid career . . . but has allowed for a conscious rebuilding of my life and realignment of my life around my values . .. vs meeting the expectations of those around me without questioning . . do I really want to do this . .

    That I will become the resource in our area for parents and adults with ADHD. . . I met fellow high school classmate last night . . . who jumped at my suggestion of a parents group. And that would be going public for me.

    I erase my browsing history – so facebook cannot “out” me. . .

    BUt as it is late, and my leds have worn off . . .I must go to bed – becuase I must get up early to go pick up my son from his Dad’s early to give him his Concerta, and take him to the math camp that his father refused to have him participate in. I full time parent a son with ADHD needs that I only have half time. Having and ADHD co-parent in denial is exceptionally difficult and expensive in legal fees as I look after my son’s needs.

    I have lost alot . . . but I think I may have more to gain once once I am 3 – 5 years down the road.

    Thank you Rick for the challenge

    SO Rick . . . I am

  4. My brother, whose ADHD is waaaay worse than mine, talks behind my back. He doesn’t understand at all about ADHD, and thinks he’s outgrown it. This, in turn, makes him better than me, he thinks. Meanwhile, the other family members talk to me about it, then look at him and go, “Oh! Yeah, I see it, now.”

    For some reason, he thinks ADHD makes a person weak. Really, to go through anything like this, or anything adverse at all, for that matter, and come out the other side with a positive attitude shows strength, not weakness.

    Just goes to show that education goes a long, long way. I’ll consider a video, but I gotta get around to it, and ADHD makes it pretty hard. LOL!

    Great post. Thanks, Rick.

  5. I guess, technically, the question of whether or not it’s a bad thing is moot for me now. I openly blog about my ADD/ADHD. I have yet to run into anything that I perceive as negative. I’m confident enough that if someone gives me a hard time about it, I tell them to bite me. But, really, I’ve had everyone from CEOs to Students approach me and thank me openly for talking about it. Since I’ve started blogging about it in October, I’ve presented in front of 200+ people talking about my “disorder”, and I am writing an article that is scheduled to be published on one of the biggest online design communities.

    I see it being a problem if you want to be a pilot and you can’t get a license, or if people are keeping you from your career because of it. I have yet to encounter anything like that. However, I am a successful business owner who takes pride in controlling my own destiny. I’m not sure how I’d react if someone told me I couldn’t do something because of ADD. I am sure they’d get an earful, that’s a given.

    So, for me, disclosure has been life changing in nothing but a positive way. I would never go back.

  6. I enlisted in the Army when I was 20 and I was told not to disclose that I thought I had ADD. Later in life when my daughter was diagnosed I was finally diagnosed. Everything clicked and I was happy that I finally understood me. I can tell you that it had amazing effects and defeating effects. I kept it to myself for fear they would toss me out. I was amazing in the field and class. (class is mega fast I in the military) but then there’s office duty that I Continually screwed up in. It was a true see saw effect. I am now a disabled vet and thanks to you im soaring out of my closet. I can not tell you how thankfull I am to you and Doc. By the way his videos are so set for us ADDers. YEAH. THANKS AGAIN.

  7. I am a nurse. When I worked at the little nursing home the new administrator was very out about his ADD.. and so was I. I did well for quite some time until another director of nursing came in and didn’t believe in ADD. (perhaps a little too close to home for her?)

    I have decided to just be open about it. Doesn’t make me crazier than anyother person. At least I have a concept of what is going on with me.

    I am thinking about a video. My daughter wants to do one…just have to figure something out.

    I see where the more of us that are willing to be open and “out there” the more it will be excepted. I think an article in the local paper for ADD awareness would be good.

    I worked with kids one summer and I can’t tell you how many were ADD/ADHD.. and when I started to ask them if they took ritalin I was told by my bosses it was not ok.. the staff was not dealing with the ADD and was trying to get them all to conform.. and of course it didn’t work.. and some of them were on a drug holiday for the summer… at the end of the summer I made it a point staff has to know what they are dealing with, so it can work better..

    When I told my direct surpervisor I was ADD and I thought them knowing it would be a plus.. see I’m not acting wacked out… I can sit still… she started treating me like one of the kids and RUDE!! oh my god!! How bigoted .. I stayed, but changed jobs.. I really feel for the kids.. she didn’t like to be reminded of what she was dealing with, and she was making everybodys day worse.. but that was just my observation… she is still working at the day program, and I moved on.

    I sure appreciate this site and the crew at Totally ADD I am looking forward to the new movies. I tell everyone about this site. A

  8. First,. I always impress myself when I remember my log in and password here.

    Anyway – I bring it up when it makes sense or is relavent to a situation. It helped me get moved to a less distracting work area.

    I think my self awareness has helped me play to my strengths a bit, which has helped.

    I do mention it when reconnecting with old friends and family, if we are moving past the superficial BS of surface history.

    I tell anyone and everyone about “ADD and Loving It!? and still get choked up describing the Sunday morning I first stumbled across it.

    I am open about it – but don’t announce it to everybody.

  9. BryanS7, I get choked up hearing you get choked up.

    It’s a roller coaster when you find out, but it’s way better than never knowing. As Morpheus tells Neo in the Matrix, “Red Pill… Blue Pill… Choose.”

  10. lost my job back in jan. when my managers and supervisors had a problem with another employee that had a learning disability. knowing that I had Adhd (I have been diagnosed since I was in the seventh grade) they decided that everything is an excuse and because california is a fire at will state home depot management just arranged to not inform me of a procedure and then fired me to get rid of me. so no disclosure is not a good Idea in california the weight is on you to prove that the employer acted against your situation, especially when they have deep pockets.

  11. Scary, Gfmoss,
    Thanks for letting others know.
    Did your ADHD impact your work in a negative way? If so, how? Cause I know how much mine has impacted my work life, and I’ve really focused on those aspects that get me into trouble–for me it’s over-committing and not tracking progress and what I’m supposed to deliver on.

  12. I first wrote about this many years ago, as you can see from the dates on some of the comments. But when I reread it this month I was surprised at how much more I had to say, and how things had changed.

    So many people have told me that when they disclosed their ADHD, even to people they trusted or they considered friends, the push back and disbelief was instant and upsetting.

  13. Rick at the age of 70 i found out it was not just my son and grandson who had the condition/disease/syndrome but i also was off th charts with it. It was easy to come out to my other children and grandchildren and equally so to many of the choristers i sing with ( I am the guy in the back row who cant stop talking when the conductor is trying to give instruction. ) The shock came when I revealed it to many family members in a long email and suggested I might not be the only one. As I am the youngest of twelve there are a lot of cousins who would like to know the genetic issues in our family as their children are growing up. And they are being confronted with them . My nearest sister went ballistic as she was sure i was stating one of our parents.had to be . Both have been dead for twenty to 50 years. I apologised. Which at least stopped her from screaming and slamming the phone down everytime I called. It was my two non ADD daughters who assured me that she had already fought that battle in her family and blamed her son inlaw. For two of there three boys who have thankfully made it into the army as has my grandson.
    You are right though. As i am still a commentor and subscriber to Benefits Canada i can inform you that the latest proposed employer solutions to controlling drug plan utilization is to encourage employers to establish corporate policies to assist those with chronic conditions. The assistance smells a lot like Drug Plan Control by eradicating the problem.
    The armed forces are notorious for capping any promotion for those with chronic conditions backing many into retirement and then DVA denying that any condition existed. As a participant in this industry for over 50 years i smell the sickly odor of the insurance industry doing everything in their power to get out of the drug business. Including having that right wing west coast think tank produce studies matching labor think tanks push for a national Drug Plan. Concerta is a 100$ a month habit. If 1.2 milion of us have it and 40 or 50 % of us have a co morbid drug treatable condition employers and insurers have reason to be alarmed.

  14. When I first got diagnosed at 24, I was so relieved I started telling everyone. I finally had a reason for a cubicle in an open office environment and I thought that would make me eligible for accomodations. (Studies are showing that open offices are THE WORST for ADD and non-ADD alike. I can attest to that, especially as a writer.)

    The opposite happened – I got laid off from my first professional job because they saw my accomodations as a liability. Apparently, I didn’t learn my lesson and I told my next supervisor. This time, I worked in a union. They couldn’t get rid of me, but I was passed over for promotions – they actually eliminated the job I was next in line for, so I couldn’t get it. At this company, all my friends were promoted to senior level positions and I was told to my face that there was nothing else I could do. I felt so demoralized that it took me two years to understand that the job was a bad fit, not me.

    I did some internal work on my self esteem and finally worked up the courage to leave. I talked my way into a new job as an ad copywriter. I was so lucky, I found a wonderful Creative Director who mentored me and challenged me. I worked so hard at this job – pitching in, learning on my own time, taking work home. I had so many ideas and I actually saved the day on many occasions. I loved my job. After two years, I thought I was safe enough to tell my colleagues about my ADD. After all, people at this company were disclosing physical challenges. We were a “family.” Turns out I was wrong. The company was going under and the owner (who I’m positive also has ADD), saw me as a burden she could lose. When we lost a client due to her mismanagement eight months later, I was laid off. In the meeting, she told me that I was the reason they’d lost the client. The company went under completely less than a year after that. At that time, my old colleagues started contacting me to tell me the truth of what happened: the owner was terrible at her job, it wasn’t my fault. One friend even saved the writing award I’d won for the agency and brought it to me.

    A year and a half later, I’ve found a great job as a Creative Writer and I have an excellent relationship with my boss – our company VP. I love it, but I’ve learned a valuable lesson about reputation management. I always show confidence, double and triple-check my work… and I do not disclose my ADD, ever. I use medication and productivity techniques and a white noise app on my phone to help me concentrate. I use every spare minute of my time to provide value to the company and I promote my contributions. (I was always taught to be humble, but that just doesn’t work at work.) I do sometimes wish I could relax and spend time chatting with my colleagues, but I have ADD. I just don’t have that luxury. I’m very particular about interruptions, and I work late to meet deadlines. I never overpromise and I treat other departments using Client Management techniques. I’m tough, but I value compromise and I listen to others. I have a blurting and explosive anger problem, but I never let them be a problem at work. Being on all the time is very tiring some days, but I desperately want to succeed. Our VP just mentioned the possibility of me moving up and I’m determined to make sure she doesn’t change her mind. (She could – it’s happened before.)

    Interruptions are the worst thing in the world. I would love to tell people what they’re costing me by offering me popcorn or asking me about my weekend, but I can’t. It’s no big deal to them, but it’s so hard for me to get back into my flow. Interruptions could delaying my career advancement or even cost me my job. People call me rigid and anal-retentive, and laugh at my productivity charts and lists, but they don’t know what I’ve been through. And if I told them, I wouldn’t make me look good. Even though two of my lay offs were circumstances out of my control. (The first one WAS my fault.) I’m grateful for every day that I can work. I’m grateful to have work to do. I hate downtime.

    Anyway, I love your website. It’s gotten me through the last nine years and has taught me how to leverage my own abilities. I’m really grateful for all your tips and tricks. If it wasn’t for you, I might still be in retail.

  15. Thank you for your continued dedication, lending support, advice, critical information and education to us all.

    My life has been a perfect storm of undiagnosed AD/HD, shaming parents, a driven desire to do good in the world…In another words, I was a good little girl who drove myself into the ground because all I knew was “try harder”.

    In my second attempt to finish grad school (diagnosis in hand), the head of my department told me there was nothing wrong with me–only that I was my own worst enemy. More shame and guilt because a part of me believed that I was just incompetent.

    Even though I ended up doing my grad thesis on “grad students with AD/HD writing their thesis” in which I explored many of these dilemmas, the belief in my own incompetence continues to be fueled by this invisible disability and messages I received about myself growing up.

    By the way, I went through many psychologists who never once suspected I had it. One of them tested me with the WAIS-R (intelligence test used to diagnosis many other things) and concluded: Well, you’re intelligent here, and not so much here. The results were a huge red flag that he missed, but in so doing also contributed to my negative self-image.

  16. I was only finally diagnosed a few months ago at the age of 30. I knew I had ADHD since I was 12 though, when a cousin who was diagnosed with it urged my mother to get me tested because he thought I looked like a classic case. She didn’t believe him because I was well behaved at school, so nothing was ever done.

    Since getting my official diagnosis I have been open about it. I probably couldn’t help but be open about it even if I didn’t want to be. I could never keep a secret and I love to talk! So embracing it was really the only choice. I’m a high school teacher and pretty well respected by my colleagues so my hope is that knowing I have it may make them re-evaluate some of their views of the students who have it.

    None of my colleagues have reacted with disbelief. Apparently I come across more hyper than I’d even realised with my fast talking and general intensity. I’m also unfortunately known for having the messiest desk in school and often being a few minutes late to meetings. So mostly the reactions were, “Well that explains a lot,” or “Really?! You have that?… Yeah, I can see it.” I think the fact that teachers do know more about ADHD than your average adult is very helpful that way. We’ve had training sessions on how to teach ADHD kids.

    I hesitated to tell my boss but in the end I decided it was best to tell him too. He was the worst reaction I got. He pulled the old, drug companies have just invented a disorder to describe normal behaviour we all do, line. He wanted to know how it actually affected me and I explained that I get insomnia and I’m a bit disorganised. At that he laughed out loud and said okay, maybe I was on to something. Since then I’ve had a longer talk with him and explained it much more thoroughly, explaining that he’s right that there is a spectrum and it is normal behaviour in everyone, but disorder begins where those behaviours are happening very often, beyond the norm and causing impairment. Now he seems to understand and said he’d ask me for tips in dealing with the ADHD students in his classes.

    The scariest disclosure was deciding to be open about it with my students too. I didn’t go and announce it to all my classes or anything, but when I was teaching a unit on psychology that included ADHD I finished by explaining that I had it too and they should not assume kids with it were doomed to be failures and that they best be careful about joking about it because they couldn’t know who had it. Immediately I had students who had ADHD coming up quietly and thanking me for saying it and being noticeably more comfortable in my class.

    The most uncomfortable experience I had though was with my school’s learning support teacher. I had not disclosed to her and she began to talk about how she thought ADHD was just bad habits caused by poor parenting and a lack of consequences. She actually said these ADHD kids learn to shape up real fast in the real world when they see employers won’t put up with their excuses. And this woman is in charge of helping exactly these kids! It was very awkward but I did then tell her that I had ADHD and she was quite wrong about the causes and how to teach kids with it. Whether it will have any impact on her teaching I don’t know.

  17. I teach logic at a university, one day a student comes up to me after class.
    “Can I talk to you about something”?
    “Sure”
    “It’s kind of personal.”
    “Do you want to talk in my office”
    She nods yes and follows me to my office. She wants to close the door, which, of course, is not proper. I tell her it is all right, none of the other will listen in. But she still looks nervous. And she stumbles over her words then finally states:
    “The reason I wanted to talk to you, is that my brother has been diagnosed with ADHD and I notice a lot of the same traits in you.”

    Inside I’m laughing – I could never… ever… imagine going up to one of my professors or teachers or anyone really that wasn’t a close friend and saying, effectively, “I think there is something wrong with you… You might want to get that checked out…” But it was very clear as she talked more about how much her brother was helped by medication, etc. that she was coming from a very caring place.

    I shower her my Ritalin, and informed her I was already on the maximum legal dose, and that I was reading the books and doing the counseling, and this is me fully treated. Apparently not effectively treated, but fully treated anyway.

    Now I tell my students that story at the first day of classes every semester. I figure I might as well make it clear what they are seeing.

  18. I didn’t know I had ADHD until my son was diagnosed. I was 50 at the time. Suddenly everything made sense. Here’s a general work history story; if anyone can identify with this, please reply and let me know if you can relate.

    “Dan, I want you to do A.” “Fine, no problem.” I go to my desk and start A. While doing so I notice A will affect existing processes B and C, and a new process D will not only help A work better but will connect Process E into the bigger picture. So I do some work on all of those processes. While doing so I have to ask those working on processes B, C, and E some questions so I know how to handle their situations. During those talks, I discover a way to make C better and discover a new process Z that will cut back on the work needed to do B.

    So I put together a report and deliver it a few days earlier than expected.
    – “A is done.”
    – “If we do Z we can save money on B.”
    – “If we tweak C in these ways C will process faster. That saves more money.”
    – “The people working on E will have a better idea of how the business works than they do today. They can then look into ways to improve E.”
    – “If we do all of those things I can save the company a few million dollars a year.”

    The answer back from my supervisor was often, “Why can’t you just do what I asked? We can’t do all those things.” And on my annual review: “sometimes does not follow instructions.”

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