Some say, “I have ADD.”
Some say, “I am ADD.”
How do you express it? Do you tend to say you have ADHD/ADD or do you tend to say, “I am so ADHD.”
Perhaps even, “I am totally ADD!”
It may seem like a subtle distinction. But I quickly learned that it’s a hot button for some people who have ADHD. Especially parents! And parenting a child with ADHD is already a challenge. Clearly this distinction is important.
So, while everyone is talking about resolutions and new habits for the new year, I want to step back a bit and look at terms like ‘treatment’ and ‘progress’ from a bigger context. A more strategic view. Perhaps one that you’ve never considered. It’s one I had overlooked until I was confronted (or corrected) by others who had obviously given it a lot of thought.
One doctor pointed out that during presentations or workshops about ADHD I tend to use “Have” and “Are” somewhat interchangeably.
“Those of us who are ADHD… If you have ADHD… I’m very ADD when…”
Doctors NEVER use “Are” It’s “Have.” As in, “You have ADHD.”
And It’s Not Just Doctors
To many people, the sentence, “I am ADHD,” comes across as a jail sentence.
Several times this last year after my talk or workshop people came up to talk with me about this. Or talk to me. Some were quite upset or determined to make sure I understood that what I was saying was wrong. They’d explain, “ADHD is not who you are! We have to stop saying that. It’s something you have! After all, you don’t go around saying, ‘I am cancer,’ you say, ‘I have cancer!’ Or, “I am high-blood pressure’’, but rather, “I have high blood pressure.”
Several times I was dressed down by people on the verge of tears.
At first I felt quite embarrassed. Clearly I’d said something politically incorrect. And those of us with this mindset can often be very sensitive, overly sensitive, especially around emotions.
I apologized profusely.
I’ve tried hard to correct myself, but now and then I mess up, and blurt out that, “…big, complex tasks can be daunting if you’re ADD.”
But ADHD Is Not An Illness
As a parent I understand why people are upset and what the underlying concern is. Really and truly.
But cancer or high blood pressure differ from ADHD in fundamental ways. Having cancer is not your normal state, nor has it been that way since you were born. Cancer is a disease, an illness. It’s an abnormal state. You’re not born with cancer. (And yes, nit-pickers, I know, everyone does have cancer cells in them. Even the healthiest of us, but you know what I mean.)
Well, the research shows this is heavily genetic.
I was born with this mindset. This is my normal. It’s not something I ‘caught’ or ‘came down with’ or can take a pill to cure. At best a pill helps manage it and give me access to what everyone else calls ‘normal.’
Do I have it? Or Does It Have Me?
So while I’m happy to say, “I have ADHD. I am NOT my diagnosis,” in my heart, it’s not so clear. Is ADHD something I have, or something I am?
As well, ADHD is genetic. At least in my case. Yes, I know, some people develop ADHD from a head injury or other external cause, such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or a concussion during their life. In fact, the first kids who displayed ‘ADHD impairments’ and were treated with stimulant medication, way back in 1937, had brain ‘damage’ from an epidemic of encephalitis.
But for those of us who have it in our family tree, where there’s clearly a strong genetic element, it’s all we know.
It is our normal. Right?
It’s My Normal – Isn’t it Everyone’s?
No wonder it is so under diagnosed. So few of us think anything’s wrong with us. “I’ve always been like this.” We have nothing else to compare it to. It’s our normal. It’s familiar. Everyday the world appears… noisy, overwhelming, too much, a whirlwind… or boring, mind numbing, and exhausting.
Until we are lucky enough to find a medication that works. Because when it works the change can be dramatic. (Though finding the right dose of the right one takes time.)
I don’t want to dis-empower anyone. Or have them feel doomed, trapped or helpless. This is not a jail sentence. However, at this point in my life I’m comfortable saying “I am ADHD.”
Mind you, I was also willing to go on national television and say I had ADHD, whereas most people are terrified of letting anyone even suspect they might have ADHD or ADD.
I’m okay saying I have ADHD or I am ADHD.
But I get, when we’re talking to people who completely misunderstand this disorder, which still seems to be a majority of the population, it’s a distinction worth making.
“On The Spectrum.”
Just as a tall person says, “I am tall.” Or they might explain, “I have tallness.”
But probably not say, “In terms of height, I am at the extreme end of the spectrum, in the top 4% of the population, which includes everyone 6’5” and taller. And I adjust my life accordingly.”
Personally, I am not tall.
I’m in the middle of the height spectrum; average on that particular bell curve.
But in terms of Impulsivity, Restlessness and Uneven Attention… I’m 6’9”!
Or, as I joke, “On a good day, I have ADHD. And on a bad day, it has ME!”
What about you? How do you describe yourself? Or your loved one?
Do you have ADHD/ADD?
Or are you ADHD/ADD?
And does it matter to you? And why?