The Doctor: ‘Everything indicates that you have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.’
Me: ‘WHAT?! How can that be? Doctor, I’m an adult?! I’m almost 50! Isn’t ADD a childhood thing?’
Over the next few weeks, as I read and learn more, it all makes sense. ‘That’s ADHD? I do that!… And that!… And that too!’
Everything I thought I knew about myself is suddenly up for grabs. Treatment begins and things start changing for the better.
Most days my head spins, ricocheting between relief and regret, hope and anger, excitement and sadness. It’s incredible! I haven’t been this dazed and delighted since puberty.
Naturally I’m eager to share my good news with everyone. And POW!
“I don’t believe in ADHD.”
“Rick, ADHD is just a big Pharmaceutical scam”
“Everyone wants an excuse for their laziness.”
“It’s just the internet. And food coloring. Eat less dairy. ”
I’m shocked. Angry. Humiliated. And wondering, ‘Maybe they’re right?…”
I’m Battling Decades of Myths & Lies
We actually did a contest on Facebook for “The Dumbest Thing Anyone Ever Said To You About ADHD.” My personal fave? “You just have to stop thinking so much.”
(Wow. That’s something to think about. Said by someone who obviously isn’t thinking too much.)
When our film ADD & Loving It?!, debuted on PBS, and TotallyADD went live, there was huge resistance to the idea of ADHD in adults. It’s better today. But not great. Here in North America there’s a much better understanding and awareness. Teachers are much better trained to spot ADHD. Parents are aware. And more and more adults are open considering the possibility.
Better Still Ain’t Great
Apparently we’ve had a big hand in that, because in 2016 I was appointed to the prestigious Order of Ontario. What the award could not acknowledge are the scores of people who have worked on the website, produced the videos, or shared their expertise on camera. And of course the thousands of members who share their stories and support each other.
So the Order of Ontario was, in a way, an acknowledgement that ADHD is a real disorder that can ruin lives. But the media reaction was very telling. One newspaper–which has ran a series of alarmist articles about ADHD, medication, and kids– reported that I had won for being a cast member of The Red Green Show. No mention of ADHD. Hmm…
Trust me, I was not appointed to the Order of Ontario for being knocked about on The Red Green Show.
That said, it feels like media is getting it right, or at least righter. Things are improving. Slowly. (And we’re impatient, right?)
So 4,000 Scientific Studies Count for Squat?!
I still meet worried parents who are vehement their child is just creative misunderstood. Maybe. But if no one will play with your child, if they’re smart but failing, if they’re never invited to birthday parties…
At a party a friend will introduce me to a stranger, and mention TotallyADD. The stranger will nod, eyes narrowing, a slightly sneering smirk, head tilting back a bit so they can look down at me, as they chuckle, ‘ADHD? Interesting… I don’t believe in ADHD. If you ask me…’
I didn’t ask you. But it’s too late.
Online, its depressingly easy to find websites that say it’s not real, or that the man who discovered ADHD says it’s not real. (BTW, it wasn’t one man. And he didn’t say that. He suggested it might be over diagnosed. And it probably is in some jurisdictions.)
Viva La France! ADHD-Free Since Marie Antoinette!
One article claimed French children don’t have ADHD. Wow!…
Since studies show ADHD is over 70% heritable, as in genetics, does Perrier and Brie transform your dopamine levels so you sit still, pay attention and ‘behave like everyone else?’
Sure, French kids don’t have ADHD. And North Korean kids are happy, well feed, and enjoying their freedom… Just ask the North Korean Tourist Bureau.
For a while the New York Times was running one article after another dismissing the prevalence, severity, or even the reality of ADHD. ‘But it’s in The Times!’
Last year I cringed at the publication of a new book, ‘ADHD Is Not Real!’ The author does raise some valid points: This is often misdiagnosed. It often is something else. Or something else as well.
But so does every condition, disorder and disease.
The Doubters Do Have a Point
Is ADHD overdiagnosed? Absolutely… In some places it’s still under-diagnosed. Read some of the Forum postings from people in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Actually, you may find it too depressing.
If you’re thrown for a loop by ‘know-it-alls’ who clearly know nothing, check out our video, Facing The World. You’ll discover how a few quirks of human psychology can expose people’s ignorance, demolish their myths, and even turn enemies into supporters. While remaining cheerful, upbeat, and unshaken.
But ultimately, for you, does it matter what some people stubbornly believe? Do you have to convince or convert everyone?
Some primitive tribes in the Amazon believe painting their faces red gives them better luck when hunting. Does their odd belief affect you? Not really. Will you decorate your face with lipstick next time you go hunting for bargains at Costco?
Obviously what a jungle tribe believes doesn’t affect you. Although I suppose you could let it affect you. But it matters very much what your family, teachers, colleagues, partners, or spouse believe about ADHD.
What if your boss believes ADHD is an excuse for laziness? What if an unscrupulous colleague feeds your supervisor crap from the internet that confirms their prejudices? Goodbye promotion. This happens a LOT!
My Own Worst Enemy
Getting the diagnosis was amazing. I couldn’t wait to tell people. I probably should have curbed my enthusiams
For some, it was a joke: ‘Rick’s always looking for an excuse.’ (Actually, I was looking for an explanation. And this made the most sense.)
For some, I’m sure, it became a concern that made them reluctant to work with me, ‘Is he on drugs? Will he be reliable?’
Truth is, I have no idea what ‘coming out of the ADD closet’ has cost my career. Being a comedian, perhaps people make allowances. Dunno. If it did cost me work doing comedy show, I’ll never know. But then it doesn’t much matter because it’s now my full-time career. I guess that’s what the Order of Ontario was acknowledging.
But that’s my story. For you, disclosing your ADHD, your child’s, remains fraught with peril. I’ve met people who abandoned a treatment plan that was working under the barrage of hostile disdain from friends and family.
Once the Cat Is Out of the Bag…
Disclosing is such a difficult decision we created a video brimming with sensible advice called, To Tell or Not To Tell?
A dozen ADHD specialists, doctors, coaches, and an employment law attorney lay out the potential benefits and the negative repercussions you may not have considered.
As ADHD specialist Dr. David Teplin explains, “In terms of disclosure, like anything else in life you have to be aware of who you are telling, who is receiving that, and what they might do with it. In some ways it has to do with trust. In some ways it has to be with naivety. Or lack of naivety. And really at the end of the day what you’re trying to achieve or what you think will be helpful.”
Who have you told? And how did it go?
Equally important, who have you NOT told? And why not?