We had a contest on the TotallyADD Facebook page, “What is dumbest thing someone has ever said to you about ADHD or ADHD medication.”
Most people shared two or three ludicrous examples.
Sure, many were familiar, ones we’ve all heard, like, “I don’t believe in ADHD.” Or, “You’re just too busy.” Or, “Our whole family is like that. It’s because we’re Irish.” (Or Italian, Russian, Hispanic… insert your heritage here.)
One exhausting aspect of ADHD is defending your diagnosis from people who have strong opinions, based on complete hooey.
At one point I decided that the next time someone started spouting nonsense about ADHD, that I would ask them, “Do you believe the Queen Alexandra Birdwing is the largest in the world.”
Confused, they would ask, “The largest what in the world?”
Me: “The largest butterfly in the world.”
Them: “How the hell would I know? I don’t know anything about butterflies.”
Me: “True. But you obviously don’t know a darn thing about ADHD and that hasn’t stopped your from spouting all kinds of ignorant gibberish.”
I haven’t actually done that. I don’t have the nerve. (Let me know if it works.)
“I Know What I Know!”
Stupid opinions used to set me off. Incensed, I would spew a torrent facts, numbers, statistics, studies, even listing some of the genes that have been identified.
You can guess how well that worked.
People smirked, “You can get studies to prove anything.” “Well, I’d like to see that study.” And my favorite, “I know what I know.” Which is code for, “My beliefs trump your facts.”
If facts changed people’s minds, well, that would end all the arguing over whether humans actually landed on the moon, if vaccines are safe, or whether the President is doing a great job.
Facts don’t work.
I was passionate. Too passionate. It actually was off-putting for people. Ranting away just made me look desperate and defensive. (Which, actually, I was. Hmm.)
They could dismiss me as a ‘nut’.
Then I learned a better way. From a master: Dr. David Teplin.
“Call The Number on Your Screen”
We met when I was putting on makeup. Or rather as the makeup artist at the all-news television network was putting on my makeup for our ‘live appearance to talk about ADHD.’ David already had his makeup on.
As we spoke I asked him, “Are you Dutch?” I pride myself on being able to recognize accents. I don’t know why I do because he said, “No.” Nodding sagely I continued, “Ah, you’re Australian?” I was close: South African.
(Why do I believe I’m good at identifying accents when the facts, years of me guessing, prove it’s not true? Another example of belief triumphing over facts.)
In a few minutes the Floor Director guided us through the crowded studio during a commercial break to the news desk.
A quick hello to the host. A sound check. And then, “Standby, in 5, 4, 3…”
“Joining Us Live This Evening…”
The host read from the teleprompter, “Welcome back. Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s something we normally associate with children. But it turns out that adults…”
The host was great. I tried to keep my answers short. I probably didn’t. Live TV runs on adrenaline. Everything seems to happen so quickly. In triple speed.
I knew it was going well because they let David and I keep going, answering questions from caller.
Now, on any phone-in show, someone in the studio control room screens the calls. Pre-screening the question, deciding if it’s a good one, getting details about the caller, and putting it up on the teleprompter so the host can smoothly segue, “Our next caller is Bob. He has a question about diet and ADHD.”
The moment I hear Bob’s voice my heart sinks. It’s him! This time calling himself, ‘Bob.’ He sounds stoned. Moronic. The Big Lebowski.
This guy has called several radio shows where I’ve appeared. To the call-screener ‘Bob’ is lucid and intelligent. He has an interesting question. He gets put through. When they put him on the air, he instantly turns into a cartoony ‘stoner.’
Cheech and Chong would blush.
“They gave me the drugs, man. The Ritalin. It fried my brain, right, like horrible, dude. I can’t think straight. They’re turning kids into zombies. Drug addicts..
My Fist Tightened
We so seldom get a chance to talk intelligently about ADHD on radio or television. (And newspapers? Don’t get me started.) So every second wasted dealing with crap like this infuriates me.
My heart raced. My jaw tightened. I clenched my teeth in rage and could hardly speak. Which is lucky.
Because Dr. Teplin chuckled warmly, pointed out that this is indeed a common concern. Somehow he made it clear that this was obviously a joke, a prank, “But this person raises a great point. So many people think these medications are dangerous. When in fact…” (Those weren’t his exact words. But you get the idea.)
I was in awe. I’m sure it showed.
David didn’t miss a beat, smoothly taking the reins, then making one interesting point after another. A psychologist specializing in ADHD, David knew this was an opportunity to reach thousands of people. Nothing was going to throw him off.
David actually seemed delighted that ‘Bob’ had called, seizing the opportunity to address a key point, “Medication is still surrounded by a lot of mythology, misinformation, and emotional baggage.”
At that moment Dr. Teplin became my hero.
When we realized TotallyADD needed a Professional Advisory Board, Dr. Teplin was the first person I called. (In fact, maybe he called me and volunteered?)
Afterwards the call-screener rushed in to apologize, “He sounded completely normal when he spoke to me, he had a great question…”
On the train home that night I stared out the window, frowning, wondering, why
did Bob’ lie to the call-screener, and then everyone who’s listening. Deliberately spreading lies.
It’s one thing to repeat myths and misinformation about ADHD because you don’t know the facts. We all do that. Not just about ADHD. Until we know better. But this was deliberately undermining everything that we, Dr. Teplin and thousands of others are trying to change.
What was ‘Bob’s’ motivation? (I think like a television writer.)
Religious beliefs? A bad experience? Self-loathing?
My ADHD brain created amazing scenarios, one convoluted backstory after another. I sometimes think I’d be a great ‘conspiracy theory guy.’
That evening I was still generating increasingly unlikely theories, until I realized I was still ‘hooked.’ The caller had gotten to me, and he was still getting to me. David had let it go in a few seconds. And here I was, hours later, still stewing over it.
The fact is, I’ll never know why Bob spreads lies, fear, and misinformation. There are people like this everywhere. On the internet they’re called Trolls. Before the internet they were called Dickheads.
At that moment I vowed that I would never let anyone steal my power and throw me off. Never again. Never ever.
But I have ADHD.
So, every time I got triggered and found myself going on and on and on to some poor victim who dared to mention that they had heard ADHD wasn’t real, or that kids in France didn’t have ADHD, or t
hat it was food dye, or cell phones… I would eventually catch myself, and then vow never again.
Never ever. (I’m working on it.)
Most of the time I smile at the person, nod, and agree, “That’s what I thought. I think most people have heard that. But in fact, they’ve actually identified a number of genes… and brain scans are showing some amazing differences…”
The biggest confusion and mythology is around ADHD medications. In the early days of TotallyADD I avoided the topic as much as possible. I’m not a doctor. But the most questions and entries in our Forums are about medication. By a long shot.
Eventually, I took every quote we had about medications from about 40 ADHD specialists and a slew of regular adults with ADHD, and we created a comprehensive guide to ADHD medications. The working titles was 99 Short Films About ADHD Medication.
We eventually went with was ADHD Medications: Straight Answers to Big Questions. The first video in that 5 video series, ADHD Medication: A Powerful Tool is on sale for only $7 (Reg $19.99).
It’s our first and last word on the topic. It lays out the facts so people can make the right choice. And it arms them with knowledge to defend that choice.
Putting In That Pause
I know how easy it is to be thrown by other people’s ridiculous opinions, or ignorant comments. But getting upset, or worse, halting your treatment plan because someone made a nasty comment, or a hurtful remark, is a tragedy.
You don’t have to become a crusader, fighting for truth, justice, and the ADHD way. It might be wiser to keep quiet and bite your tongue. Just don’t let anyone stop you from moving forward and getting on with your life.
Trusting yourself is not easy. After a lifetime of ADHD we may not trust ourselves to do what we should do. Eventually, we take the word of others over our own experience.
Trust your feelings. But get the facts.
What if someone says something hurtful, nasty, or judgmental, and you have that rush of anger, rage, and doubt? Simply chuckle, and say, “You know a lot of people think that’s true…”
You can even say it with a South African accent. Or a Dutch accent. Or Australian. They all sound the same.