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Disclosing ADHD? – Curb your enthusiasm

ADHD Expert Rick Green

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 and 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?



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TotallyADD.com is an independent website created & owned by Big Brain Productions Inc. (Rick Green).  We tell you this because so many people ask if pharmaceutical companies paid for any of this and the answer is absolutely not.  Purchases in our shop, and our Patreon community pays for content creation.

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  1. darias January 26, 2016 at 10:49 am

    “Known” for a long time I had ADHD, but didn’t get an official eval / diagnosis until just before Christmas. Started on Adderall XR on Christmas Eve. Saw by the end of the weekend that about 6-8 hours, it started to ween out of my system, and I knew that at work, that would hit in mid afternoon.
    So, that first Monday back, I took an “instant release” dose. Mistake. Mistake. Mistake. At least for me. I was up that night until 5am (maybe got an hour’s sleep somewhere in there), and then called off that morning at the office. Didn’t take it the next day, but tried it again — earlier — on Wednesday. Got to sleep at 3! Woo hoo!
    Told my boss about my eval on that Friday (after a long chat with the doctor about stopping the instant dose). I mean, I’m not the most punctual — this IS an ADHD page after all; hello choir! — but it was a really messed up week for me. He happened to have a friend in her 40s who also had been on meds and so he was sympathetic to the changes that occur. I told him there were going to be adjustments, but it might be shaky still for a bit.
    I had ONE day I was an hour late after that, and he snapped me into perspective: “Is it that you don’t care?” You know, in all the times I’ve been late for it just being “who I was” (later finding out it’s a pretty common ADHD trait), no boss EVER asked me that. Some of it maybe WAS apathy, but that was a shock to the system.
    Been working on it better. Still adjusting the meds. Waiting now on the genetic test to see if something other than Adderall will work better, but I’m happy my boss knows about what I’m doing. And happier still he’s cool with it.

  2. mcfarlane January 28, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Yes, people were misdiagnosed in the past but they are getting so many more correct diagnosises now. I’m just finishing reading “Just Add Water” about pro surfing dude Clay Marzo and about 15 years ago he was misdiagnosed as having ADHD. Clay has Asperger’s. People believe we have more people with autism but really we are just diagnosing them correctly. This maybe because we know so much more about autism and ADHD today than we did 15 years ago.
    Wayne ( learning more about autism and ADHD) McFarlane

  3. kaykay January 30, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    When I told my ex-husband he said, “that explains a lot!” And my mom said, “oh we thought you were just flaky!” (ouch, thanks mom). My boss at the time had a son with ADHD so he totally understood, but I just started a new job and haven’t told anyone. I probably won’t either, as long as I take my meds no one will know!

  4. blackdog January 31, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Which paper??? …Let me at ’em! >:(
    Ive been trying to curb my anger at all the stup… *ahem*… misinformed people out there. The really frustrating ones are the ones who should know better, who have children with ADHD or have it themselves, and yet somehow still don’t get it when it comes to me and my problems. I’m just supposed to stop being lazy, get it together, and remember where I put it.
    “You just have to stop thinking so much” really isn’t bad advice. I literally told myself the same thing just 5 minutes before reading this. I am really stressed about a personal problem right now and I was doing my usual thing, going over it all in my head, over and over again, imagining all sorts of possible scenarios and outcomes, having imaginary conversations with people, yelling at them when I imagine they aren’t listening to me… Meanwhile, nothing is actually getting done outside of my head. I’m just wasting time and energy thinking about dealing with it instead of dealing with it. If I could learn not to do this, I would be much more productive and have a lot more time to get things done. I know, my brain will always work the way it does. but I do have some control over it. And I am going to exercise that control right now and stop typing and go get ready for what I have to do in the real world.
    “You probably won’t cover your face with lipstick when hunting for a bargain at the store” I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Especially now that you have put the idea in my head…:lol:

  5. sdwa January 31, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    It’s a difficult situation. I started a new job that I think I’m about to quit because A) if I had told them I have ADHD, they wouldn’t have hired me, even though in the U.S. the condition is covered under the ADA of 2008. The ADA is a bit pointless, however, because once people know you have a disability, they think you have gimp cooties. And…B) They won’t let me set up my work space or process in a way that works for me. They care more about controlling the process than they do in getting results, so despite the fact that I could be successful if allowed to do things my way, they’re not going to let me do it. C) If I now admit that I have ADHD and need accommodations, they would be upset that I didn’t disclose before they hired me, and would probably fire me, anyway.
    So, what’s the point? It’s a lose-lose proposition, either way, and I think I made a mistake trying to enter a new field (law, ironically) that is run entirely by stressed-out control freaks who have an adversarial attitude toward everyone, and dedicate their every waking moment to making other people wrong. I had this crazy idea that I might actually be able to help people. What was I thinking?
    It’s a relief to come by here and see that there are others struggling with the same issues.
    Congratulations, Rick. You are a hero.

  6. RonM January 31, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD last March, 2015 but had been treated for ADD for some time, taking adderall in 10mg doses then up’d them to 15mg, but those made me a bit too alert, lol. In March a tragedy occur in my family which I immediately became Numb, I mean really Numb, I was blank inside and out. Almost a year later I am knee deep into therapy, EMDR actually. Things are get better then they get worse, not sure I’m on the right path because its been almost a year now, I should be fixed and back to doing something, oops, there is the ADD talking. Anyway, I believe I also have ADD but haven’t been taking my adderall. I am going to consult my Dr. to request I start up again and continue with my therapy. See, even though I’ve had ADD I always worked my whole life, yes, I have had so many positions, I quit frequently when they don’t live up to the commitments we’ve made, I guess they never thought I’d reach those goals they set, but as you know, having ADD and something new in front of you, the thrill occurs and then the disappointment happens, no big raise as promised, boom, I quit. Now in my 50’s it is not so easy to keep getting upper level positions and now my family suffers, especially being on disability.

  7. Geoduck January 31, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Hey Rick,
    This article nails it.
    Thank you!

  8. seandesilva February 1, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    The widespread misinformation about ADHD – especially pop-culture’s desire to belittle it – kept me off of a proper diagnosis for a decade. I struggled all throughout school, and it wasn’t until college that I finally received a properly diagnosis. To think how my life would’ve been if I had sorted things out earlier.
    Well I guess that’s part of changing the mainstream culture around ADHD, isn’t it? Thanks for spreading the word, Rick.

  9. donsense February 2, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    At 60 years of age and adapting unknowingly to the symptoms of ADHD and their consequences I retired and moved in with my third wife. The retirement was premature due to Anger issues usually. Not always a problem when you own your own business but definitely is when it’s your suppliers you are angry with.. All those adaptations were useless and I suffered two bouts of severe depression with issues, hospitalized both times. Despite a 14 day assessment period the second time, still no ADHD diagnosis. Finally the light went off while researching (an antique word for googling ) and I took a few of those online tests and found this website. I invariably scored 17 of 18 or scores similar and the experiences of others were so remarkably similar that I had no doubt. My family physician started me on Concerta. I was already on thyroid Meds, Effixor and til then had coped drinking between 2 and 3 liters of coffee a day 15 to 20 cups.
    My son and adult grandson were both on Ritalin so there was some experience . And while my mother was in her 12th week expecting me, my 2 yr old sister died of scarlet fever. Google “stress pregnancy and ADHD”) I am the last of twelve kids.
    All this intro to say I made the mistake of sharing this info with my adult nieces and nephews my daughters and my siblings. My next older sister went ballistic and said there was no one else in the family that had any of these traits and literally screamed in my ear and hung up. …lol. At 75 years old she hadn’t changed a bit.
    As they are all in different cities throughout North America I apologized and learned one valuable lesson (even at 71 These keep occurring, mouth running over,constantly late ( more than once completely engrossed in something forgot a lunch with a client on a $10k retainer….fired…over committing, see third wife. . Work adaptations included a separate enclosed office, all detailed work ..relied on assistants, appointment secretary who’s duties entailed making sure I attended on time all meetings. I once quit a job when they decided we had to do all of our own filing.. And accepted a better position 1000 miles away. Boss rethought idea and for a significant raise and someone to file, I stayed on. Eventually became a consultant and when asked why replied, with many client bosses they can only fire me one at a time. Later in empathy for our actuary who the company fired We formed our own consulting org. .
    The biggest adaptation though was joining the regular armed forces at 16 ( after being kicked out of school on my 16th birthday for not completing assignments. Technically I have a completed grade eight or nine and have all but one subject in grades 10 and eleven which at that time was enough for university entrance. The Army training included the last two years of High School and Basic training which is normally 13 weeks, lasted two years in Montreal. Ironically the army didn’t include French ( the subject I am missing ) but i did pick up Trig and History on Weekends one summer on Leave.
    In hindsight, the armed forces discipline was exceptionally helpful in my career but useless in relationship issues. The ability to verbally dress down someone in both languages until they melt is of little use these days. Some might even say counterproductive .

  10. fiwilkie January 8, 2017 at 5:51 am

    love this article Rick – so true.

  11. james9 January 28, 2017 at 11:23 am

    I was very cautious about who I told. And I was very careful about how I phrased it.
    I treated people like potential clients, who were going to ‘buy’ my story. I started by asking them questions, to see what they’d heard. A young man in my family had been diagnosed, and so when their name came up in a conversation, I’d ask if they’d heard how we was doing. They either rolled their eyes, or were genuinely pleased about his progress. It was pretty clear, even for me, and I’m not all that great at ‘reading people.’

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