I read this, and it took my breath away.

Not to beat a dead horse, but if you’ve been reading this for a while (all two of you!), then you know how I feel about people making a joke out of ADHD. Even so, it’s hard not to assign blame to myself for this. No matter how many ways it’s confirmed, no matter how many different tests show that I really do have this thing, it’s still hard not to feel like this is a moral failing.

It’s still too easy to despise myself.

A few days ago, I came across an article on this website. A parent was asking for help navigating her son’s school environment, and trying to get the cooperation of his teachers. The writer, Sue Whitney, gave a helpful and very detailed response. The first part that caught my attention was this:

When they say, “He . . .  

  • doesn’t pay attention,
  • forgets,
  • interrupts,
  • daydreams,
  • wanders off task,
  • drives the teacher to drink,
  • doesn’t show his work on math problems,
  • is disorganized,
  • etc.”
    You say, “That is part of his disability.

See more at: http://www.wrightslaw.com/heath/dont.care.iep.htm#sthash.WBipQdqZ.dpuf

So there I am. I don’t pay attention…I forget things (or remember too much, sometimes)…I interrupt-dear Lord, do I interrupt. Off task? Check. Disorganized? Check. I don’t *think* I drive my supervisor or colleagues to drink, but you never know…

My current job is a huge struggle for me in that I am too detailed, too easily distracted, not fast enough. I get bogged down in the details and everything takes me so much longer than it takes those around me. I work with people who can hold long conversations with the people around them and still get more done in their day than I ever can, even if I buckle down, sit far away from everybody, and try to shut out everything around me.

I feel the limits of my brain quite acutely in this setting.

When it comes up in my performance evaluations, as it so often does, we talk about me trying harder, about ways that I might be able to work more efficiently. I know that my brain is part of the problem, but it never occurs to me to think of it as anything other than something that I am at fault for. Surely this is something I can “fix”.
But the writer of the response then said something else. Something that stopped me in my tracks. She was responding to the parent’s report that her son was sent home each day with a behavior chart that inevitably had multiple “sad face” stickers on it. Whitney responded in this way:

How do they think that makes him feel? Do they think the sad face stickers are going to change his disability? Does the kid in the wheelchair get sad faces on her chart for not walking well? If they gave the kid in the wheelchair sad face stickers do they think it would change the way she walks?

(emphasis mine)

A disability. A real disability, that I can’t simply change by trying harder. I don’t say this to suggest that medication and modifying behaviors and the like are not necessary. I am not saying that there is nothing I can do, or that I just “can’t help myself”. I am just saying that I am always going to struggle, that my brain does not work so well sometimes.

Someone who uses a wheelchair because their legs do not work the same way as other people is not, to my knowledge, ever accused of moral failure, of not “trying hard enough”. Can I give myself that same grace? And how do I advocate for myself in the workplace when so many people, myself included, don’t take ADHD seriously?

I don’t have the answer to these questions. I only know that these words were a gift to me, a compelling reminder that my struggles are real, even if invisible.

(The article referenced in this post is from http://www.wrightslaw.com/heath/dont.care.iep.htm)

– See more at: http://www.wrightslaw.com/heath/dont.care.iep.htm#sthash.WBipQdqZ.dpuf

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