It Takes One Heck Of a Village
We are part of a great ADHD community, so let’s support each other and move forward together.
I’ve been rereading old posts as my wife Margaret and I compile the material for an “ADHD Dad” book we’re publishing early next year, and I discovered something: When I started writing the blog seven years ago, I thought of “ADHD Dad” as a diary – a way of talking to myself in public. I figured my mental health story was unique and people would find it interesting, or not, and that would be that. It’s as if I thought I’d volunteered to be observed living my skewed, fractious life sealed off in a department store window, as unaffected by my audience as a naked mannequin. It took only one comment from a reader of my first post in April 2009 for me to begin to discover how wrong I was.
“You are not alone!” Christina Kett wrote. “Sometimes it all just seems so overwhelming, and while it doesn’t fix things, it does help me to know that I’m not the only one experiencing all of this stuff. I could change a few details in your story and it would describe various scenes in my life. So just remember, you are not alone and all you can do is to keep on trying.”
After a post about my non-ADHD wife, Margaret, trying to cope with a husband and two kids all ADHD and never listening to the only calm one in the family, Penny Williams wrote, “I totally relate. I have your wife’s role in my own family…. I am the one who keeps everything together.”
As others wrote in reply to my posts, I realized something that should have been obvious, but wasn’t to me – I was part of a community. My and my family’s ADHD experience wasn’t all that unique; there were tons of people here who were going through similar struggles and triumphs. Their questions challenge me; their perspectives change mine, and consistently make me feel more hopeful and resilient.
“Time works differently for us — moments and months intertwine — so why not take years to write about a week? The journey through your thought process of not writing is just as revelatory as the story itself,” fellow ADDitude blogger Kristen Kaven wrote, when I confessed to having trouble getting the words down on paper.
There is one problem, though. I’m not a very prompt correspondent. Sometimes I’ll miss a reply by months, but I always try to get back to anyone who writes – because I get so much out of the conversations. ADHDers are so full of multiple and varied interests, challenges, and creativity that I’m constantly surprised, moved, and inspired by what I read.
This sense of community and shared experience hit home recently in another way, though. And it’s why I started thinking about the sense of community feel, and my responsibility within it. I feel protective of this group of folks like me that don’t fit in to the neurotypical linear process world we live in. As much as I work hard myself and encourage others to be patient with those who become impatient with us, and to never use our differently wired brain as an excuse, there are times I blow a fuse, go on a rant, and give advice that may or may not be helpful. That’s what happened recently when I replied to a hard-working wife and mother who felt judged for taking medication by those close to her. I wrote:
“Around our house — daughter takes meds, wife takes hers, we all take supplements – we’re like the Jetsons, pills for everything—we’re always asking each other if we’ve taken our meds, especially if things are particularly stressful for ourselves and we remind the other person almost as a way to check on ourselves, and because we, well, care about one another. I wouldn’t take your husband’s reminders as a slight or take it as a judgment on you — unless of course he’s just being mean, but that doesn’t sound like what you’re talking about.”
“As for buttinsky friends and relatives advising you to try to get off meds, that’s just wrong for so many reasons it’s beyond the beyond. I suggest, if the relationship is important to you, that you sit the person down and politely tell her that you’re grateful that she cares and all, but that your medications are a medical necessity for you, and that you’d appreciate her not bringing up the subject again. If she doesn’t back off — or with acquaintances or nosy neighbors — then be less polite, and, if necessary, go to DEFCON 4 and ignore her existence.”
“You have every right to feel great about yourself, and there is absolutely no reason you should ever have to listen to ignorant noise that undermines your self-worth, no matter how supposedly well-intentioned it is. OK, that’s my rant for the day, so be well and don’t let good manners keep you from standing up for yourself. And again, thank you so much for reading and commenting on my post.”
Here’s the thing. I probably shouldn’t be giving advice. We all know that the real way to help each other, no matter how we’re wired, is only with openness and love. I’m not a therapist or anything close. I’m just a dad with ADHD and a couple of ADHD kids, a patient wife, and a dog that chews paper and digs up the yard. I’ll keep writing stories and keep being honored and astounded by your replies, but if I go on a rant, please take it with a grain of salt. I mean, for God’s sake, obviously I’m nuts —I’m on medication.