Reply To: Should I ask for help?



I am so glad that you posted.

First, since you’re reaching out to a big online forum, a little bit about me. I am a 53 year old woman. I’ve worked as a crisis/mental health counselor in private and (currently) public high schools for over 25 years. I’m in New Jersey – and people in my position are called Student Assistance Counselors. I don’t know what state you’re in – and counselors like me have various titles and roles in different states. I am also a licensed therapist in private practice. And I have ADHD too! I have two kids (teens) and one of them has ADHD (my eldest son, age 17).

I have referred many, many teens and their families to appropriate professionals (neurologist, neuropsychologists and psychiatrists) to be evaluated for ADHD. I LOVE working with ADHD teens (so much energy, so out-of-the-box, creative and smart). I want you to know that the situations you are describing are very, very common. Boys are identified and diagnosed way more frequently than girls. There are so many reasons for this, I could go on and on – but trust me, it is very common.

Another thing that is super common – parents seeing and accepting a disability or problem with one child but being a bit resistant or blind to the same or similar issues with another. So common. As a parent, I have done this too – and I am a professional who coaches other parents around this very issue! Again – so many factors come into play. Expectations we have for our daughters versus our sons, gender dynamics between parents and kids – and (I am guilty as charged with this one) – needing one sibling to be “okay” or “not disabled.” In all my years, I’ve never stepped away from this type of thing and thought it was because the parents loved or cared about one child more than another. It is always more complicated – and it is almost always about our own (the parents’) worries/fears. I’m not sure which, if any of these things, apply to your parents – but you have some questions and it’s going to be extremely important for you to understand more and get some answers.

Please don’t formulate these on your own. You are doing a great thing by reaching out for feedback and help.

First, I would advise you to talk with a counselor at your school – if you think there is one who could help. Here is advice for this – 1) You don’t have to walk in and tell them everything at once; talk to the counselor first and check him or her out. See if you feel a sense of trust and interest – and then share your story/concerns! Many school counselors (and teachers) will not initiate talking about a particular diagnosis with parents (for lots of reasons – some very valid) – but you can bring this up. They must be concerned if you are failing and if you have poor school attendance. S/he may be very helpful.

Secondly – if you are having these troubles, would you consider asking your parents if you could see a therapist outside of school? This would give you a higher level of confidentiality (although school counselors maintain confidentiality too – but not all are trained in mental health). I was not diagnosed until I was an adult. Back in the day where I come from – I would’ve been taken to an exorcist before I was taken to a psychiatrist! (In fact, I think that may have been considered! LOL!). A therapist can listen and – when you’re ready – help create more communication between you and your parents. It might be good to have a conversation about these issues you’ve discovered (because you are really smart and highly analytical for a 15 year old) with a therapist who has listened to your experiences and who is trained to help families. In asking your parents about counseling/therapy – you can tell them that you are frustrated with how things are going and you’d like to change and improve some things, like your performance in school and relationships. But maybe don’t make them the focus – saying that you’re upset with them and feel that they’ve let you down, stuff like that – often makes parents resistant. Let the therapist help you with that.)

Anyway – I experienced a lot of shaming as a kid (teen and young adult). I got so much out of therapy. I’ve had three different rounds of therapy (in my early 20s, late 20s and these past couple of years.) I overcompensated a lot in my life (and achieved some great things) – but the shame I experienced as a girl with ADHD was painful and stunting. Now, I have more understanding about how this affected me and I am able to create a whole different experience for my ADHD son, which is really cool. And it’s helped me enormously in my work with other people with ADHD (especially those who are undiagnosed).

Good luck. Please let us know how it goes. Do not give up – you have an important inquiry and you are of an age where you can access some professional counsel in school – and, hopefully, with a good therapist who can help validate your experience with objectivity and guide you regarding next steps. You can do this. You deserve it!