How I Came to Rock My ADHD
They say the best job is the one that you would do if you didn’t need the money. For me, that is helping others who struggle the way I did through high school and using the jagged pieces from my childhood to create a more vibrant mosaic.
“He doesn’t know me.” That thought rang through my mind over and over as the school psychologist explained to me that I would need to remain in special classes even if I went back to mainstream school. I had learned a lot in my two years in alternative school, and believed I was ready to return to my home school. Rejection hit me flat on the face.
Just two years earlier, I had little desire to be in school at all. At that time, my body and mind felt like my worst enemies. My head would twitch, and I would bark. When I sought out friends out, I was showered with exclusion and meanness. It seemed that, no matter how hard I tried, my name remained etched onto the black boards and my grades stuck in the muck. I did not see any reason to go to school — or any real future for myself. I was diagnosed with ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, and OCD.
At the therapeutic alternative school, I met other students living with similar diagnoses. I began to recognize that diagnoses gave me some different kinds of obstacles, and also some different kinds of gifts. I discovered that knowing how it feels to be an outsider helped me to relate to others in a similar spot, and that I could be a good friend. I learned how to overcome ADHD.
When I learned that I would be spending my final two years of high school there, I actively decided to not settle for anything less than great. I found passion in wanting to help others deal with challenges similar to my own. On graduation day, I walked with new purpose. That new sense of purpose got me through college, graduate school, and to my current job as a mental health clinician.
Like many with my conditions, I found that acceptance from others and from myself was a journey. And over time, I’ve learned to “rock it.” Rocking my ADHD in college and graduate school meant being able to reach out for supports when I needed them — without shame. It also meant sitting near the back of the lecture hall and knowing it was OK to take a few extra breaks — recognizing that, for me, the difference between a productive class and zoning out was just that slight. At work, this has meant creating systems for myself to compensate for attention deficits, being as authentic as I can, and using most (if not all) of the tools that I share with my clients.
ADHD can shatter a person’s self-worth. Stigma surrounding mental health does not help this. Still, when we recognize the condition for what it is and choose to give ourselves what we need to succeed, we can reassemble those pieces like a mosaic into an even more vibrant sense of self. ADHD can be “rocked.” I am proof of that.