To Myself When Accepting My ADD Diagnosis Felt Like Defeat


You’re stubborn. You’ve been hurt in the past. You’ve tried traditional treatment for ADD before, and you were treated like anything but a human being. You feel like you’re at your limit. Like nobody gets you. You didn’t feel respected or heard by the people who gave the doctors the go-ahead to start treating you. You were young. You didn’t know any better. You were bullied. I can’t say for sure, but you might have seen your therapists more than you saw your parents.

I can understand why you flat-out refused to accept help from Student Support Services when you went away to college. After all, you thought you had dealt with everything before college was even on your radar. You didn’t need help. You would be fine.

I’m sorry to kick you off your high horse, but you did need help.

You needed help because you were struggling. You didn’t want to admit it, though. You didn’t want to admit it because you equated it with getting the biggest bullhorn in the world, climbing to the top of the academic buildings, and yelling, “I’m disabled!” at the top of your lungs. Dramatic? Maybe, but back then, that’s what you thought it was. Accepting your ADD diagnosis felt like defeat. Weakness. And you weren’t supposed to be weak.

I’m not going to say that the heavens opened up when you finally went to Student Support Services (after a very long summer where you saw more doctor’s offices than sunlight) and handed them your diagnosis (which was seven years old by that point). The truth is that they didn’t. Things didn’t magically fall into place. You didn’t just breeze through the rest of your time there. You still had to work hard. But what I’m trying to tell you is that help doesn’t always hurt you. Yes, your experience taught you otherwise. But you also had another experience, one that was the complete opposite.

Your friends supported you when your mentor died; a member of staff even left a note of condolence in your campus mailbox. You were able to look at a classmate’s notes and realize, “That’s what the professor was saying!” instead of stressing yourself out over details. And eventually, you found techniques that worked for you. Techniques that helped you show that yes, you really did belong in that environment.

You discovered that you had incredible professors who (for the most part) went out of their way to help you succeed. They helped you understand concepts you couldn’t quite wrap your head around while you poured over your textbooks. They agreed to let you set your own deadlines for assignments so you could be sure to turn in a quality assignment on time that you could be proud of.

My point isn’t that everything gets to a point where everything is hunky dory and you just breeze through. My point is that help doesn’t always have to hurt. And sometimes all you need to do is look at the parts of your experience that you might consider insignificant to figure out why.

Follow this journey on Alisa Tanaka.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to your teenaged self when you were struggling to accept your differences. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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